Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 5:57 pm

Constitutional crisis: You’re soaking in it; or, The state of the union is shaky

Later tonight Donald Trump will give his State of the Union address. There’s no reason to think that he’ll say anything truthful; accordingly, I won’t be watching. One advantage of this is that rather than playing drinking games, I can just drink, thoughtfully, like a grownup.

But if you want to know the actual state of the union, right now it is goddamned shaky. We have not one but two constitutional crises going on right now, either one of which would be serious all by itself. Together, they’re frightening.

The first is that on Monday, Trump forced FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe out early. McCabe had been planning to retire in March. He’s gone now, taking accrued leave to get up to his retirement date. McCabe’s crime has been allowing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible Trump campaign ties to Russian interference in the 2016 election to proceed more or less without molestation.

Then, later Monday, Trump’s administration announced that despite being given a direct order by Congress, it would not be imposing additional sanctions on Russia. Congress approved those sanctions 419-3 in the House and 98-2 in the Senate specifically to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 election. Trump’s refusal is a direct violation of the take-care clause of Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution: the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed …”

What’s the remedy for this refusal? Impeachment. But with the Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, that won’t happen. Why not? One or both of two possible reasons: 1) The Republicans, or a significant number of them, are complicit with the Russians, and/or 2) the Republicans have finally, completely given up on putting country before party, a road they’ve been heading down since at least the 1994 elections.

When a leader commits impeachable offenses and doesn’t get impeached or criminally tried, bad things inevitably happen down the line. Nixon should have been indicted and tried; he wasn’t, and some of his underlings went on to create more trouble in the Reagan era. Reagan and then-VP George H.W. Bush should have been impeached over Iran-contra. They weren’t, and Bush was free to pardon all those convicted, some of whom went on to serve in the Bush 43 administration. Bush 43 should have been impeached for torture if nothing else. He wasn’t, and now Trump is sucking up to torturing, murdering dictators like Putin, Erdogan and Duterte and attempting to emulate them in his governing style.

You say it can’t happen here? It is happening here. The firing last year of FBI director James Comey, the forcing out of McCabe, Trump’s attempt to fire Mueller last summer, and his reported desire to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing Mueller’s investigation, and his reported desire to have Attorney General Jeff Sessions prosecute Mueller and his team, are a slow-motion Saturday Night Massacre, and Congress and the press are sitting around with their thumbs up their hind ends. We’re very close to no longer being a nation under the rule of law, and once we pass that point, the state of the union may well be irretrievably broken.

I’m going to have that drink now.



  1. I’ll cancel out your no watch but I will be drinking too.

    Why aren’t you concerned that the FBI and DOJ illegally attempted a coup using phony info to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on American citizens ?

    Rod Rosenstein Is Shirking His Duty to Supervise Robert Mueller

    “Ordered liberty: We are talking about the culture of law enforcement in a free society, in which people are presumed innocent and not scrutinized without just cause. So we put a couple of safeguards in place because all power, no matter how necessary, can be abused. First, the Constitution brings law-enforcement powers under the executive branch because the president is politically accountable. Of course we want cases to be decided by law, not politics. But that does not mean — as too many law-enforcement officials maintain — that law enforcement must be fully independent of politics. Politics is not a dirty word, some connotations notwithstanding. In a republican democracy, politics is how the public holds officials accountable. Nothing would be more frightening than law enforcement independent of political accountability. We make sure the president knows that if the law-enforcement agencies run by his appointees perform corruptly or incompetently, the president will pay the price — at the ballot box or, for Watergate-level abuses, by impeachment. Second, we try to prevent things from ever getting to that point by preserving the Justice Department as an aspirationally nonpartisan, apolitical law-enforcement institution. We put experienced, responsible professionals in charge of it. Those people grasp critical things about the institution and the maintenance of its public trust. For one thing, they understand that a stable institution does not make a habit of acting on the outer margins of its authority. It does not instigate constitutional crises idly. It appreciates that it is endowed with formidable powers on the assumption that they will be deployed only for the purpose underlying the endowment: investigating and preventing actual crimes. Because more crimes are committed than can be prosecuted, the Justice Department (a) exercises discretion to prioritize the most serious offenses and (b) refrains from exploiting its powers in the absence of cause to believe a crime has been committed. Moreover, the Justice Department conducts its law-enforcement mission with humility. The principle of prosecutorial discretion embodies the concept that it is often not desirable to have maximal exercise of investigative powers and enforcement of the laws. Sometimes prosecuting a business would put hundreds of innocent people out of work. Sometimes prosecuting a terrorist would expose an informant or an intelligence operation, shutting down life-saving information channels. Sometimes charging an easily provable felony could destroy the life of a first-time offender who has otherwise lived a decent life and is unlikely to repeat the law-breaking. Good law enforcement has to know when to stay its hand. It also has to know its mission is not always first in the pecking order. Investigations paralyze their subjects. A criminal investigation that targets the government compromises the government’s capacity to carry out its functions — functions that the public needs carried out. Of course, if the president and his subordinates have engaged in crimes, then we have no choice: The corruption must be investigated, and if that means the administration cannot govern effectively, that is the price a democracy pays for vesting power in unfit hands. If the president and his subordinates have not committed crimes, though, an investigation harms the country for no good reason. So where do we draw the line? At reasonable suspicion. So where do we draw the line? At reasonable suspicion. If the Justice Department has good-faith grounds on which to believe the president is complicit in a serious crime, the president should be investigated; if not, the president should not be investigated. If there is reason to believe the president has evidence that is essential to proving a crime in which he is complicit, and that the evidence cannot be obtained from any other source, then the prosecutor should subpoena him. If not, then the prosecutor has no business bothering the president, because the president’s responsibilities are far more critical to the nation than the prosecutor’s. As between the two of them, there is no doubt which should stand down. President Trump is not the official who should be enforcing these standards. That is what the Justice Department is for. If Special Counsel Mueller wants to interview the president, he should first be required to demonstrate that there is strong evidence the president has committed a crime, and that the president has essential evidence of the crime that cannot be obtained from any other source. It is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s job to force Mueller to make that showing. That duty trumps whatever “hands off” promises he may have made to Democrats. If the Justice Department will not supervise its prosecutors, then presidents, former presidents, other high public officials, journalists, defense lawyers, and all sorts of interesting people who might have relevant information — but who are protected from harassment by over-aggressive prosecutors thanks to prudent Justice Department leadership and policy — should plan on spending lots of time in the grand jury.”

    Comment by Fred Gregory — Tuesday, January 30, 2018 6:21 pm @ 6:21 pm

    • Because that’s Not. What. Happened, Fred. If I thought that had happened, I’d be outraged. But it demonstrably isn’t.

      Comment by Lex — Tuesday, January 30, 2018 7:55 pm @ 7:55 pm

  2. You can play this game ad-infinitum, Fred. Why aren’t you talking about how it was a Republican administration that initiated FISA to begin with? THAT! Did. Happen.

    Comment by Corky — Wednesday, January 31, 2018 8:16 am @ 8:16 am

  3. Cory, we are not talking about the value or virtue of FISA but a political weaponization of it. Pay attention and be afraid for our country.

    Comment by Fred Gregory — Wednesday, January 31, 2018 5:08 pm @ 5:08 pm

  4. Poll: 75 percent of voters approve of Trump’s State of the Union

    Three in four Americans who tuned in to President Trump’s State of the Union address tonight approved of the speech he gave. Just a quarter disapproved.

    Eight in 10 Americans who watched tonight felt that the president was trying to unite the country, rather than divide it. Two-thirds said the speech made them feel proud, though just a third said it made them feel safer. Fewer said the speech made them feel angry or scared.

    Oh, yes, Trump gave a terrific speech ( sorry you missed it Lex ), especially in the dramatic utilization of the stories of extremely well-chosen audience members. That technique has been done a lot, but never better. Donald is our Entertainer-in-Chief. Sometimes he’s funny. This time he tugged at the heart strings. The guy with the crutch was a veritable Korean Tiny Tim — one of the most amazing figures I have ever seen, a living symbol of the fight again totalitarianism.

    Comment by Fred Gregory — Wednesday, January 31, 2018 7:03 pm @ 7:03 pm

    • I watched excerpts this morning. It’s the same Milleresque racist, yahoo crap, just packaged for easier consumption. The fact that 75% of Americans approved of it means that even that low-bar performance was enough to enthrall people whose expectations have been lowered so far by this guy.

      Comment by Lex — Wednesday, January 31, 2018 7:17 pm @ 7:17 pm

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