Lee Harrison: 'A republic, if you can keep it'

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WILLIAMSTOWN — When the Constitutional Convention ended 1787, a woman approached Ben Franklin and asked, "Well, Doctor, have you given us a monarchy or a republic?" Dr. Franklin replied: "A republic, Madam, if you can keep it."

After 232 years, we'll soon find out if we're up to Dr. Franklin's challenge. The survival of the world's oldest constitutional republic is under threat by a man who got three million fewer votes than his rival and won the Oval Office only with help from Russia and our quirky electoral system. Because of the Electoral College, a total of just 78,000 votes across three states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) — out of 136 million votes cast — decided the 2016 election and gave us the most lawless president in the history of the republic.

The redacted Mueller report detailed Trump's illegal and unconstitutional acts, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairs of the critical House Committees, including our own Congressman, Richie Neal, are properly responding to its release. They are demanding the full, unredacted report and Trump's taxes, along with other documents they have a legal right to see, and they are scheduling hearings at which Mueller and Trump's former White House Counsel Don McGahn will headline a list of eyewitnesses to high crimes and misdemeanors that will make for must-see TV.

The problem is Trump, like Nixon before him, is continuing to obstruct the Congress. In addition to blocking release of the documents, he is now claiming "executive privilege" in an attempt to prevent his former staffers from testifying. So, as expected, these disputes will wind up in court, where Trump believes the judges he and Mitch McConnell installed on the federal bench will ignore their Constitutional oaths, as they have done, to help him run out the clock until the 2020 election.

KEEP PRESSURE ON

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That's why I'm glad our senator, Elizabeth Warren, is calling for the House of Representatives to start impeachment proceedings. She's keeping the pressure on, and so should we.

Of course, this puts additional pressure on Nancy Pelosi to formally announce impeachment hearings. Indeed, we already have defacto impeachment hearings scheduled, and if allowed to proceed they will educate the public as to the utter contempt Trump and his underlings have for the rule of law. I don't have to make a laundry list of Trump's crimes; Robert Mueller has done it for us, and something very close to treason tops the list. From Mueller's report:

"On June 9, 2016, for example, a Russian lawyer met with senior Trump Campaign officials Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort to deliver what the email proposing the meeting had described as "official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary." The materials were offered to Trump Jr. as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." The written communications setting up the meeting showed that the Campaign anticipated receiving information from Russia that could assist candidate Trump's electoral prospects, but the Russian lawyer's presentation did not provide such information."

So, we have a president who actively sought help from the Russians, who were all too happy to provide it, and while they didn't hand over a pile of "dirt" on Hillary at that meeting, they did aid Trump's election through the outright theft of documents and their skillful use of social media to manipulate an unwitting public. Then, when our intelligence community freaked out, and Mueller was asked to investigate, Trump hugged Putin closer and did everything he could to thwart Mueller's efforts. According to Mueller, there are at least 10 instances where Trump sought to obstruct that investigation, and that was prior his latest moves to block release of documents and prevent witnesses from testifying.

The fact that the entire Republican Party has "stood by and enabled this corrupt, unpatriotic administration tells you that the rot runs much deeper than Trump alone," says The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Their actions stand in stark contrast to those of the signers of the Declaration of Independence who pledged "to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor" in support of a new democracy and against "a long train of abuses and usurpations" by King George III. By contrast, today's Republican Party believes it has enthroned another king — a man who is above the law and cannot be indicted — and as such may just answer Franklin's challenge in a way that nullifies everything our fathers, grandfathers, indeed every generation back to the Founding Fathers has fought and died for.

Lee Harrison is a member of the Democratic State Committee and former chair, Berkshire Democratic Brigades.


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