Category Archives: Impeachment

Germany used to have a leader like Trump. It’s not who you think.

The Washington Post, by Richard Cohen, May 1, 2017
Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1894 at age 35. (Associated Press)

The greatest achievement of Donald Trump’s first 100 days as president was that there was a 101st. If things continue this way, he will finish out his term and then the nation, like someone after a boozy night, can right itself and get on with its business. We will restore the environment, repair alliances, recognize science, welcome immigrants, cherish honesty, value knowledge and return dignity to a White House where Jefferson may have dined alone but where Trump was joined by Sarah Palin. More than a fresh coat of paint is needed.

The passing of the first 100 days was simultaneously cause for mockery and relief — and both for the same reason: President Trump accomplished next to nothing. The courts held firm, so did much of the bureaucracy, and the press not only remains free, it has a new bounce to its step. Most of all, Trump seemed dazed by reality. All sorts of policies were pirouetted — China, Iran, Russia, Syria and Israel, among others — and Trump, like the junkie he is, scorned the news media while craving it dearly. He held it up like a mirror: Am I great? Am I pretty? Am I popular?

And so the alarms have been muted. The Great Fascist Threat has receded, and it is considered both gauche and ahistorical to compare Trump to dictators of the past — you know their names. I quibble with that, because we can always learn from even extreme examples, but the Trump prototype that now seems most relevant is yet another German: Kaiser Wilhelm II. During his reign, World War I began.

That war, more than the greater one that followed, continues to intrigue historians because its cause is so hard to isolate. By Armistice Day, four empires were no more, about 17 million people were dead and the stage was set for a further calamity. But what started it? There are many explanations, but one factor, certainly, was the idiotic bellicosity of the German kaiser.

VIDEO: The first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency have been chaotic and unpredictable. Reporters who covered it recount the events that dominated the news. (Alice Li, Jayne Orenstein, Julio Negron/The Washington Post)

Anyone who turns to Christopher Clark’s book about the run-up to World War I, “The Sleepwalkers,” will recognize a Trump-like figure. The kaiser was a tweeter before his time, firing off letters, telegrams and orders without pausing to wonder about contradictions or policy or even common sense. (He demanded plans for invasions of Cuba, Puerto Rico and New York.)

“There can be no doubt about the bizarre tone and content of many of the kaiser’s personal communications in telegrams, letters, marginal comments, conversations, interviews and speeches on foreign and domestic themes,” Clark writes. “The kaiser spoke, wrote, telegraphed, scribbled and ranted more or less continuously.”

Clark then wonders whether “such utterances connected with the world of actual outcomes.” His answer is both frightening and reassuring. In the end, the kaiser was king but not dictator. He was considered a fool and widely ignored within his own government. Other governments had a harder time figuring him out. He often contradicted himself. He often seemed not to understand what he was saying, and he felt that he had no need to. “I am the foreign office,” he proclaimed. “I am the sole master of German policy.”

My nifty likening of Trump to Wilhelm suffers from one compelling problem: The American president is much more powerful than the German kaiser ever was. Trump’s response to Syria’s use of the sarin nerve agent — swift but bracketed by contradictory policy statements — would not have been possible for Wilhelm. His ministers would have mulled it over, possibly blocked it — said “yes, sir,” clicked their heels — and then done nothing. (President Richard Nixon’s aides took the same approach to many of his harebrained schemes.) The kaiser benefited from a lazier technology. Mobilization took time, and a tomahawk was a hatchet, not a missile.

More disturbing than the similarities between Wilhelm of Prussia and Trump of Queens are their differences. The kaiser was the product of an archaic monarchical system — the bad luck of the draw. Trump, however, was elected in a democratic process, and yet the result has been distressingly similar. All Trump lacks is a pickelhaube, the familiar spiked helmet.

Whatever the cause of World War I, it is clear that the Europe of 1914 needed stability. The arrangements of the 19th century were crumbling, Germany and Britain were warily eying each other, and the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires were coming apart. The kaiser, with his chaotic mind, was only making things worse. The world needed consistency, clarity, wisdom — instead, it got the juvenilia of a deluded leader. Not much has changed.


    Full transcript & video of Mueller’s statement on Russia Investigation

    As published in the New York Times, May 29, 2019

    Full Transcript of Mueller’s Statement on Russia Investigation

    Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, made his first public comments on Wednesday about the Russia investigation that he took over two years ago.
    The following is a transcript of his remarks, as prepared by The New York Times.
    [Read our full coverage here.]


    ROBERT S. MUELLER III, the special counsel: Good morning, everyone, and thank you for being here. Two years ago, the acting attorney general asked me to serve as special counsel and he created the special counsel’s office. The appointment order directed the office to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. This included investigating any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign.

    Now, I have not spoken publicly during our investigation. I am speaking out today because our investigation is complete. The attorney general has made the report on our investigation largely public. We are formally closing the special counsel’s office, and as well, I’m resigning from the Department of Justice to return to private life. I’ll make a few remarks about the results of our work. But beyond these few remarks, it is important that the office’s written work speak for itself. Let me begin where the appointment order begins, and that is interference in the 2016 presidential election.

    As alleged by the grand jury in an indictment, Russian intelligence officers who are part of the Russian military, launched a concerted attack on our political system. The indictment alleges that they used sophisticated cybertechniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign. They stole private information and then released that information through fake online identities and through the organization WikiLeaks.

    The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate. And at the same time, as the grand jury alleged in a separate indictment, a private Russian entity engaged in a social media operation, where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to influence an election. These indictments contain allegations, and we are not commenting on the guilt or the innocence of any specific defendant. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

    The indictments allege, and the other activities in our report describe, efforts to interfere in our political system. They needed to be investigated and understood. And that is among the reasons why the Department of Justice established our office. That is also a reason we investigated efforts to obstruct the investigation. The matters we investigated were of paramount importance. It was critical for us to obtain full and accurate information from every person we questioned. When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.

    Let me say a word about the report. The report has two parts, addressing the two main issues we were asked to investigate. The first volume of the report details numerous efforts emanating from Russia to influence the election. This volume includes a discussion of the Trump campaign’s response to this activity, as well as our conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy. And in the second volume, the report describes the results and analysis of our obstruction of justice investigation involving the president.

    The order appointing me special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation, and we kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of the progress of our work. And as set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.

    The introduction to the Volume II of our report explains that decision. It explains that under longstanding department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited. A special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider. The department’s written opinion explaining the policy makes several important points that further informed our handling of the obstruction investigation. Those points are summarized in our report, and I will describe two of them for you.

    First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president, because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could be charged now.

    And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing. And beyond department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially — it would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.

    So that was Justice Department policy. Those were the principles under which we operated. And from them, we concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the president committed a crime. That is the office’s final position, and we will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the president. We conducted an independent criminal investigation and reported the results to the attorney general, as required by department regulations.

    The attorney general then concluded that it was appropriate to provide our report to Congress and to the American people. At one point in time, I requested that certain portions of the report be released and the attorney general preferred to make — preferred to make the entire report public all at once and we appreciate that the attorney general made the report largely public. And I certainly do not question the attorney general’s good faith in that decision.

    Now, I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner. I am making that decision myself. No one has told me whether I can or should testify or speak further about this matter. There has been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress. In addition, access to our underlying work product is being decided in a process that does not involve our office.

    So beyond what I’ve said here today and what is contained in our written work, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation or to comment on the actions of the Justice Department or Congress. And it’s for that reason I will not be taking questions today, as well.

    Now, before I step away, I want to thank the attorneys, the F.B.I. agents, the analysts, the professional staff who helped us conduct this investigation in a fair and independent manner. These individuals who spent nearly two years with the special counsel’s office were of the highest integrity. And I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American. Thank you. Thank you for being here today.


      U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson Reacts to Mueller Statement

      Press Release, U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, California’s Fifth District
      May 29, 2019 

      Thompson Reacts to Mueller Statement

      Calls for continued congressional investigations into report’s findings

      US Reprentative Mike Thompson, California’s Fifth District

      Washington – Today Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) released the following statement in reaction to a public comment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on the conclusion of his investigation.

      “Special Counsel Mueller outlined two very specific conclusions from his report with which everyone should be concerned. First, he said that if investigators had confidence that the President did not commit a crime, they would have explicitly said so. They could not conclude that the President did not commit a crime. Second, he said that investigators concluded that Russia and Russian intelligence agencies made ‘multiple and systematic efforts’ to interfere with the 2016 election and that these attacks were successful. These are grave conclusions we must all take seriously.

      Special Council Robert S. Mueller

      “The Special Counsel’s statement today is yet another indicator Congress must continue with its investigations where he left off. There are already six committees currently conducting this work, including the House Committee on Ways and Means on which I sit. It’s our Constitutional duty to conduct oversight into this grave issue and to reach the conclusions of these investigations that will help us address this problem. We must make every effort to ensure our election process and our democracy are protected.”



        Should Trump be impeached? Here’s what Bay Area members of Congress say

        SF Chronicle: What each of our Representatives and Senators have to say about impeachment

        Tal Kopan May 2, 2019
        House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, speaks at the Economic Club of Washington in March. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press

        WASHINGTON — With the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, the question is before lawmakers: What will they do next?

        Democrats are split over whether to move to impeachment proceedings against President Trump in the House, the only chamber of Congress they control. With Republicans opposed to impeachment and in control of the Senate, such an effort would largely be for the purpose of uncovering information that could be damaging to Trump, either politically or in the congressional proceedings.

        Here’s where members of the Bay Area delegation — many of whom sit on committees where articles of impeachment would be considered or where investigations would be conducted — stand on whether to try to remove Trump from office.

        The speaker is the member with perhaps the most important vote on the matter, as she will likely decide whether the House will proceed to impeachment. She has largely steered her members away from it, saying before the Mueller report’s release that Trump was “just not worth” the consequences of impeachment and telling fellow Democrats after the special counsel’s redacted findings were made public that congressional investigations would come first. “I hate to disappoint some of you, but I’m not struggling with this decision,” she told her caucus.

        That approach hasn’t changed. “We’re hyper-focused on transparency and continuing our investigations,” an aide said in a statement, “because the special counsel’s report raises more serious questions about Trump’s relationship with the Russians and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, the administration’s efforts to protect our elections, especially given the purging of key staffers at the Department of Homeland Security, and the effect of Trump’s abuses of power on other areas we think people care about, like the administration’s efforts to sabotage Americans’ health care.”

        Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord:

        “As a matter of principle, I support impeachment and I also believe we need to proceed with the congressional investigations currently under way to get to the truth for the American people,” DeSaulnier said in a statement. “During Watergate, it was congressional hearings that led to the resignation of an unethical president.”

        Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto:

        Rep. Anna Eshoo. D-Palo Alto, in November 2013. Photo: Stephen Lam / Special to The Chronicle

        “As a member of Congress, I must be provided an unredacted copy of the special counsel’s report and all underlying documents in order to make a decision as to whether the House moves to impeach the president, or whether it’s done the old-fashioned American way — impeachment at the ballot box next year,” Eshoo said in a statement.

        Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael:

        “We should follow the facts,” Huffman told MSNBC. “We should do this full-throated investigation. We should read the Constitution and remember that our founders anticipated a moment like this and they put the constitutional remedy of impeachment in the Congress for a reason. We can’t just punt that. There is a real downside to that.”

        Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Fremont:

        “This is not a moment to rush to judgment,” Khanna said in a statement. “Rather, this is a time to be deliberate and methodical in our approach, and gather all the facts before making a determination on articles of impeachment. We need further investigations, public hearings, and potentially contempt proceedings to promote political accountability. Yet again, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has shown outstanding judgment and wisdom in her approach for our caucus.”

        Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

        “Congresswoman Lee believes Trump must be held accountable, strongly supports congressional investigations into the president and his administration’s actions, and believes that impeachment must not be taken off the table,” Lee’s office said in a statement.

        Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose: “Impeachment is not just a legal issue, it’s also a political issue,” Lofgren said in an interview on KCBS-AM. She noted that the public largely supported the impeachment of President Richard Nixon by the time he resigned 1974, in contrast to widespread opposition to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998.

        “I don’t know what the Congress and the public will think when we finish the entire review of this,” Lofgren continued. “I think it’s a mistake to try and jump to a conclusion. We’ve got to go in a boring, orderly, thorough fashion and see where we are. When you’re doing impeachment, you’re undoing an election, which is a pretty serious matter, and you don’t do that unless there’s really no choice.”

        Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo:

        Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, in New York on Oct. 15. Photo: Mark Lennihan / Associated Press

        “Clearly the Mueller report was meant to inform Congress’ drafting of articles of impeachment,” Speier said in a statement. “That is why the House must conduct its oversight duty and investigate the damning evidence uncovered by the report and any other evidence of crimes and corruption. Because it’s not just the Senate that wields the power of impeachment, it’s the American public. And the public needs and deserves unvarnished access to the Mueller report, and any other evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, so that they can ‘impeach’ the president in 2020 should the Senate fail to act.”

        Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin:

        “We’re certainly having a conversation about how we hold this president accountable,” Swalwell said on ABC News’ “The Investigation” podcast. “I wouldn’t say impeachment is off the table.”

        Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena:

        “The findings presented in Special Counsel Mueller’s report are serious,” Thompson said in a statement. “Congress will continue with our investigations to ensure our constituents get the truth. Nothing is off the table. At the same time, Congress will continue with our responsibility to pass legislation that helps our constituents and our country — we can do both at the same time.”

        If the House did vote to impeach Trump, he would be tried in the Senate. Here’s what California’s senators have to say about the possibility of impeachment:

        Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein:

        “The Mueller report certainly raises serious issues that Congress needs to investigate,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Whether impeachment proceedings should occur can be decided once that process is under way and we’ve learned more. And of course any decision on whether to bring impeachment charges would be made by the House.”

        Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris:

        “I think we have very good reason to believe that there is an investigation that has been conducted which has produced evidence that tells us that this president and his administration engaged in obstruction of justice,” Harris said on a CNN town hall last month. “I believe Congress should take the steps towards impeachment.”

        Tal Kopan is The San Francisco Chronicle’s Washington correspondent.