As Democrats begin to contemplate the next presidential debate set for Sept. 12, they would do well to keep in mind that they should be debating, or rather indicting, the guy who will not be on the stage, President Trump. Former California attorney general and now-Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) likes to say that she will “prosecute” the case against Trump. Whether she or another candidate is the eventual nominee, now is the time to pull together the evidence, formulate the indictment and influence the jury pool (i.e. voters). In this context, we are talking about a political indictment, one that makes the case against a second term, rather than a legal one that makes the case for prosecution.

The legal case, if there is to be one, would be based on the categories of obstruction of justice that former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III laid out in his report, but those are only a small part of the first count: Violating his oath of office. Trump has not only committed acts that, if perpetrated by anyone else, would be indictable but also has engaged in a continuous, full-blown attack on the Constitution, including interfering with Congress’s power to investigate executive wrongdoing, siding with the enemy (Russia) over the indisputable findings of our intelligence community, engaging in gross self-enrichment, bypassing the Senate confirmation process by indiscriminate use of acting officials and attempting to rig the census. If he is allowed another four years in office, the damage to our democracy might be beyond repair.

Count two of the political indictment is his incitement of white nationalism, which has inspired certain fringe characters here and abroad to engage in terrorism, citing Trump and his hysteria over an “invasion” by immigrants. He has not only failed to fund fully domestic antiterrorism efforts but has denied that there is a problem and has given rhetorical cover and encouragement to those who engage in hate crimes and mass shootings. In his efforts to fire up his own white base, he has played roulette with the lives of Americans, indifferent to the effect that his words might have on violent individuals.

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Count three of the political indictment is his refusal to address other threats to Americans’ safety and security, the indisputable threat posed by climate change and the domestic scourge of weapons of war in the hands of civilians. Trump denies both of these threats, preferring to wallow in ignorance of the effects of rising temperatures and to ignore the desires of 80 percent to 90 percent of voters for reasonable gun-safety measures. Trump, a prisoner of his own ignorance and a patsy of the gun lobby, refuses to defend the country and therefore should not be permitted to continue in office as climate change goes past the point of no return and mass shootings become commonplace.

Count four of the political indictment is his gross mismanagement of the economy, recklessly frittering away the economic good fortune passed down by his predecessor. Trump’s ill-conceived tax cut accentuated income inequality and flooded us with red ink, without achieving the promised, permanent growth and a $4,000 wage increase per person. His counterproductive and disastrously implemented trade war has inflicted unnecessary pain on farmers, businesses and consumers, thereby increasing the risk of inflation, while his unhinged personal attacks on Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell have cast doubt on the independence of the Fed. One also can throw into this category the economic (and human) hardship Trump is willing to inflict on Americans in destroying the Affordable Care Act without any feasible alternative.

Count five covers his unhinged, uninformed and counterproductive foreign “policy," which amounts to advocating on behalf of strongmen (e.g. pleading for Russia’s readmission to the Group of Seven, covering for Kim Jong Un’s resumption of missile testing, refusing to hold Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi), refusing to protect our electoral system from foreign interference, fraying our international alliances, abandoning the Iran deal with no coherent alternative, misusing the military for a concocted border emergency and making precipitous, impulsive decisions (e.g. withdrawal entirely from Syria).

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To recap:

  • Count One: Violation of the oath of office
  • Count Two: Incitement of white nationalism
  • Count Three: Reckless disregard of climate change and refusal to address gun safety
  • Count Four: Economic illiteracy and malpractice
  • Count Five: Putting America last

Whenever Democrats are not talking about one of these counts, they are forgoing an opportunity to pursue what should be an open-and-shut case.

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