Only Congress can ultimately deal with Trump’s crimes
Trump, Mueller | AP

There was an explosion of court filings last Friday that involved prosecutors accusing the President of ordering felonious violations of campaign finance law during his campaign and recommending prison sentences for Paul Manafort, his campaign manager and for Michael Cohen, his lawyer and “fixer.” The news of the Trump crimes got pretty complicated as Friday night wore on and all but the most determined discerners of detail couldn’t be blamed for being confused.

The bottom line of what emerged, however, is that we have in the White House a president who is operating nothing less than a vast criminal enterprise.

The first thing plain for the country to see Friday night was that the President, along with two other criminals, committed felonies and other crimes and that those two other criminals are headed for some serious jail time. Cohen’s jail time won’t be as long as Manafort’s.  The former campaign manager is such a bad serial liar that he could not stop lying to the Special Counsel even after he entered a cooperation agreement with him. Manafort was giving inside information to the President’s lawyers during the time he was supposed to have been cooperating with the Special Counsel.

Another thing that emerged clearer than ever Friday is that Trump himself committed serious felonies by ordering, in violation of campaign finance law, the payment of bribes to women with whom he had sex. He paid them to silence them so that what he had done to them would not endanger his chances to win the election. Any other politician would be finished for good after committing such crimes but Trump and his Justice Department are taking the position that the President cannot be indicted. Their position then is that, unlike the 300 million-plus other people in America, he is above the law.

The filings did not deal with the myriad of other scandals swirling around the White House including media reports this morning that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, advised the Saudi prince on how best to cover up the murder of a Washington Post journalist living in the United States.

Perhaps the most important truth that emerged Friday, however, is that the next step in this process depends upon whether the Congress of the United States lives up to its constitutional responsibilities. Given the unlikelihood of indictment only the House of Representatives now can take the next step. Impeachment is the constitutional remedy for dealing with a president who is clearly running a criminal enterprise out of the White House. It does not mean they have to take an immediate vote on impeachment but it does mean they have to hold hearings on what the prosecutors are finding.

The Special Counsel can only go so far, given the short leash he is on. Robert Mueller, the Special prosecutor, cannot rid the nation of a crime ring operating out of the White House. When and if he issues a report, Trump’s Justice Department can hide it from both Congress and the public. It is perfectly okay for lawmakers to insist that Special Counsel Robert Mueller be allowed to complete his work but ultimately they cannot hide behind him and tiptoe around impeachment indefinitely. The Constitution leaves it to the Congress to act. At some point, it becomes the responsibility of the House to impeach and the Senate to convict when they are faced with a president who commits bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors. The Constitution does not say that impeachment is the remedy when lawmakers feel it is politically convenient. Impeachment is required of Congress when the nation is being led by a criminal in the White House.

Trump’s response to what happened Friday was a storm of tweets absurdly declaring that the filings prove he did nothing wrong. As happens so frequently, his tweets stated the exact opposite of the truth.

Republicans have yet to come forward with any indication that they are ready to take on Trump. They continue to be afraid to challenge the president in any substantial way. The “angst” they are allegedly suffering according to a Washington Post article this weekend is not yet translating into any willingness to act.

While many Democrats continue to resist impeachment as not politically feasible at this time, we can expect nevertheless that they will begin hearings on the prosecutorial findings when they become a majority in the House in January but they are suffering “angst” of their own. They want to be seen as first tackling the economic concerns of the voters and not as simply carrying out a vendetta against the President. They are not yet ready to accept the viewpoint of  Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California that “we can both walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy of Connecticut urged Sunday that the Special Counsel show his cards soon and let Congress know, no later than early in 2019, what the extent of his findings are. Murphy’s statement was the first time any Democratic lawmaker said publicly that the Special Counsel needs to move faster. Certainly, if the Special Counsel expedites release of more of his major findings, the impeachment option will become more acceptable to Democrats who worry there is not yet enough for them to go on. More solid material from the Special Counsel will make it easier for them, they feel, to move on the impeachment issue. Quicker action on the part of the Special Counsel is also important, some of them feel, as Trump gets closer to installing, with GOP Senate approval, a new attorney general who he hopes will go to bat for the White House and who, in doing so, would make life more difficult for Mueller.

As explosive as they were, the court filings on Friday did not go as far as many would have liked in exposing the total depth of involvement by the president in the commission of crimes since he has been in office. The filings were against Cohen and Manafort but implicated the President in some important aspects of the criminal enterprise he is running.

The filings do prove, however, that prosecutors are compiling information showing Russians successfully intervened in the election and built up and used leverage against Trump to get what they wanted in terms of U.S. foreign policy. The filings show that the prosecutors are likely building a powerful case against the President that likely goes beyond collusion with Russians and obstruction of justice. It is also clear that what prosecutors filed on Friday, however, represents just the tip of the iceberg.

The issue now is that Congress must get beneath that tip and ensure that Special Counsel or no Special Counsel, the American people get there too. The Special Counsel is a temporary appointee who ultimately can be dismissed by the President. He is beholden to the executive branch of the government, the branch run by Trump himself.

It is time for Congress to come forward and exercise its constitutional role here. They are beholden not to the executive branch but to the American people themselves. History will judge them harshly if they fail to meet their responsibilities.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.