Trump Does Not Only Speak for himself — He Also Acts Only For Himself

Tillerson memorably explained that the President speaks for himself.

That’s bad enough.

But, once you think about it, it becomes crystal clear not only that he not acts for himself, but that the acts ONLY for himself.

Every story bout his financial benefits, about his marketing, about his policies, about his ego-serving behavior, demonstrates that nothing is done with any perception of national interest, let alone world interest.

Indeed, he has gotten away with this for so long because his base thinks he is acting in their interest.  So the simple trick is get them to start to see otherwise,  Maybe Tillerson has show how to start.

Remember, he acts only for himself.

 

 

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If Trump Is Planning a Pardon for the Arizona Sheriff, He Might Want to Think again.

It does appear to be good law that even Federal Court criminal contempts are pardonable by presidents.  (I had  thought there might be a separation of power claim.)

However, the Supreme Curt has hinted, back in 1925, that a pattern of abuse could lead to impeachment.  The language might also provide some tools to persuade the Court to look differently at the Sheriff’s behavior, and any Trump pardon.

Here is what the court said in In the Matter of Philip Grossman, 267 U.S. 87 (1925)

A pardon can only be granted for a contempt fully completed. Neither in this country nor in England can it interfere with the use of coercive measures to enforce a suitor’s right. The detrimental effect of excessive pardons of completed contempts would be in the loss of the deterrent influence upon future contempts. It is of the same character as that of the excessive pardons of other offenses. The difference does not justify our reading criminal contempts out of the pardon clause by departing from its ordinary meaning confirmed by its common law origin and long years of practice and acquiescence.

If it be said that the President, by successive pardons of constantly recurring contempts in particular litigation, might deprive a court of power to enforce its orders in a recalcitrant neighborhood, it is enough to observe that such a course is so improbable as to furnish but little basis for argument. Exceptional cases like this, if to be imagined at all, would suggest a resort to impeachment rather than to a narrow and strained construction of the general powers of the President.
(Bold added.)

There just are not so many Supreme Court cases about impeachment, so every hint is meaningful.  This might stand for:

The proposition that use of pardons, in a pattern, could result in impeachment,

That acts that go to undermining the constitutional balance are appropriate for impeachment,

The idea hat the impeachment clause phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors,” is not necessarily limited to violations of the criminal code.

I would welcome additional suggestions.  Read and enjoy the full case.

More particularly, with respect to Arizona, the use of a pardon to undermine Federal authority is said to be particularly disturbing, for example in a “neighborhood.”   While the Sheriff is now out of power, such a pardon is far more threatening to Federal authority, than an individual violation of the law in the case the Supreme Court decided.

Indeed, a pardon for conviction for systematic abuses of governmental power in breach of the constitution would seem a classic exception requiring rethinking.

A sheriff’s county-wide pattern and practice of contempt for the constitution and the Federal Courts is far more damaging that an ongoing pattern of pardons for minor violations by individuals in a “neighborhood.”  Indeed, given that the case arose under the Prohibition Act, it is understandable that the Court felt the need to recognize that pardons might represent a threat to the enforcement of the law, and therefore hinted at remedies.

Time for second thoughts, Mr President.

Note:  This is a version of a very recent post on my access to justice blog.

 

 

Enough Already — Move on to The End Game

I am tired of hearing talking heads tell us how terrible Trump is.

The discussion has to move on to legal removal processes strategies, and how to hold accountable those Republicans who continue to enable by silence, acquiesce, or worse.  Clock on the categories for discussions by type.

 

I have the Perfect Title For the Best Book on the Trump Presidency: One Million Minutes

While the exact number is subject to change when the nightmare ends, the concept is clear.  The book would begin something like this:

The now concluded Trump Presidency consumed one million minutes, five thousand presidential tweets, 100 million dollars in investigations, and ten cabinet firings or resignations.

Those minutes were perhaps the most fragmented, fast moving, chaotic, destructive, shocking, confusing and testing minutes in our nation’s history.

The damage done to nation, planet, international system and human beings will take decades to assess fully. 

Above all, the story of those endless minutes is the story of the ultimate resilience of our institutions, notwithstanding the weaknesses and failures of so many who were to play roles in those institutions as they faced the test.

I am less confident of exactly how the book will end, but I am confident that the ultimate resolution will put us on the road to recovery.

 

How About “Frighteningly Unpatriotic” as a Label for the Trump Operation’s Newly Revealed Behavior

Obviously, the astonishing developments of the last few days remove from the Trumps any intent or mens rea defenses.  All that is left is that “nothing happened,” which in politics, or in adultery, does not really get you very far.

The developments have also caused the first upswing in  the use of the word “treason.”  There may well be a legal case, perhaps ultimately a compelling one, but for the target population of traditional low information Republicans, it may be a wall too far right now.

So let me suggest that the concept we should be pushing is “patriotism,” or rather the astonishing lack of it.  How can anyone truly patriotic, if and when approached by a foreign and hostile power offering partnership in interfering with our sacred democratic election process, do anything other than say “no,” and then call the FBI.  Nor, would we expect any patriot of another country to do anything other than that country’s equivalent.

Obviously, such an idea never occurred to anyone in the Trump operation.  But, I am sure that the vast majority of Trump voters, while happy to get hear of dirt on Hilary, would not want to be in partnership with Russia to get that dirt.  They are better and more patriotic people than that.

So I would experiment with phrases like “frighteningly unpatriotic to even consider participating with Russia to undermine our election system,” or “at best shockingly unpatriotic and maybe at worst treasonous behavior.”

The point is to use words that resonate with the Republican base.

 

 

“I Tried to Get My Dog to Eat My Homework, But He Didn’t” is Not Much of a Defense, Even for a Young Trump

Let’s get this clear (NYT).

President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.

But, to the team’s apparent disappointment, the Russians were not handing over any such information.  I have bolded the words “before agreeing”

In other words, “I met with the dealer because they promised me get drugs, but they did not have any.”

There are lots of appropriate ways of responding to such an approach, including calling in the FBI, maybe altering you opponents, maybe ignoring it, or responding that any such meeting or transfer would be inappropriate and a possible crime.  But going to the meeting without any protective cover — apparently without even a memorialization of the invite and its context, leaves me breathless.

Bottom line:  “We wanted to collude, but were not able to.”  That admission will give far greater credibility to additional evidence of actual collusion, whether out of this meeting or others.

In any other context, this story alone would upend US politics, lead to a major investigation, and immediate doubt of the truthfulness of the denial of Trump senior’s knowledge.  Let’s hope we are not too numb.

The Deeply Disturbing Implications of the Washington Post Story of the Inadequate US Response to Russian Hacking, and a Long Term Proposal

It is almost impossible to force oneself to read the Washington Post’s brilliant reporting of the US failure to respond adequately to the Russian election-related hacking.

However, attention must be paid, and the implications go far further than judgements about the Obama administration, that I am sure will go well explored in classic blame the victim manner.

First,  I think we have to admit that the current situation of a largely unpunished and undeterred coup/attack on the US has to be broadly blamed on the entire political process in the US.  While the lack of response, either public or covert, is hard to defend either now, or then, it has to be seen as in part the product of the hyper-politicization of foreign policy.  The Obama administration was operating in a toxic environment in which any honest reporting or respect was, and would be thrown back in the face of the government and the electorate, without any concern for considerations other than short term victory.   The administration could not ignore the reality of that environment.

That must be recognized as a product of Trump active encouragement of hacking, of his trivialization of any reporting, and of his contempt for truth.  The enablers carry as much if not more of the blame.

Second, we must be honest about where we are.  We no longer can be confident that the American people control our own fates through the political process.  It was and has to be assumed to be about to be again, another Pearl Harbor.  (That the US has its own long bi-partisan history of interference in other counties electoral, and political processes, not to mention coups, does not make this any less serious, it only makes it harder to defeat.)  Given the massive reluctance of Trump to take this threat in any way seriously, or even to recognize the risks of the legitimacy this has already lost him, we can have no faith that the governmental system will protect us against more and worse future surrenders of control.  (If Trump is forced out, as I strongly believe he has to be, and will be, this last is no longer true, but issues of trust and legitimacy will long remain.)

Finally, we have to build a new layer of institutions that protect the integrity of our political system regardless of short term interest.  For a start, I can imagine a Commission led by prior presidents, with an independent staff, with direct access to the intelligent services.  The Commission would have a mandate to issue public reports, including on the credibility of challenges to our democratic electoral system, and to publicly and privately urge actions of all kinds, thereby making it easier for presidents to take needed actions without being effectively accused of putting partisan interests first.  While hacking will be one part of the charter of duties, all forms of foreign interference and collusion will need to be included.

The problem, as always, and as we learned in the cold war, is that is is almost impossible to give groups power that is not democratically constrained without then in fact surrendering democracy to those powers.  In the absence of the consensus of  the cold war years, the need is even greater than it was then, and the risks are far greater.

It is a measure of what Trump and his enablers have wrought, and what his opponents have failed to do, that we now face this choice.