Could or should President Trump be impeached before his inauguration?
Of course, he could not, but maybe he should. As a first time voter in a U.S. presidential election, and although grateful – as a native Venezuelan – to be able to vote - I was forced to choose between the Clinton and the Trump families. I voted for the Clinton family, on the assumption that they would be getting richer in the presidency but, at least, they were not likely to involve the country in a global war or to become the leaders of an environmental Armageddon. In voting for the Clintons I tried to make sure the Trumps did not win. But they won, with the fundamental help, experts say, of anti-establishment Americans.
However, Trump's early decisions about the policies he will favor and on the composition of his government team seem to have little to do with the people who voted for him. His designated cabinet members have a combined worth of over $10 billion while most top of his security and defense sector nominees are tough “hombres” from the military, including one affectionately called Mad Dog.
Weeks before his inauguration Trump has already managed to ruffle China’s feathers. Not only he had a telephone chat with Taiwan’s president but, in reply to the offer by China to return a seized naval drone, he has just said: “keep it, you stole it”. When he knew about CIA’s claims about Russia’s interfering with U.S. elections, he made a mockery of the claim, calling it “ridiculous”. FBI later supported the claims by the CIA and was also rewarded with Trump’s disdain. He has maintained and, even, increased, his aggressive stance against anyone who dares to doubt his assertions. His refusal to accept CIA’s claims about Russia have put him in the strange position of siding with Mr. Putin against his main intelligence agencies. No wonder they have started to call him the new Manchurian Candidate in Saturday Night’s Live.
He has designated a person who does not believe in global warming to oversee the U.S. efforts against …. global warming. Coal and oil companies are jubilant but the little people of this planet are so concerned that a Johns Hopkins professor, Travis Rieder, is recommending families to have fewer children. This extreme measure notwithstanding the truth remains that Mr. Trump’s announced environmental policies will be disastrous and should be vigorously challenged by all citizens.
His attitude regarding his business empire, his refusal to publish his tax returns, the manner in which he pretends to have his family involved both in government and his business, the nomination of Exxon’s CEO for the post of Secretary of State, all of this spells out Conflict of Interest in capital letters. Most of this is, if not illegal, plainly inelegant.
The nomination of Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State is very controversial and I would not like to be unfair about it. There are aspects of this nomination that make sense. He is quite familiar with the way Putin runs things, with the strong and weak aspects of his personality. He has been friendly with Putin but no one could say he is a friend of Putin. However, Tillerson reached the top of his company mainly because of the success he had in closing a gigantic, $750 million, petroleum deal with Russia, one that would probably be a win-win deal for both Exxon and the Russian company, Rosneft, run by one of Putin’s cronies, Igor Sechin. And here is where the problem lies. Although Tillerson is resigning from Exxon his financial and personal stakes in Exxon’s well-being are enormous. Faced with a decision with an impact on Exxon’s well-being, he would be under a considerable pressure from within, a classic case of conflict of interest. About two years ago I criticized the designation of Bernard Aronson as Obama’s representative to the Colombia-FARC’s peace talks. I did it because Aronson had shares in oil companies working in Colombia which were being targeted by the FARC terrorists. How he behaved in those talks could not help being influenced by this situation. Aronson should have refused this designation. In the case of Tillerson the stakes are much higher. If I was Tillerson I would not have accepted this nomination. Having said this, I believe Tillerson will, if confirmed, try to conduct himself honorably. I simply question the position he is being put in.
In regards to the links between Mr. Trump’s presidency and his business interests I must say I have never seen a more important case of conflict of interests as this one. What is more worrying to me is that he does not seem to be aware of the situation. He must feel he is above the law. In this respect he is adopting the same attitude as her old adversary in the New York real estate and hotel scene, Leona Helmsley, except that the stakes are now much higher. Leona’s attitude did not do much good to her and led to her downfall. I am afraid it will not do much good to him.