By Robert Reich
The most xenophobic and isolationist American president in modern history has been selling America to foreign powers for his personal benefit. That’s an impeachable offense.
President Donald Trump says he withdrew American troops from the Syrian-Turkish border—leaving our Kurdish allies to be slaughtered and opening the way for a resurgent ISIS—because it was time to bring American soldiers home.
A more likely explanation is that the Trump Towers Istanbul is the Trump Organization’s first and only office and residential building in Europe. Businesses linked to the Turkish government are also major patrons of the Trump Organization. Hence, Trump has repeatedly sided with Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been intent on eliminating Kurds.
Back home, Trump wants to protect America’s borders from illegal immigration. But guarding America’s geographic borders isn’t nearly as important as guarding the integrity of American democracy—which Trump has repeatedly compromised for personal political gain.
He did this on July 25, when he asked the president of Ukraine to do him a personal “favor” by digging up dirt on Joe Biden, his most likely 2020 opponent.
Likewise, Trump claims his China policy is designed to protect the American economy. So why did he ask China to investigate Biden? Last week, his adviser on China conceded he spoke with Chinese officials about the former vice president.
Trump’s entire foreign policy has been about Trump from the start. Special counsel Robert Mueller found that Russia sought to help Trump get elected, and Trump’s campaign welcomed the help.
Now Trump is playing at being a double foreign agent—pushing the prime minister of Australia, among others, to gather information to discredit the Mueller investigation.
Rudy Giuliani is Trump’s private secretary of state, substituting Trump’s interests for American interests. On Wednesday, two of Giuliani’s business associates were arrested in connection with a criminal scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for office, including donations to a super PAC formed to support Trump.
Last Friday, in an opening statement for congressional impeachment investigators, Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said people associated with Giuliani “may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, even as Trump spews conspiracy theories about the Biden family, his own children are openly profiting from foreign deals. Eric and Don Jr. have projects in the works in Ireland, India, Indonesia, Uruguay, Turkey and the Philippines.
Trump himself is pocketing money from foreign governments eager to curry favor by staying at his hotels. The practice has become so routine that during Trump’s July 25 phone call, the Ukrainian president assured him that the “last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near Central Park, and I stayed at the Trump Tower.”
Foreign governments spent more than a million dollars at Trump’s businesses in 2018, mostly at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Trump will pocket even more if he carries out his plan, which he announced last month, to host next year’s G-7 meeting at his Doral golf resort, in Florida.
All this is precisely what the Founding Fathers sought to prevent.
When they gathered in Philadelphia 232 years ago to write a constitution, a major goal was to protect the new nation from what Alexander Hamilton called the “desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”
To ensure no president would “betray his trust to foreign powers,” as James Madison put it, they included an emoluments clause—barring a president from accepting foreign payments.
They also gave Congress the right to impeach a president for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” During the Virginia ratifying convention, Edmund Randolph noted that a president “may be impeached” if discovered “receiving [help] from foreign powers.”
You don’t have to be an originalist to see the dangers to democracy when a president seeks or receives personal favors from foreign governments. There is no limit to how far a foreign power might go to help a president enlarge his political power and wealth, in exchange for selling out America.
Donald Trump is a xenophobe in public and international mobster in private. He has brazenly sought private gain from foreign governments at the expense of the American people.
This is shameful and criminal. At the very least, it is impeachable.