As an attorney, I could not sit silently as our politics have taken a very dangerous turn. As a member of Community Board 6, I called on Congresswoman Grace Meng to introduce Articles of Impeachment. Here’s why:
On March 4, the president made a baseless public accusation of wiretapping against former president Barack Obama. If the claim were true, which it isn’t, it would be an impeachable scandal of greater magnitude than Watergate and quite possibly a felony.
Conversely, the president’s false charge is a scandal of immense magnitude that is also impeachable. The White House quickly recognized this and conspicuously pivoted public attention away from the charge.
No president can legally order domestic surveillance in the form of a wiretap on any person. That power rests with the law enforcement arms of our government.
From the FBI to the New York Police Department, law enforcement must prove probable cause of criminal activity to a judge in order to wiretap legally. The president has provided no evidence to support his claim.
This would not be the first time. But unlike other false statements, this is a serious and unprecedented transgression of our democratic process.
We are a nation of laws. The president, as head of the Executive Branch, is the steward and executor of the law. A government that follows the rule of law must provide evidence and proof of criminal activity.
Our government does not operate based on innuendo where proof and facts don’t matter.
This is one of the many differences between our form of government and illiberal authoritarian regimes the likes of which the president has praised repeatedly and effusively.
Any president who uses the high power of the office to marginalize and criminalize the most prominent member of his political opposition is not only undermining public trust, he is attacking the very foundations of the republic.
The First Amendment does not protest false and defamatory speech. While President Obama has the ability to publicly defend himself, even he does not command the audience and bully pulpit at President Trump’s disposal. Nor does any private citizen opposed to this president.
The president’s false charge is an act of official misconduct of a high order. The only Constitutional remedy for this wrongdoing is impeachment. Introducing Articles of Impeachment is not an act of political courage when the violation is so blatant and subversive to the republic.
The first and foremost oath any member of Congress makes is to the Constitution. Inaction and equivocation is a lawless authoritarian’s best friend. Our republican system of government ought not be taken for granted in these dangerous times.
Ethan Felder is a labor lawyer from Forest Hills and a member of Community Board 6.