President Donald Trump takes the oath of office as his wife Melania Trump holds the bible on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)

Donald Trump has repeatedly violated his oath of office: Reason enough for impeachment

No one in living memory has done less to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution" than Donald Trump


Chauncey DeVega
June 19, 2019 12:00PM (UTC)

On Jan. 20, 2017, Donald Trump put his hand on a Bible and took the presidential oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

In the almost two and a half years since that moment, Trump has willfully and repeatedly violated this promise.

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Every day and every week bring more examples.

In a new interview, Donald Trump told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he would be willing to take information from a foreign country — information likely obtained through illegal means, and that may be  incorrect, fraudulent or used for blackmail — about a political rival if it would help him win the 2020 presidential election. To advance this plot and public invitation, Trump and his Republican allies have refused to enact laws that could help to prevent foreign interference in America's elections and related infrastructure. In total, Donald Trump and the Republican Party are leaving American democracy naked and open to foreign attack.

In the same interview, Trump told Stephanopoulos that the Constitution grants him unlimited power. This is not true. Donald Trump is an authoritarian who wants to be king or emperor. The Constitution was actually designed to stop a person like Donald Trump from becoming president.

Last Sunday, Donald Trump again "jokingly" implied he might not leave the presidency if he is defeated in 2020. In addition, Trump continues to threaten his political enemies with prison or death for their "treasonous" conduct, such as if they dare to criticize him or otherwise demand that he be held accountable under the law. This is part of a long pattern of behavior: Trump shows no respect for the country's longstanding democratic norms, procedures, laws and traditions.

Trump has commanded members of his administration not to cooperate with Congress by refusing to follow subpoena orders or to share requested documents and other information as mandated by the law. Congress and the presidency are coequal branches of the United States government under the Constitution.

For these and many other reasons as detailed by the Mueller Report and shown by his public and private behavior, Donald Trump should be impeached, convicted and removed from the presidency.

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Donald Trump is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. Yet he possesses no respect for the rule of law. This contradiction is anathema to our nation's political health.

In a New York Times op-ed, Quinta Jurecic summarizes Trump and his cadre's cavalier and gross disregard for the law, as shown by the Mueller Report:

The longer one spends with the report, the more disturbing a document it is, despite the initial fuzziness of some of Mr. Mueller’s conclusions. ... Mr. Mueller makes clear that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election with the goal of supporting Mr. Trump; that the Trump campaign sought to benefit from that interference; and that the president worked to put to an end to the office investigating the interference effort. Questions remain, but the most important question is whether this conduct should be acceptable.

More than 1,000 former federal prosecutors — both Republicans and Democrats — have signed a petition demanding that Donald Trump be indicted for obstruction of justice:

We emphasize that these are not matters of close professional judgment. Of course, there are potential defenses or arguments that could be raised in response to an indictment of the nature we describe here. In our system, every accused person is presumed innocent and it is always the government’s burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. But, to look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not probably sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice  —  the standard set out in Principles of Federal Prosecution — runs counter to logic and our experience.

As former federal prosecutors, we recognize that prosecuting obstruction of justice cases is critical because unchecked obstruction  —  which allows intentional interference with criminal investigations to go unpunished  —  puts our whole system of justice at risk. We believe strongly that, but for the OLC memo, the overwhelming weight of professional judgment would come down in favor of prosecution for the conduct outlined in the Mueller Report.

As shown by his business relationships as well as the influence peddling and other financial corruption of his closest associates and family members, Donald Trump is also in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits a sitting president from receiving foreign monies and other gifts while in office.

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If the long arc of history does indeed bend towards justice, then the story of the American presidency from the middle of the 20th century forward has been one where, however unevenly, there has been a sense that the president of the United States should nurture and protect the country's multiracial democracy. Donald Trump has fully jettisoned that norm.

He has called neo-Nazis and other right-wing domestic terrorists "very fine people". White supremacists and other members of the New Right claim him as an inspiration and a hero. The Ku Klux Klan, Nazis and other hate-mongers see Trump — quite correctly — as their ally and champion. Donald Trump rode the racist conspiracy theory known as "birtherism" to the White House. He and his Republican Party are leading a multi-spectrum assault on the civil and human rights of nonwhites in America and around the world. In both his private and public life Donald Trump has shown through his behavior and words that he is a white supremacist.

Ultimately, instead of following the example of his immediate predecessors regarding justice and the color line, Donald Trump seems to be channeling Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney in the infamous Dred Scott case, and trying to (re)create a country where black and brown people have no rights that a white man is bound to respect.

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Most Americans have not read the Mueller Report. This is likely true for most members of the Congress as well. To remedy this information deficit, Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress must hold public hearings which show how Donald Trump obstructed justice and colluded with a enemy power to subvert the 2016 presidential election. These hearings must use the power of television and other media to tell a compelling story: Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States.

To accomplish this goal Pelosi and the Democrats must find bravery by retreating from the cowardice that operates through the language of "political expediency." As historian Jennifer Mercieca recently told Salon contributor Paul Rosenberg:

I don't think that the calculus for impeachment should be whether or not it helps or hurts the Democratic Party in 2020. I think the question is about the preservation of the nation and whether or not Trump has possibly committed high crimes and misdemeanors and/or violated his oath of office. If the Democratic Party is thinking about its election chances rather than thinking about the stability of the nation, then the republic is already lost. Because it means that party interest has superseded the law.

The damning facts presented in the Mueller Report about Trump's obstruction of justice and collusion with a hostile foreign power are the scaffolding upon which to show that Donald Trump should be impeached, convicted and then removed from office.

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But the Democrats (and those very few Republicans) who know that Donald Trump and his movement are an existential threat to the United States must also, in the clearest terms possible, demonstrate to the American people how Trump's betrayal runs much deeper than can be revealed by the Mueller Report.

The presidential oath is not a law one can be prosecuted for breaking. It possesses much more than legalistic utility: The presidential oath represents a set of principles and values about the public trust, democracy and respect for the traditions of democracy.

Donald Trump has repeatedly, flagrantly and consistently violated the sacred oath he took on Jan. 20, 2017. In betraying that oath Donald Trump has done something even worse — he has betrayed the American people and placed the survival of our republic in danger.


Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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