In the mid-1970s I was in charge of the American Embassy in Dahomey when about 25 mercenaries invaded and tried to overthrow the government of President Mathieu Kérékou. There was a lot of shooting and three reported deaths, but the mercenaries left without toppling the government and I reported back to the State Department what little we were able to learn about the effort.
And in the late-’70s I was the American Embassy’s human rights observer at the trial of three mid-level military officers who were accused of plotting a coup d’état to overthrow the rule of Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko. The leader of the plot confessed his plans, was found guilty and sentenced to death. I reported that the trial appeared fair and proper and that I expected the three would appeal their sentence. That did not happen: they were executed before dawn.
These bits of history are recalled by way of demonstrating that I am not inexperienced with coup plotting — that is, with the effort to replace a government through extralegal means. What I am seeing now in Washington, D.C., looks to me like a coup d’état — like an effort to subvert the 2016 electoral results instead of working to replace Trump at the ballot box, as our founding fathers designed for us. And that effort has the full-throated support of Democrats and a large part of our national press.
The attacks by Speaker Pelosi and most Democrat members of the House of Representatives started before they were sworn in, with allegations that Trump had colluded with the Russians in winning the election. That led to a two-year investigation by Robert Mueller resulting in a report to the Attorney General in late March of this year saying the Mueller team was unable to establish collusion. Democrats followed that immediately with another allegation: an anonymous “whistle-blower” claims he heard Trump colluded with the government of Ukraine.
A formal investigation of that allegation has not started to date, but Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), in his capacity as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is saying his committee will open an investigation and has called for impeachment proceedings against the president. He could wait to see where his investigation leads before calling for impeachment, but that’s just my opinion.
The Constitution calls for impeachment in the event an office holder commits “high crimes and misdemeanors.” But what Nadler is excited about now appears to me to be an example of a president engaging in foreign affairs – something that is most emphatically in his authority.
Nadler has alleged Trump offered a quid pro quo to the president of Ukraine. There is nothing unusual about that: when I was in charge of American embassies in two African countries I was instructed to inform the foreign ministers of those countries the State Department was making foreign assistance conditional on specific actions from their governments. In other words, our money was contingent on an action on their part. Foreign assistance, after all, is not just random generosity from American taxpayers to a foreign president.
You may not like President Trump. You might find him loud and you might even believe press reporting that he is impulsive. As a citizen and a voter, you are entirely within your rights to campaign and vote for someone else. But if you think the Congress should intervene to replace him on a specious charge for engaging in normal foreign relations, you need to ask if this is how you want to see electoral politics undermined from now on in America. Having seen it in Africa, it is not my choice.
Fred LaSor’s service in Africa spanned all of the 1970s and 1980s. He is now retired in the Carson Valley.