By Howie Hawkins
The Trump administration is filled with racists, war criminals, corporate criminals, and common criminals. The previous Democratic administration bears much responsibility for the presence of these criminal rich white men in high places because it refused to prosecute racist predatory banksters and war criminals.
The Democratic House is now complicit in this criminality as well. It has failed to impeach Trump for openly violating laws, obstructing justice, and harming the American people with racist statements, policies, and incitements to violence. In America, only rich white men like Trump and his cronies can expect to be walking around free after all the crimes they have committed in plain sight.
From the moment Trump took office, he has been receiving payments from foreign and domestic governments and lobbyists at his properties in violation of the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses of the Constitution. He is the unindicted co-conspirator in the felony hush-money campaign finance case where his underling, Michael Cohen, was convicted and is now serving time. Trump unlawfully told border agents and Homeland Security officials to break immigration laws and defy judicial orders concerning border crossings, asylum seekers, and child separations. He told a group of police officers to be more violent with suspects and the cops cheered him. He told American Indian leaders to break laws to frack and drill for oil and gas on their lands in violation of federal laws.
Over 1000 former federal prosecutors from both major parties have signed a statement saying “the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.” But Trump’s lawyers, trying to shield him from multiple congressional inquiries, have argued in court that the president is simply above the law. They claim that Congress does not have the authority to investigate whether the president broke the law and that only the executive branch can do that. So, according to the Trump team’s Catch 22 argument, the Department of Justice can investigate whether the president broke the law, but cannot indict him, while Congress can impeach the president, but cannot investigate him to see if he should be impeached.
That’s the rich white man’s justice.
We could go describing many other high crimes and misdemeanors or the 29 current investigations that prosecutors and Congress are finally doing on Trump’s 40-year rap sheet of alleged crimes that encompass everything from multiple sexual assaults to a multitude of corporate crimes, including tax evasion, bank fraud, insurance fraud, money laundering, and wage theft. The grounds for impeaching Trump are a target-rich environment.
Most of the Democrats in Congress are now complicit in Trumps’ crimes because they refuse to open an impeachment inquiry in the House. They decisively voted down impeachment resolutions in December 2017 and January 2018.
The first impeachment resolution was introduced by Rep. Al Green (D-TX) and defeated by a 364-58 vote in December 2017 and again by a 355-66 vote in January 2018. Subsequent impeachment resolutions have languished in committee. Green’s impeachment resolution called for Trump’s removal for “associating the majesty and dignity of the presidency with causes rooted in white supremacy, bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, white nationalism, or neo-Nazism” and for “publicly casting contempt on individuals and groups, inciting hate and hostility, sowing discord among the people of the United States, on the basis of race, national origin, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.” As Green stated recently, “I think the strongest case is his bigotry and policy….I just don’t see how we can have this overwhelming majority understand that he is a bigot—that he has infused his bigotry into policy—and not at some point decide that there ought to be a vote to impeach him for the bigotry and policy. And, by the way, you don’t need to conduct hearings on this, because the President does it in plain view!”
Speaker Pelosi has repeatedly said impeachment would divide the country. But Trump divides the country repeatedly with his racist dog-whistles and incitements to violence. It is no accident that Black, Latino, and Asian members of Congress were until recently the majority of members calling for impeachment. As of July 11, they were 37 of the 83 members of the House who support impeachment. Nor is it surprising that a mid-June 2019 Politico poll found that African Americans wanted to impeach Trump by 63% to 17%, while whites opposed impeaching Trump by 57% to 31%.
Racists in the Cabinet
Thanks to the Democrats’ criminal complicity by refusing to prosecute rich white men in high places, the Trump cabinet is stuffed with racists. These are the most dangerous kind of racists, the ones with the institutional power to harm people of color.
Trump’s treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and his commerce secretary, Wilber Ross, made millions off racist predatory lending and foreclosures. Mnuchin, as CEO of One West, redlined Asian, Black, and Latino borrowers, targeted them for foreclosure, and ran a reverse-mortgage fraud and foreclosure scam that targeted seniors and ripped off the Federal Housing Administration. Private-equity tycoon Ross, as the owner sub-prime mortgage loan servicing companies, was at the center of the robo-signing foreclosure scandal that epitomized the corporate crime wave that stole over 9.3 million homes during the foreclosure crisis. Those subprime loans were deliberately targeted at Black and Latino borrowers. Black America lost about half of its wealth during the Obama years due to racially-targeted predatory lending and foreclosures.
These racists in the cabinet are now running the treasury and commerce departments thanks to the Obama administration’s failure to prosecute rich white banksters. By Obama’s second term, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told Congress that he had to “foam the runway” for the big banks by going slow on HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program), the program to modify mortgages for underwater homeowners to their lower post-crash market values. Working- and middle-class homeowners, disproportionately Black and Latino, were Geithner’s runway foam for landing the big banks safely for record assets and profits since the housing and financial collapse. Only $15 billion of the $75 billion appropriated to help homeowners was ever spent. Treasury never permanently clawed back a single one of its improper payments to abusive mortgage servicers like Ross’s companies. When asked in 2013 why the big banks and their officers were not being prosecuted, Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “I am concerned that the size of some of these [financial] institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them.” That quote became derisively known as the “Too Big To Jail” theory.
As we chanted during the Occupy movement, “Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.” The banks got $29 trillion in commitments from the US government. Over 9.3 million homeonwers got sold out in foreclosures and resales to Wall Street banksters who gobbled up the properties at low prices with financial incentives from the government agency Fannie Mae.
The Trump administration is also stuffed with recidivist war criminals like Elliot Abrams, the now-fired John Bolton, and Erik Prince and their cover-up specialist, Attorney General William Barr. Again, the Democrats have been enablers. The Democrats’ complicity in war crimes lies in the Obama administration’s full exoneration of the torturers of the Bush/Cheney administration. “We must look forward, not backward” was the mantra of Obama and his administration with respect to the torturers. Obama bestowed full immunity on participants in the Bush/Cheney torture program. In cooperation with Republican operatives, the Obama administration aggressively opposed and succeeded in shutting down investigations into secret rendition and torture crimes by Congress, Germany, Spain, and the UK. Obama officials invoked the “state secrets” doctrine to quash civil cases against torturers brought by their victims. While the Obama administration was absolving the torturers, it aggressively prosecuted CIA officer John Kiriakou under the Espionage Act for being the whistleblower who first revealed waterboarding to a reporter. No government official has paid any price for the global kidnap and torture network the US operated for eight years.
In an article recounting this sordid history, Glen Greenwald concluded that the Obama administration’s cover-up “is almost certainly due to the fact that numerous high-level members of Obama’s own party were so complicit in these crimes.” Not only did the majority of congressional Democrats vote for the Authorization to Use Military Force for the multi-country “war on terror” and for the Iraq War, Democratic policy and military elites provided justifications and logistics for the crimes. Now the war criminals are back with the Trump administration, including Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, and Erik Prince, all of them rich white men.
Elliott Abrams was appointed by Trump earlier this year as his Special Representative for Venezuela and went right to work trying to install a puppet government in Venezuela. Abrams was certainly qualified for the job. He had prior experience from the covert Iran-Contra arms supply program to Nicaraguan counter-revolutionaries in the 1980s and from the intelligence manipulations used to justify the Iraq War in the 2000s.
The Iran-Contra scandal was in direct violation of the congressional Boland Amendment explicitly prohibiting US military intervention in Nicaragua as well as in direct violation of the Iran arms embargo. The Iran-Contra scheme involved Israel selling weapons to Iran, the US to resupplying weapons to Israel, Israel to paying the US the proceeds of the Iran weapons sales, and then the US using the proceeds to fund the Contra war.
Abrams was a top State Department official during Iran-Contra who pleaded down from multiple felony counts to two misdemeanor counts of lying to Congress. He was pardoned at the end of George H.W. Bush’s term with the encouragement of his Attorney General, William Barr. The pardons included former defense secretary Casper Weinberger who was about to start a trial that was expected to implicate Bush himself in the Iran-Contra crimes. Special counsel Lawrence Walsh said of the Bush pardons, “The Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed.” Abrams returned to the war crime business during the George W. Bush administration as an official on the National Security Council at the center of the crimes, from rendition and torture to preemptive war in Iraq William Barr has returned to the cover-up business as Trump’s Attorney General, beginning with his false summary of the Mueller Report. The conservative New York Times columnist William Safire began referring to him as “Coverup-General Barr” well before the Iran-Contra pardons for his role in obstructing investigations into the Iraqgate scandal of Reagan/Bush sales of weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein during the Iraq-Iran War. Covering up for war criminals makes him complicit in those crimes.
John Bolton has joined his old colleague Elliott Abrams in the Trump administration as its National Security Advisor. Bolton has been deeply involved in Iran-Contra, the Iraq War, and the US withdrawal from a series of nuclear weapons treaties, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, the North Korea Agreed Framework in 2002, and the Iran nuclear deal and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty in 2018. Now he has his sights set on ending the Strategic Arms Treaty, which expires in February 2021. As an assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, Bolton the administration’s hatchet man in opposing investigations by Congress and the independent counsel into alleged drug smuggling and gun running by the contras. As a top State Department official and then acting UN ambassador under Bush/Cheney, Bolton was a principal architect of the Iraq War and the torture program. Currently, he is spearheading the US wars of aggression against Venezuela and Iran, which are illegal under the US War Powers Act.
Privatizing War Crimes
Another war criminal in the Trump administration is Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and other private mercenary and security companies engaged in or seeking contracts in at least 15 countries for a wide range of imperial projects, including privatizing the war in Afghanistan; United Arab Emirates interventions in the civil wars in Libya, Syria, and Yemen; security for China’s Belts and Roads Initiative across southern Asian and into Africa and perhaps for China’s Uigher detention camps; and privatizing US military intervention in Venezuela. He sees himself creating a private version of the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) for his holy war against Islam. Part of his sales pitch is that private operators insulate governments from accountability, including war crimes.
Prince is not a formal member of the Trump administration like his sister, Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education. While his sister pushes the privatization of public education, Prince pushes to privatize much of the “war supply chain.” Prince is an informal foreign policy adviser in keeping with the accountability-avoiding style of the Trump administration where so many officials are “acting” in order to avoid Senate confirmation hearings. The most notorious war crime committed by Prince’s forces was the massacre of 14 Iraqis by Blackwater mercenaries at Nisour Square, Baghdad, in 2007. He has yet to be held accountable for apparently lying to Congress about his August 3, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with emissaries of the Saudi, Emirati, and Israeli governments about assistance to the Trump campaign they could provide.
Justice for All
Given the obvious criminality of the Trump administration, many progressives have opted for the Anybody-But-Bush approach of supporting for any Democratic nominee in 2020. But as the record reviewed here shows, the Democrats might beat Trump, but they won’t beat Trumpism. The Democrats have joined the Republicans in support for US wars and war crimes. They have joined the Republicans in being soft on the corporate crime wave. They have joined the Republicans in protecting rich white men who profit from institutional racism in banking and housing.
Justice will be found outside the two-party system of corporate rule. Justice requires a popular movement of working people to take power from the corporate elites and their political representatives in both major parties. It requires an independent party of the left that is rooted in and funded by the membership dues of working people, not the big money and dark money of corporate interests. It requires an ecosocialist economic democracy in order to have real political democracy and a justice system that protects all the people instead of a tiny elite of rich white men. We can’t wait until 2020 comes and goes to begin building the ecosocialist political alternative.