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Don’t let impeachment furor distract us from preventing 2020 election interference

Robert Reich, professor of public policy | October 2, 2019

Protesters sitting on steps with Impeach bannerAmid the impeachment furor, don’t lose sight of the renewed importance of protecting the integrity of the 2020 election.

The difference between Richard Nixon’s abuse of power (trying to get dirt on political opponents to help with his 1972 reelection, and then covering it up) and Donald Trump’s abuse (trying to get Ukraine’s president to get dirt on a political opponent to help with his 2020 reelection, and then covering it up) isn’t just that Nixon’s involved a botched robbery at the Watergate while Trump’s involves a foreign nation.

It’s that Nixon’s abuse of power was discovered during his second term, after he was reelected. He was still a dangerous crook, but by that time he had no reason to inflict still more damage on American democracy.

Trump’s abuse has been uncovered fourteen months before the 2020 election, at a time when he still has every incentive to do whatever he can to win.

If Special Counsel Robert Mueller had found concrete evidence that Trump asked Vladimir Putin for help in digging up dirt on Hillary Clinton in 2016, it would have been the “smoking gun” that could have ended the Trump presidency.

Now that Trump is revealed to have asked Volodymyr Zelensky for dirt on Biden in the 2020 election, who’s to say he isn’t also asking others? Is he soliciting Vladimir Putin’s help this time around?

The Washington Post reported Friday that Trump told Russian officials, in a 2017 meeting in the Oval Office, that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election (White House officials limited access to these remarks, as they did to his outreach to Zelensky).

American intelligence warns that Russia will continue to try to interfere in our elections. Mitch McConnell has agreed to add just $250 million to protect election machinery from cyberattacks, while experts say billions are needed.

Trump is also in a better position to make such deals than he was in 2016 because as president he’s got the power and money to make any foreign rulers’ life exceedingly comfortable, or uncomfortable.

As we’ve learned, Trump uses whatever bargaining leverage he can get, for personal gain. That’s the art of the deal.

Who can we count on to protect our election process in 2020?

Certainly not Attorney General William Barr. Trump urged Zelensky to work with Barr to investigate Joe Biden, even telling Zelensky that Barr would follow up with his own phone call.

Barr’s Justice Department decided Trump had not acted illegally, and told the acting director of national intelligence to keep the whistle-blower complaint from Congress.

This is the same Attorney General who said Mueller’s report cleared the Trump campaign of conspiring with Russia when in fact Mueller had found that the campaign welcomed Russia’s help, and that Mueller absolved Trump of obstructing justice when Mueller specifically declined to decide the matter.

Barr is not working for the American people. He’s working for Trump, just like Rudy Giuliani is working for Trump, as are all the other lapdogs, toadies, and sycophants.

Fortunately, some government appointees still understand their responsibilities to America. We’re indebted to the anonymous intelligence officer who complained about Trump’s phone call to Zelensky, and to Michael Atkinson, Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, who deemed the complaint of “urgent concern.”

But if the 2020 election is going to be — and be seen as — legitimate, the nation will need many more whistle-blowers and officials with integrity.

States must upgrade all election machinery and equip them with paper ballots that can be audited. Facebook and YouTube must devote more resources to protecting against malicious bots.

All of us will need to be vigilant.

Over the last two and a half years, Trump has shown himself willing to trample any aspect of our democracy that gets in his way –— attacking the media, using the presidency for personal profit, packing the federal courts, verbally attacking judges, blasting the head of the Federal Reserve, spending money in ways Congress did not authorize, and subverting the separation of powers.

Trump believes he’s invincible. He’s now daring our entire Constitutional and political system to stop him.

The real value of the formal impeachment now underway is to put Trump on notice that he can’t necessarily get away with abusing his presidential power to win reelection. He will still try, of course. But at least a line has been drawn. And now everyone is watching.

Regardless of how the impeachment turns out, Trump’s predation can be constrained as long as his presidency can be ended with the 2020 election. If that election is distorted, and if this man is reelected, all bets are off.

Cross-posted from Newsweek

Comments to “Don’t let impeachment furor distract us from preventing 2020 election interference

  1. So can we stop with the Duracell bunny news real with “Trump” ? Cause the news keeps Trumping and Trumping and Trumping do we have anything thing else that people should be confronting? Like real problems? Or do goldfish just swim the way there told to???

  2. This media farse about impeachment has completely covered up the theft of our social security benefits! How about that one? How about fix the Salton Sea and the Owens lake before blowing your damn shofar for global climate change? Got Water? Maybe we should impeach the speaker of the house for not voting on USMCA and for letting the second amendment become an election issue and having our wealth auctioned off to China and Uranium to Russia with kickbacks for the ruling corrupt oligarchy in the USA? BTW we want to vote for strong nationalists that defend us from UN agenda 21, globalists, and for those who can work with world leaders to fight corruption! I want President Trump to drain the Swamp! Not “We came we saw and we killed” an elected leader wanting to return to the gold standard. People who would leave our corrupt Federal Reserve Dollar in the dust and our banking industry with no loans to make. Democrats are literally a global threat to all nations, party of slavery, enemies of minorities and free speech and for the small nations abandoning weapons of mass destruction and the currency game. And you sir are no Californian ! Neither is Pelosi! See why the state wants to dump the Bay area and LA and form New California? Your concerns are manufactured and delusional. Let’s let the President run unopposed because we cannot stand this DNC bull any more and our country cannot take another round of narcissistic entitled kleptocratic Democrats selling out our Republic! You have let your State turn students into indentured servants, and have bankrupted and bullied every other local county in your state. Our State University should be rhetorically tearing people like you to shreds – but maybe all the students there are out of state? Where are the real UC Berkeley State views? Oh yeah – they all fled the place years ago to Texas. “Election interference” is a tag word for your inability to control our vote and a completely warped view of reality. Publius wins! Lobng live the Republic if we can keep it great! Hail Madison 10! WE WANT Trump and you know there is no chance Democrats are going to win the next election – don’t you? Realistically? So you need to spin a bunch a bull and everyone knows this is fraud. A new form of coo attempt. Good luck and I also want to say I do respect you but don’t try to tell me how to vote or that the people I vote for any worse than Barack Obama stealing his Chicago election in the courts on day 1. We have the best President for our country right now in the History of my life starting in 1965 in the Bay area of California. Cherish it. Work with the man.

  3. Prof. Reich, Thank You for your dedication to protecting American Democracy, especially at a time when both political parties are failing to do so.

    The Lessons of History teach us that civilizations fail due to failures by political and intellectual leaders to meet the challenges of change, and you are the right intellectual leader to make the right things happen before time runs out again.

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