The United States is a banana republic

And former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s hearing in Congress made that crystal clear.

Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump takes questions from the media in the Oval Office on July 26 [Reuters/Leah Millis]

Before the predictable howling begins, let me assure you that is not a cheap, rhetorical shot. Despite America’s military prowess, used to impose its catastrophic imperial designs, and potent economic clout built on a Ponzi-scheme-like $21.5 trillion debt, a sizeable share owned by China and Japan – my unflattering appellation is demonstrably true.

Slowly, inexorably, this essential truth has revealed itself, particularly since Donald Trump and Melania boarded the down escalator – figuratively and literally – to announce his candidacy for president on June 16, 2015.

From that portentous moment, the US has descended into an imperious state – where the rule of law has become a quaint, disposable anachronism – led by a benighted henchman, who, like all benighted henchmen, considers the rule of law a quaint, disposable anachronism.

Enabled by a stacked, ideologically amicable Supreme Court and surrounded by obsequious family and sycophants – all familiar staples of a banana republic – Trump sits on his leather throne in the Oval Office, content as a purring cat, sure of his impunity.

He knows that, in spite of having committed a ceaseless carousel of outrages, Trump hovers above the law like an angry puppeteer who pulls all the strings when his mercurial mood or whims demand – untouchable, unaccountable and, of course, unindictable.

Confident that he is immune from impeachment, let alone perjury or a solitary count of obstruction of justice, Trump keeps prodding, mocking and defaming Democrats at will using the 21st century equivalent of the presidential bully pulpit – Twitter.  

Trump was busy feeding his 280-character addiction again while special prosecutor Robert Mueller reluctantly testified on Capitol Hill last week, claiming, once more, political and personal vindication over his apoplectic “enemies” inside and outside Congress.

To add lunacy to fantasy, Trump later declared that Article 2 of the constitution affords him carte blanche to “do whatever” he wants as president, without any legal repercussions at any time, from any quarter. This is also, undeniably, the modus vivendi of the omnipotent leader of a banana republic.

Meanwhile, the Democrats’ faltering white knight missed seizing his last, likely final, opportunity to rebut in plain, firm language Trump’s assertion that he is more strongman than president, who, with his administration, treats the constitution, the “equal” branches of government and his report’s damning findings with gleeful contempt.

Instead, Mueller, looking spent and sounding disinterested, was cryptic and kept referring congressmen and congresswomen to his report like a bureaucrat’s answering machine.

If there was one exchange that typified America’s devolution into banana republic domain it was Mueller’s pitiful response to Democratic Representative Sean Patrick Maloney’s simple, but urgent question about the man at the nexus of his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election: Why didn’t you subpoena Trump?  

Mueller’s rambling reply amounted to this: He wanted to interview Trump, but the president refused; then, in effect, ran out the clock and submitted sworn, written replies to a list of questions limited to the Russia probe the special prosecutor ultimately (and unsurprisingly) considered “incomplete”, “imprecise”, and “inadequate”.

Mueller insisted he hadn’t “flinched”. But he had – in not only failing to get Trump to testify under oath, but also in delivering the convoluted conclusion that while he had not exonerated Teflon Don, he was prevented by legal precedent from charging a sitting president with obstruction of justice.

Ah, there is always the prospect, Mueller agreed, that Trump might belatedly be charged when President Trump becomes citizen Trump.

That would happen in a real republic, not a banana republic, Mr Mueller.      

Still, Mueller provided ample evidence of an executive branch compromised to the core. Trump’s campaign welcomed Russia’s help to leverage the outcome of the 2016 election in its favour. To achieve that goal, Russia, Mueller said, committed crimes and engineered an elaborate cyber-infrastructure to sway the vote Trump’s way.

The possible dividends of this non-collusion collusion not only included the presidency, but the starry allure of money.

While candidate Trump was pursuing a potentially lucrative Trump Tower deal in Moscow, his former campaign manager turned convicted felon, Paul Manafort, was sharing campaign information and internal polling data with alleged Russian “intelligence operative”, Konstantin Kilimnik, hoping to cash in – courtesy of Russian or Ukrainian oligarchs.

Not done, Mueller warned that Russia was engaged in a “sweeping” and “systematic” effort to impact the 2020 election. “They’re doing it as we sit here,” Mueller said.

Now, a mature, responsible “republic” that deems the integrity of presidential elections to be sacrosanct would try to stop that from happening again. Right?


Trump’s confederate, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell – dubbed “Moscow Mitch” by US television personality and former Republican congressman, Joe Scarborough – blocked election security legislation only hours after Mueller’s marathon testimony.

“He (McConnell) is aiding and abetting Vladimir Putin’s ongoing attempts to subvert American democracy…and Moscow Mitch won’t even let the Senate take a vote on it. That is un-American,” Scarborough shouted, as American TV pundits are apt to do.

Well, Mr Scarborough, it is reflective of a banana republic, too. Agreed?

So, when millions of Americans turned to La Resistance among the Democratic leadership to save the “republic” from a racist, rule-of-law-allergic authoritarian who will not protect the constitution he swore to uphold, Nancy Pelosi, like Mueller, flinched.  

The Democratic House Leader’s stubborn political calculus is that Trump’s impeachment would be a fruitless, imprudent exercise since it lacks bipartisan support and would be defeated in the Republican-controlled Senate, anyway.

Without even a credible threat of impeachment, Trump understands that Pelosi’s huffing and puffing about the “rule of law” and “sanctity” of national elections is limp, hollow posturing.

When the appalling times and circumstances required it, rather than confronting Trump with the full, punitive measure of constitutional powers she and her caucus enjoy, Pelosi chose political expediency over principle. 

With Mueller gone and Pelosi equivocating, a vengeful and vindictive Trump will become more emboldened to complete the transformation of America into his autocratic image during this or, odds are, a second, disfiguring term.    

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.