Even as Trump presidency is unraveling, the country has limited path forward

The wheels are coming off the Trump train. 

Shoes are dropping from geosynchronous orbit like a meteor shower, leaving gaping, smoldering craters in the White house’s credibility and diminishing capacity to govern.

Investigations are ongoing at the FBI, the CIA, and the Senate Intelligence Committee digging ever deeper into the web of connections between Putin’s Russia and the Trump Administration. The House Select Committee has stalled entirely since Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) took intel leaked from the White House and leaked it right back to the White house in a Lazy Susan of incompetence that has both democrats and republicans calling for his removal. Nunes has gone as far as to remove himself from the Trump-Russia probe. 

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And now with Thursday’s revelation that fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is seeking immunity from both the FBI and the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence in exchange for his testimony, it’s becoming increasingly likely the whole sandcastle Trump has built is about to melt away with the rising tide of palace intrigue.

 

The day may be coming soon when we, as a nation, have to face an unprecedented reality: We have been without a president since Jan. 20, 2017.

If it’s proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Trump campaign, with knowledge of Trump himself, colluded with elements of the Russian government and intelligence services to steal the election, his entire Presidency becomes illegitimate. 

That potentially makes every appointment, every executive order, every bill he’s signed into law instantly null-and-void.

What’s worse, there’s really no roadmap available to us on how to handle this looming crisis. The Constitution offers us no clear answer about what to do under such circumstances, because the founders specifically designed the process so that it would never occur. 

Contrary to the crowing of Trump’s dwindling pool of supporters and sycophants, the Electoral College was conceived as a safety valve against a populist demagogue or agent of a foreign government ensnaring the fleeting passions of the citizens. 

Trump is exactly the sort of candidate The Founders were trying to protect the country from.

Therefore, as outlined by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #68, the job of the EC was to stop his confirmation cold, not to install him against the expressed will of the American people. 

At the time, supporters of these so-called “Hamilton electors,” myself included, made the tactical misstep of calling for their representatives in the Electoral College to revolt against Trump, when it was the 304 of them who voted in his favor which were the true revolt against the Constitution.

The impeachment process is of course available to remove Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE from office should the evidence of his crimes become too overwhelming to ignore. But even this has problems. 

For one, impeachment was intended to address crimes committed by the President while in office. It was not designed to prosecute crimes that had occurred prior to their taking the oath, especially high crimes like treason which would have disqualified them from ever taking office in the first place.

The second issue with impeachment or forced resignation is the line of succession. Should Trump be impeached over the Russian scandal, the Presidency would first fall to Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' Democrats want Mulvaney to testify in Trump impeachment probe Bullock says Trump should be removed from office MORE. But Pence was awarded the Vice Presidency through the same tainted, illegitimate election and EC revolt which installed Trump. Pence, whether he is personally implicated in the scandal or not, was also never Vice President and cannot assume office.

So where does that leave us?

How we choose to navigate this thorny question will not only define the success and stability of American democracy for a generation or more in the eyes of the rest of the world, but will set an important precedent that will stand as a bulwark against the next proto-authoritarian who tries to fill Trump’s shoes.

Personally, I believe we’ve had the answer since Nov. 7. Former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFarrow: Clinton staff raised concerns over Weinstein reporting Perry says Trump directed him to discuss Ukraine with Giuliani: report The Memo: Once the front-runner, Biden now vulnerable MORE won the 2016 election despite the concentrated efforts of not only her legitimate political opposition, but the machinations of one of our nation’s most tenacious, unscrupulous, and persistent strategic adversaries. She won it by 2.85 million ballots and 2.1 percent of the total votes cast. 

And my belief is without the interference of Russia and the revolt of the Electoral College, she would be two months and change into her term as our first female President. She should be sworn in the moment Trump resigns or is convicted. 

However, there is room for honest disagreement here. People of good conscience could easily argue the election of 2016 was so fundamentally compromised that the only answer is to hold new elections, including all Senate races that had taken place, as well as the House in its entirety.

Either way, one thing is certain. 

Every single action Trump took while in the White House must be vacated and the clock reset to the last day we had a legitimate chief executive. That is the only way to clean the wound and draw out the poison Vladimir Putin injected into the veins of American democracy.

History is watching.

Patrick Tomlinson is an author and regular contributor to the Hill on state, local and national politics. Follow him on Twitter @stealthygeek.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.