The oath of office that government officials and lawyers must take has been on my mind a lot recently. It’s a solemn pledge that I have taken at least seven times, as a government employee, as a soldier and as an attorney. Oath takers swear to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” To me, the pledge of alliance to the flag is similar – but not nearly as personal. The oath is more than passive support; it connotes a duty to actively engage in its commitments. Every time I have raised my right hand and recited these words the effect is both physical and mental. It does something to my spine – a chill perhaps — and my chest – a swelling with pride in being a citizen of this great nation, dedicated to its cause.
My most memorable oath was in the chambers of Oklahoma House of Representatives when I was sworn in for the first time as an attorney at law and an officer of the court. Over the years since then it remained in the back of my mind as my obligation to uphold the rule of law and comply with the attorney’s code of ethics was tested by corporate clients. And it is front and center in my brain today as I hear President Trump violate his oath of office almost daily and listen to the numerous Republican members of Congress who are being tested as a result.
With a few exceptions like Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who is not up for reelection this year, and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Az.), who will not seek reelection in 2018, Trump can attack the Justice Department and the FBI with precious little pushback from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or his caucus. The president can make racist comments, tell the most audacious lies, demean dedicated public servants and attempt to obstruct justice in plain sight. These spineless politicians, many of whom have served in Congress for decades, shrug and make excuses or tell us about the good things Trump has done. They have been cowed into submission by a tinhorn con man who has no thought of defending the Constitution. In fact, he is attacking it and they are letting or abetting him.
Trump recently called the Justice Department “corrupt” and blamed President Obama’s administration. He derides Attorney General Jeff Sessions constantly for rightly recusing himself from the Russia investigation. And while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) once promised to protect his old friend from Alabama, he now casually observes that Sessions will probably be fired after the midterm elections. “The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in,” Graham observed. “Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tried to support Sessions not too long ago by saying his committee would not have time to confirm a new AG. Now he says he will make time. Both of these Senators know full well that Trump’s devious purpose in replacing Sessions is to stop special counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation. These cowardly sycophants — and most of their Republican colleges — are turning their backs on the Constitution to support their party and a corrupt administration. They have no shame or honor.
Well, I believe it is too late to stop Mueller and his team. There are too many dedicated public servants in Justice and the FBI — Democrats and Republicans alike — who won’t allow the evidence they have gathered to be swept under the rug. They too have taken the oath and I am confident the majority will abide by it, maybe even Sessions. A former Watergate prosecutor recently confirmed that copies of the evidence against President Richard Nixon and his co-conspirators had been taken to secure locations out of fear Nixon would shut the official investigation down. I suspect the same is being done by Mueller’s team.
But thankfully the Russia investigation is not the only effort to reveal the truth about Trump’s nefarious dealings. New York State officials are examining Michael Cohen’s guilty plea to determine if state laws were broken by Cohen, Trump or the Trump organization. This could result in charges against members of Trump’s family or his company and the president can’t pardon violations of state law.
An even better opportunity to derail Trump’s assault on the Constitution will occur if the Democrats take control of the U.S. House next year. They will have the oversight power that Republicans in that body weaponized against the Obama administration and former secretary of State Hillary Clinton for political purposes. Except their investigations will uncover actual wrongdoing, including the many conflicts of interest and other corrupt activities involving Trump and his administration. That’s why the upcoming election is so important, not just for Democrats but for the rule of law and the entire nation.
Yes, I have been thinking a lot about the oath of office lately and about the heroic men and women in our military and our law enforcement departments who – after taking it – gave their lives to achieve its objectives. If I could remind every Republican in Congress of the oath they took to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, perhaps – just perhaps — some of them might decide that now is the time for them to be heroic too.