Guest Columnist

Our defining rule of law must be preserved

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort stands with his attorneys before U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis in a court room sketch, on the opening day of his trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S. July 31, 2018. (Bill Hennessy/Reuters)
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort stands with his attorneys before U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis in a court room sketch, on the opening day of his trial on bank and tax fraud charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S. July 31, 2018. (Bill Hennessy/Reuters)

The United States has the longest-surviving Constitution of any nation on Earth. It enshrines the rule of law, which has safeguarded our liberty and defined our justice for more than two centuries. Words on paper, however, do not guarantee our freedom.

All Americans, including Republicans, must protect the rule of law by defending a special counsel investigation we may dislike. We cannot allow President Donald Trump to interfere in the independent judicial process by firing Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein.

For a cautionary tale of what happens when a nation’s leader is considered above the law, look no further than Venezuela. There, society is breaking down, food shortages are rampant, and security forces are shooting citizens in the streets.

This came to pass after two presidents insisted on bending the law to their will rather than show themselves willing to obey the law.

Because of our long and mostly stable history, Americans can be forgiven for thinking such things never could happen here. But the power of our government is constrained primarily by precedent, and erosion of our institutions is dangerous.

Should Trump make the wrong choice and fire the special counsel, other presidents could follow suit in the future. If law enforcement never can investigate the actions of a chief, can government be truly accountable to the people?

This is not to say the Russia probe has proceeded without incident. Few do. Like other Americans, I’m disappointed that two FBI agents discussed their strident political views on their work phones. Their behavior was unprofessional, and they deserved to be removed, as they were once Mueller learned of their inflammatory texts.

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In my experience, however, no judge would throw out an entire case based on such actions, and we should not use this or similar examples of human frailty as an excuse to end the Russia investigation.

Americans need to know if a foreign power influenced our elections. No American should allow support for any president to overshadow the more pressing imperative of defending our democracy.

Because Republicans are in control in Washington, it’s up to us to champion the Constitution. Returning to the words of President Ronald Reagan: “American conservatives are uniquely equipped to present to the world … a vision worthy of the American past.”

I believe this to be true. It’s why I became a Republican, to preserve limited government by and for the people.

And it’s why I’m speaking now, so we do our part in handing that government safely on to the next generation.

• Daniel Seufferlein is a Cedar Rapids lawyer.

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