This May All Be Over Much Quicker Than Anyone Expects

There are several reasons why the received wisdom about the speed of the Trump removal process may be completely wrong.  Not surprisingly, most of the reasons relate as much to the political as to the legal context.

One:  Perhaps most importantly, unlike in prior impeachment situations, even this early, almost everyone in Washington really wants Trump gone.  There are literally only about 50 people for whom this is not true.  The difference between the parties this year is that the Democrats are not upset when people figure it out, but the Republicans are terrified about their base doing so.  (When the Republicans say they want to get all the facts out about malfeasance on their side, you know the subject of the investigation is in deep trouble.)

Two:  A prima facie case of obstruction of justice by President Trump has already been made out, most of it from his own statements and admissions.  This comes from his firing of Comey, his statement that he performed the firing because of his feelings about the Russia investigation, his statement to the Russians that he (and they) have gained from what he believed to be the successful firing.  While that alone is probably enough, there will be plenty more.  This could go to a grand jury very quickly.

Three:  This time round, no one seems to be suggesting any barriers, such as Executive Privilege or National Security, to getting the information quickly.  This is in very marked contrast to 1972 – 1974, when it took well over a year to resolve the barriers.  I think the main reason is listed in number one  above, that no one wants to protect Trump, it is just that one party does not want that fact to be too obvious.  It is also partly that Trump has waived many of the legal issues by his tweeting and statements.  I think it is less the reason for the absence of such privilege claims that the legal issues have already been resolved — US v. Nixon gave Nixon no outs, but clever lawyers have since then, with a sympathetic audience been able to find new arguments — it’s just that there is no such sympathetic audience outside the immediate Trump family and their hangers on.

Four:  It really does not matter whether a President can be indicted or not.  You just charge a conspiracy to obstruct justice, name the President as an un-indicted co-conspirator, and get all the information to Congress.  This is what happened with Nixon, in that case with the permission of the judge overseeing the grand jury (the now largely forgotten hero John Sirica.)

Five:  In today’s digital environment, not only is there additional evidence everywhere, but the process of finding and putting it in the right order will move much quicker.  In the Watergate investigation it look months to get all the interlocking evidence hand typed onto sorted color-coded index cards.  The timeline can be ready for grand jury presentation soon.

Six:  If they can get rid of Trump, the Republicans want it done as fast as possible.  This is because the other prong of the investigation, the one dealing with the underlying Russia collusion, is going to take much longer, but if successful, it is potentially much much more damaging to the legitimacy of Republican power.  If by the time we get a new President it is clear that the Democrats should or might have won without the collusion, the pressure on Pence to offer the Vice Presidency to Tim Kaine will be immense, and we will be in a period of coalition government.  If the Republicans do not accept something like this, they will be killed at the next election, whether midterms or the presidential.  Even if they do accept it, much of their radical agenda is gone.

So, almost all the rational incentives align in the same direction.

The only questions are whether the Republicans can figure this out, and if the Democrats want and are able to, can figure out how to take advantage of the alignment.

Actually, the main reason I now think that impeachment is the more likely route is that Republicans do not have to be the ones obviously triggering the process, at least until very near the end of the game.  In contrast, if they used the 25th Amendment, it would basically Republicans starting and managing the process.

But, that choice of remedy analysis assumes that new bombshell inherently destructive of Trump’s relationship with his core base comes out — and that might happen tomorrow at 5 PM.  Tax returns, anyone.

 

 

 

There is a Remedy For Gross Errors in Presidential Judgment that are Not Explicitly Forbidden By Law. Do Not Let the Republicans Off that Hook

Trump’s recent behavior, in which he engages in acts that show an absolute absence of appropriate presidential judgment might well not constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors,” for which impeachment is the remedy.

It is largely ignored right now, because of Republic cowardice, but there is a component in the constitutional scheme that does plug that gap, and it is the 25th amendment, triggered by a determination that:

“the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office

Now, triggering that process does require the certification of the Vice President and the majority of the cabinet, so its a stretch right now, but at some point so much damage will become clear that the president is “unable.”

Perhaps most importantly, a failure by Pence and others to make use of their power might ultimately become an additional major political liability, as the obvious costs of the US and the world increase.  So it important to keep drawing attention to it.

The Republicans are in a narrower and narrower vice.  Lets make sure they are held to it.

 

 

 

 

Melania Tells Her Diary (and Us) What Advice She Has Been Giving Donald

Its been a long time since I (Melania) have been able to smuggle any of my diary out.  But Donny is now so preoccupied, that I can do so.

He even asked me what to do as President, and this is what I told him:

Fire the FBI director at a time that looks maximally suspicious.

After the whole Republic party and your staff has been pushing an explanation of the firing, go on NBC to deny that story.

In that interview be clear, if not explicit, that you were doing this because of the Russia investigation.

Hint that you were threatening the FBI director

Make sure that you and the FBI director are getting out different descriptions of the conversation, so as to make any record really important.

Have a meeting with Nixon protege Kissinger.

Meet with senior Russian officials.

Allow Russians to cover the meeting but not the US pool or press.

Hint that you have taping in the Oval office.

Make your spokesman refuse to confirm or deny that taping.

Threaten to abolish the press briefings.

Pretty good for one week. Huh?

Well, what am I up to?  You have to choose.

  1. I want him back in New York soon.
  2. I want him in jail so I get a great divorce outcome.
  3. I am trying to be helpful.
  4. He wants out and I promised to do the research and make suggestions.

p.s. I really enjoyed All the President’s Men.  My next project is to read The Final Days.  I also have Woman on the Edge of Time and Hamlet on my list.

Any additional research suggestions?

What Does Trump’s Assetion That the Democrats Should Have Won the Election Mean?

Yesterday, in his astonishing interview with NBC News: (NYT link)

Mr. Trump told Lester Holt of NBC News. “It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”

What on earth does that mean?

  • That the American people support Democratic policies,
  • That the Democratic demographic advantage is overwhelming,
  • That the Republicans do not have good candidates,
  • That he was an unappealing candidate?
  • That he did not expect to win,
  • That he knows he is unready to be President?

Or, I suppose, it could just be that he is getting inside their minds and saying that the Democrats think that they should have won.  Frankly, that’s a psychological distinction too far for me to attribute to Trump.

Anyway, as things spin more and more out of control, as I am sure they will, we will have many more opportunities to observe and analyze Trump’s mental functioning, perhaps as authorized under the 25th Amendment.

 

 

A Strong Inference that the WH Counsel Talked to Trump About How to Respond to Yates’ Concerns

The day after Sally Yates talked to White house Counsel (or is it Council?) he came back with questions, somewhat reminiscent of those John Dean might have asked, but much less intelligent or knowledgeable.  Washington post, Dana Milibank:

He called the DOJ officials back to the White House the next day and asked them a perplexing question, Yates recounted to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Monday afternoon: Why does it matter to DOJ if one White House official lies to another White House official?

Yates explained what should have been self-evident: Not only were Pence and the American public entitled to know the truth, but the Russians also knew that Flynn had lied to the vice president — so the Russians had the goods on him. “To state the obvious, you don’t want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians,” Yates testified. “Logic would tell you that you don’t want the national security adviser to be in a position where the Russians have leverage over him.”

But Trump didn’t move to fire Flynn. He fired Yates instead.

 At the White House counsel’s request, Yates had arranged for him to see the evidence against Flynn on Monday, Jan. 30. But he didn’t come that day, and that night Yates was sacked for refusing to implement Trump’s order banning travelers from several majority-Muslim nations.
Well, where on earth did counsel Don McGahn come up with that question?  I would have think the answer would have been obvious to the cleaning staff.
But the Donald, not so clear.
Now, as we learned from Watergate, White House calls, meetings, etc., may not have tapes and transcripts, but they are all logged.  So the circumstantial case for Presidential involvement in the Flynn cover-up, for cover up is what it certainly appears to have been, grows, and the lurking question of motive gets larger.  That Obama had previously at least generally warned Trump off Flynn, to no avail, and that Spicer now says that the warning was ignored as sour grapes from a loser, does not help Trump’s case at all.
P.S. Is it not tragically and deliciously ironic that the Trump White House had to ask why it would be a problem if someone lied?  Did they have to look up the meaning of the word?

 

 

An Additional Example of The Breakdown of Nation State Autonomy– White House staff and Trudeau

At one level, this is astonishing. From The Hill.

White House officials enlisted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help convince President Trump not to unilaterally withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), according to a Monday report.

The unique and potentially embarrassing approach, which was first reported by Canada’s National Post, apparently worked. Following phone calls with Trudeau and Mexican President Peña Nieto, Trump backed off of reported plans to pull out of NAFTA last month.

Instead, Trump announced that he would renegotiate the 23-year-old deal agreement among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

I am sure this will draw attention mainly as yet another example of the dysfunction of the White House and its nominal occupant.

But the idea that the staff of a nation’s chief executive would find it appropriate to bring in as an ally the chief executive of another country to change their own bosses mind is in fact merely symptomatic of the fact that today the real disputes are between loose alliances of elites whose loyalties and communications now cross national boundaries.

It is related to the interest of foreign countries in state by state politics in the US, is reflected in part by Flynn, and whoever else is ultimately implicated in “Russiagate,” (what did the President know, and when did he know it?) not thinking through what they did.  It is surely also reflected in the myriad state department staff who have tried to reassure elites among our allies that we are not yet as unpredictable as monitoring twitter might suggest.  Think about the conversations between Brussels officials and the British Civil Service right now.  Or between Bannon and LePenn.

At least arguably, the problem for Flynn, and whoever, is not that they had conversations, but that they made no distinctions between our friends and our allies, or rather that their actions reflected a lack of understanding that there is a distinction.

The fact is that as national interests become more and more interconnected, this is an almost inevitable process.  The questions are how to manage it so that the interests of the excluded are not even more abandoned, and how to see this as part of the process of creating trans-national institutions and governments.  Would the United States ever have been established if the leaders of the thirteen states had not already somewhat  known each other, and known whom they could trust.

We need very new ways of thinking about this.

Lobbying and Campaigning Rights for Nonprofits

So, if religious groups can have a tax exemption, but are not resticted in their campaign and lobbying activities, surely it must be unconstitutional to deny the same rights to nonprofit organizations.  That would both be content based discrimination and establishment of religion.

That might lead to more than Trump bargained for today.

Be careful what you wish for.