President Donald Trump is on a tear, attacking his own Justice Department, hinting at a pardon for Paul Manafort and making excuses not to cooperate with the special counsel during an important investigation. (The last, in and of itself, is dereliction of duty and evidence that it is impossible for him to “take care” in the enforcement of our laws.)
What’s worse, Republicans are silent — or, worst of all, cheering him on. The Republican Party, in other words, is at risk of collaborating in the destruction of the rule of law. Unless something changes, this is the future of the GOP — corrupt, incoherent and authoritarian.
It is widely assumed that Trump will be the 2020 Republican nominee. Perhaps, but he might not be around that long. And the party might recognize a train wreck and prevail on him to retire. In any event, if there is any Republican out there (such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich; U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley; or Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Bob Corker, R-Tenn., or Ben Sasse, R-Neb.) who is contemplating a challenge to Trump from within the party — a final last stand to save the GOP from itself — we are reaching a do-or-die moment. No one who wants to challenge Trump is going to be able to pull it off unless he or she sounds the alarm early and often. (I’d argue that some contenders have already disqualified themselves on this ground.)
Here are some suggestions:
1. Demand hearings on Trump’s possible illegal conduct, beyond the Russia probe.
2. Push legislation that already cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee to protect special counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
3. Announce that if either is fired or disabled (for example, by replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions or by stripping them of security clearances), impeachment hearings should commence.
4. Call out by name lawmakers such as Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, R-S.C., who encourage reckless conduct. Publicly admonish Republicans for failing to safeguard the rule of law.
5. Demand that Reps. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Calif., and Chris Collins, R-N.Y., be expelled from the House.
6. Implore Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to replace Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
7. Recommend a Senate resolution that pardoning those with ties to the president who have either been convicted of or have pleaded guilty to felonies shall be grounds to commence impeachment hearings.
8. Denounce Trump’s attacks on the Justice Department and the rule of law. (Why are nearly all the ones speaking out Democrats?)
9. Urge that if Mueller is fired or disabled, he be hired forthwith as counsel for congressional investigators (for now, that would be the Senate Intelligence Committee).
10. Explain it to the voters. It’s not a small thing that the Republican electorate is cordoned off from reality and common sense. They’ve been fed a steady diet of lunacy from right-wing media outlets. A Republican who wants to lead the party must first educate and persuade them that there is such a thing as the rule of law.
Now, if you think those 10 recommendations seem preposterous or useless, I would suggest it is time to stake out ground for a new party. A party that no longer understands or embraces the rule of law cannot be trusted with power. We’ll need something else if we want a viable two-party system.