I wrote this piece back in February, and then waited for the right time to go public. Back then, I was expecting a far more powerful impetus — from both Mueller and the Democrats — to bring this out-of-control President to account. I’ve still not given up hope, and the arguments presented here still make sense to me.
And even though there is no shortage of strong grounds for impeaching this President — and some good grounds as well for removing him through the 25th amendment — I think these points still worth making.
This kind of wanton lying from a President of the United States should never be normalized, never considered remotely acceptable.
There’s no shortage for grounds for removing Trump from office. But the stream of lies that Trump pours into our politics are grounds enough all by itself.
To the extent that Trump’s lies reflect an intentional deception of the people, they constitute a “crime” that would justify impeachment.
To the extent that Trump is incapable of meeting minimal acceptable standards of truthfulness, Trump’s continual lying proves Trump “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” which is the standard for removal through the 25th Amendment.
I expect there’s plenty of both purposeful deception and delusion.
I. Trump’s Lies as a Crime
It’s widely said that defining “high crimes and misdemeanors” – deeds calling for impeachment– is a political, not a legal, judgment. So I propose that we can take the basic meaning of “high crime” to be some important violation of the good order the Constitution was trying to create.
By that definition, if Trump is deliberately lying to the nation, and thereby intentionally preventing the nation from having a political conversation based on truth, that should qualify as such a “crime.” Trump’s stream of falsehoods injures the political order, because his lies make it impossible for us to conduct our politics sanely, constructively.
Instead of dealing with our actual problems, Trump compels the whole political system to cope with the falseness of the picture of our reality that – with his bully pulpit — he imposes on everyone.
To take just the most recent [back in February] salient example: consider all that the nation has needlessly suffered because of the President’s falsehoods about illegal immigration and the indefensible insistence on Congress giving him a foolish wall.
One lie after another — more than 10,000 overall — including these on the immigration issue:
- Raising a false alarm about immigration – declaring falsely a major crisis, a disaster, a threat to national security — when in fact the rate of such immigration had fallen to a 40-year low.
- Characterizing the immigrants as dangerous criminals (rapists, MS-11), when their crime rates are less than those of the native-born.
- Claiming a wall will stop the influx of drugs—though mainly the drugs enter through legal checkpoints.
- Saying a wall will stop terrorists, whereas the overwhelming majority of people on the terrorist check list (not even confirmed terrorists) come in through the airport.
And the biggest lie, because he’s assaulting the Constitution: declaring a “national emergency” when there is no emergency.
If the meaning of “high crimes and misdemeanors” depends upon a political judgment of when our political order needs protecting against presidential misconduct, all that Trump is inflicting upon the nation with the utter lack of truth value to his presidential statements surely constitutes a major crime.
II. Trump’s Lies Demonstrate an Inability to “Discharge the Duties of His Office”
Trump is clearly a con man. But he also shows clear signs of lying to himself, often concocting a highly distorted picture of reality that he apparently needs in order to protect his raging narcissistic self-image. (Besides the phony “national emergency,” which seems an effort to deny his defeat in Congress, he seems actually to have believed the lies about the size of his inaugural crowd, and his completely unfounded claims about his A+ presidency, his “solving” the problem with North Korea, his popularity, etc.)
The duties of the presidency surely go beyond just performing certain required actions – like nominating judges for the courts and signing legislation. In addition to the explicit actions, one of the most fundamental if unspoken “duties of the office” is surely as to act as a reasonably competent and reliable leader of the nation. A delusional president – or a President who lies compulsively — is incapable of performing that duty.
Trump appears to be a prisoner of the Lie. One lie after another, misleading the nation rather than leading it:
- not believing what his scientists tried to tell him about climate change,
- conjuring up the image of a nation mired in “American carnage,”
- claiming that his tax bill was for the middle class
- supporting Putin’s lie over American intelligence regarding whether the Russians attacked our democracy and worked to make Trump President,
- falsely accusing the Mueller investigation – which has already netted a bunch of fish – of being some sort of partisan “witch hunt.”
Trump’s lies create needless turmoil that consumes the nation’s political energies, holding the nation captive, imposing a huge toll on the nation.
His Lying is Disqualifying: Impeach or 25th, but Remove.
Regardless of whether there’s anything that would lead the current Congress to actually remove Trump from office, a much bigger issue should be made – by some of the main voices of the Democratic Party — of Trump’s extraordinary degree of lying.
(More than 8,000 inventoried so far [as of February], the rate having doubled from 5/day in the first year of his presidency to more than 10/day in the second.
(And these falsehoods are not of random nature. All the falsehoods seem designed to bring out the worst in the nation. Like “I don’t believe it” as his total response to the alarming report his own scientists gave him on climate change. Like speaking falsely about what the black NFL players were saying with their kneeling. Like Mexicans are sending rapists.)
Every new lie should be pounced upon, made into evidence for the prosecution.
The people should be continually reminded that we’re dealing with a chronic liar here — one who continually attempts to deceive the nation on one thing after another, things large and small – so that more and more Americans realize people should stop believing anything he says.
We must emphatically say that such lying is absolutely unacceptable in a President of the United States.