Trump's In-Your-Face Impeachable Offense
“For seven years I’ve been hearing about health care, and I’ve been hearing about repeal and replace and Obamacare is a total disaster, some states had over a 200 percent increase, 200 percent increase in their premiums, and their deductibles are through the roof, it’s an absolute disaster. And I think you’ll also agree that I’ve been saying for a long time, let Obamacare fail and then everybody’s going to have to come together and fix it…. Let Obamacare fail, it’ll be a lot easier. And I think we’re probably in that position, where we’ll just let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it, I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans, they’re not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail and the Democrats are going to come to us and we’re going to say, 'How do we fix it? How do we fix it? Or, how do we come up with a new plan?' … It would be nice to have Democrat support, but really they’re obstructionists, they have no ideas, they have no thought process, all they want to do is obstruct government, and obstruct, period.” — President Trump, luncheon comments, July 18, 2017
Responding to a reporter’s question, the President’s four-minute luncheon ramble is remarkable in many ways, starting with its fundamental incoherence: expecting Democrat obstructionists with no thought process “to come to us” to fix it. The record is clear: when Republicans were in the minority they refused to work on Obamacare, and since the Republicans have been in the majority they’ve refused to ask Democrats to work on Obamacare. Republicans are not invested in health care, especially for poor people, Republicans are invested in tax cuts for the rich (to which Democrats are not necessarily opposed).
The President’s ramble is remarkable for its mischaracterization of reality when he says “Obamacare is a total disaster.” Yes it has problems, as he points out, without also pointing out that these are problems Democrats embraced rather than enact a single payer health care plan. But for all its problems, Obamacare is far from a total disaster in the real world. The majority of Americans still perceive it as a relative success, and the people who benefit directly from it mostly see it as a godsend.
The President’s ramble is remarkable for the oblique way he blames the present mess on Republicans, without naming them. “For seven years” he’s been hearing about health care, he says, without adding: and for seven years these ideological idiots haven’t been able to craft a single useful alternative. He also doesn’t say: believe it or not, some of them actually want to help poor people stay healthy and think it’s OK for really rich people to help pay for the common good. “I’m not going to own it,” he says frankly. (The same day his White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed the same lie about Democrats being responsible for fixing the law even though they have no power to do so.) The reality, however unfair it may be, is always that responsibility lies with those in power. For Trump, health care is all his now, whatever happens.
The President’s ramble is remarkable for his expressed plan to abandon a duly enacted law: “we’re probably in that position, where we’ll just let Obamacare fail.” This future course is apparently based on the false and contradictory assessment that Obamacare has already failed (“total disaster”). The President of the United States is blithely embracing a plan that will cause incalculable harm to millions of American citizens, and he seems either uncomprehending or uncaring about the consequential suffering his choice would cause to the country he imagines he’s making great again.
But now comes the most remarkable aspect of the President’s ramble, his naked embrace of a course of action that clearly comprises multiple violations of the Constitution, multiple impeachable offenses.
“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.”
— Oath of office of the President of the United States,
US Constitution, Article II, Section 1
President Trump swore this oath on January 20, 2017, before what he seems to believe was the largest inaugural crowd ever. In case it’s not clear enough what it meant to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States,” the Constitution offers some guidelines, including “he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” (Article II, Section 3). The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, is a duly-enacted statute that has survived challenge before the Supreme Court. Obamacare is indisputably a law that the President has a constitutional duty to faithfully execute.
The way the Obamacare law is written gives the President considerable authority over the way the law operates, well or badly. Among the techniques of sabotage publicly discussed, the President could cut subsidies that lower the cost of insurance (House Republicans already have a lawsuit to force him to do that.). He could refuse to carry out the law’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty enforced by the IRS. He could undermine enrollment in Obamacare by refusing to promote the open enrollment period in November. He can continue to lie about and exaggerate the flaws of Obamacare until he makes its failure a self-fulfilling prophecy. He could try any or all of these tactics, which would likely have a cascading effect, undermining insurance markets and consumer confidence and turning health care into chaos for millions of people.
Well, guess what? The Trump administration has been attacking the government since day one or thereabouts. Even though the attack is continuous and taking place in plain sight — starting with the appointment of agency heads who hate their agencies, almost all duly approved by collaborators in the Senate — little attention has been paid. Congress members with publicly funded staffs have paid little attention to the daily erosion of the public good across the government. Major media companies with ample staff and budget prefer sitting in video-free White House press-stonewalling sessions to digging into what is actually happening at agencies no longer fulfilling their lawful mandates. One exception to this inattention (no doubt there are some others) is a long piece by Sam Stein on July 17, detailing some of the ways the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under Secretary Tom Price is undermining America’s health and human services, Obamacare in particular, immorally and probably illegally. Near the end of his piece we learn that Democratic senators Patty Murray and Ron Wyden flagged this issue in February but have had no response yet from HHS. What’s up with that!?
One last remarkable aspect of the President’s ramble is that news coverage of it has stressed more concern for protecting insurance markets than acting lawfully in constitutional good faith. (A quick Google search found only one current exception, tarpley.net, plus my own piece in Reader Supported News four months ago on the same issue. Constitutionally, Trump has been impeachable since the moment he took office, but only a political process can impeach a president.)
The political will to impeach this deceitful, destructive president and his administration does not exist despite millions of people, even some in Congress and the media, knowing impeachment is abundantly justified. And it’s not just Obamacare, or Trumpian self-enrichment in violation of the emoluments clause, or even the Russian hooha (whatever it really is). Every day, with little attention, this administration violates the constitutional duty to faithfully execute the law to protect the environment, to defend the right to vote, to protect civil rights and civil liberties, to support public education, among its other travesties of governing, foreign and domestic.
Faced with the obscenity of Republican “health care,” Republican senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said, “I did not come to Washington to hurt people.” That makes her an enemy of her party, for now at least. But it’s not as though there’s a host of Democrats expressing human decency with such simple, direct eloquence. Not hurting people, defending the Constitution, why is that too much to ask?