Many supporters of Donald Trump are passionate about their president. Their connection to the real estate developer is personal and visceral. They embraced his rhetoric about immigrants and united with him over a feeling the system and the “elite” in government and the media were screwing them. He gave voice to their fears and wounds.
So it’s no wonder Trump supporters jump to defend him against charges of malfeasance, incompetence and racism. They take those accusations as an attack on themselves. I understand why they’re upset that Congress is taking the first steps toward impeaching the president.
But Trump has taken their loyalty for granted and used it as a cover for deeds that would land anyone else on the street and perhaps even in jail. After all, Trump himself bragged he could shoot someone in broad daylight and most of his supporters would stay in his corner. He has behaved as if that were true.
I don’t doubt the patriotism of Trump supporters. They believe in the Constitution and the rule of law. They want a president who puts the interests of the country above his own. That’s why I know many will come around to the same conclusion most of their fellow Americans have reached: Trump has violated his oath of office – to protect and defend the Constitution, not his business interests, not the Republican Party, not his own reelection.
The President has demonstrated his disdain both for that oath and the rule of law almost from his inauguration, in large and small ways. But in office, as in his business career, he has skirted the edges of outright law breaking, taking advantage of divided government and strong support from Republican voters to cow even those politicians who opposed his election.
The latest revelations, however, are too blatant and brazen to ignore. For those who love the Constitution and the rule of law, it’s time to step up, put the United States of America itself first, and condemn Trump as a betrayer of that oath and of the country.
There has been much talk about whether, in the now infamous July 25 telephone call, Trump offered something to or pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. There’s been even more talk about whether Biden is guilty of using his position to block an investigation into his son. (The evidence is clear: he didn’t.)
None of this matters – not whether there was quid pro quo, not whether there was “pressure,” and not whether the Bidens did or did not do something.
It doesn’t matter because the mere act of asking Zelensky to do so is an abuse of presidential power.
It’s abuse because Trump’s position gives him access to the president of Ukraine and to national leaders everywhere. He has that access because he is presumed to represent the citizens and interests of the most powerful nation on Earth. If Trump was just an average citizen, it’s unlikely Zelensky would even talk to him.
It’s an abuse because Ukrainian leaders depend on the United States and other allies to support their country as it fights an invasion by Russian-supported troops. Without that support, an authoritarian country would invade them. Displeasing Trump, even if he didn’t make the threat, puts their very existence at risk.
And it’s abuse because Trump used his power to seek the investigation, however bogus, of a political opponent. As long as Ukraine says it’s investigating, Trump can cast a cloud over the person he sees as his most formidable electoral threat.
In effect, Trump’s request would use the power of the U.S. government, through a Ukrainian proxy, to investigate a political opponent. Those tactics are common in Russia, Syria, Egypt and other authoritarian regimes – not in the United States. To do so is a perversion of democracy.
By releasing a rough transcript of a call in which he so clearly abuses his power, Trump is effectively shooting the Constitution and the rule of law in broad daylight, with everyone watching, and daring us to do something about it. If Trump supporters really love this country, they will turn their backs on him.
by Thomas O’Donnell