President Donald Trump meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. Credit: Evan Vucci / AP

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It looks like the same thing is happening on both sides of the Atlantic. Or maybe not.

In the U.K., the country’s political leader was forced from office for lying about his own lawbreaking. In the U.S., the country’s once and possibly future political leader faces criminal charges for lying about his own lawbreaking.

As similar as the situations may seem, there are a couple of major differences. In the comparison, the U.S. seems to come in second to the Brits.

When he was prime minister, Boris Johnson laid out strict rules for responding to the COVID pandemic. They prohibited large gatherings and required social distancing. The result was that when COVID killed a parent, the children could be banned from holding a funeral.

While the public obeyed, the prime minister and his government staged parties and ignored the rules. When their partying was revealed, for the first time ever a prime minister faced police punishment and paid fines for attending. But he repeatedly assured Parliament that, despite his behavior, no rules had been broken.

Strong evidence revealed that his statements were dubious. A neutral   government review official found he had broken his own rules, and he was forced to step down as   prime minister. He remained a member of Parliament, primed to make a comeback when, as he expected, his successor faltered.

A special parliamentary committee then looked into whether he had lied to the House of Commons. The committee included a majority of his fellow Conservatives and was chaired by a member from the opposition Labor Party.

In its   unanimous report, the committee found that he had lied to Parliament and recommended he lose his seat. He promptly resigned from the House, while attacking what he called the committee’s “witch hunt.” In an overwhelming   House vote to approve the report, many in his party joined the opposition parties in condemning him. Only seven opposed the report.

Most Conservatives did not vote. While not formally opposing Johnson, the nonvoters also declined to support him.

The Conservatives who voted placed loyalty to Parliament ahead of support for their former leader. They acknowledged that he had lied, even though he had led them to an   overwhelming victory in the last elections. His own party probably killed any chance for his comeback.

The decision to protect the integrity of the House was made by the House itself. The political system could restore itself, when it set aside partisan politics. Johnson’s few supporters vented, because they knew they could not win.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump was   twice impeached by the House of Representatives, but not convicted by the Senate. In the second case, focusing on Trump’s role in the January 6 Capitol insurrection, for the first time in history   a senator of an impeached president’s own party voted to convict him. Otherwise, pure partisanship prevailed.

Out of office, Trump has been   criminally charged with taking with him after his term highly classified documents and falsely claiming that he had returned them all. He has attacked the special prosecutor handling the case, calling it a “witch hunt.” He may face additional charges of having caused the insurrection and using illegal methods to overturn his election defeat.

Like Johnson, Trump has taken no responsibility for his actions and   repeatedly was misleading about them. Unlike Johnson’s Conservatives, Trump’s Republicans will not put aside partisan support for their celebrity leader and accept the political risk, even if such action would protect the integrity of Congress and the presidency.

In Britain, Parliament provided a political solution to a political problem, but partisanship makes that impossible in the U.S. Now, facing charges in court, Trump and his allies seek to politicize the independent judicial system by falsely accusing President Joe Biden of directing the Justice Department to prosecute the former president.

In short, Trump’s Republicans block political solutions made by political institutions while trying to discredit the judiciary by claiming the legal process is itself political, though without any evidence. If they can succeed, they could undermine trust in government.

The three branches of government are meant to keep a check on one another. That process is supposed to promote public confidence in the constitutional system. If government is now boiling down to control by the supporters of a single person with   authoritarian views, public confidence will erode.

Public opinion seems to have lost   respect for Congress and is losing   respect for the courts. The American system was intended to prevent the domination of an unquestioned leader through a system that would protect a broad and diverse public interest. Yet Trump asserts his right to almost unlimited power.

In Britain, the target of the American Revolution, Parliament appears to have accepted the idea of government accountability found in the U.S. Constitution. Americans risk losing it.

Gordon L. Weil formerly wrote for the Washington Post and other newspapers, served on the U.S. Senate and EU staffs, headed Maine state agencies and was a Harpswell selectman.