The Mueller Report’s most pressing question: Who will hold Trump accountable?

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After the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Democrats have been debating whether or not to bring impeachment proceedings against President Trump. If begun, impeachment could succeed in the House, but conviction and removal from office would almost certainly fail in the Senate along partisan lines. The question is whether such a result would express (1) a commitment to the rule of law in the face of a president and his partisan supporters who subordinate it to political advantage or (2) the determination of partisan opponents to repudiate a president whom they never accepted in the first place.

These two possibilities are not equally weighted. The concerns raised by the report’s description of a president whose determination to interfere in an investigation was thwarted by his staff’s refusal to comply with his instructions are too serious to be dismissed as a “witch hunt,” even if some partisan motivations are in evidence. But noting the two extremes of interpretation also raises a question even more pressing than impeachment: Who will call the president to account? Who can demand that he acknowledge and take responsibility for his ethical lapses? If impeachment and removal is the only mechanism to do so—a mechanism doomed to stall because of partisanship —then the United States already has a problem that impeachment cannot solve.

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Who will call the president to account? Who can demand that he acknowledge and take responsibility for his ethical lapses?

This is a joint crisis of accountability and credibility. Many Republican politicians have abandoned their duty to criticize Mr. Trump’s repeated violations of political and civic norms while expressing a vague discomfort with his behavior. Senator Mitt Romney has offered the strongest response thus far from any national G.O.P. official, describing himself as “sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty” from Mr. Trump. Yet he opened the same statement by saying that since the report clears the president of the charge of having conspired in Russian election interference, “the business of government can move on.” He thereby joins his less-sickened colleagues in absolving themselves of the need to inquire any further into Mr. Trump’s willingness to obstruct justice.

On the other hand, in the eyes of many of Mr. Trump’s supporters, Democrats cannot credibly question the president’s motives or actions because they are only using the special counsel’s report to vindicate their pre-judgment of the president as unfit for office. This credibility gap cannot be closed by more fervent opposition to the president. While necessary, congressional hearings and further exploration of Mr. Trump’s misuse of his office are likely to be similarly dismissed.

The Republican commentator Charlie Sykes wrote that the Mueller report “suggests any judgment about Trump’s motives should be ‘informed by the totality of the evidence.’ The totality of evidence is damning.” This is the kind of response we need to hear from elected Republicans as well. Democrats should prioritize recruiting more Republicans to join and lead the effort to investigate and criticize President Trump’s efforts to impede the investigation of Russian interference and his ongoing disregard for constitutional checks and balances. If those Republicans cannot be found and the party continues to back Mr. Trump for political advantage regardless of ethical cost, then impeachment will be insufficient, and the United States faces a problem that must be resolved at the ballot box.

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Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
George Obregon
3 weeks 6 days ago

`
The most pressing question:
How do you impeach a Republican President for crimes that were committed by the Democrats?
/Ethicists, pay attention.
`

Michael Bindner
3 weeks 6 days ago

I like my question better. If true, it will end the pro life wing of the USCCB. They will never again be able to say that electing a nominally pro-lie President is a good idea. It was always a lie, because overturning Roe judicially requires bringing back the state power affirmed by Plessy, which was wrongly decided, not based on race but because it violates the black letter law of the 10th and 14th Amendments.

George Obregon
3 weeks 6 days ago

For the first time in eight long, dreary years, America finally has a pro-life President and pro-life Vice President, something for which Catholics should be pleased. /geo ex machina

Erin B
3 weeks 5 days ago

Trump is NOT pro-life and it sickens me when people say he is. He has zero regard for the dignity of the human person.

John Pierson
3 weeks 1 day ago

Well and truly said.

Ron Martel
3 weeks 5 days ago

He’s Neither pro life or pro birth.

George Obregon
3 weeks 5 days ago

In addition, our pro-life President Donald Trump defends freedom of Christian conscience, unlike the last 8 years of Obama and his war against The Little Sister of The Poor, among other victims of his policies. For shame.
/geo ex machina
`

FRAN ABBOTT
3 weeks 6 days ago

With all due respect, Mr. Obregon, it was not a Democrat who ordered the White House attorney to fire Mueller.

George Obregon
3 weeks 6 days ago

With all due respect, Mrs. Abbott, it was indeed a Democrat who ordered the firing of the head of the F.B.I.; his name was Bill Clinton; remember? ... and there was nothing untoward in his actions either. And so it goes...
/geo ex machina

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
3 weeks 6 days ago

However, Ms. Abbott, it was a Democrat President who failed to stop the Russian hacking two years prior to the 2016 election. People in glass houses....

Michael Bindner
3 weeks 5 days ago

Because he did not want to be seen as influencing an election Trump looked he was losing. He was until the Midwestern bishops put their fat fingers in the scales

FRAN ABBOTT
3 weeks 5 days ago

Messrs. Obregon and Brandlin -- the article we are responding to is about Trump and the Mueller report. We are advised to stay on topic in our responses.

George Obregon
3 weeks 5 days ago

And regarding President Trump and the Mueller report, the most pressing question is still, --How do you hold a Republican President accountable for crimes that were committed by the Democrats?

/Ethicists, pay attention.
`

Roland Greystoke
3 weeks 5 days ago

I hope they keep trying. It will ensure Trump's re-election.

Michael Bindner
3 weeks 5 days ago

When he pleads out, his deal will include no federal office and agreeing to asset seizures resulting from money laundering.

Roland Greystoke
3 weeks 5 days ago

I hope they keep trying. It will ensure Trump's re-election.

Nora Brunette
3 weeks 5 days ago

I have never read such blatant lies as this op-ed spews. Show me the "evidence"!!!! I did read the report. Yes, who collaborated with the Russians to produce the fake dossier? I am 81 years old.. Have seen a lot. What the church and those within it who preach "Justice" are doing to this country and especially this POTUS with their failure to teach the truth is hypocritical and may well be judged "sinful" by the One who has that authority.. Mr. Obregon - my daughter attended a Jesuit College during the time the Jesuits were teaching "liberation theology" as the 'TRUTH'. Fortunately she saw the flaws. It appears they are at it again.

Michael Bindner
3 weeks 5 days ago

Then don't troll here

Ron Martel
3 weeks 5 days ago

Can you substantiate your comment??

George Obregon
3 weeks 5 days ago

The Mueller report does not find evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the Russians and the Donald Trump campaign... Clinton and Obama supporters started and sustained Trump-Russia collusion Hoaxes.

Their centerpiece is the dossier funded by Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and the national Democrat Party. Its conspiracy charges fueled much of the collusion talk from Rep. Adam Schiff, California democrat and chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. And so it goes…

/geo ex machina
`

Bill McIntosh
3 weeks 6 days ago

The premise of the Special Counsel investigation was that Trump conspired with Russia to steal the election.
Alas this was disproven but the GET TRUMP AT ANY COST liberals can't rest. Trump cares about America, jobs, the safety of our kids from cheap heroin sold by illegal immigrants and the TRUE DREAMERS- American kids who always have to compete with phony dreamers who were brought to the US illegally and who need to learn respect for law instead of expecting us to have respect for their parents law breaking. The question I ask is to whom are the "liberal" abortion & gay "marriage" enabling Catholics at America Magazine accountable?

Peter Schwimer
3 weeks 6 days ago

Bill with all due respect, why dont you give up reading Jesuit publications. You clearly neither understand their position nor do you agree with them. I may be wrong, but I suspect that this causes a great deal of anxiety.

Peter Schwimer
3 weeks 6 days ago

Bill with all due respect, why dont you give up reading Jesuit publications. You clearly neither understand their position nor do you agree with them. I may be wrong, but I suspect that this causes a great deal of anxiety.

Michael Bindner
3 weeks 6 days ago

Even the most GOP bishops are against Trump on immigration. Whether Trump is faking senility or not, his CEO morality and absence of public policy experience has most of his staff, including Barr, doing damage control. This is a constitutional crisis regardless of whether Trump is an idiot or merely plays one on TV. This is where Pence needs to step up. If Pence helped obstruct justice, the decision to invoke 25 falls to Pelosi. Sleep well.

Keith Breedlove
3 weeks 6 days ago

So, guilty though not chargeable is the new norm? You've flipped the Constitution on its head. Look at the good he has done -- minority unemployment now at record lows, low-end wages rising, GDP ticking up, business optimism continuing to rise. Why do you think it wrong that an innocent man, wrongly charged, should not express himself as the President has? Since when are professions of innocence obstruction of justice? In the meantime, the Democrats have been screaming "impeachment" incessantly since before he was even inaugurated. And now we're finally finding out that the previous administration knew all about the spying on his campaign, an action that helped get rid of Richard Nixon, but that's been ignored. And you seem to have missed his vocal support for religious liberty and the rights of the unborn. But I guess that if you admit all this, then you might be kicked off of some cocktail circuit. It seems that the official Church stance is to oppose THIS president while having pushed back only minimally against the previous one and his minions. It's a shame.

Michael Bindner
3 weeks 6 days ago

Not chargeable is the norm for the POTUS. Nepalitano says the report shows guilt by the numbers. Barr and Mueller are playing Trump, who is both stupid and vane enough to fall for it. At least Nixon had the grace to resign. He was guilty too. Hillary helped get him, which is why you hate her so. Justice Breuer helped get Nixon too. This case will not even get that far. Nothing about this case is justicable and all the precident needed to force Trump to give up all info is in Nixon v US. No court higher than the DC federal district court will even give Trump a hearing. Your trolling helps no one, not even Trump.

Dr Robert Dyson
3 weeks 6 days ago

But Article 2(4) of the US Constitution provides that 'The President ... shall be removed from Office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and Misdemeanors' - not for ethical lapses or personal shortcomings, however offensive. President Trump may be a buffoon, an oaf, a bully, a shyster and all manner of things, but can he be shown beyond reasonable doubt to have committed 'high crimes and misdeameanors'? Perhaps the story has a simple moral: if the American people don't want to see contemptible people in high office, don't elect them to it. After all, Mr Trump's serially egregious behavior was common knowledge well before the election, but he won anyway. It's a little late for hand-wringing now.

Michael Bindner
3 weeks 6 days ago

His idiocy does create a constitutional crisis, as I describe above. Whether he is an idiot or just plays one on TV, it has sparked mass insubordination on the White House Staff. It cannot be sustained. I wrote a blog about whether being an idiot is a high crime. Lucky, 10 well documented instances of obstruction is all that is needed. Barr deliberately lied about the report to distract Trump, not because he is innocent.

bill carson
3 weeks 6 days ago

Yes, who will hold Trump accountable for having Democrats and the government spy on his campaign? Then Trump compounds his sins by stating the truth of what happened. What on earth should good leftist Jesuits do? Acknowledge truth? Seek truth? Nope!

Michael Bindner
3 weeks 6 days ago

Barr was pandering to an audience of one. That happens here in DC. I've been in on such Kabuki theater. Barr is Deep State. Gotcha! There was no spying on Trump. There was spying on the Russian agents who worked on the campaign. Most of them are either in jail or cooperated. More to come.

Kt Innes
3 weeks 6 days ago

The ballot box presents a problem since you can’t be Catholic and Prochoice and EVERY democratic candidate is for abortion without apology. So a vote for a dem would be a vote for the slaughter of babies. I’ll take the man who has lapses in judgement and doesn’t know how to vote his tongue over one who supports dismembering babies.

bill carson
3 weeks 6 days ago

Clearly, the Jesuits don't agree with you. Makes you wonder about what kind of Catholics Jesuits really are, doesn't it? You'll notice all these comments but Jesuits never directly address any of such concerns.

Roy Van Brunt
3 weeks 5 days ago

Bill -it’s quite a bit arrogant for anyone professing Catholicism to say that one can’t be Catholic and pro-choice. In your trashing of Jesuits, you seem to have forgotten that Jesuits teach HOW to think, rather than WHAT to think. There are toes Jesuit-educated Catholics who are troubled by allegedly pro-lifers who focus only on abortion and not war and/or capital punishment. Decision making using conscience is still “ a thing “ in case you haven’t noticed. Christ never defined what is or is not “life” - that was done by men. No one advocates “for” abortion. But it’s wrong to not pose the question as a matter of conscience, nut human law. Advocating for there being a choice, but forming a right conscience in making it seems sadly ignored by people who think like you.

CE User
3 weeks 6 days ago

A few others evaluate the alternatives correctly as you do but many are looking for a "judgment day" weighing. The US Constitution does not establish a basis for heaven on earth. Unless "None-of-the-Above" is added to every ballot with the proviso if n-o-t-a gets even a simple majority all the unsuccessful candidates are prohibited from seeking the contested office again for two election cycles. The only way we could prevent the most nefarious candidate was for us to vote for the lesser of the evils. I think the US lucked out and got someone who is not as evil as the average politician.

ALTONETTE STONE
3 weeks 6 days ago

Kt Innes, you are talking nonsense. I'm Catholic and a Democrat and adhor the intentional killing of babies, children and adults. I'm not pro-life for solely babies, but also equally concerned about neglected, abused, and abandoned children. I'll take a man or woman who is concerned about humankind, global issues, economics, and believes there is no such concept of illegal aliens. Jesus, my Lord and Savior commended that we love our neighbor, alien and enemy as we love ourselves. I'd never vote for a man who espouses hatred, supports separating babies from their parents, caging people, shows poor judgment, demeans people, lacks empathy, divorced and married three times, ignores the Constitution, and taken money from the Russians.

Barry Sullivan
3 weeks 5 days ago

Thank you very much, Altonette, for your soundly reasoned comments. We are in dangerous times, as the rule of law, political norms, and fundamental human decency are dissolving around us.

John Pierson
3 weeks 1 day ago

Well and truly said. Roe v. Wade and related decisions were held that a woman's right to privacy includes the right to decide. When I took Con Law in law school 40 years ago, I argued that such a "penumbral" right was wrongly decided. I was wrong.

Michael Bindner
3 weeks 6 days ago

Most D&C abortions are late term and can already be regulated and are in many states. The grey area in law are the Down's babies that are killed before 24 weeks. If you want to stop those, you need to give life ling incomes to Down's patients and respite care for their parents. Trump and McConnell would never support that level of subsidy(which is based on Catholic doctrine and is mot optional). The question is, do you? If so, how can you vote GOP?

Michael Bindner
3 weeks 6 days ago

Supporting State Power as affirmed in Plessy v Ferguson is evil which cannot be supported by anyone. The only way to stop abortion is money for families at a level no Republican will ever support. Lying about what is doable about abortion is intrinsic evil. As I mention in my comments, some bishops may be caught doing this with Trump. Oops.

Kt Innes
3 weeks 6 days ago

The ballot box presents a problem since you can’t be Catholic and Prochoice and EVERY democratic candidate is for abortion without apology. So a vote for a dem would be a vote for the slaughter of babies. I’ll take the man who has lapses in judgement and doesn’t know how to bite his tongue over one who supports dismembering babies.

Mary Burke
3 weeks 6 days ago

God Bless 'The Don', if only he was our Pope instead of Frankie children in Europe would be much safer.

George Obregon
3 weeks 6 days ago

Bravo, sister!
/geo ex machina

Michael Bindner
3 weeks 6 days ago

Especially the immigrants? European law is very pro-life and Francis has been going after bishops everywhere who ignored pederasty, including some well known US conservatives who claimed to be pro-life while covering for racists. At least the Cardinal from Philly had the good grace to die before having the chance to be caught. Let us hope he confessed.

Michael Bindner
3 weeks 6 days ago

Waiting for the election is a bad idea because Trump's core voters will never believe the fact. Facts and rights are not contingent on a majority vote.

The question of impeachment is when, not how. The answer to when is that there are two active Grand Jury investigations under way. That Rosenstein is retiring on May 6 gives us hope that by then they will be finished, the information transmitted to Congress and Mueller and McGahn licked in for public testimony. Until then, there really is a large Deep State conspiracy to hold Trump's attention until everything is done. Barr is the shiny object.

One of the targets may be Pence. Usually a cooperating VP would not see jail time.

The question I have is whether another indictment might involve a conspiracy to hack HRC's debate book, hit her on partial birth abortion and have bishops in the battleground states ready to pounce? Now that would be interesting and mot even outside the realm of possibility. I am sure there are some in the USCCB who will breathe easier come the announcement of the last two indictments. What may have started as a moral lesson on abortion ended up as a stolen election, inside information or not. Even uninfected, there need to be answers within the Church for its role in this debacle.

Michael Bindner
3 weeks 6 days ago

Amazed that no trolls responded

Stuart Meisenzahl
3 weeks 5 days ago

Mr Binder
You state that you are"Amazed that no trolls responded".........this comment suggests strongly that you yourself are the very "troll" you claim to despise in your multiplicity of posts on this topic ...Caveat Lector!

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 6 days ago

The Mueller report shows Russia messed with the 2016 election, that Trump welcomed and cooperated with the Russians, and that he then tried to cover that up through obstruction. Don't wait for the next election. He should be impeached and then ndicted. He's a traitor and a crook.

Robert Lewis
3 weeks 6 days ago

Yes, he is, but it is best to have him and his agenda massively repudiated in a national election. That way, the sealed indictments that I predict exist can be opened and the incorrigible "deplorables" can see their orange-headed orangutan President go to prison for tax fraud, money-laundering and obstruction of justice. Let the Southern District of New York prove to these unwashed that their Yahoo of a "hero" is nothing more than a common criminal. If he's impeached, and not tried for his actual crimes, then he will be lionized by such as the people writing above--the people about whom he contemptuously said that he could "shoot somebody on 5th Avenue," and they would still follow him--like the fools he suggested they are.

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 6 days ago

I agree in some ways, but for 2 things ...
1) Trump does damage every day. How many more children will die at the southern border, how many environmental protections will be repealed, how many more hate crimes will be perpetrated in the next two years while we wait for an election that may actually re-elect Trump?
2) people have to see that there is accountability, even when the bad guy is president. He has to be impeached because he deserves to be impeached, because otherwise people will come to believe that presidents are kings with no accountability.

Andrew Strada
3 weeks 5 days ago

1. Kings do not run for reelection after four years.
2. Kings (or queens) are not term limited, as evidenced by QEII going on 67 years.
3. Constitutional monarchs are actually quite limited in their powers.

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