Future Needs For Federal Agency Outstations

Yesterday, we talked about the Secret Service’s lesser urgency for a close-in outpost in Trump Tower.

Today, much less humorously, it is beginning to look like the DOJ crackdown on the media will mean that Federal Bureau of Prisons will need outstations at the New York Times and the Washington Post.

If history is any guide, that need will decline quickly.  Rather there will soon be need for a huge Bureau of Prisons outstation at Trump Tower.  While the space vacated by the Secret Service will presumably be available, I doubt it will be large enough.

 

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.

 

Lets Face It — a Constitutional Crisis Is Certain

Calm, measured, careful David Brooks, on the News Hour Friday night, said something like this (reconstructed, not quoted):

Look Trump is transparent.  He has said — if you want to find my corruption go to the tex returns.  And he has said to Mueller, if you got the tax returns, I will fire you. So, we know exactly what will happen.  Mueller will go to the tax returns, Trmp will fire him, and we will have a constitutional crisis of some king.

I conclude that at this point we all actually know that a constitutional crisis is coming.  All that remains to find out is exactly what will trigger it, how the parties align at that point and perhaps how it will end.  Although I am pretty confident of the ultimate outcome.

This reminds me of my mother, who as 15 at the time of the events, saying that after Munich in 1938, everyone knew that war was coming, and that it was almost a relief when it finally did so.  Then people knew what they had to do.  I think it is the same now.

Now, the crisis could come from an attempted firing, it could be triggered by a refusal to comply with court or congressional orders, or less likely, it could be set off by extra-judicial illegal executive actions.  Nor do we know what the triggering event will be about.  It could be the now essentially admitted as to intent, Russia Collusion, the obstruction of justice claim, financial irregularities, or even the emoluments clause, to name just a few of the options.

But the outcome will depend on the willingness of the Courts and Republican politicians to enforce our constitutional norms. While it is clear that almost none of our Republican leaders have read or internalized Profiles in Courage, at some point the pain barrier will be reached.

Finally, I sometimes wonder what the definition of a constitutional crisis is?  Is it when one when of the corrective measures in the constittuion cuts in and works, as it did in 1974, or is it when that mechanisms are not triggered, or fail, causing a braoder legitimacy problem.  I hope we do not find out.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could Trump’s Bizarre Cabinet Meeting Be Part of His Overall Obstruction of Justice Pattern

Bizarre cabinet meeting, in which all members effusively praise Trump.

Brilliant satire from Chuck Schummer.

 

And, the 25th Amendment says that certification by a majority of the Cabinet is a step in the process of removal for inability to perform duties.

The Cabinet command performance has surely just made it harder for the Cabinet to make sure certification, and the question is whether this was done with intent.  If so, yet another part of an abusive pattern of hanging on to office.  To continue an obstruction pattern, you have to stay in power.

I would note that the Amendment provides Congress with the power to name an alternative body to play this role.