The difficult challenge facing the U.S. Congress | As it Turns Out

President Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey was quite the showstopper a couple weeks back. It had everyone’s attention.

Comey had been investigating possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 presidential election. An independent counsel has been appointed to take over the investigation.

Those Comey was investigating for possible Russian ties are former Trump campaign advisers Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Trump family businesses.

Most of the Republican Congress has stood behind Trump, so far. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, helped by declaring no independent investigation would occur. The New York Times reports that Republicans are just starting to pull away from the president. We’ll see.

“This ought to scare the living daylights out of Congress. They now have to choose between safeguarding the republic and protecting the president,” wrote Thomas Wright, a director at Brookings Institute.

Comey’s firing “furthers Trump’s gradual assault on our democracy,” wrote U.S. News’ Austin Sarat. His sacking “is the latest move in President Donald Trump’s coup d’état against the rule of law and constitutional democracy in the U.S.”

Wright added, “When we hear the phrase ‘coup d’état’ we generally think of a sudden, decisive overthrow of an existing government. While such an effort is not beyond Trump, his ongoing effort could be called a coup d’état in ‘slow motion.’

“Trump’s coup unfolds gradually, through an intermittent series of attacks on the basic values of the rule of law, the most important of which is that no person, no matter how powerful, is above the law. In this conception, power is always accountable to law.

“Trump’s aggressive moves come unpredictably, interrupting seemingly reassuring periods of normal politics and policy debates. He pushes against the norms and boundaries of our constitutional system, then seems to retreat or desist, only to push and probe again to find its weak points and vulnerabilities.”

The president has attacked media, critics, and civic norms; fired Comey, former acting attorney general Sally Yates and former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara; and had a seemingly difficult time on legalities.

The Comey incident gives the appearance of a cover-up of the very thing Comey was investigating. “Now we have what may be the real thing: circumstantial evidence that a hostile foreign power may have colluded with a U.S. presidential campaign, and may retain undue influence at the highest levels of our government,” the New York Times’ Paul Krugman wrote.

Here’s what others have written:

“The FBI is in the middle of a counter-espionage investigation. This is a spy hunt.” — prominent author Malcolm Nance, who wrote on this very thing.

“Trump’s ascent to power marks the first time in living memory that the liberal world order no longer has a powerful defender.” — Slate’s Yascha Mounk.

No government, even the U.S. constitutional democracy, is tamper-proof. One vulnerability in our system has been the “reliance on the personal qualities of the person who wields the awesome powers of the presidency. [The president is] restrained first and foremost by his own ethics and public spirit.” — the Atlantic’s David Frum.

Our president is a reality TV star and a take-no-prisoners businessman. It appears he’s not always thinking about ethics.

Our Congress includes protection of our democratic system from “an overbearing president. But will it?” Frum asks. This seems to work “only on presidents of the opposite party.”

The president feels little loyalty to the congressional Republicans. “Yet here they are on the verge of achieving everything they have hoped to achieve for years, if not decades,” Frum added.

They owe this gain to Trump’s presidential win. And so they may have to enable his vain style until they get all they want done.

A few weeks ago, I stood on a corner in Kingston on Earth Day with about a dozen other bravehearts who were coming and going. It was amazing and uplifting to see how many people supported our cause.

Protest we must. Stand with friends and family on a corner or march down a street with them to spread your message. Kingston has a well-known corner by Rite Aid that’s a perfect area to join in with your own sign on announced occasions online and by posted signs.

— Marylin Olds is an opinion columnist living in Kingston. Email her your questions or comments at marylin.olds@gmail.com.

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