Monday, February 18, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got mad at the Constitution.

During this morning's "executive" Twitter time, Trump once again live-tweeted the cable news shows he watches. Today, he quoted a Fox News guest who referred to a "coup" attempt against him. Specifically, he meant the claim in former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe's new memoir that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein had discussed the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. This took place, according to McCabe, after Trump fired FBI director James Comey in an effort to shut down the Russia investigation.

As McCabe relates it, Rosenstein's concern was that Trump was incapacitated by the influence that Russia appeared to have over him, presumably as a result of his complicity in their efforts to illegally influence the election that put him in power.

In reality, there are four ways that a president can leave office, and none of them are "coups": death, resignation, impeachment and removal by Congress, and removal under the 25th Amendment. Supermajorities in Congress are required for either impeachment or removal under the 25th, and Trump's vice-president and a majority of his cabinet would also have to agree that Trump was unable to serve as president.

In other words, Trump is saying that it is "illegal and treasonous" for people to talk about a situation in which Vice-President Mike Pence, and at least eight out of fifteen cabinet secretaries hand-picked by Trump, and 67 out of 100 senators (including at least 20 Republicans), and 290 out of 435 members of the House (including at least 55 Republicans) all thought that Trump had been compromised by his Russian co-conspirators.

Trump did not explain why, if Rosenstein was fomenting a "coup" against him, he has been allowed to continue to work in the Justice Department.

How does this matter to me?

  • Presidents are not above the law.
  • Legally removing a president under the Constitution is not a coup.
  • Talking about the Constitution is not treason.
  • Declaring themselves ruler no matter what the law says is what authoritarians do.