tangi bertin / Flickr trump in prison art...
tangi bertin / Flickr

Today, two important things happened: In the United States, Articles of Impeachment were filed in the House of Representatives against President Donald Trump. In Brazil, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was found guilty of corruption and money laundering and sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison.

What did the former president of Brazil do to earn prison time? According to the New York Times,

The case against Mr. da Silva, who raised Brazil’s profile on the world stage as president from 2003 to 2010, stemmed from charges that he and his wife illegally received about $1.1 million in improvements and expenses from a construction company for a beachfront apartment.

In exchange, prosecutors said, the company was able to obtain lucrative contracts from Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant.

That’s garden-variety corruption — profiting from the powers that come with political office. Trump is doing that on a daily basis through systematic violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

But as bad as that is — and it used to be considered beyond the pale in American society — there’s a whole other dimension to Donald Trump’s lawbreaking that takes it to a much more serious level. In fact, what da Silva did to get 10 years in prison is almost nothing compared to what Trump has done. It’s like the difference between stealing a pack of gum and… stealing an election!

Based on evidence that has already been revealed, the Trump campaign met with a Russian agent for the express purpose of obtaining intelligence that could damage the Clinton campaign. The goal was to use Russian intelligence, obtained through hacking, to swing the results of the U.S. presidential election in Trump’s favor — presumably in exchange for policy changes favorable to Russia’s national interest. There have certainly been such changes since Trump got elected.

This is at the very least a violation of campaign finance law, which prohibits candidates from receiving valuable contributions from foreign sources (anything of value, not just money). In America, we don’t want our elections to become proxies for the fights between other countries. We want our elections to be about OUR interests, the American people, rather than Russia helping the Republicans, and — if what the Trump campaign did becomes politically normalized — let’s say Germany, China, or whatever other country helping the Democrats. The United States shouldn’t be a pawn of other nations, but Trump’s illegal actions risk making us so, and are thus a grave offense against our democratic republic.

It is probably also espionage. The information the Trump campaign was seeking was obtained through spying by a foreign power. Trump’s responsibility was to turn over any such information to the U.S. government, NOT to use it for his own personal political benefit.

And it may rise to the level of treason. Russia is not a friend of the United States. During the 2016 election season, Russian hackers were actively at work trying to undermine confidence in U.S. democracy by breaking into our electoral systems and stealing information from our political and governmental institutions — with Vladimir Putin’s blessing. Donald Trump publicly encouraged this, stating on national television that he hoped the Russians would find Hillary Clinton’s emails. Now we know that Trump’s own son and high-level campaign officials met with a Russian agent to discuss information damaging to Clinton. This is not normal; it is the act of a traitor — someone who would sell out his country to another country for personal gain, in this case a political victory by any means necessary.

Who knows how many other meetings occurred and what was discussed, exchanged, or promised between Trump and Russia during the course of the campaign? The collusion may run deeper than we know — or maybe not — but what we already know is bad enough. Donald Trump is a criminal who is currently occupying the United States presidency. He must be impeached and removed from office as the bare minimum to begin to rectify the situation, and then he must be prosecuted for his crimes, like anyone else would be. In America, we believe that no one is above the law.

The debate should not be about whether Trump can remain in office, whether to impeach or not impeach. It must be about for how long he will remain behind bars. That is what a rational country would be discussing right now. Let’s be that country, and start getting ourselves back on track toward rejoining the community of nations — nations such as Brazil, who just sentenced a corrupt former president to prison.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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