Becca Balint: What's the final tipping point?

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The legislative pages brought messages to me from the Sergeant-at-Arms office in the Statehouse; all calls from constituents are funneled through that office and are disseminated from there. These messages were from different women in Calais, which was odd because Calais isn't in my district. Each one cryptically mentioned something about Robert Mueller, the special investigator on the Russia investigation. When I finally had a moment to reach out to them, I learned they're pre-planning a protest in the event that the president fires Robert Mueller. They asked if I'd be willing to come and speak at the protest if it comes to that. I said of course I'd be there.

We live in astonishing times.

The president has, according to multiple sources, lied publicly over 2,000 times in the past year. PolitiFact's scorecard on Trump's veracity charts the president's public statements and shows that only 16 percent of his statements are true or mostly true. It's such a remarkable figure that my brain is skipping like an old vinyl record. It's difficult to get beyond that information and know where to go from here.

For months Trump has boasted to the press that he's eager to talk to the Mueller team. He says he feels confident he can clear his name and put an end to the investigation. His lawyers are not nearly so sanguine and have dialed back Trump's comments in recent weeks. Of course they realize the president is already hobbled by the news that he considered firing Mueller last June and then repeatedly told the press (through his surrogates) that he'd never sought to fire the special investigator.

Back in August of 2016, David A. Fahrenthold and Robert O'Harrow Jr., writing for the Washington Post, painstakingly chronicled why Trump's lawyers want to prevent him from speaking directly to Mueller: he has a track record of lying under oath. In the 2007 deposition they researched for their story, Trump lied 30 times while under oath.

New York Magazine's Margaret Hartmann recently pointed out that regardless of whether the president is guilty of Russian-related collusion or other high crimes, it's fairly obvious that his lawyers simply don't believe that the man is capable of being honest. They don't just fear what he'll say about the Russia investigation; they fear everything he'll say under oath. The investigators don't need to catch him in a lie about Russia; they simply need to catch him in any lie, which is awfully easy.

Meanwhile, the president assembles his military advisors and directs them to plan a huge show of military force on the streets of D.C. It's been a long time since we had a military parade in our nation's capital, and the juxtaposition of a president under fire — as he contemplates being under oath — is frightening.

When is the tipping point? Not for this presidency but for us. If Mueller is fired, will we take to the streets? Or will we remain subdued and almost blas like when James Comey was axed? What will it take for us to spontaneously flood the streets? I'm not talking about a well-planned and orchestrated show of frustration and longing, like the Women's March. I mean a full-throated, raw, vulnerable and powerful movement of people that pulls us from our stupor and forces us to confront the truth. This nation, this government, will only be as righteous and as moral as we demand it to be.

It's clear that the Republicans in the House of Representatives will likely never reach a tipping point on this president. We must show them the way.

Becca Balint writes from Brattleboro on history, politics and culture. She currently serves as Senate Majority Leader in the Vermont Legislature. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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