The rolling train wreck that is the Trump Administration has now reached the final destination of its European “Wreck It!” tour in Helsinki. Already, President Trump has attacked the nation’s reliable NATO allies, broadcast a fictional account of his having imposed his will on the leaders attending the NATO summit, assailed the leadership of British Prime Minister Theresa May, attacked Germany as a “captive” of Russia, and labeled the European Union as a “foe.”
The Trump Administration’s damage has not been confined to foreign affairs, trade policy, or national security. Its damage to the nation’s constitutional framework is mounting as a captive Republican Party continues to put narrow partisan considerations ahead of the nation’s interests, uses its platform of power to discredit the nation’s law enforcement and intelligence communities, and deploys its oversight authority to inflict abuses on the Department of Justice, FBI, and intelligence communities. All of this is occurring even as a hostile Russia had attempted to subvert the 2016 Presidential election to advance its own interests.
On Friday, the Department of Justice announced the indictments of 12 Russian intelligence operatives for their role in hacking the Democratic National Committee and seeking to “interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” The Grand Jury’s findings (CNN) included:
In or around 2016, the Russian Federation (“Russia”) operated a military intelligence agency called the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (“GRU”). The GRU had multiple units, including Units 26165 and 74455, engaged in cyber operations that involved the staged releases of documents stolen through computer intrusions. These units conducted large-scale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election…
The object of the conspiracy was to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Under such circumstances, an effectively-functioning republican government would have rallied to a unified position to address the challenge of Russia’s attack on the nation’s political institutions and its electoral system. No such unity was forthcoming.
Instead, rather than supporting the nation’s law enforcement and intelligence communities in the wake of well-documented evidence of perhaps the largest attack on America’s national security since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the House Freedom Caucus continued to advance its narrowly partisan and largely fact-free effort aimed at impeaching Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
House conservatives are preparing a new push to oust Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, according to three conservative Capitol Hill sources — putting the finishing touches on an impeachment filing even as Rosenstein announced the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for interfering in the 2016 election.
For now, that fringe faction is unlikely to succeed in toppling Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein who has been leading the nation’s law enforcement response to Russia’s cyber-attack on the United States. Nevertheless, that faction whose members have demonstrated the willingness to ignore the oath they had taken “to support this Constitution” (Legal Information Institute) is a malignancy that cannot be ignored, much less accommodated.
Far from what its name might imply, the “Freedom Caucus” has little to do with preserving or advancing liberty. Instead, it has become a vocal force in undermining the nation’s republican form of government. Its conduct provides as clear a symptom as can be had of the ‘mortal disease’ of factions that greatly concerned the nation’s Founders. In Federalist No. 10 (Avalon Project), James Madison wrote:
The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it. The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations… Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority. However anxiously we may wish that these complaints had no foundation, the evidence, of known facts will not permit us to deny that they are in some degree true. It will be found, indeed, on a candid review of our situation, that some of the distresses under which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of our governments; but it will be found, at the same time, that other causes will not alone account for many of our heaviest misfortunes; and, particularly, for that prevailing and increasing distrust of public engagements, and alarm for private rights, which are echoed from one end of the continent to the other. These must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice with which a factious spirit has tainted our public administrations.
Near the conclusion of that essay, Madison placed his faith in the virtue of republican government to contain the sickness of factions. He explained,
“The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States.”
President Trump and the Freedom Caucus have ‘kindled’ that ‘flame’ of factiousness. In less than four months, Madison’s thesis will be put to the test.
On November 6, the nation’s voters will cast ballots for all 435 House seats. If that election sweeps a seemingly fatally corrupted Republican majority from power, the wisdom of those who drafted the Constitution will again be vindicated. If, on the other hand, that majority, along with President Trump’s “Freedom Caucus” collaborators, prevails, Madison’s basic assumption concerning the republican form of government would be disproved and the entire republican project would be put at risk.