I keep hearing that if Trump fires Mueller, we’ll face a “constitutional crisis.” Or if Mueller subpoenas Trump to testify and Trump defies the subpoena, it’s a “constitutional crisis.” Or if Mueller delivers substantial evidence that Trump is guilty of colluding with Russia or of obstructing justice, and the House does nothing to impeach him, we have a “constitutional crisis.”
Well, I have news for you. We’re already in a “constitutional crisis.”
You see, the Constitution is a tiny document. It requires that presidents and others in positions of power be bound by norms, unwritten rules, and long-established understandings of their constitutional responsibilities.
Yet look at what’s happened since January 2017:
Trump fires the head of the FBI and conjures up a plot that the FBI installed a spy in his campaign; blames the entire Mueller investigation on a conspiratorial “deep state” that’s out to remove him from office; uses pardons to demonstrate to people already under investigation that they don’t need to cooperate because he can pardon them, too; and asserts that the appointment of the special counsel was unconstitutional, and that he has the power under the Constitution to end the investigation whenever he wants.
He initially denies that Russia intruded in the 2016 election, when all America’s intelligence agencies show it has; and even now asserts that they are not continuing to mount a cyberattack on America, when his intelligence chiefs say otherwise.
Beyond this, he berates judges who disagree with him, and journalists and news organizations that criticize him; uses the presidency like a personal fiefdom to enrich himself and his family; unilaterally breaks treaties, starts trade wars with long-standing allies, and cozies up to some of the most murderous dictators in the world; treats Americans who didn’t vote for him and disapprove of him as his enemies; and tweets and holds rallies with his followers that fuel division and hate.
There is no exact definition of a constitutional crisis. Presumably it’s when the United States Constitution is in crisis. And it is in crisis now, today, because the president of the United States is abusing it to entrench his power.
As long as he can get away with it, as long as Republicans who control Congress won’t stand up to him, as long as Americans who oppose this have no capacity to stop him, even though they may be in the majority, this rogue president will do more and more damage to our system of government. And the constitutional crisis will worsen.
A malignant megalomaniac facing no countervailing power will continue to expand his terrain until he is stopped.
The best response is to vote for a Congress this November that will constrain him. And then, in November 2020, vote him and his regime out of office.
If he refuses to accept the results of that election—as he threatened to do if he lost the 2016 election—he must be removed from office.
This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.
Robert B. Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and former secretary of labor under the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His film, Inequality for All, was released in 2013. Follow him on Twitter: @RBReich.