Longtime JURIST contributor David Crane, founding Chief Prosecutor of the international war crimes tribunal in West Africa called the Special Court for Sierra Leone, submitted this op-ed in March of 2017. For various reasons it was never published. In light of recent developments showing how prescient the piece was when it was written, we are publishing it now, with his approval.
Let’s get this out on the table: your President is mentally ill and a possible “dictator to be”. There, I said something no one wants to admit. It is hard to believe, but a minority of Americans allowed this poor devil to be constitutionally elected President of the United States. While the rest of the world moves on, trying to address real problems, the United States spins about watching our mad President howl at the moon imagining shadows and ghosts. His assertions that former President Obama was taping his communications while a candidate without any factual basis reflect his madness.
The United States is running on autopilot right now as that President runs in circles demanding investigations of things that did not happen. The Senior Executive Service, the career senior civil servants who actually run the day to day business of the Executive Branch, continue their work while that President screams at his staff about perceived slights to his manhood.
For now we can manage this Alice in Wonderland scenario, but as that President begins to slide down the rabbit hole, while his staff tells him all is well, the United States will begin to wobble and stray off center. Is Rome starting to burn? Do we already hear the fiddle? Not yet, but sooner than you think. What can be done? For now not much, but we have some future options:
Impeachment. A President can be removed from office for committing high crimes and misdemeanors. The impeachment process requires articles of impeachment being sent to the Senate by the House of Representatives for a trial presided over by the Chief Justice of the United States. We saw this process when Bill Clinton was impeached and a trial started in the Senate. He pled to a deal where he was censured.
Donald Trump swims in dark waters with murky allegations related to Russia all around him. Possible allegations may emerge that can create a condition for impeachment. Of course that President’s disdain for the rule of law may trigger future allegations. He certainly has no respect for the judiciary.
Unfitness. Our Constitution contemplates scenarios where the President is removed as he is unfit to serve. In the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, the process is carefully drafted to ensure removal is deliberate and done with consensus. Health care professionals over the past several months have opined that Donald Trump suffers from narcissistic tendencies and may have early onset dementia. As these possible conditions advance, disrupting government, this amendment comes into more focus.
Resignation. Under a “Nixon scenario” this President may box himself into a corner that the options are only impeachment/removal from office and federal indictment. Resignation may provide options that would allow a President who committed alleged crimes to avoid trial and imprisonment. Resigning could cause charges to be dropped or a pardon issued by his successor. I do not see a narcissist such as Trump having the capacity to understand this option. He would “go down fighting”, damaging our Republic.
2020 Election. It remains to be seen, but the American people may just “throw the bum out”. At the end of the day this is the hoped for resolution. The mid-year election of 2018 could be an important bell-weather as to how American voters view Trump and his policies, maybe not. The challenge is that Trump may implode before any of this happens causing the other scenarios to happen and do harm to the United States.
Your President already is showing signs of dictatorial governance. Attacking the press, surrounding oneself with slavish subordinates, blaming others for created problems, ignoring the truth, and basing ones domestic and international decisions and problems not on his policies but on a “boogeyman”, someone or some entity that is doing or going to do harm to the country. Does any of this sound familiar?
I will close with an attributed quote from Joseph Goebbels, the infamous head of the Nazi propaganda machine: “If you tell them lies long enough, the people will start to believe it”. Folks, the Emperor truly has no clothes on, believe that.
David Crane is Founding Chief Prosecutor of the international war crimes tribunal in West Africa called the Special Court for Sierra Leone; retired member of the Senior Executive Service of the United States of America; founder Global Accountability Network.
Suggested citation: David Crane, The Emperor Has No Clothes, JURIST – Professional Commentary, January 15, 2021, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2021/01/david-crane-trump-emperor/.
This article was prepared for publication by Anne Bloomberg, a JURIST staff editor. Please direct any questions or comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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