President Trump’s decision to fire James Comey is not illegal, but obstruction of justice is.
If Trump appoints someone about whom there is a bipartisan consensus of independence as the new FBI chief, we’ll have climbed down from this crisis, for now. But if we get an FBI chief whose political independence is in doubt – someone who the country views as a partisan, and not politically independent from the President – and if neither the FBI (by continuing the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the election) nor the Justice Department (by appointing a special prosecutor) can be trusted to follow the evidence where it leads, then it’s time for some good ole fashioned constitutional checks and balances. At that point, there will be no rule of law without genuine congressional independence and investigation.
We hope – nearly trust – that at some point enough Republicans in Congress will understand that they will eventually have to choose between Trump and the country, and assert the independence of the legislative branch. Once that happens, President Trump will either yield to the rule of law or break it, meaning he will either keep his job or lose it.
We do not spend our time fantasizing about Trump’s impeachment; Only If You Run’s is fairly explicitly predicated on a four-year term, with elections on schedule. But only the threat of impeachment can check this President’s anti-democratic, autocratic momentum. Congressional independence is the fundamental constitutional safeguard against what Trump could be, and only a willingness to wield impeachment if necessary can protect congressional independence.
Which is why it ultimately comes back to how we elect our members of Congress. Subversion of democratic processes at the roots are what yield this rotten fruit. We must elect Democrats and moderates of both parties to state legislatures, so that we have congressional districts that are fairly drawn, not for partisan advantage, so that we have an independent, representative Congress that will fulfill its constitutional responsibilities.