Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, it really shouldn’t be too much to ask that the president of the United States not commit felonies. It’d be nice if they didn’t perjure themselves or obstruct justice. No one wants to defend that kind of behavior and I still harbor a lot of resentment toward Bill Clinton for what he put Democrats through, despite the fact that nothing he did rose to the level of a high crime or misdemeanor and he definitely should have been defended against the attempt to remove him from office.
Despite this, I don’t really share John Podhoretz’s level of outrage about Donald Trump’s felonious violations of campaign finance law. Taken in complete isolation (which is impossible in this case, I know), I don’t think it’s a removable offense to pay off mistresses to keep silent about your affairs and then lie about it incessantly. If I thought that, I probably would not have defended Bill Clinton. Congress should have censured Clinton and been done with it, and if there weren’t a hundred other concerns about Trump’s fitness for office, that’s what Congress should do with this latest revelation.
I know it can be argued that the election was so close that Trump would have lost if not for his successful effort to cover up his affairs with a porn star and a Playboy bunny, and that does make it significantly more serious than lying under oath and hiding gifts related to a dalliance with a White House intern. Still, I’d let the voters handle this one and have Trump pay some fines and restitution once he’s out of office.
In truth, the proper way to deal with this is not to call for impeachment hearings or bray to this hilltops about how the president is a felon. The proper way to deal with it is to make it part of an eventual argument for removal that is based on the entire Mueller report. I’ve written about this a few times before, but we’re really stuck in a bad limbo until that report comes in because the Republicans aren’t going to stand up to their base unless or until they’re armed with the really damning stuff. We can’t deal with Trump piecemeal, but that’s the way revelations and developments have been playing out.
The Republicans in Congress could move to censure the president since they now know he’s committed felonies, and it’s a problem if they do nothing. But they really need more.
Obviously, Mueller is moving as fast as he can and yesterday showed how much progress he is making, but our system is so jangled at the moment that we can’t wait much longer.