Trump’s Recurring Coup Fantasy

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Trump’s Latest Coup Fantasy

Donald Trump as president has a recurring fantasy about suffering a coup. He invoked this silly idea back when he was accusing Obama of “wiretapping” his office in what was really just ordinary FBI surveillance of Russian interaction with U.S. citizens, some of whom were working for the Trump campaign — just a coincidence, no doubt.

Now this dumb idea has recrudesced in his fervid imagination with respect to the impeachment that is getting underway (slowly) in the House of Representatives.

Calling impeachment a coup reflects Trump’s complete ignorance of law and government. A coup is a sudden, often violent, change of government that has no basis in any existing law or policy, as when the CIA overthrew the elected governments in Iran and Chile and installed dictators who were better aligned with U.S. policy preferences.

Impeachment is not a coup, by definition. The U.S. Constitution expressly encourages, if not requires, the House to impeach any official whom it suspects of engaging in illegal behavior. This is why the Democrats should have started impeachment the day they got the report from special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who stated that he only refrained from indicting Trump because the rule at the Department of Justice forbade him to do so, which was Mueller’s way of saying that he believes Trump has committed crimes.

As Mueller also said, the remedy under the Constitution for criminal officials is impeachment. Given Trump’s repeated fantasy about remaining president long past the two terms the Constitution allots to any president, he seems to have it in his head that, once he gets into the office, only his death can remove him.

That is false. It is hugely ignorant. Again, the Constitution explicitly provides impeachment as the remedy for any public official who commits a sufficiently serious crime. How serious is a matter of debate, but Trump has cleared that hurdle easily. The criteria might be less how serious was the crime than how much the crime involved the powers of the office in question. Only the president can fire the director of the FBI to stop an investigation. Only the president can browbeat a foreign leader during a phone call to try to get that person to investigate spurious allegations against a political opponent.

Impeaching Trump is not a coup. That is pure Trumpian fantasy. The fact that he would make such a claim is only more evidence that he is entirely unfit for the office.

Past time to impeach him.

Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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