Challenges before Trump administration

Nitya Chakraborty

US President Donald Trump is facing his biggest political battle in less than five months of presidency after the testimony given by the fired FBI Director James B. Comey on June 8 that President Trump put pressure on him at one to one meeting to drop the investigations against his former national security adviser Michael T Flynn. He also said that Trump and White House spread lies against him and FBI. The unequivocal manner in which Comey mentioned of the US President’s continuing insistence on him to let Flynn go meaning dropping the investigations for his Russian links, is a sort of obstruction to justice and this is a serious offence as per the American constitution calling for prosecution.
Earlier reports came that Flynn was under the investigation by the FBI for having been a paid foreign agent working for Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan. This was apart from his close Russian connections which he himself later admitted and invited dismissal from President Trump. Now when the FBI investigations are on and these refer to the connections with the foreign countries, President Trump in a deliberate move talked to his FBI Director alone and said about Flynn’ I hope you can let this go”. This is nothing short of telling his investigating official that you will have to do it in the midst of investigations itself. Trump plainly said that he wanted loyalty from the FBI Director to which Comey responded that Trump will get honesty from him.
US legal experts opine that what Trump has told Comey in the course of an ongoing investigations, is in the nature of a deliberate effort to impede the investigations and this is a sort of serious obstruction of justice. Experts are saying that Trump mentioning that Flynn is a good guy and” I hope you can let this go” is a sort of request with the essence of a directive. Comey also in his testimony mentioned this by stating that “I took it as a direction. I mean the President of the United States with me alone, saying “I hope this’. I took it as this is what he wants me to do”.
The Justice Department of the US administration has not yet said whether the special counsel Robert S Mueller is looking into any obstructions by Trump as a part of his new responsibility to look after the investigations related to Russian connections after the exit of Comey, but Comey said on Tuesday that he had already given his memos recounting conversations with Trump to Mueller for scrutiny. Since it was a one to one conversation and Trump was interested in keeping it confidential, Comey feared that Trump might not have kept tapes of the conversation.
Following Thursday’s testimony by Comey, Trump has got no excuse left. His lawyer has tried to defend him by saying that Trump is not a liar and he did not specifically ask Comey to drop the Flynn investigations, but nobody is believing him. Even the Republicans, who are trying to find out way to salvage the situation, have believed the statement of the former FBI Director who is a known Republican Party sympathizer with values and strong ethics. They are not in a mood to give the ground to the Democrats at this time on the issue of prosecution or impeachment. The Republican Party is looking for other ways to defuse the situation, if possible.
A section of the Republicans who are anti-Trump, has mooted the proposal that if the special counsel Mueller carries out the investigations and Trump gets implicated further, the GOP leadership should consider whether the change of Presidency can be brought about through negotiations with Trump by promoting vice president Pence under 25th amendment of the US constitution. According to this, the US cabinet can take a decision under extraordinary circumstances to ask the President to step down and nominate vice president. Nobody among the Republican Party has discussed officially this with President Trump but constitutional experts have mentioned of this possibility to the Republican Party leadership. As per this amendment, President George Bush handed power to vice president Cheney in July 2007 when he had to undergo a surgery. For 125 minutes, Cheney had full presidential powers.
According to the US constitution, the president in office can be impeached for treason, bribery or other misdemeanours. Bill Clinton was charged with obstruction of justice and with perjury for allegedly lying under oath to a federal grand jury about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. The current president can be charged for lying on a number of issues, including ties of his and his campaign leaders with the Russians, especially President Putin. So far, two presidents Bill Clinton (1998) and Andrew Johnson (1868) have been impeached. Articles of impeachment were passed against Richard Nixon by a congressional committee but Nixon resigned before the House of Representatives could vote on the matter. That way, technically, Nixon was not impeached.
The Presidential powers given to Cheney in 2007 for sometime was under a normal political situation. In the present surcharged atmosphere in the Republican Party and the White House, nobody has the guts to take up the talk of any alternative possibility with President Trump. So the Republicans are eagerly waiting for the newly appointed Mueller to come out with a report ruling out any involvement of Trump in the Russian affairs as also Trump did not put any pressure on Comey on Flynn issue. But if Mueller report also goes against Trump, the Republicans will have no option but to explore the possibility of replacing Trump without doing any long term damage to the Republican Party. (IPA)

Saturday, 17 June, 2017