By Robert A. Vella

Before moving on to today’s editorial, I would like to point out yet another deadly mass shooting this time in Thousand Oaks, California.  Such continuing tragedies reflect the intense cultural and political polarization now tearing this nation apart and which reveal a society that is broken in virtually every way possible.  Americans are a very sick people, and worst of all they are not receiving the care they so desperately need.

Much has been written about the general decline of morality in America.  While the mores of all cultures change somewhat over time, and demagogues do try to exploit this phenomenon to advance their ideological agendas, the prevailing sense both inside and outside the country sees the people of the U.S. as having lost their way.  Americans are struggling to discern the difference between right and wrong, and are substituting the basic principles of morality with tribal identity and association.  Increasingly, Americans are ignoring the crookedness of their leaders as long as they perceive it as serving their particular interests.

But, the governmental foundations of all functional democracies can accommodate evolving moralities up to a certain point.  It is done through the establishment of professional ethics – that is, legal codes of conduct and behavioral guidelines which are intended to hold organizational members accountable for their actions.  In America, all public officials work under such ethical standards including Supreme Court justices and the President of the United States.

Although ethics rules have been tested by unscrupulous individuals from time to time in American history (e.g. Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal), no president since at least the Civil War has been so brazen about it than Donald Trump.  Yesterday, just hours after the pivotal midterm election results were determined, he “requested the resignation” (a convenient euphemism for “fired”) of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him with an interim AG (Matthew Whitaker) having limited legal experience and whose background as a far right-wing activist, political candidate, and outspoken opponent of the DOJ’s ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, raises very serious ethical questions up to and including obstruction of justice.  See:

With new Justice official, fate of Russia probe in question

Trump’s acting attorney general was part of firm US accused of vast scam

Furthermore, even if Trump’s acting AG has not yet committed any obstruction of the Russia investigation headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the circumstances surrounding the appointment certainly do violate ethics rules defined as the appearance of impropriety.  See:

Code of Conduct for United States Judges – Canon 2: A Judge Should Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in all Activities


Naval Inspector General – Appearance of Impropriety

This is what highly respected historian Michael Beschloss said yesterday after the firing of Sessions, from:  ‘Ten Times Worse Than Nixon’: Historian Sounds The Alarm After Trump Fires Sessions

If this is going the way it looks, this is ten times worse than Nixon because, let’s look, if this leads to let’s say the firing of Robert Mueller or the substantial limiting of this investigation – ten times worse than Nixon. Because let’s look at what Donald Trump has done here. Let’s first look at the Supreme Court. He now has a five justice majority on the Supreme Court. The fifth justice is the one person of all those people on that federalist society list that has the most extreme views of permitting a president not to be investigated, not to be indicted, not to be subpoenaed, use pardons to help himself. There is no doubt in my mind that the reason why Brett Kavanaugh is on the court tonight is because Donald Trump wanted him to be reliable if a Trump case could come to the court. And remember, that was a vacancy that Donald Trump created by encouraging Anthony Kennedy maybe to resign from the court earlier than expected so that it would be Brett Kavanaugh in this position tonight and not Anthony Kennedy who might have been a little bit more in a position to stand up to Donald Trump. And then on the other side, this is a president who now looks as if he’s very directly not only firing the attorney general and putting in someone to replace him, who is by most accounts, by most accounts, not terribly qualified. By some accounts a political hack. By almost all accounts someone who can be relied upon to be completely obedient to President Trump.

Here’s how we arrived at this constitutional crisis which now poses an existential threat to American democracy and the rule of law:

July 2016 – FBI Director James Comey begins investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election campaign.

March 2, 2017 – Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuses himself from the Russia investigation after admitting that he did not disclose two meetings he had with the Russian ambassador to Washington during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearings.  Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein takes over that role.

May 9, 2017 – Trump fires FBI Director James Comey and admits it was because Comey was investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with his presidential campaign.

May 17, 2017 – Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appoints former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to lead the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and all related matters.

There are Americans today, and not just Trump supporters, who oppose the Mueller investigation.  They assert that the president must be above the law to function as president, that these ethics rules shouldn’t exist, that Trump’s collusion with Russia to influence the outcome of the election – if true – aren’t really serious, or that it’s irrelevant because all politicians do similar things.  Such misguided opinions illustrate perfectly the premise of this post regarding America’s precipitous moral decline.  Ethics rules are absolutely imperative for trust in government;  else, society will naturally decay into increasingly fragmented and warring factions.

I’ll conclude with a historical quote provided by a fine fellow blogger.  From:  The Crisis is Upon Us

Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”

20 thoughts on “Trump, a Constitutional Crisis, and Ethics in America

  1. They assert that the president must be above the law to function as president, that these ethics rules shouldn’t exist, that Trump’s collusion with Russia to influence the outcome of the election

    Of course to Trump, it isn’t just about collusion. It’s also about the financial picture related to Russia and his business interests. Otherwise why would he be making such a fuss? And why won’t he release his tax returns?

    The collusion would just validate what many already surmise … that he won with Russia’s help. Of course he doesn’t want that brought out into the open either, but I think we all know there’s much more here than meets the eye.

    Liked by 5 people

    • With regards to Trump’s tax returns, I thought the US Ethics Act required annual disclosure of financial information by the president. Is this not the case?

      In Aotearoa New Zealand, Parliamentary standing orders require that Members of Parliament “must make returns of pecuniary interests,” including those of their spouses and dependent children. The interest is broadly defined as “a direct financial benefit that might accrue to a member personally, or to any trust, company or other business entity in which the member holds an appreciable interest”. All such returns are published in the Register of Pecuniary Interest of Members of Parliament within 90 days after a general election and must be kept current.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Normally, presidents release their tax returns during their election campaigns. However, Trump is not a normal president. He continues to defy those ethical concerns presumably because he has something to hide.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Barry, those were all excellent questions. What Robert has essentially alluded to for several months, and I completely agree with him (along with thousands/millions of other intelligent Americans!), is that the POTUS takes a vow to SERVE his people, as a whole, and to uphold and protect our Constitution, and branches of government, INCLUDING those agencies and institutions that greatly HELP in protecting this nation!!!!

          tRumpsky has shown no capacity to do any of these core ideals and tasks, even after swearing upon the Bible many of his supporters worship! How ridiculously ironic that is, huh?

          Liked by 4 people

        • Yes it is… BRAZENLY in your face like MMA chest-beating warriors in the chained-in Octagons…. or better yet, just like 1920’s, 1930’s thru the ’60s and ’70s mobsters and Mafia bosses did “business” — IN YOUR FACE outright, arrogant lies… with your fat arms folded up across your tittied chest!!! Oooooooo! What a Mafia brut he is. 😒 Whatever you 8th-grade speaking baby-bully.

          Liked by 2 people

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