Maybe House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is right. Maybe Donald Trump does feel some deep compulsion to be impeached.
Pelosi’s theory would explain some of President Trump’s recent statements and actions. Those statements and acts are so needlessly confrontational as to be wantonly self-destructive — and damaging to both the political party and country the president is supposed to lead.
In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Trump said that he would be willing to accept “political dirt” on his opponents from foreign governments. In the same interview, the president also said he wouldn’t feel compelled to report such contacts to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The president’s statement drew a swift rebuke.
“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election,” wrote Ellen Weintraub, chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission.
Weintraub also said: “Anyone who solicits or accepts foreign assistance risks being on the wrong end of a federal investigation. Any political campaign that receives an offer of a prohibited donation from a foreign source should report that offer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
If there is anyone on this planet who should understand that, it would be Donald Trump. He, after all, has been on the receiving end of not one but several investigations into the role his 2016 presidential campaign may have played in Russia’s efforts to influence that election. Those investigations have seen his allies, friends and employees indicted and, in several cases, convicted and sentenced to prison.
That the president would say, in effect, that he would take help from a foreign government again indicates one of the two things.
The first possibility is that he’s so dumb he has not learned a thing from the past three years.
The second is that, for whatever reason, he really, really wants to have his presidency indicted in the U.S. House of Representatives and put on trial in the U.S. Senate — which is what the impeachment process involves.
Given that the president clearly is not stupid, the latter is the most likely explanation of his conduct.
That interpretation is reinforced by the White House’s reaction to a report from the Office of the Special Counsel, an independent agency. That report called for the president to fire Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s counselor and frequent spokesperson.
The special counsel — which is not the same as Robert Mueller III — said Conway had repeatedly violated the Hatch Act of 1939. That law prohibits employees of the federal government’s executive branch, excepting the president, vice president and a few others, from engaging in political or partisan activities. Its aim was to prevent a form of ghost employment — to keep presidents from using taxpayer-supported positions to secure partisan advantages.
Conway, who can’t open her mouth without bashing Democrats or anyone else who might question the president, is in clear violation of the law.
But there is an easy remedy to the problem.
Trump could move Conway to his presidential campaign staff, a spot from which she could say all the disparaging things she wants about the president’s opponents and have those insults protected by both the First Amendment and campaign laws.
Instead of taking that sensible action, the White House attacked the Office of Special Counsel’s report and demanded that it be reinterpreted or retracted.
Once again, the president sought out a fight rather than a solution.
In doing so, Trump pushes Pelosi closer to initiating impeachment proceedings. Pelosi has approached the idea of impeaching the president with the sort of enthusiasm most people reserve for root canals.
But Trump may leave her no choice.
Among other things, the president is supposed to be the nation’s top law-enforcement officer. Refusing to honor, much less enforce, the law is a clear dereliction of duty and thus an obvious impeachable offense.
The president may see this as a great way to rally his base.
It will be interesting to see if his fellow Republicans feel the same way.
For generations, the GOP has styled itself as the law-and-order party.
With this president and his reckless defiance and ignorance of the law, that’s going to be a tough case to make from now on.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.