What Didn’t Happen In 2019 – The Year In Review.

Despite the release of the Mueller Report, the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, and numerous disasters and milestones, I believe 2019 should be remembered more for what did NOT happen. Following are but a few examples:

• The GOP-controlled Senate refused to vote on more than 400 House-passed bills – half of which were bipartisan.

• Congress failed to pass a bill to rebuild our aging infrastructure – our bridges, our rail system, our electric grid and more.

• The Trump administration continued to ignore the greatest threats of our time, including the climate crisis, the mass extinction of the planet’s species, the coming job losses from automation. In fact, the administration’s actions – pulling out of Paris agreement, expanding oil drilling, relaxing fuel standards for vehicles and reducing incentives for sustainable energy, the trade war with China – actually made things worse.

• The Trump administration continued to hold the $18 billion in reconstruction funds approved by Congress that were intended to rebuild Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

• The federal government collected no income taxes from 91 corporations listed among the Fortune 500.

• There was no real effort by the Trump administration or Congress to reduce federal deficits and the ballooning national debt.

• There was no significant change in workers’ wages, despite large run-ups in the stock markets.

• There was no change in income inequality, wealth inequality or opportunity inequality. In fact, the gap between the wealthy and ordinary Americans continued to widen.

• There was no Senate or administration action to secure our elections. Indeed, the GOP rejected election security bills 3 times in 2019. And the GOP continued its efforts to suppress votes.

• There was no nuclear peace deal with North Korea. Instead, Trump removed the US from the ABM treaty with Russia to limit short and intermediate range nuclear weapons.

• There was no peace agreement with the Taliban and no end in sight for America’s longest-lasting war – the war in Afghanistan.

• There was no real effort to reach a peace agreement in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. In fact, the actions taken by the Trump administration exacerbated the problems.

• There was no trade deal with China that would provide relief to American farmers or end tariffs on imports paid by US consumers.

• There was no federal action on gun safety measures such as universal background checks, bans on bump stocks, high capacity magazines and military-style weapons.

• There was no federal action to prevent mass shootings.

• There was no action taken to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post contributor, or for yet another terrorist attack on US soil by a Saudi citizen.

• There was no effort to end the war in Yemen.

• There was no federal effort to combat white supremacist terrorism, the greatest terrorist threat to US citizens.

• There was no Brexit.

• And, once again, there was no effort by the Trump administration to represent or even reach out to all Americans. Instead, he continued to represent only his white nationalist base.

Russia 2.0?

A lot has been written about Trump’s many links to Russia, his subservience to Putin and his admiration for some of the world’s most despicable strongmen. Those things should make every American wary of the intentions of our Dear Leader. But are they merely innocent, well-intentioned attempts to reach out to our adversaries in the interest of peace? Or is there something more disturbing, more threatening at play?

For that answer, it’s useful to compare Trump’s actions with those that undermined the Russian Federation’s once promising democracy and gave Putin complete control of the government and his nation’s resources.

1 – Putin labeled the government weak and ineffective promising to return the nation to its former power and glory. (Trump’s slogans of Make America Great Again and America First are right out of the dictators’ playbook.)

2 – Putin attacked the news media for reporting anything negative about him. (Trump labeled the news media and reporters as “enemies of the people.”)

3 – Putin used compliant media outlets to spread lies and propaganda. (Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, online sites such as Breitbart News, and radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh willingly and gleefully perpetuate Trump’s stream of lies.)

4 – Putin subverted the electoral process and suppressed votes for opposing candidates. (The GOP’s voter suppression efforts actually precede Trump by several decades. But these efforts have become more widespread in the age of Trump.)

5 – Putin embraced organized crime and other thuggish leaders such as Syria’s Assad to increase his power. (Trump has lifelong ties to organized crime through his family attorney Roy Cohn. He has helped Russian mobsters and oligarchs launder money. And his admiration for dictators like Putin, Erdogan and Mohammed bin Salman is obvious.)

6 – Once in power, Putin used the Russian government and economy as his personal piggy bank. And he has used offshore tax havens to shelter his ill-gotten gains. (In violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, Trump has funneled millions of government funds into his properties. And, for many years, he has used offshore accounts to avoid taxes. His name appears in the Panama Papers – a list of those who invest in offshore tax shelters – an astounding 3,540 times. Further, a similar list known as the Paradise Papers exposed links between Trump, Putin and Russia.)

7 – Putin used the intelligence apparatus and law enforcement to investigate his political enemies. (Attorney General Barr has authorized an investigation into those he and Trump claim “spied” on the Trump campaign. And Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is busy using government resources to gather dirt on Trump’s political rivals.)

8 – He took control of the courts so the laws could not be used to undermine his authority. (With the help of a compliant majority in the Senate, the Trump administration has packed the courts with a record number of young, ideological judges – many for lifetime appointments. Trump nominees now comprise a quarter of the seats on all federal appellate courts.)

9 – Putin gave control of natural resources to his closest friends and most ardent supporters making them, and himself, obscenely wealthy. (The Trump administration has auctioned off mining and oil drilling leases on federal lands to his supporters at wholesale prices. His administration has also pushed for logging in national wildernesses. At the same time, Trump has rolled back environmental regulations to make the extraction of resources more profitable.)

10 – Putin gave favors to the wealthy and corporate leaders, including helping them avoid taxes in order to further build their wealth. (One of Trump’s first acts was to cut income taxes for corporations and the very wealthy. One of the little-known effects of the bill was to allow corporations to “repatriate” billions of dollars, most of which were used for stock buybacks for the benefit of corporate executives.)

11 – Putin and his friends took control of the legislative bodies by using the power of their wealth. (The US has been an oligarchy for decades. But the money needed to run for office has skyrocketed in recent years. This, of course, benefits Trump’s wealthy supporters. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by industries and corporations to shape or block legislation.)

12 – Putin gave favors to the leaders of the nation’s majority religion and encouraged the persecution of those who practiced other faiths, as well as gays and lesbians. (Trump has embraced evangelical Christian leaders who consider homosexuality and abortion abominations under God. In return, they have claimed he was chosen by God to lead us. Trump also placed a near-complete ban on Muslims entering the US. He has empowered his followers to commit vandalism and acts of violence against followers of other religions and people of color.)

When you compare the actions of our wannabe dictator to those of Putin and other tyrants such as Erdogan, the similarities are frightening. Given the depths to which he has taken our nation in his first term, we should all fear what a second term might bring.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Fourteen – GOP)

This is the last of my 14-part series. But last certainly does not mean least. Without the treachery and complicity of the Republican Party, most of the other factors that are destroying our nation either would not be possible. Or they would be far less damaging.

The damage done to our government by the GOP began in earnest prior to the Nixon administration and has accelerated ever since. In 1968, Nixon undermined the Vietnam peace talks in order to benefit his election prospects. Similarly, he ordered the Watergate break-in to sabotage Democratic candidates during the 1972 election. Following Nixon’s lead, Reagan undermined the Carter administration’s efforts to release hostages from the US embassy in Iran in order to damage Carter’s re-election chances. Reagan attacked labor unions and, based on the discredited “trickle down” theory of economics, he cut taxes for the rich. George H.W. Bush led us in to war in the Middle East over oil. And two of his sons conspired to steal the 2000 election from Al Gore. Then George W. Bush led us into a war with Iraq on false pretenses.

But the GOP’s impact on our democracy has never been more damaging than it has over the past 11 years. During the Obama administration, it tried to undermine attempts to pull our economy out of a worldwide recession created by GOP policies. It blocked dozens of judicial appointments in the Senate culminating with its successful effort to steal a seat on the Supreme Court. And, having captured a number of state houses, it began instituting a wide variety of voter suppression laws in a blatant effort to prevent minorities and other Democrats from voting.

Since 2016, having colluded with a foreign rival to steal yet another election, it has allowed its Con-Man-in-Chief to sidle up to dictators, to bully allies, to promote white nationalism, to cut taxes for the ultra-wealthy, to take affordable health care from millions, to undermine public education, to roll back environmental protections, to block any attempts to address the climate crisis, to rip immigrant children away from their parents, and to pack our courts by giving lifetime appointments to young, and often unqualified, ideologues. The party has not only excused blatant abuses of power by Trump. It has openly participated in them as did William Barr in his handling of the Mueller report. Further, Republicans in Congress have tried to block any attempts of congressional oversight by the Democrat-controlled House. (Witness the behavior of House Republicans during the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s attempted shakedown of Ukraine.)

The GOP has run up trillion-dollar deficits in order to justify defunding all social safety nets, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. At the same time, it has handed out subsidies to some of the world’s greediest corporations. Worst of all, the party has participated in the wholesale betrayal of our Constitution by accepting campaign money and other support from Russian oligarchs and excusing Russia’s interference in our elections.

It may have once been labeled the Grand Old Party as a result of Abraham Lincoln’s fight to end slavery and hold our nation together. But the only thing grand about it today is its level of hypocrisy and criminal behavior.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Thirteen – Putin)

Following the fall of the Soviet Union, most of the world was hopeful that Russians would enjoy the benefits of democracy. Instead, it has become a brutal dictatorship led by a former KGB operative, Vladimir Putin. Using techniques he learned in the KGB, he controls almost every aspect of Russian life. He not only controls the government and the military. He and his criminal associates control the nation’s industries, technologies and natural resources.

As Malcolm Nance states in his latest book, The Plot To Betray America, there are four classes of society in Russia: From the top down, they include the leadership , the oligarchs and Russian mafia, the street criminals, and, at the bottom, ordinary people. Putin and his ex-KGB friends use brutality and murder to maintain control and to funnel the nation’s riches off-shore to their private bank accounts.

Nance describes Putin as a wannabe Charlemagne writing “Putin, with the Russian Orthodox Church patriarchy, would put forward a template to unite a new, conservative Europe under a Christian banner. America could come along too. He set his spymasters to develop an intelligence operation to bring the Americans along by making common cause with ideological soul mates across the Atlantic.”

Obviously, those soul mates are Trump, the GOP and evangelical Christians.

To push his agenda, Putin has used his billions and the billions of other Russian oligarchs to support political campaigns, to publish pro-Russian lies in mass media, to promote division via social media, and to meddle in Western elections.

In the US, he directed his efforts against President Obama and Hillary Clinton. And to aid Donald Trump. From the Mueller investigation, we learned that Putin’s GRU (successor to the KGB) hacked the servers of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the chair of Clinton’s campaign. The information gleaned was directed to the campaigns of GOP candidates, including Trump’s.

In addition, Mueller documented more than 100 meetings between Putin’s officials and members of the Trump campaign. Putin’s operatives engaged the NRA and his Russian oligarch friends funneled campaign donations through the organization to GOP campaigns. Mueller also documented that GRU operatives, disguised as Americans, posted millions of divisive messages and fake news on social media.

Not coincidentally, once Trump won the nomination, his campaign rewrote the GOP platform to soften its approach toward Russia. Since then, the Trump administration and GOP congressional representatives have only reluctantly criticized Russia while putting forth debunked conspiracy theories originating in Russia. (It’s Putin who’s behind the crackpot idea that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election.) Additionally, Trump has requested that Russia be re-admitted to the G7 despite Russia’s ongoing war and occupation of Ukraine territory. He appeared subservient to Putin at their public meetings. And, we can only imagine what has been said in their private meetings since Trump has refused to allow anyone to attend except a translator (and he confiscated the translators notes). Moreover, the transcripts of Trump’s private phone calls with Putin have been hidden away in classified servers. Lastly, Trump has abdicated US leadership in the Middle East by betraying our Kurdish allies leaving Russia to fill the void. Indeed, many of the Trump administration’s decisions seem to benefit Russia more than the US.

Given all of the evidence, one can only conclude that our president and the GOP leadership have become little more than puppets with Putin pulling the strings.

Understanding The Threat Of Trump: A Holiday Reading List.

If you have a few moments to relax from your busy holiday schedule, here is a list of books that will help you better understand the political landscape of America. With the upcoming elections in 2020, nothing…I emphasize NOTHING…could be more important. The very future of democracy and our nation are at stake!

The Constitution of the United States of America
For anyone who wants to debate politics, this is the place to start. It’s one of the most powerful documents ever written. If you haven’t read it, or if you haven’t read it since grade school, I recommend you take the time to read it and understand it.

That’s Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America’s Right Wing by Michael Austin
The definitive guide to the thinking of our Founding Fathers and the framers of our Constitution. It’s essential reading for anyone seeking the accurate historical background to many of the today’s political debates.

CIVICS TODAY: Citizenship, Economics, & You
All naturalized US citizens are tested on the workings of our government. Yet few natural born US citizens have even read a civics book. Here’s your chance to know as much about the workings of our government as most recent immigrants.

Testing Theories of American Politics, Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page
An academic study that proves the US has become an oligarchy in which the very wealthy, the powerful and the connected control our institutions of government, often in direct contradiction of the wishes of ordinary Americans.

Fascism: A Warning by Madeline Albright
A personal and urgent examination of Fascism in the twentieth century and how its legacy shapes today’s world, written by one of America’s most admired public servants, the first woman to serve as US Secretary of State.

Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War On America And The Election Of Donald Trump by Michael Isikoff and David Corn
The incredible, harrowing account of how American democracy was hacked by Moscow as part of a covert operation to influence the US election and help Donald Trump gain the presidency written by two of our generation’s best investigative reporters.

House Of Trump House Of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia by Craig Unger
This book tells the story of one of the greatest intelligence operations in history, a campaign by Russian operatives years in the making, ending with either a willfully ignorant or an inexplicably unaware Russian asset in the White House as the most powerful man on earth.

It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America by David Cay Johnston
A great book by an exceptional journalist that describes the rise of Donald Trump in great detail. It goes on to examine how the Trump administration is gleefully destroying the US from within.

The Mueller Report
The report by Special Counsel Robert S Mueller III and his team who were tasked with investigating Russia’s attack on our democracy and the Trump campaign. Contrary to statements by Trump and William Barr, the report details the extensive connections between Russian operatives and the campaign, including Trump himself and his family. It also outlines at least 10 instances in which Trump obstructed justice and attempted to suborn perjury.

The Plot To Betray America by Malcolm Nance
A 20-year Navy veteran, Nance is an expert in intelligence and counterterrorism. In this book, he details how Trump, with the help of Putin and Russian intelligence, cheated his way into the Oval Office. He not only explains how Trump succeeded. He explains why.

Bring The War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America by Kathleen Belew
Belew details how the white nationalist movement grew out of our nation’s wars. As veterans returned home, they brought military strategies with them making the movement more dangerous. As evidenced by the reaction to America’s first black president and the White House reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, the movement now has supporters at the highest levels of government.

Democracy In Chains: The Deep History Of The Radical Right’s Stealth Plan For America by Nancy MacLean – Based on her access to a treasure trove of documents from the estate of James McGill Buchannan, MacLean reveals the playbook of the GOP, rightwing billionaires and the new conservative movement in the US.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
Although you may have trouble remembering his name, Giridharadas offers a clear-eyed examination of the state of our nation by taking us into the inner sanctums of the new gilded age in which the rich and powerful threaten our social order.

Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, And The Richest, Most Destructive Industry On Earth by Rachel Maddow
An unapologetic liberal, five days each week Maddow helps her viewers understand the political developments that affect us all. In this, her second book, she explores how the fossil fuel industry has corrupted our government, led us into war and is on the verge of destroying our planet.

UN Global Outlook Report 2019
The latest UN report on climate change warns that countries have collectively failed to stop the growth in global [greenhouse gas] emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required. Without urgent and dramatic changes, the future is bleak, according to the report.

Responding To A Facebook “Patriot.”

The following message circulated on social media last week following hearings by the House Intelligence Committee. My responses are in parentheses.

“Impeachment…each and every one of you should be ashamed and pray that this doesn’t happen…and, I’ll tell you why. For 8 years, we sat silent, while Obama divided our nation.”

(Obama didn’t divide the nation, rightwing racists did and you certainly weren’t silent. You called him names. You called his wife and children “apes.” You published and circulated racist cartoons. You questioned his citizenship. You attended rallies brandishing guns. You even attacked him for wearing a tan suit.)

“He used identity politics, race warfare, and class warfare to divide us all.”

(In reality, he saved us from a worldwide economic depression. And he had the audacity to argue for equality for all Americans, including the LGBTQ community.)

“Obama thrust universal healthcare upon us and we sat silent.”

(It wasn’t universal healthcare. It was the Affordable Care Act that gave 20 million Americans access to affordable health care. And, again, you were far from silent.)

“In the meantime, Hillary and Obama let 4 Americans die in Benghazi, while they watched on closed circuit tv.”

(They didn’t let 4 Americans die. As confirmed by our military, the 4 Americans died as a result of a surprise terrorist attack when no available US troops could arrive in time. Such attacks on US embassies and other foreign outposts have occurred in nearly every administration.)

“Again, we were silent.”

(Silent?!!! There were 21 congressional hearings and the subject was covered 24/7 for months by rightwing media! The endless investigations only confirmed that there was no wrong-doing. Moreover, unlike the Trump administration which has ignored subpoenas from congressional oversight committees, members of the Obama administration actually appeared to testify.)

“We watched Hillary Clinton and Donna Brazil [sic] rig a primary against Bernie Sanders.”

(The primary wasn’t rigged. Bernie was a Socialist. Not a Democrat. Many states limit primaries to the 2 parties. And you would have hated Bernie even more than Hillary.)

“We saw Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch (Attorney General at the time) sit on a flight line, only to find that Hilary [sic] was exonerated for any crime…”

(I’ll give you the fact that Bill’s ill-considered social visit to Lynch’s plane looked bad. But Lynch recused herself from the investigations of Hillary. The FBI conducted multiple investigations and found nothing that warranted charges.)

“…regarding her acid washed/bleach [sic] bit server and 33,000 deleted emails. Again, we were silent…”

(Silent? SILENT?!!! Except for the repeated chants of “lock her up!”)

“We have watched our duly elected president harassed each and every day, for 3 years…”

(First, he wasn’t exactly “duly elected,” He lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Only because he welcomed Russian interference and used information stolen from the Democratic National Committee was he able to gain enough Electoral Votes to be named president. Second, unlike other presidents, he has made no attempt to reach out to those who opposed him. In fact, he threatened them, instead. Third, his administration has been uniquely corrupt. He has funneled millions of dollars into his resorts through his weekly golf trips. He has welcomed white nationalists into the White House and excused the violence of white supremacists. He was sued for illegally banning members of a religious group and ripping children away from refugee parents to place them in cages. And he has repeatedly refused congressional oversight as mandated by the Constitution.)

“…even though he has put millions back to work, brought jobs back to America…”

(Most economists have stated that the Trump economy is merely a continuation of the Obama economy, except for the fact that Trump has cost consumers millions and forced thousands of family farmers into bankruptcy with his ill-considered trade wars.

“…stood up to our adversaries…”

(More accurately, he has embraced our adversaries and stood up to our most loyal allies.)

“…and fought like hell to protect our borders.”

(He redirected funds from the military to build his wall. One assumes he still has a plan for Mexico to pay for it.)

“Now, we see Joe Biden leveraging $1 Billion American dollars for his son.”

(There is absolutely no evidence that Joe Biden did any such thing.)

“However, the Democrats and the media only care about impeaching Trump!”

(No, we care about the Constitution and the rule of law. If that leads to impeachment as a result of Trump’s unconstitutional and illegal actions, so be it.)

“So, I can tell you with the utmost certainty…if you are successful in your witch-hunt, we will NOT be silent!!!”

(It’s not a witch-hunt. It’s called congressional oversight. And, as noted previously, you have NEVER been silent.)

“You will see a revolution you cannot even fathom! Tread lightly…”

(Based on your threat, you have made it abundantly clear that you have no concept of patriotism or respect for our constitutional rule of law. And it’s obvious that you really aren’t concerned about political division. You merely want to get your way. And you’re willing to resort to threats of violence to get it.)

Donald Trump By The Numbers.

19,252 – number of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee in 2016
50,000 – number of emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair
2.7 million – number by which Trump lost the popular vote in 2016
71,000 – total number of votes by which he won the electoral college
272 – number of known contacts between the Trump team and Russian operatives
2 – number of women illegally paid to keep quiet about their extramarital affairs with Trump
40 million – funds that disappeared from Trump inaugural committee
25 million – amount Trump was ordered to pay for his Trump University scam
2.8 million – charity funds misused for Trump’s political campaign
21 – number of Trump associates who have been convicted or have pleaded guilty (UPDATED WITH ROGER STONE’S CONVICTION)
86 – number of Trump properties purchased by Russians for $109 million
3,540 – number of times Trump’s name appears in Panama Papers documenting offshore tax shelters
19 – number of women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct
13 – age of a young woman when she claimed to be raped by Trump
10 – instances of obstruction of justice listed in the Mueller report
69,550 – number of refugee children held in detention centers during 2019
5,000 – number of refugee children taken from parents and placed in cages (UPDATED)
2 – number of refugee children who have died in US custody for lack of medical attention
0 – amount of money Mexico has paid for the wall
12 billion – dollars paid to subsidize farmers as result of Trump trade war
2.5 – percentage of economic growth under Trump which is a continuation of the growth rate under Obama
1.9 – percentage of economic growth expected for rest of Trump’s term
68 – number of members of the Trump administration who have left (the highest turnover in history)
1 million – number of additional jobs created under Obama than under Trump
4 million – number of Americans who have lost access to health care under Trump
3.6 million – number of Americans who would lose food stamps under new Trump rule
11,000 – number of Kurds who died fighting ISIS
347 – number of Kurdish allies killed following Trump’s ordered military withdrawal from northern Syria
1.1 trillion – federal deficit for 2020
1.5 trillion – tax revenue lost over 10 years as a result of the Trump tax cuts
6 – percentage of corporate tax savings going to workers
56 – percentage of corporate tax savings going to shareholders
20 trillion – national debt when Trump took office
+23 trillion – national debt as of November 1, 2019
106 – percentage of national debt to GDP under Trump
13,400 – number of lies told by Trump as of November 1, 2019
5 – percentage of statements made by Trump as president that are factually correct
224 – number of Trump golf trips as of November 1, 2019
+110 million – cost of Trump’s golf trips to taxpayers
+840 million – dollars owed by the Trump campaign to cities for Trump’s 2020 campaign rallies as of November 1, 2019
250 million – amount of military aid for Ukraine held hostage by Trump to obtain dirt on a political opponent
2 – number of US presidents who have been impeached before Trump

Thoughts On Saving Our Democracy.

I have written much about what’s wrong with this nation. Now I want to offer some solutions. Think of the following as the LaMaster platform for good governance:

1 – Secure our elections while, at the same time, increasing participation. Eliminate unduly restrictive voter IDs and all forms of voter suppression. Institute same-day voter registration, expand vote-by-mail, restore the number of polling places in minority districts, stop unnecessary purges of voter rolls, restore voting rights for felons who have served their sentences, and make election day a national holiday.

2 – Reinstate some form of the Fairness Doctrine, which was repealed in 1987. Hold all mass media accountable to a standard of truth and clearly delineate opinion from news. It’s not necessary to resort to censorship. Each medium simply needs to employ editors.

3 – Make civics lessons mandatory in schools. All citizens need to understand how local, state and federal governments work.

4 – Investigate and disarm private militias, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other violent domestic terrorist groups. These groups pose a far greater threat to Americans than Islamic terrorism.

5 – Make courts less partisan. Take judicial appointments out of the hands of politicians and remove them from ballots. Have the American Bar Association provide a list of potential jurors to governments for confirmation based on performance and credentials.

6 – Restore the Article I powers of Congress giving it the exclusive power to impose taxes and tariffs, to appropriate funds for the government, to promote science, to define and punish offenses against the laws of nations, to control immigration, to enter into treaties, and to declare war.

7 – Stop the avalanche of dark money infecting our elections. Outlaw the anonymous dirty money that is funneled into election campaigns through PACs and Super PACs. Hold political advertising to the same standards of truth as that for products and services, which includes civil and criminal penalties for lying.

8 – Demand that the IRS regulate non-profits by limiting their engagement in politics and political “education” to less than 10 percent of their activities. And, to prevent charlatans from ripping off their congregations, all church properties beyond individual sanctuaries and parsonages should be taxed.

9 – Track and tax all money invested in shell corporations both on and off shore for the purposes of tax evasion. Organize the participation of all nations to create increased transparency for all international transfers of money.

10 – Expose and limit the activities of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and any similar organizations to end the practice of corporations writing “model” legislation for state legislatures. End political “think tanks.” Restore congressional budgets to permit Congress to research complex issues, instead.

11 – Demand that Congress pass legislation to overturn the SCOTUS decisions on Citizens United v FEC, which gave corporations the rights of individuals, and Valeo v Buckley, which equated money with free speech.

12 – Ban all former elected and appointed government officials from becoming lobbyists for a minimum of 5 years. Ban the families of elected officials from profiting from their relationship.

13 – Restructure the Federal Elections Commission to include an uneven number of commissioners with three members of each major party and three independents.

14 – End extreme gerrymandering. Require all 50 states to create independent redistricting commissions comprised of two Democratic members, two Republican members and two independents.

15 – Enact a small transaction tax for all securities transactions, especially high-speed micro-transactions. This will not only help level the playing field for small investors who do not have large, high-speed computers and algorithms to manipulate the stock markets. It will generate billions in tax revenue.

16 – Base taxes and minimum wages on the cost of living for the areas in which people live and work. $30,000 per year is not the same for someone living in a rural area as in a large city.

17 – Require all national and multinational corporations to include at least one member of their workforces on their boards of directors.

18 – To prevent the wealthy from escaping their fair share of taxes, make the rate of capital gains taxes the same as for earned income. To protect ordinary citizens for the one-time sale of property, pro-rate the capital gains tax over a period of at least 5 years.

19 – Institute some form of universal insurance. How it works is up to Congress, but the Canadian system would be a good model and a good place to start.

20 – Institute a national program of service that includes both domestic, foreign and military options.

21 – Clarify the Constitution’s emoluments clause to make certain that no elected official profits from their position while in office.

This is just a start. I’m certain that others can come up with more and better ideas to preserve and improve the US.

Putting Trump’s Actions Into Context.

To fully appreciate the lawlessness of the Trump administration, it’s helpful to look at the five GOP administrations that preceded him. As you will see, there is a pattern of disdain for the Constitution and the opposition party. But none of them have taken it to such extremes as Trump.

Nixon – In 1968, before the election, he sent an envoy to undermine the Paris peace talks with North Vietnam leading to hundreds of thousands more deaths in the war. Though his administration did some remarkable things (created EPA and OSHA and opened relations with China), he tried to corrupt our democracy by ordering the break-in of the DNC’s Watergate offices. As a result, 40 Nixon administration officials were indicted or jailed. Separately, Nixon’s vice-president Spiro Agnew was forced to resign amid a corruption scandal and pled guilty to tax evasion.

Ford – Before his forced resignation, Nixon chose Gerald Ford to fill the vacancy as vice-president. When Nixon resigned, Ford assumed the position of president and immediately pardoned Nixon of any crimes. His term in office was largely unremarkable, except for the annual deficits created by his policies.

Reagan – Though charming and inspirational, Reagan’s administration had a very dark underbelly. Before the 1980 election, he undermined a proposed agreement with Iran to release the hostages, convincing Iran to delay their release until after the election. His domestic policies included attacks on labor unions, Reagonomics (aka trickle-down economics) which cut taxes for the wealthy resulting in large deficits, an attempt to relax the Voting Rights Act, attempting to push prayer in schools, creating the War on Drugs and ignoring the AIDs epidemic.

His foreign policies consisted of escalating the Cold War, sending US troops to intervene in the Lebanese civil war resulting in the deaths of 241 US soldiers, invading Grenada, bombing Libya, and opposing the disinvestment from apartheid South Africa. Though the Cold War was ended during his second term, it was the result of an initiative by Gorbachev. The lowlight of his tenure was the Iran-Contra scandal, which consisted of illegally selling arms to Iran and using the proceeds to prop-up the Nicaraguan Contras in their fight against the Sandinistas who were fighting to overthrow a dictator. In effect, the administration was running a shadow government hidden from congressional oversight that destabilized the entire region.

Bush I – George H.W. Bush’s domestic policies were unremarkable. But there were many questions about his foreign policy. He ordered the invasion of Panama. His administration provided weapons to Iraq and led Saddam Hussein to believe that the US would not intervene in Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait. Then he led a coalition to attack Iraq and free Kuwait. Following the Gulf War, he closed numerous US military bases, which thrust the economy into recession. And he ended his term by pardoning those convicted in Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal.

Perhaps the most lasting action by his administration was the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine which held broadcast media accountable for telling the truth.

Bush II – Having lost the popular vote, George W. entered office only as a result of his brother’s meddling in Florida elections and a decision by a conservative-led Supreme Court. (A media consortium that recounted the entire Florida vote, found numerous improprieties and concluded that a significant majority of Floridians intended to vote for Gore.)

Once in office, Bush revived the discredited trickle-down economic theory to reward the big money and oil interests that powered his campaign. His tax cuts sent deficits soaring. He advanced oil interests at the expense of the environment. His administration botched the rescue and recovery from Hurricane Katrina. He ignored the threat of al-Qaeda and advice from the Clinton administration resulting in the attacks on 9/11. He responded with the war on terrorism. And he allowed vice-president Cheney to start the War in Iraq on false pretenses. His administration ended with the collapse of the world financial system as the result of his belief that free markets would self-regulate.

Trump – As bad as they were, the failures of the previous GOP presidents pale in comparison to the man who currently occupies the Oval Office. Donald J. Trump will be chronicled in history books as the worst president in history. He announced his campaign by making racist attacks on Mexicans. He encouraged interference in the election by Russia spawning a Special Counsel investigation which found extensive collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives that likely swayed the election in his favor.

Despite being the second Republican in 16 years to gain the office while losing the popular vote, he claimed a mandate. With the help of a GOP-led Congress he quickly set about undoing his predecessor’s legacy through executive order. He withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear treaty, withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords, repealed DACA, and made cuts to Obamacare. From the beginning, his policies have been marked by greed, cruelty and fealty to Russia. He banned entry from Muslim countries. He gave hope and encouragement to white nationalists with his response to Charlottesville. He has funneled millions into his own properties through weekly golf outings. Foreign leaders have been encouraged to stay at his hotels and resorts in order to gain access. And he ordered the CPB and ICE to place refugees into horribly overcrowded facilities and to separate families.

Trump has exposed the flaws in our current system of government by acting as a monarch. He has refused to cooperate with any congressional oversight. He has ordered anyone connected to his administration to ignore subpoenas and claim presidential privilege and trampled over the separation of powers. Worse, with the help of Mitch McConnell, he has stuffed the judicial system with dozens of unqualified and ideological judges.

On top of all that, he and the GOP exploded the deficits and federal debt by cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy with the intent of eventually ending Social Security and Medicare on the pretense of cutting the budget.

Finally, and worst of all, he has repeatedly acted on behalf of Vladimir Putin and Russia. He has refused to acknowledge Russia’s role in his election, he publicly kowtowed to Putin while attacking our most loyal allies, and he delayed congressionally-ordered sanctions on Russia. Finally, he held military aid to Ukraine hostage in order to elicit Ukraine’s help in his re-election. In doing so, he adhered to a Putin narrative that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered with our election.

No president in history has been removed from office through impeachment. But Trump has richly earned the right to be first.

It’s worth noting that no Democratic president in recent history has been so disdainful of the Constitution and the rule of law. That fact alone should make voters look more carefully at candidates whose names precede the R on a ballot.

Why Impeachment Is Necessary.

The Founding Fathers were so concerned about the very real possibility of their new nation being taken over by an authoritarian president, they crafted the Constitution to create three co-equal branches of government: Congress, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. The idea was that Congress and the courts would serve as a check on presidential abuse of power. The Founders also provided for a mechanism to remove the president from office. But rather than specify the actions which would justify the president’s removal, they vaguely referred to them as “high crimes and misdemeanors,” trusting that members of Congress would recognize abuse of power when they see it.

Given the following actions of Trump and his administration, it’s difficult to imagine that the Founders wouldn’t have expected such a president to be impeached and removed from office:

1 – Although Mueller could not find enough evidence to indict the president, his family and his campaign for criminal conspiracy, he documented dozens of instances of collusion and cooperation with Russia and Wikileaks to subvert the 2016 election. In fact, the president’s campaign manager is now in prison as a result of campaign violations and several others are awaiting sentencing. And Trump’s personal attorney is in prison for violating campaign laws at the direction of the president!
2 – Mueller cited at least 10 instances in which the president engaged in obstruction of justice during the Russia investigation, including the suborning of perjury by his associates. The only reason he was not indicted is because of a questionable DOJ opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted for crimes.
3 – Despite the Mueller investigation and the subsequent convictions of members of his 2016 campaign, Trump announced during an interview that he would again accept illegal help from a foreign nation in the 2020 election.
4 – Trump has admitted to illegally holding up congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine agreeing to open an investigation to obtain dirt on one of Trump’s political rivals.
5 – Trump and his administration have routinely and illegally obstructed congressional oversight by refusing to turn over documents and ordering anyone connected to the administration – even those who do not work for the government – to refuse to testify by claiming executive privilege.
6 – Trump has routinely violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause by encouraging foreign representatives to meet in his resorts and hotels at the expense of taxpayers.
6 – Trump encouraged the vice-president to stay at one of his resorts during his recent trip to Ireland even though the resort was more than 100 miles from his official meetings.
7 – The US military has engaged in a questionable contract with the Prestwick Airport near one of Trump’s resorts in Scotland. In addition, it has quartered military personnel in the resort to financially benefit the Trump organization.
8 – Trump has routinely spent weekends at his resorts along with his government entourage at great expense to US taxpayers. And great profit to his company.
9 – Virtually the entire Trump cabinet has engaged in corrupt activities for personal gain.
10 – Trump’s family and others in the administration have conducted business via personal emails and illegally failed to keep records of their communications – the very thing they accused Hillary of doing.
11 – It has been documented that the president and his administration routinely lie to the American people. According to the Washington Post and other fact-checkers, Trump has made more than 12,000 false or misleading claims since the inauguration.
12 – Trump and his administration have violated numerous federal and international laws in their handling of Central American refugees seeking asylum, including the separation of children from their parents.
13 – Trump has undermined our nation’s relationships with many allies while pandering to the planet’s worst dictators.

The House’s impeachment inquiry may find numerous additional abuses. But, regardless of the findings, the president and his supporters will do everything in their power to dismiss it as another Democrat-led “Witch Hunt.” As you listen to their spin, keep in mind that the “Mueller Witch Hunt” caught a lot of “witches” who were members of the Trump inner circle, some of whom are now in prison.

We do not know if the House will vote for impeachment. And we don’t know if the Senate will convict and remove the president from office. But we do know one thing for certain: If the roles were reversed and a Democratic president had committed even one of the crimes listed above, the GOP would have already impeached, convicted and likely executed that president.