The Rule of Law, the propaganda bubble, and the removal of Donald Trump from office

President Donald J. Trump, in the Observer’s opinion, has no understanding of or respect for Law, whether domestic or international. This encompasses his disdain for International Law, including the international law of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (the law of war). In this regard, his lack of regard for international law is consistent with his lack of regard for law in general, and for the separation of powers and other provisions of the United States Constitution.

This is the starting point of the following analysis. If there are any who disagree with the preceding conclusion and starting point, let them make their case.

In the Observer’s opinion, failure to uphold the Rule of Law is a sufficient reason in and of itself to remove Donald Trump from office, whether by impeachment and a Senate removal trial, or by defeating him in the 2020 elections.

When half the electorate believes Trump’s propaganda and lies, and are in effect trapped in a seemingly impenetrable propaganda bubble, how can this be done?

The answer is far from clear.

One approach is to talk about “bread and butter” issues while ignoring Trump’s misdeeds. Many Democrats believe this is how they won the House in 2018.

Another approach is for the House to impeach Trump only on matters related to the Ukraine, and to proceed to a trial in the Senate on an accelerated schedule, so that the impeachment and removal process will not interfere with the primaries and the general election campaigns in 2020.

If Trump’s propaganda bubble is not pierced, however, this approach will almost certainly lead to a vote in the Senate which fails to remove him from office.

This approach amounts to a “bet the farm” plan to impeach Trump while failing to gain the votes in the Senate necessary to remove him from office. It is based on the wild hope that somehow this will help the Democrats in the 2020 elections.

Yet the opposite outcome could just as likely result. Trump would make great propaganda use of any Senate failure to remove him from office.  The Observer would not “bet the farm”–the Rule of Law and our Constitutional democracy–on such a wild hope and proposition.

Moreover, House Democrats are suffering from an insane delusion if they think for a moment that narrow articles of impeachment will protect them from Trump’s wrath and somehow help them win in the 2020 elections.

So, the fundamental challenge remains: How can the Democrats and other Trump critics puncture the propaganda bubble in which Trump supporters are entrapped, so that political competition in the United States can once again be based on facts and science and law, and reasoned discussions and arguments based on the same?

Such a shift would have a huge impact on political debate on many  issues, including climate change, for example.

Seen in this light, there is only one big issue before the Congress and the country: Are we to take on present and future challenges with a clear-eyed focus on the facts, science, and the law, or are we to march into the future through a phantasmagorical fog of lies and distortions trapped in the Trump propaganda bubble?

That is the question. It is the big question which should frame all deliberations and discussions among the Democrats and other Trump critics in deciding how to proceed.

A quick trial in the Senate on Ukraine issues that fails to produce a vote to remove Trump from office is not likely to puncture Trump’s propaganda bubble and return the country to a focus on facts, science, and the law–or to move the country significantly in that direction.

Nor would ignoring Trump’s misdeeds in campaigns in the 2020 elections be likely to puncture his propaganda bubble, or return Democratic majorities as occurred in the House in 2018–a year in which Trump was neither a candidate nor on the ballot.

In the Observer’s opinion, the Democrats’ best shot at puncturing Trump’s and the Republicans’ propaganda bubble would be by holding impeachment hearings into the broad range of his misdeeds and abuses of power, following the model of the House Intelligence Committee hearings.  Such a process could take two or three months, with a Senate trial to follow the adoption of comprehensive articles of impeachment by the Judiciary Committee and the House.

In the hearings and deliberations in the Judiciary Committee, Democrats should avoid acceding to too many Republican demands for  “due process guarantees”–particularly in view of Republicans’ evident bad faith and continuing efforts to malign and disrupt the proceedings. These guarantees should of course be provided, but where they belong–in the Senate trial on the articles of impeachment.

Democrats would need to stress that the impeachment and removal process is not a criminal matter.

That is not to suggest that crimes are irrelevant.

Submission of the Mueller Report as part of the articles of impeachment could in itself be largely sufficient for purposes of puncturing Trump’s and the Republicans’ propaganda bubble and making the case for obstruction of justice in the cases it describes. It is well past the time when the Democrats should walk the American people through the details of the Mueller Report’s findings of fact related to obstruction of justice. But it is better to do this now, than to skip such a necessary step.

Proceeding in this manner might well wreak havoc with plans for primary election campaigns, or even those for the general election campaigns in the run-up to the November 2020 elections.

On the other hand, Donald Trump has already wreaked havoc with the Constitutional Order and the Rule of Law in the United States.

Defending that Constitutional Order and the Rule of Law is what counts.

The most promising path to success in this endeavor seems to be to puncture Trump’s and the Republicans’ propaganda bubble of lies, distortions, distractions, and irrelevancies.

The best hope for achieving that, in the Observer’s opinion, is to keep dismantling that propaganda wall, brick by brick, with the sledgehammer of truth.

This will not be an easy task. To knock down Trump’s propaganda wall, Democrats and others will need to use their sledgehammer on far more than the bricks in the wall related to Ukraine.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.