The authority of the Congress is not and should not be subject to the approval of the president. Were it otherwise, then the powers enjoyed by Congress would be meaningless. Indeed, checks and balances inherent in the separation of powers would cease to exist. Above all, the power – or as it says in the Constitution, the sole power – of impeachment in Congress and of trial in the Senate would be an illusion. To believe the defenders of Donald Trump is to believe the bad faith representation that these separations of powers are themselves unconstitutional, and that Donald Trump is correct when he says that Article Two of the Constitution means he is free to do as he pleases.
When the authority of Congress is subject to the approval of the president, America ceases to be a Republic and at once becomes a dictatorship. The fiction of a balancing political body has been a favored trick of autocrats for centuries. Hitler had his Reichstag, Stalin had his politburo, General Secretary Xi has his National People’s Congress. But in the final analysis, when the illusion is stripped away and these rubber-stamping institutions are seen for what they are, toadies for the real power behind the obfuscating curtain, we are left with nothing less than the full apparatus of totalitarianism. No one paying attention is fooled about who is really in charge.
So, every time a United States Senator voluntarily cedes the power of the Legislative Branch to Donald Trump, she or he is telling the American people that they no longer want a Republic, they want a Trumpian dictatorship. That is what they really mean when they place Trump above Party, and Party, in turn, above the welfare of the American people. That is the dangerous territory America occupies today.
That is what is at the core of what the Trump defenders mean by “executive privilege.” They would have you believe that it is executive privilege they are defending when they refuse to turn over documents or allow witnesses to testify at the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. That is what they mean when they say such compliance would violate presidential executive privilege and that it therefore endangers the inherent powers of the presidency as defined by the Constitution.
But it is with cunning sleight-of-hand that they refer to this violation of a privilege that has never once been invoked. Let me say that again. The angry assertion of Pat Cipollone, White House Counsel for the president, that Donald Trump is being impeached for invoking executive privilege, is a lie. Cippillone’s indignant insistence that Trump’s use of executive privilege is not Obstruction of Congress and that he is therefore being impeached for the exercise of a Constitutionally-provisioned presidential privilege is a lie. Donald Trump has never invoked executive privilege. Not once.
In his rebuttal remarks Adam Schiff makes this clear when he says, “Not once, during the house investigation, did they ever say that a single document was privileged or a single witness had something privileged to say. And why didn’t they invoke privilege, why only now, and even now they haven’t quite invoked it, why only now, why not in the House? Because in order to claim privilege – as they know because they’re good lawyers – you have to specify which document, which line, which conversation, and they didn’t want to do that because to do that the president would have to reveal the evidence of his guilt.”
Meanwhile, Republicans insist that these issues touching on releasing documents and allowing witnesses to testify should be fought out in the courts, at the same time that Trump lawyers are in court insisting that the courts are no place to contend these issues. It is a classic double bluff, a lie told over and over until some begin to believe it. The fiction that a right that Donald Trump has not even invoked is somehow being violated is too subtle for the tiny brains of the typical low-information Trump idolater to process let alone see through, and will continue to be advanced in bad faith by his unscrupulous, cynical defense counselors.