Perhaps the most shocking thing, out of all the shocks that have battered us since the inauguration of President Trump, is the complete lack of responsible reaction from Congressional Republicans. Beyond a few bleats of “troubling” and “concerning” there is only evasion, excuses, or silence from those charged by the Constitution with checking and balancing the Executive Branch. Many commentators have drawn comparisons to Watergate when Republican leaders acted as patriotic statesmen, putting country before party. Today’s Republicans make us wonder, how would they have reacted if Hillary Clinton had been elected and behaved in precisely the same way as President Trump?
To find the answer I enter the British Police Box in my basement armed with a “subtle knife” to slice through to an alternate reality in the future. My first stop in this brave new world is, of course, the library. Hastening to the history stacks I select a volume that covers the relevant period. Here is an excerpt from The End of the Republic: America in the Early Twenty-first Century, published in 2217. I have omitted the footnotes, of which there are many, explaining to twenty-third century readers the arcane terminology of the former Republic and the primitive technology of the period.
“From the moment she raised her right hand and swore the Oath of Office in 2017 the impeachment of President Hillary Clinton was inevitable. Congressional Republicans were already determined to continue investigating her use of a private email server as Secretary of State. Historians agree that this was a trivial trumped up pretext to damage her credibility during the election campaign. It almost worked, but Clinton scraped out a narrow Electoral College victory while losing the popular vote. Republicans, in a reprise of their tactic against President Barack Obama, treated the new President as illegitimate from day one. But President Clinton’s behavior, it must be said, gave them ample evidence for the dramatic impeachment trial that would follow her first 100 days in office.
Consider these facts, which would be enumerated in the Articles of Impeachment:
- During the campaign Clinton refused to release her tax returns and those of the Clinton Foundation, shielding her worldwide business ties and sources of income from the public.
- As President she refused to divest from her businesses, claiming that turning them over to family members was sufficient. Meanwhile she continued to profit from the businesses and increased their profits by repeatedly holding presidential meetings and events in her own properties. Her profits from foreign sources were deemed a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
- Rumors during the campaign that she lacked sufficient energy to be President were confirmed. She travelled almost every weekend to a family-owned spa, racking up more travel security expenses for herself and her family in a month than President Obama did in a year. At the White House she kept a light schedule, spending most of her time watching television and tweeting.
- Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, refused to live in the White House, necessitating vast expenditures on security at his New York residence.
- She gave her daughter and son-in-law, Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky, positions as top advisors in the White House, nepotism at its worst. Mezvinsky, an investment banker with no experience in government or diplomacy, was given a vast portfolio including Middle East peace negotiations and modernizing government.
- She denied the accuracy of the intelligence services’ assessment that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election campaign on her behalf, claiming that it could have been China or “a 400 pound guy in a basement.” She attacked the veracity of the intelligence services as if they were the enemy and not Russia. Meanwhile it was revealed that several of her campaign officials and associates had contacts with known Russian intelligence operatives during the campaign.
- She fired her National Security Advisor after it was revealed that he had lied about phone calls with the Russian Ambassador during the transition and could be blackmailed by the Russians. Significantly, he was not fired when the Acting Attorney General first informed the White House of the situation, but only 18 days later when the facts became public. In the meantime the Acting Attorney General was fired.
- As the FBI’s Russia investigation continued and it became known that it involved looking into the possibility of collusion between Clinton’s campaign and the Russians, Clinton summarily fired the FBI Director. The very next day she met in the Oval Office with the Russian Ambassador and Foreign Minister at Russian President Putin’s request. In the course of the meeting she revealed classified intelligence information, compromising a close ally.
- Memos by the fired FBI Director revealed that Clinton had pressed him to end the Russia investigation.
The accumulation of these facts and the continuing unhinged behavior of the President, which many contemporaries blamed on menopause, make it easy to see why the Republican Party in Congress expressed such outrage and moved so swiftly to Impeachment. Republican leaders held daily press briefings to amplify and condemn each new development. House Speaker Paul Ryan became the moral voice of the people with his unequivocal statements warning of the dire consequences for the nation if the President was not held to account. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, his voluminous chin quivering with emotion, vowed there would be no congressional action on any of the nation’s business until President Hillary Clinton was removed from office. Both leaders called her “a clear and present danger” to the security of the nation. By late May of 2017 Articles of Impeachment were drafted charging Clinton with high crimes and misdemeanors.”
At this point in my reading I paused. Skipping the chapter on the impeachment trial itself I flipped ahead through the pages to find out what happened next. The title of the book had given me an ominous feeling. I learned that the brief presidency of Clinton’s successor was a failure, due largely to the Democrats’ loss of credibility with the public. The Democratic Party as a force in American politics was essentially over. In the 2020 Presidential Election Clinton’s 2016 opponent Donald J. Trump ran again and won an easy victory. It was a triumph for the extreme right wing of the Republican Party and their fellow travelers, from religious extremists to white nationalists. In his first Executive Order President Trump scrapped the Constitution, calling it:
“An elitist document made up of a lot of fancy words by intellectuals to confuse real Americans.”
Like Augustus before him Trump ended a Republic and unilaterally declared himself Emperor, with the title Dearly Beloved Leader. The Trump Dynasty lasted for more than a hundred years until the corruption and decadence of the ruling family finally gave birth to the Second American Revolution in 2176. In the period when this history book was written America was once again a Republic, governed in the new “scientific utopian” style in which truth and facts were prized above all.
I replaced the book on the shelf and hurried back to the Police Box to make my way home to the uncertain present. As I stepped into my basement the television blared the news: a Special Counsel had been appointed in the Trump Russia investigation. I have no doubt about what would have happened and how Republicans would have reacted if it really had been a President Clinton who behaved as President Trump has. That future will never come to pass. We can’t know the real future but we can be sure that History is watching to see how Republicans behave now.