Heather Cox Richardson says Trump is trying to undermine American democracy because of this ...

Historians in the News
tags: democracy, Trump

​Heather Cox Richardson is professor of ​history at Boston College and co-​host of NPR's politics and history podcast Freak Out and Carry On.

Today, the tension between the oligarchs running the government and our democratic institutions came to a crisis. 

In July, Congress voted 98-2 in the Senate and 419-3 in the House for new, stronger sanctions against the Russians, in part as punishment for their interference with our last election. The details of those new sanctions were supposed to be outlined today. Instead, the State Department announced that there is no need for new sanctions. With this statement, the Trump administration told us that it refuses to execute a law passed by the U.S. Congress, the body which is elected by, and is supposed to represent, the American people. This move also gives notice to Russian leaders that they will bear no penalty for interfering in our elections.

Also today, the administration launched an all-out attack on the investigation into its ties to Russia. The White House forced the FBI’s second in command, Andrew McCabe, out of office, and the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee voted to release to the public a widely-discredited memo alleging that the FBI has mishandled the investigation, but it voted against releasing the Democratic response to the memo. Without telling the Democrats on the committee, it also opened an investigation into the FBI and the Justice Department, alleging that their investigation of the president’s ties to Russia has been tainted.

Today, the Trump administration declared that it will neither execute, nor abide by, the laws of the United States of America. 

I truly cannot believe I just wrote those words. 

I still maintain that our democracy will survive, but I believe even more today than I did a year ago that it is imperative for all good Americans to insist upon our laws and our norms. If last year’s travel ban was designed to destabilize society so people would turn to a strong leader, today’s outright attack on our laws feels like the desperate attempt of a cornered bully to change the rules and then challenge the growing crowd to do something about it. It is bluff and bluster… except that, in this case, the administration and its enablers have real power. 

The attacks on the Russia investigation and the refusal of the administration to implement the sanctions Congress demanded must not be allowed to stand. It is not just a question of whether this president and his men have committed crimes. What is at stake is whether or not we are going to permit a cabal of oligarchs to destroy American democracy.

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