The president is a criminal.

That’s what they said in 1973. I was in junior high school in South Carolina at the time, and the allegations were so shocking, so explosive that I remember that for several days our history teacher actually set aside other history lessons she might have taught. Instead, she had a television brought into the classroom so that we could watch the proceedings and history being made.

I was a kid. So I don’t remember much about the hearings, but I do remember one of our elected representatives from North Carolina, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Watergate Committee. U.S. Sen. Sam Ervin, liked to drawl that he was just “a simple country lawyer” (he also just happened to have a law degree from Harvard).

Ervin was brilliant and flawed. His record on civil rights and the women’s rights of women was uneven. He made mistakes.

So Nixon thought Ervin might be a good conservative who would side with him, protect him from the crimes he had committed.

He found out otherwise. Ervin rose to the occasion to help bring down Nixon. He made us proud.

Today we face a much graver threat. According to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, (available for purchase at local bookstores or free online at various sites), we have a deeply corrupt president in Donald Trump. In fact, more than 900 former federal prosecutors who worked under Republican and Democratic administrations have signed a letter that states, “Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice. The Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming.”

They say those acts include Trump’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort; limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators scrutinizing him and his campaign.

“Multiple felony charges” — let that sink in.

Yet, after firing two other attorney generals, the president finally put in place U.S. Attorney General William Barr who, according to Mueller himself, misled the American people about the conclusions of the Mueller report. And now Barr even joins the president in promising to go after the people who conducted a valid and desperately needed investigation into Russian interference in our 2016 presidential election. Meanwhile, Trump continues to interfere with the House’s required constitutional oversight by refusing to provide his tax returns and other documents, and by attempting to stop witnesses from testifying.

Trump is also a businessman president who refused to divest of his company or put it into a blind trust. So it is vital that the American people know about his personal finances as he sets policies and deals with foreign governments. As columnist Paul Waldman points out, other presidents went to great lengths to avoid any appearance “of impropriety regarding their personal finances. Jimmy Carter put his peanut farm in a trusteeship. Barack Obama refused to refinance his mortgage when rates fell.”

But Trump is a president who doesn’t believe the laws of this country apply to him.

These are moral issues, not merely partisan politics. And people who say they don’t care as long as the stock market and the economy are doing pretty well are wrong. This is about what we will expect from the person who occupies the highest office in the land. This is about the soul of our country.

Our country is in a precarious place. We could easily slide into a dictatorship, and Trump is aided in his attempts at tyranny by the silence and acquiescence of a number of our elected representatives who should know better. Elected representatives from North Carolina, what are you doing about the massive corruption we see in broad daylight? How do you want to be remembered by history?

Our children are watching and our president daily provides evidence that he is corrupt. Like Sam Ervin, it’s time for the people elected to represent us to rise to the occasion and do something about it. Come on, make us proud!

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Jeff Paschal is the pastor of Guilford Park Presbyterian Church in Greensboro and a News & Record columnist. He can be reached at