Even if he is impeached, Donald Trump, possibly one of the most corrupt US presidents, may walk away unscathed.
Is Donald Trump one of the most corrupt presidents in US history? Trump is yet to cross the midway point of his presidency, but his actions over the last two years, during the 2016 election campaign and earlier as an unscrupulous businessman seem to point in that direction. In fact, there is ample evidence to the fact that he could possibly be the most corrupt president America has ever seen.
On August 21, Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges that included bank fraud, tax evasion and campaign finance law violations. Cohen admitted to making a payment of $130,000 to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) and facilitating a payment of $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, both at the behest of Trump.
These startling admissions directly implicate Trump in a federal crime. Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis said: “Today he stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election.” Davis added: “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”
When characterizing Cohen’s actions, Robert Khuzami, deputy US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a press conference: “What he did was he worked to pay money to silence two women who had information that he believed would be detrimental to the 2016 campaign, to the candidate and the campaign.”
Trump, a sleazy realtor-turned-politician, has consistently surrounded himself with people of questionable character who have little respect for the law. On the same day Cohen pleaded guilty, Trump’s former chairman of his 2016 election campaign, Paul Manafort, was found guilty on eight of the 18 charges against him on bank fraud and falsifying tax returns. Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor, also pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. George Papadopoulos and Richard Gates, associates of the president, have also pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI.
Republicans who have endorsed Trump and his ways do not fare any better. Chris Collins, house representative from New York, and Duncan Hunter, house representative from California — the first two to endorse Trump from the Republican Party — have both been indicted on charges of insider trading and campaign fund misappropriation, respectively. With scant regard for law and indifference to democratic norms, the Trump presidency may turn out to be the most corrupt in American history. Engineering a tax overhaul that would benefit “pass-through” companies, Trump stands to gain millions of dollars as the Trump Organization is essentially a collection of pass-throughs. Sharing the spoils with Trump are several GOP House and Senate representatives who voted for the tax bill. Defying well-accepted norms, Trump refused to disclose his tax returns during the 2016 election campaign, a practice that all aspiring presidential candidates follow.
Trump, however, is not the first US president with questionable character and ethics to lead the nation. Richard Nixon faced certain impeachment following the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. He resigned in 1974. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached by the House of Representatives, although they were acquitted in the Senate trial that subsequently followed.
Trump impeachment on the horizon?
Trump embodies the worst of all bad US presidents. His volatile temperament stemming from insecurity is similar to Johnson’s personality; his approach of surrounding himself with crooks is reminiscent of Warren Harding’s administration filled with corrupt people in power; and his penchant for blatantly lying likens him to Bill Clinton’s behavior of lying under oath. Trump is as narcissistic and paranoid as Nixon. While Nixon had to go on television to state, “I am not a crook,” Trump resorts to Twitter on a daily basis to extol his genius and character.
It is not a crime to be openly racist in America today. Had it been so, Trump would have been held accountable for calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” in 2015. He even had the audacity to refer to that infamous comment yet again earlier this year. Marking the anniversary of the 2017 Charlottesville riots, Trump remarked, “I condemn all kinds of racism and violence,” standing his ground on his racist position supporting white supremacists and disregarding the flurry of criticism from a year ago.
It is also not a crime to be Islamophobic or harbor anti-immigrant sentiments in Trump’s America. Trump has targeted Muslims from specific countries with travel bans right from the day he assumed office as president. His inhuman immigration policies toward refugees from Central America ought to make every decent citizen of America cringe in shame.
Trump has managed to get away thus far with his racist, misogynist, Islamophobic and anti-immigrant comments and actions. However, curses are like chickens: they always come home to roost. There is an ongoing lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation for failing to follow financial laws and illegally coordinating with Trump’s political campaign. Not surprisingly, Trump calls that lawsuit “ridiculous” and has vowed to fight and not settle.
A significant development is the immunity offered by New York prosecutors investigating the Trump Organization to its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. The immunity deal is viewed in conjunction with Cohen’s willingness to work with Robert Mueller, special counsel for the Department of Justice, which should worry Trump as the prosecution moves methodically to close in on the criminal activities of the president.
The odds of impeachment against Trump reached the highest level after Cohen implicated him in federal crimes, prompting even the president to acknowledge the possibility to Ainsley Earhardt of Fox News: “If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash.”
The present Congress with a Republican majority in the House and the Senate will not step up and impeach Trump, irrespective of the seriousness of allegations against him. However, this could change following the midterm elections in November. Should the House flip to a Democrat majority, the House Judiciary Committee could kick start impeachment proceedings in 2019.
Sadly, even if Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives, he is likely to be acquitted in the Senate, much in the same way that Clinton and Johnson were, making it possible for him to complete the rest of his term. With varied legal opinion on whether a sitting president can be indicted, we may very well bear witness to Trump not only completing his term, but walking away unscathed.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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Author: S. Suresh