Professor who predicted Trump win says Pence should be investigated too

BY ALLAN J. LICHTMAN

President Donald Trump has called the media "the enemy of the American people," but Vice President Mike Pence must think that they are his best friends. So far, Pence had received a free pass from much of the media for his false statements to the American people. According to a now standard account, Pence is the innocent victim of deceptions by others – former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the president himself.

But this is supposition only, with no hard evidence behind it. It is equally plausible that Pence is complicit in the lies propagated by the Trump administration and perhaps even involved in a cover-up of potentially impeachable transgressions. That's why he must be investigated thoroughly by the Congress and the FBI along with the president and other members of the Trump campaign team and administration.

For a seasoned politician who served for 12 years in Congress and three years as governor of Indiana, Pence has seemed remarkably easy to fool. Supposedly, Mike Flynn fooled Pence into affirming that Flynn's conversations with Soviet Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were "strictly coincidental" and had nothing "to do with United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia."

Flynn's alleged lying to Pence provided a convenient cover story for Trump's firing of the National Security Advisor. It enabled Trump to shirk the much more serious charge that the Russians had compromised Flynn as Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned the White House counsel 18 days before.

Pence was allegedly fooled again when he said that Trump fired FBI Director Comey because he accepted "the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general." Trump later admitted that he had intended to sack Comey before he received any Justice Department recommendations and that "this Russia thing with Trump" was on his mind when he made the firing decision.

The theory of Pence as innocent victim lacks credibility because he has a history of lying that extends from his candidacy to his tenure as vice president. None of these lies can be blamed on anyone else's deception. A PolitiFact comparison of vice presidential candidates during the 2016 campaign rated 42 percent of Pence's statements as mostly false or false, compared to 23 percent for Democratic candidate Tim Kaine.

For example, on July 24, 2016, Pence said that Hillary Clinton "took 13 hours to send help to Americans under fire" during the terrorist attack in Benghazi. In fact, Hillary Clinton and the State Department had nothing to do with the response to the Benghazi attack. That responsibility fell upon the Defense Department, as the government-savvy Pence should have known full well.

In this vice-presidential debate, Pence charged that "less than 10 cents on the dollar from the Clinton Foundation goes to charitable causes." Yet the American Institute of Philanthropy's Charity Watch reported that the Foundation spends 88 percent of the money it raises on charitable services and only 12 percent on overhead.

As vice president on March 9, 2017, Pence said that regarding stories about Flynn's lobbying for Turkey, "Hearing that story today was the first I'd heard of it." Yet Pence was the head of the transition team that recommended Flynn for National Security Adviser and news reports in November 2016 had disclosed Flynn's lobbying for Turkey.

Beyond press reports, on November 18, 2016, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Pence warning: "Recent news reports have revealed that Lt. Gen. Flynn was receiving classified briefings during the presidential campaign while his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, Inc., was being paid to lobby the U.S. Government on behalf of a foreign government's interests. … Lt. Gen. Flynn's General Counsel and Principal, Robert Kelley, confirmed that they were hired by a foreign company to lobby for Turkish interests"

Lies spoken softly by Mike Pence are no less insidious than lies bellowed and blustered by Donald Trump. Pence must be part of all investigations of the Trump administration. Under Article 4, Section 2 of the constitution, a vice president no less than a president is subject to impeachment.

This article was originally published by CNBC on 5/19/17.

TRUMP 'COULD BE IMPEACHED NOW' OVER COMEY FIRING, HISTORIAN WHO PREDICTED HIS ELECTION SAYS

BY JASON LE MIERE 

President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey is “much more serious” than Watergate and could arguably be enough to see him impeached now, says the historian who predicted the Republican’s shock election win.

Allan Lichtman, a professor of history at American University, came to national prominence after continuing his streak of predicting the outcome of every presidential election since 1984 last November. He also has written a book on Trump called The Case for Impeachment. It is no surprise then that he sees this week’s events as adding further fuel to the case for an investigation.

“He arguably could be impeached now,” he told Newsweek Friday. “Arguably he’s already obstructed justice and already violated the emoluments clause [regarding receiving gifts from foreign governments]. I’m not saying we should impeach him now, I’m calling for an impeachment investigation.”

Trump’s dismissal of Comey came in the midst of an investigation the former FBI head was leading into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump team. The president has shifted the narrative after the White House initially claimed the termination was prompted at the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein based off of Comey's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server.

“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won,’” he told NBC News Thursday.

Trump also has insisted that Comey assured him on three separate occasions, including once over dinner and on another occasion over a phone call he placed to the then-FBI director, that he was not under investigation. It has been reported, too, that Trump sought repeated oaths of loyalty from Comey, despite the fact that his role is supposed to be independent and non-partisan. The White House has denied such demands were made.

Critics, including the Senate’s number two Democrat, Richard Durbin, have claimed that Trump’s actions regarding Comey, a man who was investigating him, constitute obstruction of justice—an impeachable offense.

“President Trump is dangerous because he may be obstructing justice in terms of the investigation that goes to the heart of our democracy, the accountability of the president,” Durbin, who represents Illinois, told MSNBC Friday.

Lichtman agrees.

“We see credible reporting that he may well be guilty of obstructing justice in the FBI investigation, first by demanding loyalty to him personally from the man investigating him,” Lichtman said. “That’s pretty blatant obstruction of justice. And then by firing director Comey and then in effect lying initially, or having his team lie in his direction, about the reasons for the firing.”

The two modern presidents who came closest to removal from office—Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton—were both accused of obstruction of justice. But Lichtman says Trump’s conduct is “vastly more important” than the allegations against Clinton over testimony about Monica Lewinsky and even more serious than the cover-up of the break-in at Democratic Party headquarters that brought down Nixon.

“The only parallel is Watergate, and this is much more serious,” Lichtman said. “What Trump is involved in is more serious because it involves a foreign power and the national security of the country.”

The firing of Comey was instantly compared to the infamous Saturday Night Massacre in which Nixon fired independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox. It was an event that turned both the opinion of the American public and of some of those within Nixon’s Republican Party against him.

And there have been signs that Trump’s latest actions crossed the line with some of his Republican colleagues.

Notably, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said:  “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey's termination.”

Ultimately, it will take widespread Republican dissension to impeach Trump, given that they control both the House and the Senate, something that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

But it may not even get that far, says Lichtman, who believes impeachment proceedings against Trump are inevitable. Nixon resigned before impeachment proceedings formally began. And Trump, he believes, could do similarly, particularly given the lifestyle he enjoys outside of the White House.

“Throughout his business career, Donald Trump was the master of avoiding accountability,” he said. “If he is true to his M.O. of more than 40 years, he may avoid accountability again by resigning. After all, it’s not like he goes back to some hovel out there in the woods.”

This article was originally published by Newsweek on 5/13/17.

Special Prosecutor Could Save Trump

BY ALLAN J. LICHTMAN

The tipping point in the Watergate scandal was not the release of the White House tapes in July 1974, but the Saturday Night Massacre on Oct. 20, 1973, when President Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Nixon's attempted cover-up backfired and precipitated certain impeachment that he avoided only by resigning the presidency. Donald Trump's Tuesday Night Massacre when he fired FBI Director James Comey may similarly lead to his downfall, unless his critics inadvertently save him by pushing for the appointment of a special prosecutor rather than an impeachment inquiry by the House Judiciary Committee.

Trump's inexplicable and abrupt sacking of Comey may be worse than Nixon's massacre, because the FBI director holds a more important post than a special prosecutor, with wide-ranging responsibilities including counter-terrorism. Unlike Watergate, the offenses that Trump and his team are accused of impact the national security of the United States.

Trump fired Comey just after former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates delivered devastating testimony about Trump's non-response to her warning that the Russians had likely compromised his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. It closely followed Comey's request for additional resources for the Russian investigation from Jeff Sessions' Justice Department and the issuing of subpoenas for Michael Flynn and his associates.

Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre wounded his presidency beyond recovery. A Time magazine cover story called the massacre "one of the gravest constitutional crises" in presidential history. It spurred outrage in Congress across the aisles and for the first time, polls showed that a plurality of the American people favored the president's impeachment. On Nov. 17, 1973, at a nationally televised press conference, an increasingly desperate Nixon pleaded, "I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got."

Most perilously for Nixon's survival, the Saturday Night Massacre prompted the House Judiciary Committee to begin an impeachment investigation. The committee hired 44 lawyers and some 50 researchers and support staff. It studied the history and process of impeachment, subpoenaed the Nixon tapes, pored through voluminous documents and held six days of lengthy televised hearings. It finished its investigation in a relatively efficient eight months, given the complex sprawl of the Watergate scandal.

Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre wounded his presidency beyond recovery. A Time magazine cover story called the massacre "one of the gravest constitutional crises" in presidential history. It spurred outrage in Congress across the aisles and for the first time, polls showed that a plurality of the American people favored the president's impeachment. On Nov. 17, 1973, at a nationally televised press conference, an increasingly desperate Nixon pleaded, "I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got."

Most perilously for Nixon's survival, the Saturday Night Massacre prompted the House Judiciary Committee to begin an impeachment investigation. The committee hired 44 lawyers and some 50 researchers and support staff. It studied the history and process of impeachment, subpoenaed the Nixon tapes, pored through voluminous documents and held six days of lengthy televised hearings. It finished its investigation in a relatively efficient eight months, given the complex sprawl of the Watergate scandal.

Trump's critics and the media pundits are misguided in calling for a special prosecutor to investigate charges of collusion with Russia's attack on our democracy. The special prosecutor will be appointed by the Trump administration with no check from Congress and can be fired by Trump just as Nixon fired Cox. Investigations by special prosecutors usually take years to complete their work. Lawrence Walsh, the special prosecutor for the Iran/Contra investigation, for example, began his tenure on Dec. 19, 1986, and issued his final report more than six-and-a-half years later, on Aug. 4, 1993. A special prosecutor will be probing criminal activity, not broader abuses of power that are within the purview of an impeachment investigation.

A far better approach is for the House Judiciary Committee to follow the Watergate precedent and begin an impeachment investigation of President Trump. Such an investigation is not equivalent to impeachment. The committee would still have to decide by majority vote whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House as it did in the Nixon case.

An impeachment investigation in the Judiciary Committee would proceed independently of the executive branch and would have sufficient constitutional authority to forestall any efforts by the president to claim executive privilege or tenuous national security claims for withholding evidence. It would not duplicate the labors of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees or the FBI. The Judiciary Committee would develop its own evidence. It would collect and analyze the material produced by other bodies and assess whether to vote articles of impeachment against the president.

A congressional investigation would have unlimited capacity to explore all potential grounds for impeachment. The Judiciary Committee would obviously examine evidence of any collusion between Trump or his agents and foreign power to manipulate an American election. Trump could be charged with treason if in the most extreme case, he directed or condoned such collusion. He could be charged with the felony of misprision of treason (failure to report treasonous conduct) if it's discovered that he knew about such complicity but failed to report the crime.

The committee could also consider whether Trump violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, for example, by accepting 38 potentially lucrative trademarks from China while serving as president. And it could explore whether Trump obstructed justice by conspiring with Rep. Devin Nunes to derail the House investigation and firing the director. It could additionally examine whether Trump abused the powers of his office by reportedly demanding personal loyalty from the supposedly independent FBI director in a January 27 dinner conversation and then seeming to threaten Comey by tweeting, that "Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" If as Trump implies, there are tapes of Trump's conversations as president, they could become today's version of the Nixon Watergate tapes.

As in Watergate, Republicans in the House should put patriotism above party and support this investigation. If what Trump says is true, that there was no collusion between his team and the Russians, then he should welcome such an investigation to clear the air and remove the Russian sword of Damocles that hangs over his head.

This article was originally published on USA News and World Report on 5/12/17.

Why Trump is vulnerable to impeachment

BY ALLAN J. LICHTMAN

To impeach or not to impeach, that is the question: If the president’s misdeeds are serious, not minor or technical, then the answer is yes. As students of history, the framers knew that power corrupts, and they established impeachment as a legal and peaceful means for escaping tyranny without having to resort to revolution or assassination.

Recognizing that presidential misdeeds can take many forms, the delegates set the criteria for impeachment and removal broadly, trusting in the judgment of America’s elected representatives. The resignation of Richard Nixon, who was faced with the prospects of impeachment and conviction, removed from office a president who threatened America’s constitutional order and likely had committed treason and crimes against humanity in Southeast Asia.

President Trump need not match the level of misdeeds of Nixon to warrant his impeachment. But Americans should be mindful of the distinction between that which merits punishment and that which is merely a matter of preference. For example, Trump’s unconventional style or his lack of “presidential” stature and demeanor might offend, but those are not offenses worthy of impeachment. Differences of policy and values do not make a case for impeachment, either. If Trump listens, he can yet change his ways.

Even so, Trump’s history and the path he has followed — as candidate, president-elect and president — show that he is uniquely vulnerable to impeachment. It took three years for the House to impeach Andrew Johnson and nearly five years for the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the near impeachment of Nixon. Yet in the early stages of his presidency, Trump has already begun matching the abuses of Nixon.

Is it shouting into the wind to make the case to a Republican Congress for impeaching a president of their own party? The answer is no. Once Trump becomes more of a liability than an asset to the GOP, the party may be willing to turn on him through impeachment.

Circumstances for Republicans today are far from those of 1868, when the controversial and polarizing Benjamin Wade would have become president in the event of Andrew Johnson’s removal. If the Senate removes Trump from office, then Vice President Pence, a Republican dream president with experience in Congress, rises to the White House.

Circumstances for Republicans today are far from those of 1868, when the controversial and polarizing Benjamin Wade would have become president in the event of Andrew Johnson’s removal. If the Senate removes Trump from office, then Vice President Pence, a Republican dream president with experience in Congress, rises to the White House.

Democrats would also be wise to think now about what they wish for when faced with the prospect of a Pence administration in the event of Trump’s impeachment and removal. Yet despite sharp policy differences, Democrats could likely trust Pence as president to respect the Constitution and the law, stand firm against Russian aggression, and not risk a nuclear war.

Former lawyers in the Obama administration have formed a working group to monitor violations of the law and the Constitution by Trump. But the fate of Trump will ultimately rest with the democratic activism of the American people. Americans rightly celebrate their nation’s Founders: Thomas Jefferson for justifying independence; Washington for leading the Continental army to victory in the American Revolution. But it was the protests of ordinary colonials, men and women, whites and blacks, that turned public sentiment against King George III and ignited the revolution. “The Revolution was,” as John Adams wrote, “in the minds and hearts of the people.”

The many robust demonstrations against Trump will be like smoke through a chimney unless, like the revolutionary protests, they are put to a purposeful end. If investigations uncover traitorous collusion with the Russians or Trump continues to clash with the law, the Constitution, the environment, and the nation’s traditions and its security, the American people must demand his impeachment. If Republicans in Congress remain recalcitrant, voters should be swift to dismiss them from office in 2018. Justice will be realized in today’s America not through revolution, but by the Constitution’s peaceful remedy of impeachment — but only if the people demand it.

This article was originally published on USA Today on 4/18/17.

Removing President Trump Without Impeachment

According to the Irish betting house Paddy Power, the probability of Donald Trump suffering impeachment in his first term is a robust 40 percent. Few realize, however, that there is another mechanism for removing Trump from office. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, adopted in 1967, establishes a procedure for permanently replacing a president with his vice president for disabilities—not limited to the physical—that render him unable to fulfill the duties of office.

It’s a Byzantine procedure that has never been invoked and requires action by the vice president and the cabinet, both chosen by the president. Yet, in the Trump era, precedent has counted for so little. Under the amendment, the vice president and a majority of the cabinet may declare to Congress that the president is unable to carry out his duties. The vice president then assumes the role of president. The president can resume his office by declaring to Congress that he is fit to serve. The vice president and the cabinet can reissue their objection and both houses of Congress can then, by a two-thirds vote, remove the president from office.

The question for Trump is his mental fitness to serve. This year mental health professionals have found that President Trump’s issues are serious enough to shatter the long-standing informal rule against assessing the psychology of a president. An open letter, signed by thirty-five psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, most of them Ph.Ds. or MD’s, said, “We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.”

The authorities warned, that “Mr. Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an in- ability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behavior suggest a profound inability to empathize. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them.”

Trump has provided grounds to take seriously the warnings of these professionals and raise the possibility of removal under the Twenty-Fifth amendment. He has repeatedly lied to the American people about matters large and small ranging from alleged massive fraud in the presidential election, to the size of his inauguration crowd, and the claim that President Obama wiretapped his phones.

The timing of Trump’s tweets, which typically post overnight or early in the morning, provide additional warning signs. During the day, when he is distracted and surrounded by a self-selected admiring audience, he feels temporarily fulfilled. As night falls, and he is left to his own thoughts and subconscious insecurities, his mind ruminates on his “enemies” and those who he believes have harmed him. He is unable to stifle the strong urge to retaliate or crush his “opponent.”

Trump also brags beyond reason or fact, even on matters that seem trivial. Before his inauguration, Trump boasted that anticipation for the event was so “unbelievable” and “record-setting” that “all of the dress shops are sold out in Washington.” A quick survey by New York Daily News reporter Gersh Kuntzman found that D.C. shops were awash in “dresses to suit all tastes and price ranges.”

Trump’s black and white vision of the world, and his hair-trigger outbursts are perilous for a leader who controls the nuclear codes that could launch enough warheads to end human civilization. Trump’s mania to be the biggest and the best, has led him to lie that his predecessor let us fall behind the Russians on nuclear weapons capacity. He’s called for reigniting the nuclear arms race that brought the U.S. and the former Soviet Union close to annihilation in the 1980s.

If you were sitting in Beijing, Pyongyang, Moscow, or Teheran, you might be frightened to hear the world’s most powerful leader welcoming an arms race and pledging to win wars, inflate his military, and cut diplomacy and foreign aid. Frightened people make bad decisions.

Even Trump’s widely lauded missile strike against Syria exhibits impulsive and potentially dangerous behavior. Trump retaliated for Syria’s horrific gas attack against civilians without a follow-up plan for America’s role in Syria. A visceral response to provocation by a nuclear-armed North Korea could have much more serious consequences.

One measure, of a president’s fitness is the ability to tell right from wrong. Yet for Trump there is no right or wrong, only that which serves his interests and world view. There is at least an outside chance that a vice president and a cabinet of Trump’s own choosing might turn against him if he becomes a liability to the Republican Party or a serious threat to the security of the United States. If not, there is always impeachment.