Republican Senator Jeff Flake said earlier this month:
“I expect people want someone who will say, ‘I’m voting with Trump on the good stuff and standing up to him on the not good stuff.’”
The senator expects correctly. And right now the top of “the not good stuff” list includes: 1) the disclosure of highly classified information to a country the U.S. intelligence community unanimously determined interfered in the election, 2) the firing of the FBI director for conducting an investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion in that interference, 3) and an attempt to end the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn through a direct request to the FBI director.
Like Senator Flake’s constituents, many of yours are waiting for you to stand up to the President on “the not good stuff” too. According to the director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, President Trump cannot be prosecuted for revealing sensitive intelligence:
“Instead, reckless disclosures by the president of classified information that damaged the national security, if they occurred, might be grounds for impeachment.”
Are you prepared to stand up to and impeach the President if investigations into the disclosure finds them to be reckless?
According to Harvard professor of law Mark Tushnet:
“Trump’s firing of Comey is not an obstruction of justice, so long as there is somebody to step in and continue the investigation.”
But this was before Director Comey released his February memo, documenting the President’s request to end the investigation:
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Are you prepared to impeach the President if investigations find that his request to Comey was an obstruction of justice?
White House officials have denied Comey’s memo:
“This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey… The president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn.”
The denail means someone is lying. If it’s shown to be the President, what actions will you take?
This stand-off and the rest of “the not good stuff” places the nation in general, Congress specifically, and GOP leaders especially in a difficult position. Secretary of State Tillerson was asked on NBC:
“What’s the line between service to the president and service to the country, sir? For you.”
“I will never compromise my own values, Chuck. And so that’s my only line. And my values are those of the country.”
What is you answer?
Until now that line has been blurry. It was possible for you and other Republicans to serve President Trump and the country simultaneously. But the escalation of the President’s alarming actions undermines that possibility. As Professor Tushnet said:
“Maybe people didn’t realize this, but in fact the legal checks are not very strong. But there are also political checks on what the president can do, and we’re learning in real time whether those checks are effective.”
Are you willing to stand up to the President and show that political checks are effective? Republican Senator Rubio said over the weekend:
“If any president tries to impede an investigation — any president, no matter who it is — by interfering with the FBI … it would be not just problematic. It would be, obviously, a potential obstruction of justice that people have to make a decision on.”
What decision will you make? Which do you value more: your president or your country?