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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Constitutional crisis begins, with a surreal feel

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with House Intelligence Committee

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Oct. 2. Photo Credit: Bloomberg/Andrew Harrer

This is not a drill. The constitutional crisis has begun.

The bottom line is that President Donald Trump says he will defy the power of Congress, a coequal branch of government.

He says this because he doesn't wish to comply with requests for documents and testimony that could get him removed or even just make him look bad.

At Trump's level of elected power, even inane declarations imply big action.

He seems to warn us: Do not believe what you tell yourselves about American traditions, institutions or republican government.

At various times he shouts: The press is the enemy. Law enforcers are subversives. Courts are fixed, scientists are wrong and elections are rigged.

The other night on the Fox News Network, lawyer and Trump ally Joseph diGenova turned the noise up a notch as he defended White House stonewalling of the House of Representatives.

DiGenova said of the Democratic reaction: "What you're seeing is regicide — regicide by another name."

Regicide is the action of killing a king.

Spoiler alert: We don't have kings.

Trump — like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — keeps calling lawful opposition to his tenure an illegal coup.

For all his authoritarian poses, there is always a good chance that Trump's threats, while corrosive to the spirit of democracy, will prove as empty as ever.

"Fire and fury" were going to rain on North Korea if dictator "Rocket Man" didn't stop what he was doing.

The southern border was going to be closed. Birthright citizenship was going to be revoked. Government was going to be shut down until the "wall" was funded. China will meet our demands under the pressure of tariffs. Given his blustery track record, one can easily foresee a cave-in from Trump — a "compromise" by which the stone wall is lowered and Congress gets some of what it's looking for, perhaps after a court fight.

On Wednesday, he told reporters he would consider cooperating with the impeachment probe if lawmakers meet demands outlined by his legal team.

It could play out like a grimy real estate haggle, or like the kicking-and-screaming resistance to former special counsel Robert Mueller that ended with a complete report but allowed Trump to get away with not being interviewed.

There is also a chance that tired lawmakers leading our major-party duopoly won't see this as a chance to assert the founding principles of the republic because maybe doing so does not poll so well in the short term.

The crisis could be reduced to pettifogging arguments over who sent what information to whom, over which subpoenas can be enforced, and who the good guys might be in a foreign country like Ukraine where our government continues to interfere as before.

For all the fog, it will be a constitutional test of some kind.

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