National Column: A constitutional way out of an existential crisis

by Rosie DiManno


Jesus wept.

Nothing is beyond imagining by now, of course. Twenty months of Trump and we are so far down the rabbit hole, weíve practically reached China.

Make possibly the most paranoid, narcissistic and unhinged man on the planet the most powerful man on the planet and this is what you get. This is what America gets – maybe what deserves.

Donald Trump knows from conspiracy theories, having almost single-handedly oxygenized the birther lie of Barack Obama’s provenance. Of course he’ll erupt volcanically over the prospect of a traitor in the White House – where, as CNN reported Thursday, top staffers were busy printing out and hand-delivering “Not I” letters to the commander-in-chief.

Fast and furious, with (as of this writing) nearly 20 top-drawer members of the Trump administration stepping up to publicly deny-deny-deny.

Uh-uh, swear to God, not the insider whose anonymous op-ed column in the New York Times has thrown Washington into a tizzy.

Tizzier. Tizziest.

Which is saying a mouthful, amid the endless turmoil of the Trump administration and the recent week from hell as, one by one, his closest allies turned against him: the former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who implicated Trump in testimony about hush money payments to two women who alleged affairs; the former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, found guilty on a slew of financial charges; the long-time friend, David Pecker, CEO of National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc., whoís been granted immunity from prosecution to provide information about the Cohen probe.

The pointed – don’t you dare – exclusion of Trump from Sen. John McCain’s funeral.

Then, thunderclap revelations from Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward, based on first-hand interviews with employees (albeit with sources protected), with cabinet officials deriding Trump (“idiot”) and denouncing his presidency (“crazytown”) as a lost cause.

Then, the blistering anonymous op-ed column, providing an eye-popping peek behind the curtain, everybody now scrambling to out him (or her) first. And it will happen.

“The dilemma – which he does not fully grasp – is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” wrote Deep Throat II.

“The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

And this from a person who professes to want the administration to succeed.

Trump is seething, fit to be tied. Oh, if only somebody would.

“TREASON?” he tweeted, sounding no different than some of the world’s worst dictators, with zero regard for the U.S. Constitution and no grasp of the definition for treason.

Indeed, from Trumpís Twitter stream of (un)consciousness twaddle:

“Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims ‘unwavering faith in President Trump.’ Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!”

Treason, as defined in the Constitution, is specifically restricted to “levying war” against the nation, or giving “aid and comfort” within the U.S., to the enemy.

Trump: “Does the so-called ‘Senior Administration Official’ really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phoney source? If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”

Bollocks. The (non-failing) Times has no duty to identify the writer. That’s insanity. But this is a lunatic president, with precious few in the Republican Party having the stones to stand up to him.

Was it abnormal for the Times to publish an incognito attack? Sure. But these are abnormal times.

This isn’t a president who even tries to put out fires. He pours gasoline on them.

So he’s taking names, making a list and checking it twice. The shame is that so many caught up in the who-dat speculation are more preoccupied with the messenger than the cri-de-coeur message.

A president who is a risk to the country. An administration a-roil with alarm. An inner “resistance” trying desperately to contain Trump’s worst tendencies.

We have been told repeatedly that impeachment of Trump is a non-starter, despite critics noting from the get-go he has committed numerous offences that merit impeachment.

Anonymous now tells us that there were “early whispers” within the cabinet about invoking the 25th Amendment, but “no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.”

If not now, when?

When last was America in such an existential crisis?

The 25th Amendment, adopted 51 years ago in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, provides a process for declaring that a president is unfit for office.

It is complicated and it would be unprecedented. But it exists for a purpose, if perhaps nobody could have conceived of a loose-marbles Trump in the Oval Office.

It would require Vice-President Mike Pence and a majority of cabinet to provide a written declaration to the president pro-tempore of the Senate (Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah) stipulating that Trump is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of office.” As the New York Times noted yesterday, “that would immediately strip Mr. Trump of the powers of his office and make Mr. Pence the acting president.”

Trump could, doubtless would, immediately send a written declaration to Hatch, protesting the accusation. That would trigger more back-and-forth with, ultimately, two-thirds of both the House and the Senate having to agree Trump should be stripped permanently of the position.

None of that, starting with Pence, is going to happen.

The 25th Amendment is actually more difficult to invoke than the impeachment process.

But as long as Trump can gonzo – and connive, and lie, and disgrace the presidency – the rest of us can dream.

Fix: Most recent estimate pegs the Toronto District School Board repair backlog at $4 billion, not $3.4 billion as reported in my Wednesday column.

Copyright 2018-Torstar Syndication Services