There are several ways the Trump presidency may end, and not one of them is likely to be remotely normal. How citizens should deal with a problem like him without becoming dragged down into his mess is a challenge. Impeachment seems to me much too good for the 45th president. Beyond that it gets complicated.
Some people of good will (but who may not be paying close attention, perhaps because they have lives to live and problems to solve) may still say, give him a chance. Yeah, I did that. It has not gone well. With his low-class tweets about the Morning Joe hosts, he may or may not have been trying to distract us from his voter suppression commission and the apparent flameout of the Senate tax-cut/repeal of Obamacare bill. Or maybe he had no four-dimensional plan, and just flew into a rage at another rebellious, uppity woman on TV. Whatever was in the president’s mind, it is hard to imagine that he is anywhere near prepared to represent the United States of America properly next week when he is scheduled to meet with Vladimir Putin at a G20 summit in Germany. Trump seems far more interested in being a king or a czar than in serving the sovereign people of our country as the head of an executive branch constrained by checks and balances in our constitutional republic. Whose interests is he going to be serving next week? Has he any clue that he is standing up for values and traditions any different than, for examples, those of the Russian or Ottoman Empires, or is just going to act naturally and channel Caligula or Elagabulus?
Corruption of blood was outlawed by the United States Constitution over 200 years ago. Bills of attainder were specifically forbidden. We have a president who swore an oath to preserve, protect, and defend our Constitution. But he seems to inhabit a mental world where corruption of blood is more real than any fluffed-up enlightened notion of liberty and equality before the law. Trump’s defenders, when he goes way off the deep end, resort to saying that he is a “counterpuncher” who “fights fire with fire.” Maybe Trump should be given a taste of his own preferred medicine. That is, maybe we should bring back the bill of attainder to restrain and neutralize the damage he has been doing. Trump’s stance toward people in his way who are US citizens but whose ancestors were darker than his skin is often to attack them with attaint of otherness. He has little to no feel for the spirit of the 14th Amendment, which granted equal citizenship rights to all persons born or naturalized in the United States. Trump’s voter suppression commission looks to me much like a backdoor weapon to “attaint” voters who were disloyal and disobedient to the “I alone can fix it” man now occupying the presidency. Why not resist his attainder with a “people’s attainder”? How else can we restrain the entire Trump family from continuing to violate the clear words of the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution? Fancy word, emoluments, but to break it down, it means corruption. If you violate it over and over it means you are not a public servant but no better than a gangster and a thug. In Blackstone’s Commentaries On The Laws Of England, we read (Chapter 7, Of The King’s Prerogative, section 241) that “in the king also can be no stain or corruption of blood; for if the heir to the crown were attained of treason or felony, and afterwards the crown should descend to him, this would purge the attainder ipso facto. And therefore when Henry VII, who as Earl of Richmond stood attainted, came to the crown, it was not thought necessary to pass an act of parliament to reverse this attainder.” Can we agree that our 45th president came to the presidency deeply attainted, and that he seems to have expected that ascending to the presidency should absolve him and purge him and make him clean; but that to many of us who live here the presidency feels horribly tainted and polluted? Also that a minority of Americans, though many millions, feel that the president hasn’t been given a fair shot? (May they take a closer look at what he is doing against much that has made America as great as it is?) And by the way, Blackstone also comments (7:241) that “the law determines that in the king can be no negligence….Nullum tempus occurrit regi [no time runs against the king] is the standing maxim upon all occasions; for the law intends that the king is always busied for the good.” If only! If only we could recognize in Mr. Trump even a little fragment of this idealized picture of the monarch.
Is President Donald Trump guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors? That is a political question more than a strictly legal question. Should he be removed under the 25th Amendment? That is also primarily a political question, though medical, psychological, and psychiatric expertise could be brought to bear. I am ready to cry uncle and say I am ready for President Pence, rightwing meathead though he may be. But first, why not ask the question, is our president guilty of misprision of treason if not treason itself? I agree there is no conclusive proof of this now, but there are tantalizing hints and clues and circumstantial evidence all over the place. Again, this is not a strictly legal question. And we are not, thank goodness, at war with Russia today (though the climate is worse in several ways than during the Cold War). But if misprision of treason is on the table as a live possibility, as I think it should be, no effort should be spared to purify our country of the taint of corruption.
I seem to have woken up from a bad dream. Was I really thinking that bringing back “bills of attainder” makes any sense at all? Could bringing back accusations of “corruption of blood” serve any good purpose? Confiscate President Trump’s property without judicial trial, and leave his wife, children, and grandchildren without any inheritance? Seems crazy. But crazier than a Trump-sponsored “voter fraud” commission getting states to hand over private information about 200 million voters? Crazier than casual suggestions that if 22 million people can’t be tossed off their healthcare plans, why not strip 33 million of health insurance?
This thought experiment is not meant to draw any firm conclusions. It is a snapshot of just how ominous the political situation in Washington seems to be today.