President Donald Trump either deliberately chooses not to acknowledge the supremacy of federal law or is shockingly ignorant of the limitations it imposes on him. His recent Twitter barrages, coupled with statements to reporters and supporters, reflect the thoughts of someone who believes laws and the Constitution are for suckers and losers. He soon could be in for a very rude awakening.
By now, Americans are well-acquainted with details of the whistleblower complaint about his July 25 phone call with Ukraine's president, during which a discussion of U.S. military assistance prompted Trump's request for "a favor" involving the collection of dirt against Trump's top political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. The president's closest advisers now face potentially huge personal legal bills as a House impeachment inquiry threatens to envelop them. Among them are Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
The nation is on edge, largely because Trump's base includes well-armed gun fanatics, white supremacists and devotees who take his words as divinely inspired guidance. So when Trump tweets a warning that his removal would provoke "a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal," the implications are deadly serious.
"I have visited nations ravaged by civil war ...," Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., responded on Twitter. "This is beyond repugnant." Kinzinger is a veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Trump suggests Rep. Adam Schiff should be tried for treason for remarks critical of Trump made while Schiff chaired a House Intelligence Committee meeting last week. He refers to the whistleblower, whose anonymity is protected by federal law, as a traitor and spy.
Trump told reporters that the White House is looking into the whistleblower's identity and background. He openly questioned in a tweet why he, as president, is not "entitled to interview & learn everything about" the whistleblower. The promise under federal law of anonymity is what allows government employees to step forward with credible allegations of waste, fraud and abuse without fear of retaliation.
Kinzinger is hardly the only Republican to challenge the president. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, normally a staunch Trump defender, has defended the whistleblower's credibility and publicly split with Trump about protecting the person's anonymity. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has used all kinds of innovative maneuvers in the past to thwart Democrats, has stated that he would not attempt to block a full Senate trial if House proceedings yield an indictment of Trump.
Those Republicans who choose to ignore the president's abuses and defend his antics — including Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri — seem not to fully grasp the stakes. Trump is telling far right extremists to gird themselves for civil war. If this isn't a step too far, where do his defenders draw the line?
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