Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Saturday, December 12, 2020 2:01 pm

Punish them, or they’ll just keep coming back

The Constitution specifies how sedition by American officials should be treated. Let’s follow the Constitution.

Ever since the pardon of Richard M. Nixon by Gerald Ford, we in America have been letting GOP criminals off the hook. Ford pardoned Nixon. Reagan and Bush the Elder got away with Iran-contra. Not only that, on his way out of office, Bush the elder pardoned Iran-contra conspirators with the assistance of Bill Barr, then as now an attorney general who believes there are no legal constraints on the executive branch. Bush the Younger, and his minions, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Don Rumsfeld, et al., got away with torture.

And what do we have to show for all this lenience? The worst batch of GOP criminals yet.

It remains to be seen whether Donald Trump and his minions will be held to account. But as bad as their crimes were, there’s one even bigger issue implicating Trump, 18 state attorneys general, and more than half of House Republicans: seditious conspiracy, an attempt to overturn the lawful and fair outcome of a presidential election.

Earlier this week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued four other states, arguing 1) that they had violated their own constitutions/laws by allowing executive-branch officials rather than legislators to change election laws and 2) that Texas somehow had been harmed by this. Notwithstanding the fact that Texas did some of the same things that it was accusing other states of doing, 17 Republican attorneys general filed amici briefs signing on to the suit, as did more than half of House Republicans.

The suit was the most egregious of more than 50 legal actions Trump’s lawyers have taken since the election to try to overturn the will of the people. Joe Biden won the election popular vote by 81 million to 74 million and the Electoral College by 306 to 232. Had all the votes been counted on election night, people would be talking about Biden’s comfortable margin of victory. Vote tallies eventually were certified throughout the United States, and Biden won fair and square. Even Bill Barr who has served in office more as Trump’s personal attorney than as attorney general for all the people, admitted finding no significant issues in the election, let along anything approaching the wild accusations of cheating that Trump supporters had leveled. (That has led to renewed talk that Trump might fire him — imagine, not being corrupt enough for Trump.)

But because it took most of a week to count the ballots — because of Republican-approved measures, but that’s a long story — Trump could screech about “election theft” and his backers believed him, the fact that he is, at this writing, 1-56 1-58 in court notwithstanding. Many of those suits were almost literally laughed out of court.

The attorney general of Pennsylvania, one of the states sued by Texas, didn’t laugh at the suit. He snarled at it instead, calling it “seditious abuse” of the legal process. And he was right: The lawsuit was a seditious conspiracy of the type barred by 18 U.S.C. 2384:

If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

The suit struck the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, at least, as in violation of this statute, at least as far as conspiring to overthrow a duly elected government went. (And there’s precedent for documents being acts of sedition: Consider the articles of secession of the Confederate states.) And believe it or not, the Constitution has something to say about that. From Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment:

No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

“No person SHALL.” That means that the House has an affirmative duty not to seat for the 117th Congress (which opens Jan. 3) any House member who signed on to the “seditious abuse” of the Paxton lawsuit. And IANAL, but as I read this, residents of the states whose AGs signed on may sue in federal court to have their respective AGs removed. I hope at least some of them will. (Paxton himself has more immediate problems: He has been under indictment since 2015 on securities-fraud charges, and some top aides who recently left his office have accused him of taking bribes and abusing his office. I speculate, and I am not alone, that he started this whole thing just to catch Trump’s eye in hopes of being pre-emptively pardoned before Trump leaves office.)

Refusing to seat that many House members at once would be unprecedented and would heighten the already huge conflict between Republicans and Democrats. And I’m not under any illusions that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have the guts to do it, even though the language of the 14th Amendment appears to give her no choice. And I get the idea that Biden and his team, as well as congressional Democrats, will face so much Trumpian damage come Jan. 20 that their triage of the many crises we face may not allow time to be devoted to this.

But the Republicans have been playing with the fire of fascism since at least 1994 and arguably since the early 1960s. Their doing so has damaged the country repeatedly in significant part because they are never held to account. It is high time they got burned by their own flame, in public fashion, to discourage anyone else from engaging in sedition. Otherwise, history suggests, it’ll happen again. And next time, the perps might be just as evil and unpatriotic as Trump and his allies — and nowhere near as stupid.

Thursday, December 10, 2020 4:28 pm

Friday Random 10, Thursday edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 4:28 pm
Tags: ,

Monkey Sees — Chris Mars
Say a Prayer — Tom Verlaine
Smells Like Teen Spirit — Nirvana
Mixed Emotions — Rolling Stone
Nashville Skyline Rag — Bob Dylan
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town — Pearl Jam
There at the Top — Squeeze
This Too Shall Pass — OK Go
Pablo Picasso — Burning Sensations
I’ll Go Crazy — James Brown

lagniappe: Look Through Any Window — Hollies

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