BY DIANE DIMOND
As you read this, the president of the United States might very well have said or tweeted out more intemperate things. It is pretty clear that Donald J. Trump plays fast and loose with the English language, and that diplomatic speak is not in his wheelhouse. He shoots from the lip and worries about cleaning up the mess his statements create later — if ever.
That said, a U.S. president cannot be impeached for simply saying imprudent things. I spent several years reporting from Washington, D.C., and I believe there is nearly no chance of President Trump being removed from office at this time. That’s about as likely as Hillary Clinton is to permanently step off the national political stage.
Nevertheless, there has been an overload of breathless media reports on the possibility. Cable news calls the current situation “the White House in crisis.” The Washington Post declares, “The White House has every reason to panic.”
Yes, former FBI Director James Comey wrote himself a memo right after meeting with the president, which reportedly chronicled Trump’s reaction to the bureau’s investigation of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“I hope you can let this go,” the president is said to have remarked about the Russian collusion probe involving Flynn. He added that he thought Flynn was a “good guy.”
To my mind, those quotes don’t completely square with the widespread conclusion from various media outlets, like CNN, that “President Donald Trump asked James Comey to end the investigation.” Still, many maintain that since the president ordered the room cleared so he could speak privately with Comey, it was proof of obstruction of justice — enough for impeachment.
A president accused of obstruction of justice. Hmm, that sounds familiar.
In December 1998, the Republican-led House of Representatives found then-President Bill Clinton guilty of both obstruction of justice and perjury. Contrary to what so many insisted back then, Clinton was impeached not for his philandering ways but because a DNA stain left on a blue dress proved he lied to the nation when he emphatically said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
Even after Clinton’s lies were exposed (he had also repeated his story to a grand jury under oath), he remained in office.
To actually remove a president from the White House, the Senate must hold a public trial on the matter and two-thirds of the 100 senators have to agree on a verdict. In Clinton’s day, the Republicans controlled the Senate but still could not muster enough votes to convict the Democratic president.
See how difficult it is to remove a sitting president from the White House?
Today, Republicans hold a majority in both the House and the Senate, and it is highly unlikely they would vote to impeach a Republican president — unless, of course, Trump really does stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone.
There is also the matter of how deeply Trump campaign officials may have worked with Russian operatives to sway the election. To my knowledge, no one has offered proof that Trump himself engaged in questionable contacts with the Russians. And top intelligence officials like former CIA and NSA Director Gen. Michael Hayden, former Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan have all said they found no evidence of collusion, just overly aggressive Russian operatives trying to ingratiate themselves with the incoming administration, and naive Trump representatives who couldn’t see they were being played. At this juncture, trying to initiate impeachment proceedings on that issue would be foolhardy.
Still, Democrats have insisted that only a special prosecutor can get to the bottom of any possible Trump-Russia conspiracy. Robert Mueller, the widely respected former FBI director, is on the case. I say this marks a good time for everyone in Washington — and the country — to take a deep breath, concentrate on issues important to Americans (like health care and tax reform) and wait for the investigative process to play out.
Look, no matter what you think of President Trump, he is not a stupid man. He did not amass his $3.5 billion fortune by miscalculating situations or losing focus. He must ultimately be a man who learns from his mistakes, since he has managed to regroup after not one or two but six bankruptcies.
I’m not so bothered with the different way this president has decided to govern by consistently breaking protocol and putting America first. After all, wasn’t that the message from the electorate back in November? Americans clearly signaled that they wanted a new kind of politician in the White House, one who tackles the everyday problems affecting their family.
So let’s stop with all this talk about impeachment. Instead, let’s hope our real estate mogul-turned-president is learning on the job that words matter, tweets are not a responsible way to communicate and boardroom bully-boy tactics do not a great statesman make.
Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at www.DianeDimond.net or reach her via email [email protected]