Above the Constitution

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In one of his lectures the late Russ Ackoff explained that the Shah of Iran was once the most powerful ruler in the world, because he didn’t have to abide by a constitution.  In other countries you had God at the top, then the constitution, and then the Head of State, but in Iran you had God, then the Shah, and then the constitution.  “So when the Shah had made a decision the only appeal was prayer,” said Ackoff, “and that was not very effective.”  This is the situation Trump would like to emulate in the US, obstructing justice by telling his underlings to disregard subpoenas, trying to prevent former government employee Don McGahn and soon-to-be former government employee Robert Mueller from testifying to Congress, and prohibiting the IRS from making his tax returns available to the House Ways and Means Committee.  Trump’s gamble is that the legal fight over all these issues can be dragged past the 2020 presidential election, allowing him to keep ranting that de Democrats are on a witch hunt and goading the Democrats into impeaching him, which may be the only way for them to get the testimony and documents they want.

A highlight of Trump’s strategy is his declaring executive privilege over the full Mueller report, a somewhat peculiar move because 90% of the report is already in the public domain, but the president’s approach can backfire in three different ways.  First, he counts on the courts to work slowly, but during the Watergate era the courts responded quickly to congressional requests, which eventually brought Nixon down.  Secondly, an impeachment investigation will include the spectacle of McGahn, Mueller and others testifying and will have an effect on the public opinion.  Finally, New York State’s senate has already voted to make Trump’s state tax returns available to Congress, and other documents may come to House committees in similar, non-traditional ways.  The president’s most audacious gamble is that if and when these cases reach the Supreme Court a majority will rule in his favor, making the future of the US as a constitutional republic dependent on the legal conscience of Justices Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.  If they all fail the test America will rapidly slide towards the modern fascist dictatorship Trump craves.

In his new TV show Donny Deutsch observed that from the very beginning Trump has attacked the free press and an independent judiciary, and after the 2018 elections he has added congressional oversight.  Although this assault on the three pillars of democracy is fully supported by Mitch McConnell, who declared ‘game over’ with regards to the Mueller probe, that feeling is not shared by all Republicans, since the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Don Trump Jr. to testify about various aspects of Russian election interference.

And while Trump tries to tear the US system of goverment apart his policies raise tensions in the rest of the world.  North Korea has resumed missile testing, and in response to new sanctions that are crippling its economy Iran threatens to no longer honor the international agreement containing its nuclear program.   New tariffs imposed on $200 billion in Chinese goods have increased the chance of a full-out trade war that will hurt both America’s and China’s economies.

This week the New York Times reported that between 1985 and 1994 Trump lost $1.17 billion in failed business ventures, in two of those years making him the biggest loser in the US.  In 1987 ‘The Art of the Deal’ was published, but Trump’s main deal was that he lost the money his father made.  His defense: everybody in real estate showed losses to avoid paying taxes, something apparently  only dopes do.

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