Mueller's logical end game is President Pelosi

Grace Virtue

Monday, December 10, 2018

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In the wake of the US midterms, and the realisation that in less than 60 days he will face a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, Donald Trump endorsed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for the speakership, which she held from 2007 to 2011.

“I think she deserves it,” Trump said. “She's fought long and hard, she's a very capable person, and you know you have other people shooting at her trying to take over the speakership.”

On this, I agree with him. And agreeing with Donald Trump on anything is not easy for someone who suffered severe post-traumatic stress following the outcome of the 2016 election and the realisation that he was going to be America's leader. I have spent every waking moment since waiting for America — the greatest constitutional democracy on Earth and home to 367 Nobel Prize winners — to correct that aberration.

Through a bizarre mix of clever propaganda, Russian interventions, media manipulations, and the impact of the Electoral College — designed by the founding fathers to prevent ordinary people from electing someone ill-suited for the presidency — Trump assumed that role January 20, 2017.

It is a painful irony that ordinary people, by close to three million votes, favoured Hillary Clinton — a highly competent public servant, vetted over 25 years — to be president of the United States. The Electoral College — a contraption that has no place in a modern democracy — gave us an unstable, undignified, unread, unlearned, bigoted 'man-child', and functional illiterate as to the role and responsibilities of the president. Ill-equipped for the job and keenly aware of his unworthiness, Trump has resorted to hauling the presidency to the bottom of the swamp he pledged to drain.

Trump's idea of America was not what I had in mind when I became a citizen two months before the 2016 election. The vision was of ongoing progress reflected in a seamless transition from Barack Obama, America's first black president, to Hillary Clinton, its first woman president.

Trump, therefore, is more than a dream deferred. Living with his deliberately ugly reversal of social progress has been a nightmare for marginalised communities, in particular.

The Democrats' successes in the midterms offer hope that his reign of terrifying ignorance and cruelty will end soon. It represents what I firmly believe is now a clear end game for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who leads the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election: The inauguration of President Nancy Pelosi in 2019.

It should be President Hillary Clinton, but since she currently holds no elected office, I have no sense of how she could take her place as the rightfully elected president of the United States outside of Trump's win being nullified and the presidency reverting to the winner of the popular vote and the runner-up in the Electoral College, or the actual winner controlling for the impact of the Russian interference. It would be ponderous, no doubt, but should justice demand less?

But Pelosi's path is clear. When Congress convenes, January 3, she will be third in line to the presidency — currently held by a man who, at the very least, is an un-indicted co-conspirator on campaign finance violation charges, according to the testimony of his former attorney, Michael Cohen, who said Trump, during the campaign, directed an elaborate plot to pay off women with whom he had affairs to keep it from the public.

Next is Vice-President Michael Pence who cannot escape the stench of corruption around Trump, particularly in regard to Russian interference in the election. Pence was picked as Trump's running mate by then campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a dark money operative with reported close ties to the Kremlin. Manafort has since been convicted on obstruction of justice charges and conspiracy against the US.

Pence also faced questions in 2017 on whether he knew that Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, was in touch with several foreign governments, including Russia and Turkey, during the presidential transition. Flynn was fired after only 24 days and later pled guilty to one count of lying to the FBI. Both Manafort and Flynn are awaiting sentences.

Given what is already in the public domain about Trump and the likelihood that Pence was untruthful, it is hard to believe that Mueller's investigations will not unearth sufficient evidence to support an indictment or impeachment, or prompt the resignation of both Trump and Pence.

All three options were problematic as long as the line of presidential succession ran entirely through the GOP. The new Democratic House puts an end to that — to corrupt public officials controlling the instruments of government that are supposed to hold them accountable. More importantly, it breaks up the line of presidential succession, potentially giving the presidency to Nancy Pelosi — the likely democratic speaker of the House — and third in line under the constitution.

If the elements fall into place, restoring sanity and dignity to the White House could be our national new year's present.

Grace Virtue, PhD, is a public affairs professional from Silver Spring, Maryland.

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