Why Impeaching Trump at Home Could Save Justice Abroad

U.S. officials can’t promote the rule of law overseas if our lawless president isn’t held to account.

For the last several decades, two obscure offices in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division have taken the American justice system on a global tour to developing countries. Through the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), founded in 1986, and Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT), founded in 1991, the United States sends its own prosecutors, law enforcement and corrections officers to work with its foreign counterparts to promote the rule of law. The mission of the programs has been to help countries that lacked effective policies, laws, and judicial systems to investigate and prosecute criminals.

The mere existence of these programs has symbolized America’s role as a world leader and the standard-bearer of democracy—a model to which other nations aspire. They provide a noble service: our experienced missionaries have spent thirty years travelling the globe to teach others that their governments, like ours, could operate without corruption.

Yet today, under Trump’s presidency, we are no longer a model that other countries of good will should want to emulate. Take your pick of the latest scandal, whether it’s Trump’s obstruction of justice as detailed in the Mueller Report, his request for the Ukraine government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, or the operation of his personal businesses in flagrant violation of the emoluments clause. These actions, in plain sight, have far-reaching implications beyond our borders. How can the Justice Department programs advise another country grappling with corrupt leadership when our president flagrantly obstructs justice and makes foreign policy decisions based on his own political self-interest, or self-enrichment, and not the national interest?

As seen through the lens of our very own government programs, the answer becomes clear: in order to protect and preserve the concept of justice abroad, we must impeach this president at home.

Since 1986, ICITAP has trained foreign governments to protect human rights, combat corruption, and reduce the threat of transnational crime and terrorism by helping them build their own law enforcement and corrections systems, free from corruption. To do that, the program sends Americans who are experienced federal, state, and local law enforcement experts to teach these governments how to develop and run effective police forces, forensics work, and prison administration.

Similarly, OPDAT, since 1991, has sent seasoned U.S. prosecutors abroad to assist foreign countries in developing and improving upon their criminal justice institutions and procedures; assessing their criminal enforcement laws and policies, and training prosecutors and judges. Of particular note, the program’s attorneys train other countries’ prosecutors, investigators, and judges to investigate and prosecute corruption and related money laundering cases and election crimes and related corruption offenses.

For instance, experienced DOJ prosecutors have worked in Ukraine since 2005 on reforming its criminal justice system, with a focus on organized crime, financial crime, human trafficking, and corruption. Those prosecutors played a major role in supporting the country’s adoption of its National Anti-Corruption Bureau, and an anti-corruption unit within the General Prosecutor’s office, in 2015.

Indeed, bipartisan political leadership at DOJ has boasted about the United States’ role in helping other countries develop and administer their anti-corruption paradigms. In 2017, former Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein touted the power America’s influence. “The United States plays a central role in the worldwide fight against corruption, and we serve as a role model,” he said at an international conference. “Following our lead, many other countries have joined America by implementing their own anti-corruption laws.” Ironically, Rosenstein also laid out a pretty lucid case for how to recognize corruption: “It is no coincidence that crime syndicates and authoritarian rulers use corruption to enrich themselves. They engage in corruption to consolidate political power and defeat legitimate political adversaries.”

The Department of Justice is the only cabinet-level agency named for an ideal. Living up to that ideal means that we hold ourselves to the same standards we promote. But today, ICITAP and OPDAT officers can no longer show up in developing countries with a straight face to advance these principles of democracy—or of drawing a sharp boundary between right and wrong.

On a daily basis, the Trump Administration, has undermined the United States’ standing on the world stage with respect to operating a government free from corruption. One need only refer to the guest books of any Trump property—including the Trump Hotel nestled on Pennsylvania Avenue between the Justice Department and the White House – to see that businessmen, foreign dignitaries, and members of the Republican Party frequent those properties to curry favor with Trump by boosting his family’s coffers. It is also difficult for American officials try to advance the rule of law when our president has engaged in multiple acts of obstruction of justice, or when he throws around the possibility of pardons to his comrades for engaging in illegal behavior that supports his agenda. Likewise, the U.S. can hardly train other nations to conduct democratic elections and combat election-related crimes when our own president brazenly seeks foreign interference to rig our presidential election in his favor.

With that backdrop, impeaching Donald Trump isn’t simply about getting a lawless, unstable, and unqualified chief executive out of office. It isn’t even just about holding an alleged criminal accountable so that American citizens can see that no one is above the law. Impeaching Trump is a moral imperative that requires the United States to live up to its own ideals. After all, how can we advance them abroad if we can’t carry them out at home?

Simply put, our nation shouldn’t be a hypocrite. Justice isn’t just about us.

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Julie Rodin Zebrak

Julie Rodin Zebrak is a veteran attorney with nearly 20 years of experience at the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice. She is the founder and CEO of Yes Moms Can and the co-founder of Mamas4Kamala.