^ if there is impeachment, he becomes President. Then what ?
Mr. Trump may well be impeached. Certainly there are numerous grounds for doing so : failure to take care that the Laws be executed; emoluments; collusion with Russia’s cyber war to aid his campaign; and many more potential cases. Yet impeachment, as traumatic a sit is, is the easy part. If convicted by the full Senate, Mr. Trump ceases to occupy the Presidency. Mr. Pence becomes President, end of story.
As I see it, that is not the end of the story at all. If the collusion with Russia’s cyber war is proven, the entire election becomes illegitimate, a coup rather than an election. But how to respond ? Not simple at all. Here’s how I see it :
1.It is almost impossible to prove that any collaboration by Mr. Trump with Russia caused his win. People vote by secret ballot. Even if thousands of voters in several close-run states were to come forward and say that stuff circulated via Russian cyber attacks changed their vote, how can that be proved a year or more after the fact ?
2.Even if Russia’s war upon our election, with collusion by Mr. Trump, COULD be proved to have changed the result, there is no Constitutional provision for calling a new election, nor could any such new election be fair; the charges of treason would override every other issue, and it is imperative that our elections be decided on our own issues, not by treasons and foreign attacks.
3.Treason is not a new crime. It is, in fact, a very common one in the long history of Western Civilization. The penalty for it is always been personal to the traitor: he (or she) is cast out, the system continues on as if the traitor had never been. (Note : in many treasons the family of the traitor has also suffered, and his or her nearest abettors. But the general principle stands.)
4.The difficulty for us is that our Vice President owes his election to that of his ticket leader. Thus the treason of Mr. Trump taints the election of Mr. Pence. Does that disqualify him ? How can it ? I say it does not. When Richard Nixon resigned under imminent impeachment, his vice President took office. Granted that Gerald Ford had not been elected; but he had been designated. Does that precedent control ? I say it does.
5.Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine could well claim, in the scenario I am setting forth, that they, not Mike Pence, should take office. But there is no legitimate way that they can do so. One can assert that, as Clinton and Kaine won the popular vote by almost three million votes, the popular vote, in a treason context, should control: but there is no Constitutional basis for this assertion. We can amend the Constitution to change the electoral vote system to a popular vote: but that is a revolutionary change that violates the first principle of my scenario, that a treason should affect only the traitor, never the system.
6.As I see it, the proper outcome is to let Mike Pence be sworn in as President and then,m at the next regular election, in 2020, let the voters decide whether to continue him in office. This is what happened with Gerald Ford.
All that remains to be discussed is, how do we prevent future Russian, or any other nation’s, cyber war upon our system ? And how do we prevent treasonous collusions by our own candidates ? There’s no easy answer, but clearly our national government is now fully aware of the gravity of foreign cyber war — I think nobody in Washington had any idea that what was done could, or would, actually BE done — and will take all the available cyber steps available to stop a repeat occurrence. Our democracy is rarely quick off the mark; our enemy usually gets the fi8rst blow. But we are also implacable in response, and that is what our CIA, FBI, NSC, and military IC need now to be. They are aware of it now and, I am sure, drastically focused on stopping it.
Lastly, the mainstream media needs to be more vigilant about foreign nations’ cyber attacks upon us. There should never be any room for “fake news.” The law of libel, aggressively applied, can put an end to most of it, and should. But the voters also bear prime responsibility. It is OK — maybe — to be fooled once, but not twice.
We need to apply to all news items Ronald Reagan’s brilliant epithet : “trust, but verify.”
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere