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Helter Skelter

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Donald the pussy-grabbing caudillo has plans for his main political opponent:

It’s at this juncture that the Republican nominee—already teetering on the edge of decorum—went off the rails. He accused Clinton of starting the “birther” conspiracy; he questioned her friendship with Michelle Obama; he accused Clinton of rigging the Democratic primary to rob Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders of the election; and he slammed her for her emails, all leading to an explosion of contempt and menace.

“If I win,” said Trump, “I’m going to instruct the attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there’s never been so many lies, so much deception.” He continued: “[W]e’re going to get a special prosecutor because people have been, their lives have been destroyed for doing one fifth of what you’ve done.” And when Clinton gave her response—“It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law of our country”—Trump jumped in with a quip.

“Because you’d be in jail.”

There’s no charitable read here, or at least not one that respects the rules and structure of the English language. Trump’s meaning is plain.

Let us travel back to a simpler, more innocent time in America, when the Manson family was engaging in ritual mass murder in an attempt to start a race war, and Richard Nixon made an off the cuff remark about their ongoing trial. This was considered so beyond the pale that he immediately walked it back:

Defense attorneys for Manson, Leslie Van Houten, and Susan Atkins-who face charges of murder stemming from the mass killings last August of actress Sharon Tate and six other persons-moved for a mistrial yesterday after learning that Nixon had said that Manson was “guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason.”

Trial Judge Charles N. Holder denied the motion pending an official version of the Nixon remarks, but a defense attorney said the judge was “alarmed” at the report. . .

Nixon made the remarks during an impromptu press briefing at a law enforcement conference in Denver. He criticized the press, saying that it tends to “glorify and to make heroes out of those who engage in criminal activities.”

Referring to the Manson case, Nixon said, “here is a man who was guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason.”

Nixon said that “as far as the coverage was concerned [Manson] appeared to be rather a glamorous figure.”

In Los Angeles, defense attorney Paul Fitzgerald told reporters, “If we’re going to have the chief executive of this nation categorically or uncategorically speculate on people’s guilt, we ought to abandon this court system. Maybe President Nixon in a news conference ought to determine whether these people are guilty.” . . .

Immediately after Nixon made the remarks in Denver, Ronald V. Ziegler, Presidential press secretary, called reporters together to “clarify” the President’s statement.

Ziegler said that Nixon “failed to use the word ‘alleged'” in his statement. “The phrase he used could lead to some misinterpretation,” Ziegler added.

Asked if the “clarification” was a retraction of the Nixon statement, Ziegler answered, “I believe I’ve done that.”

Attorney General John N. Mitchell, who was present when Nixon made the statement, said later, “I don’t believe the President made the charge or implied one.”

Nixon himself was of course a criminal of the first order, but imagine if he hadn’t been pardoned by Ford, and Jimmy Carter had promised during a presidential debate to put Nixon (not his actual opponent Ford, mind you, but Richard M. Nixon himself) in jail if he, Carter, were elected. You can’t imagine that because at the time a major American political party had not gone insane.

I’ve got blisters on my fingers.

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  • CrunchyFrog

    but imagine if he hadn’t been pardoned by Ford, and Jimmy Carter had promised during a presidential debate to put Nixon (not his actual opponent Ford, mind you, but Richard M. Nixon himself) in jail if he, Carter, were elected.

    It would have been a major gaffe and subject of news coverage for days or even weeks like Ford’s gaffe stating that the USSR did not dominate eastern Europe.

    Just think about that, 40 years ago a Presidential candidate was expected to have a college level understanding of current foreign policy details and any major error was considered a major scandal. Today, a Presidential candidate can clearly not have any clue whatsoever about anything to do with foreign policy and the news coverage talks about how he seems more confident in this debate.

    • N__B

      a Presidential candidate can clearly not have any clue whatsoever…and…he seems more confident in this debate.

      Dunning-Kruger FTW!

      • Norrin Radd

        One thing he got right, though, is Clinton’s efforts to “other” Obama in ’08. Her chief strategist wrote that Obama wasn’t fundamentally American and said that the Clinton campaign should attack him on that. And attack they did. It was in fact her campaign which sent around the picture of him in Kenyan garb hoping to capitalize on the rumors circulating he was a Kenyan-born Muslim. They also tried depicting him as some coke trafficking, radical terrorist…Fast forward 8 years later and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is trying to use Bernie Sanders atheism against him. I may be voting for Hillary but my, oh my I’m having to hold my nose while I do it. I thought she clearly won the debate hands down, but its hard to forget all the racist shenanigans she pulled 8 years ago.

        • CrunchyFrog

          Correct, her campaign did some pretty nasty stuff 8 years ago. You’ll note, however, that the Obamas have embraced her in the 8 subsequent years and are now among the most active supporters.

          • Norrin Radd

            Sure, Obama hates Trump because Trump is King Birther and because he also wants to protect his legacy. All reasonable.

            But racism is a crime against everyone, not just an individual. I can’t go around calling my landscaper “S–c, w–b–k, s–c” all day just because he’s ok with it because I pay him well. I can’t call the neighbor kid “n—r” because he doesn’t mind it because I give him candy from time to time.

            Had HRC apologized, you could at least make the argument you’re making. But she has yet to apologize for her racism and Obama ain’t Christ; he can’t giver her absolution. So, God help me, I’m holding my nose and voting for her. Its what happens when you have to choose between a would-be dictator and a small time racist.

            • Dilan Esper

              Yeah, the “Obama picked her to Secretary of State” argument is a “some of my best friends are black” argument.

              Just like with the sexual assault allegations against Bill, a lot of Clinton supporters suddenly accept a lot of arguments they would never accept in any other situation when it comes to defending the Clintons.

              But nonetheless, I’m voting for her.

              • Brien Jackson

                Well ya know, we might just not think that a)Hillay Clinton is personally 100% responsible for everything everyone in her campaign office does at all times, or even just b) that an uncorroborated claim by Drudge that “Clinton aides” sent him the picture isn’t 100% believeable.

                Also this:

                Just like with the sexual assault allegations against Bill, a lot of Clinton supporters suddenly accept a lot of arguments they would never accept in any other situation when it comes to defending the Clintons.

                Is still utter and complete bullshit.

                • twbb

                  “Accusing gentle Matt Drudge of a misdeed? That’s the last straw!”

                • Norrin Radd

                  Which is why when Hillary read Mark Penn’s memo that she should “Other” Obama and that she should run as the One. True. American. she immediately fired him.

                  Coulda, shoulda, woulda. But didn’t.

                • Obviously her two choices were to do everything the Penn memo said or fire him. There are no other possible courses of action she could have taken. Everything is a black-or-white choice. There is no such thing as shades of grey.

              • witlesschum

                That’s nothing particular to the Clintons, the sexual assault allegation against Al Gore (which if I recall correctly was withdrawn by the woman who accused him) a while back was met with a similar attitude from liberals, at least as I recall. People want to believe the best of politicians they like, until they’re forced not to.

                • Brien Jackson

                  We’ve covered this ground with Dilan before. He simply refuses to acknowledge either the evidence against their credibility or the fact that there was a demonstratabkle political conspiracy against Clinton pushing almost certainly faked accusations of sexual assault against him at the time. Also Hillary Clinton is evil because she doesn’t want to have margaritas with women who have consensual affairs with her husband. So GOTCHA feminists!

              • Mellano

                Yeah, the “Obama picked her to Secretary of State” argument is a “some of my best friends are black” argument.

                Well, to be fair, Obama actually picked her to be Secretary of State of the United States of America.

              • JMP

                No, rejecting “arguments” because they are complete lies is not in fact anything like that. Look, we know you have Clinton derangement syndrome and a pathological need to repeat disproven right-wing slanders against her, but that in fact shows that you have a problem, not those of us who recognize that she is a very honest and ethical dedicated public servant and reject all the attacks on her which are complete bullshit because they are not true at all.

                • Norrin Radd

                  It was Obama who accused her of trying other him as some radical, subversive, Muslim Kenyan Manchurian Candidate out to usurp the rightful heir to the Oval Office. So unless you think Obama is some RWNJ you’re flat out wrong. He has his reasons–both personal and political–to embrace her now, but don’t go all revisionist. The worst thing about racism is how insidious it is and how should-be white allies resort to it when they find themselves bereft of other weapons.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Another way of stating this is that the Obama campaign jumped on a story from the fucking Drudge Report because it was useful to attack his Democratic opponent.

                  And seriously, let’s not overstate the discrepancy here. Obama had his bad moments w/r/t his characterizations of Clinton as well. The “likeable enough” comment and the “Hillary hanging out in the duck blind” response to the “clinging” controversy come immediatetly to mind.

            • We honestly have no way of knowing whether HRC has apologised privately to Obama. Frankly, I think it’s almost inconceivable that she hasn’t.

            • CrunchyFrog

              I respect your opinion and your right to hold it.

              But I also point out the super-majority support Clinton has from the African-American community – and did all through the primaries.

              Life is complicated. A lot of people have decided that the sum of her actions outweigh what she did in a desperate attempt to win the nomination in 2008.

              Again, you have every right to hold that opinion. But your opinion is not universally held. The Obamas have forgiven her and most of the people of the Obamas’ racial group have forgiven her.

              • Norrin Radd

                Life is indeed complicated. Being African American in this country means, except for Obama, you’ve never had the opportunity to vote for a non-racist. African Americans have always had to weigh King Solomon-like one racist against the other. Blacks loved Harry Truman so much for desegregating the military that they overlooked his liberal use of the N-word. So you’re right.

                That doesn’t mean white people should force such a choice on them, or gloss over it when we do (as we must now). We owe it to them and ourselves to be upfront about what we’re doing.

        • Fast forward 8 years later and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is trying to use Bernie Sanders atheism against him.

          This is an unsubstantiated lie.

          • JMP

            It is an insight into the pathology of the reflexive Clinton haters. Among the emails leaked, which the media tried to pretend contained scandalous talk even there there was none, there was one suggestion to attack Sanders as an atheist from some low-level staffer no one has ever heard of, which the campaign rightfully ignored. Now this has suddenly been twisted to Debbie Wasserman-Scfhulz – the DNC head particularly hated for those fauxgressive Clinton-haters for the crime of not having a penis – did attack him for being an atheist, even though that never happened.

            • To be fair, DWS did an absolutely terrible job as DNC chairperson, but for reasons entirely unrelated to the primary and entirely related to the Democrats’ terrible showing in 2014, and she does not seem to have been at all complicit in at least most of the attacks on Sanders she’s been accused of making.

        • efgoldman

          Oh, goody! It’s not good enough that people are still relitigating this year’s primaries, to no good purpose, let’s go back and do the same for the 2008 primaries! That’s useful.

          There’s an election this year. While I have no doubt that HRC will win, it’s important that she bury Rapey Orange Shitweasel and bring as much of congress with her as possible. Arguin about eight years ago does as much good as pantybunching about what the assholes on MSNBC said kast nite.

          • Norrin Radd

            You sound like a partisan. Yes, what good could it possibly do to discuss racism within the Democratic Party? As all good Dems know its only the GOP that suffers the -isms. And Kim Davis was not a Democrat. Or Joe Manchin.

        • JMP

          No, one thing he made and completely lied about is not something he “got right” at all. And neither did Debbie-Wasserman-Schultz ever attack Bernie Sanders as an atheist! And I’m sure a troll with a long history of racism is really concerned about this bullshit! This is just complete lies.

          • Norrin Radd

            Who you calling troll, Willis? And who you calling racist?

            • Ahuitzotl

              You only ever troll, here, so clearly you are the troll.

  • Derelict

    In this campaign so far, Trump has:

    Used “Jail Hillary” as a campaign rallying cry
    Openly suggested that his followers take “Second Amendment remedies” against Clinton
    Openly called for violence against anyone who disagrees with him at his rallies

    If we still had a functioning country, Trump’s campaign would have been cut off at the knees months ago. But the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House still endorse him, the head of the RNC still supports him, and the media still refuses to say that Trump is the most unAmerican candidate ever to run for the office.

    • science_goy

      And continued to maintain that the Central Park Five are guilty and therefore deserve to be executed, despite ironclad proof of their innocence. His habit of issuing summary judgements goes back to the beginning.

      But I’m sure he’ll tone it down if he’s elected.

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      And at last count, only 12% of Republicans wanted him to drop out.

      The problem that Republican leaders still support Trump is minor compared to the large minority in this country who no longer support the Constitution. And threatening to jail and/or kill your political opponent is against the US Constitution.

      • CrunchyFrog

        Oddly, the best summary of the situation comes from Megan McGargle:

        https://www.balloon-juice.com/2016/10/10/give-megan-mcardle-some-credit/

        Of course, the first statement is far more true for the GOP in general than I think she realizes: “The electoral strategy of Trump supporters has always been more coherent if you imagine him running for dictator.”

        • BigHank53

          It’d be a funnier line if Noah Trevor hadn’t used it months ago.

          • CrunchyFrog

            She wasn’t being funny.

            • BigHank53

              Fair enough.

          • (((Hogan)))

            Trevor Noah’s evil twin?

      • efgoldman

        The problem that Republican leaders still support Trump is minor compared to the large minority in this country who no longer support the Constitution

        Some years ago, there was a poll presenting respondents with the Bill of Rights, without referencing the constitution. It lost. Someday I’ll ask the googler form more information.

    • Marc

      The media is all-in against Trump. Check out the endorsements of newspapers, for example, or the headlines in the papers. Let’s see the NYTimes editorial headlines:

      Mr Trump goes low.
      “Because you’d be in jail”. That’s dictator talk
      No Handshake, No Middle Ground. Trump spews out a cocktail of fear and hate

      CNN compares him with Putin and Mugabe.

      I could go on, but what’s the point? Trump is succeeding because a lot of people like what he’s selling, and intensely negative media coverage hasn’t mattered. We have a Republican voter problem, not a media problem.

      • CrunchyFrog

        Endorsements? There is no problem with endorsements. Trump is bigly getting endorsements. Newspaper boards love him! He’s gonna have the hugest number of endorsements ever!!!! Almost one:

        Candidate Endorsements
        Hillary Clinton 78
        No endorsement 8
        Gary Johnson 6
        Not Donald Trump 4

        • Marc

          He got the Columbus Dispatch, here in Ohio, to endorse their first Democrat since Woodrow Wilson in 1916. He is a uniter, of a sort…

          • CrunchyFrog

            There are a HUUUUUGGGGEE number of first-time-Democrat-since-the-dawn-of-time endorsements.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspaper_endorsements_in_the_United_States_presidential_election,_2016

          • Norrin Radd

            When he promised to unify the country I was hoping Hillary would jump in and say, “You can’t even unify Republicans, how are you going to unify Americans?”

            • kerFuFFler

              She was probably tempted but smart to stay out of it. Such a criticism from her would be unifying for them and would draw attention to the fact that if Trump voters were smart, they would overcome their anger at Republicans who have abandoned Trump and vote for them anyway.

              Yeah, she was wise to sidestep that easy potshot.

              • tsam

                Yeah–even something small like that could unite some Republicans. It’s sort of like when you’re throwing one of your own family members under the bus, but if someone else joins in, of course you have no choice but to kick their ass.

      • Rob in CT

        I think the media coverage matters, just not as much as people worry/hope that it does. A lot of it boils down to there being a fairly small number of actual swing voters.

        But yes, at this point the press has belatedly gotten around to pointing out that he’s a nasty, know-nothing conman.

      • JMP

        That’s just endorsements though; the media still covers him as a normal political figure no matter how far off the rails he goes because they need to pretend to be balanced. Hell, the talking heads last night started off praising his debate performance despite how completely unhinged it was. They never, ever call him a liar no matter how many times he lies. And because he and the GOP keeps pushing them, they keep treating the various anti-Clinton conspiracy theories as valid, instead of noting that, for instance, there was already completely exonerated from the nonsense allegations of doing some vague bad thing with her emails.

        • xq

          They never, ever call him a liar

          They’ve called him a liar many times, especially since the birther stuff. Both the major papers and on cable.

          It’s amazing to me how persistent the progressive narrative on the media is even as we’re watching the biggest exception to its “both sides do it” tendencies in modern history.

    • Norrin Radd

      Let’s come off of it. There was a large segment of left-of-center voters who positively howled when Ford pardoned Nixon. There’s a large segment of liberals–right here at LGM–who would like to see Kissenger go to jail for what he did in Vietnam. If political leaders break the law they should go to jail. That’s what it means to be a country of laws and not of men.

      I’m voting for Hillary and I don’t think what she did was criminal, but I sure think Nixon should’ve gone to jail. Hell, Obama barely sent any of those bankers to jail. Apparently a lot of people think jail is just for the poor and black.

      • CrunchyFrog

        You are missing the distinction, and it’s critical. Even Timothy McVeigh had to go through due process with a fair trial and full representation. It’s one thing to say “I believe you should be investigated and, if the facts warrant, prosecuted” and another to say “I’ll put you in jail.”

        • Rob in CT

          Further, Clinton has been investigated already. Trump and most of the GOP simply don’t accept the results. They know that it didn’t go their way and they would prefer to reject our reality and insert their own.

        • Norrin Radd

          I could use a razor as fine as yours to cut this 30 minute stubble I have. Where, per chance, did you buy it?

          Listen, Clinton is innocent of any crime, so the phrasing sounded harsh. But as a concept, we have to hold high Washington officials accountable. Its something Obama should’ve pursued much more against the prior Administration. Was Scooter Libby the only one in the Bush Administration who should’ve gone to jail? Is there no law against reading everyone’s email and phone calls?

          • As private citizens, it is fine for us to opine that certain people should be in jail. It is not okay for candidates for elected office (or elected officials) to do the same thing. As this very post points out, Richard Nixon was roundly criticised when he offered his opinion on the Manson trial, and with good reason.

            • Norrin Radd

              Richard Nixon and Henry Kissenger are Exhibit 1 in why this view is wrong.

              • Kissinger belongs in prison. If his political opponents had imprisoned him, it still would have undermined the entire fabric of the country. Nixon probably should’ve spent time in jail as well (though possibly not as much as Kissinger).

                Simply put, it is fundamentally impossible for us to run on a platform of prosecuting and imprisoning our political opponents without them reacting in kind tenfold. It will create a fabric of fear that simply is not conducive to maintaining the rule of law. It’s the kind of thing that happens in dictatorships, and again, this is how democratic societies cease to be democracies.

                • And yet, not prosecuting and jailing the people responsible for torture, for starting wars based on lies, for blowing up the economy, virtually guarantees that when given the opportunity, the people responsible for these crimes will re-offend. How does one prosecute the actual crimes of torturers, war criminals, and fraudsters if they are powerful enough to claim their prosecution is politically motivated?

                • In the cases of the Bush admin, I don’t know, but I think it has to be done by an international war crimes tribunal; it’s the only way I can see it being done credibly with our current political system.

                  As for the bankers, I already said below that they should’ve been investigated, prosecuted if enough evidence was found, and imprisoned if found guilty. They can’t, at least, claim that their prosecution is motivated by a desire for revenge against political opponents, since they don’t occupy political office.

              • Colin Day

                There is a difference between investigating people and saying they should be in jail.

                • so-in-so

                  It could be taken as short-hand, except for the other Trump statements about how Clinton’s SS contingent should just disarm and see what happens… That makes it pretty clear what his intent is.

            • Murc

              As private citizens, it is fine for us to opine that certain people should be in jail. It is not okay for candidates for elected office (or elected officials) to do the same thing.

              It is the goddamn job of a lot of elected officials to determine who should and shouldn’t be in jail and then try and make that happen.

              There are a lot of them making those determinations right now, today, and then issuing public statements opining about it. Every time a DA files charges, that’s an elected official saying “this person should be in jail.” Hell, usually when they file charges that person already is in jail! Or are you saying we can’t even lock people up pending trial?

              • The difference is that it’s the DA’s fucking job to determine who should be in jail. It is not the president’s, and in fact, the president doing so directly violates the separation of powers.

                I mean, yes, if you want to nitpick and say that elected officials directly involved with the judicial process are exceptions, fine. But elected officials who are not involved with it should not be commenting on it.

                • Murc

                  The difference is that it’s the DA’s fucking job to determine who should be in jail.

                  … this is exactly their job! It is their only job, in fact.

                • … this is exactly their job! It is their only job, in fact.

                  …that’s exactly what I said? I’m not sure what your argument with me is here. Read the quoted text again.

                • Murc

                  … ah, this is my fault.

                  I read a “not” in there; “it’s not the DA’s fucking job.”

                  That’s on me for not reading more closely. I apologize; I fucked up.

            • twbb

              “It is not okay for candidates for elected office (or elected officials) to do the same thing.”

              As a CAMPAIGN STRATEGY, especially.

          • Rob in CT

            The key here is that a candidate for POTUS should not be assuming a conviction like this.

            One can believe the Obama administration should’ve seriously investigated their predecessors, brought charges, and let the courts decide.

            That’s not “if I’m elected, you’ll be in jail.”

            • This is a very clear statement of the important point that, I think, Norrin Radd has simply missed so far.

              • Norrin Radd

                I understand your point. I just think its hair splitting. I put it like this, had Obama said during his campaign, “Cheney deserves to be in jail for what he’s done” I doubt anyone here would complain. And if they did they’d be written off as a ‘concern troll’.

                • NonyNony

                  I’d complain because it would have meant Obama losing that election. Plus he never would have said that – real-life Obama if he’d gotten near that third rail would have said “there need to be investigations into misdeeds that may have been performed and, if they are found guilty, the perpetrators should be jailed”. He’s too nuanced to say it any other way (so for that matter would Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale and any other Democrat who has run for election in my lifetime – they aren’t stupid).

                  You don’t insist that your political opponents belong in jail. You might insist that your political opponents should be investigated for wrongdoing. That’s not a hair being split – the difference is between “how it’s done in a banana republic” vs. “how it’s done in a modern society”.

                • Rob in CT

                  It would have been a major misstep, and a dangerous one even if he’d have survived it to win the election.

                  No. You investigate. You bring charges if they are warranted. Then it’s up to our courts.

                  This is not “hair splitting” it’s actually really important.

                • gmack

                  You don’t insist that your political opponents belong in jail. You might insist that your political opponents should be investigated for wrongdoing.

                  Personally, I don’t think it’s appropriate even to go that far. One does not premise a political campaign on investigating individual people. If one talks about that stuff at all, one talks about it only in general terms. Something like, “I will appoint an AG who enforces the rule of law equally for everyone. If s/he suspects that a crime has occurred, s/he will investigate and prosecute it, and I will not direct or interfere with any such investigations.”

                • lizzie

                  It is not hair splitting in the least bit. It is a recognition—badly needed in our degraded political culture—of the fundamental principle of separation of powers. The power to adjudge an individual guilty and impose criminal punishment does not reside with the executive, but with an entirely independent branch of government. Four of the first ten amendments to the constitution enumerate, in detail, the various rights that criminal defendants have. Article I of the constitution prohibits bills of attainder–a legislative act that imposes punishment on an individual without a trial. All of these protections are essential to prevent incredibly dangerous abuses of power. Trump and his followers obviously don’t give a shit about any of this, and that’s a huge fucking deal.

                • Stag Party Palin

                  I just think its hair splitting.

                  And I think I can hear Jimmy Durante saying, “What elephant?”

                • Murc

                  The power to adjudge an individual guilty and impose criminal punishment does not reside with the executive, but with an entirely independent branch of government.

                  This isn’t true. The executive branch is required to judge someone guilty before the judicial branch can weigh in at all. You need both sides to say “yes, this person is guilty.”

                  If you only have one, nobody goes to jail. The judicial branch can’t press charges on its own, and the executive branch can’t adjudicate those charges.

                  However, the mere fact that the executive branch isn’t adjudicating those charges doesn’t mean that it isn’t determining guilt. It absolutely is, and its opinion matters a great deal.

                • The police may be part of the executive branch, but it is not the presidency, and the presidency does not actually control the police, as is plainly evidenced by paying even cursory attention to Black Lives Matter.

                • Murc

                  The police may be part of the executive branch, but it is not the presidency, and the presidency does not actually control the police, as is plainly evidenced by paying even cursory attention to Black Lives Matter.

                  The president does not control local law enforcement, no.

                  The president does control federal law enforcement, which have largely the same powers.

                • And if the president used the FBI for partisan purposes, that would seriously undermine the fabric of American democracy. Most presidents have, thus far, avoided doing this. Trump almost certainly wouldn’t, which is one reason he’s so dangerous.

                • so-in-so

                  No, using the FBI for political purposes is reserved for the director – at least if he’s named Hoover.

                • Murc

                  And if the president used the FBI for partisan purposes, that would seriously undermine the fabric of American democracy.

                  I agree with you. It’s a good thing I’m not in favor of this.

                • Well, right. The whole objection here is that Trump, by threatening to jail his opponents, is arguing to use law enforcement for political purposes. The point I’ve been trying to make is that if any D ever prosecuted political opponents for any reason, it would be perceived as motivated by partisanship, regardless of how much the person being prosecuted broke the law and deserved to be prosecuted. The inevitable retaliation would be Rs doing exactly what they accused Ds of doing the next time they got into power.

                  I’m not sure how you solve this problem apart from by replacing the Rs with a political party that is not completely out of touch with reality. But I’m honestly not sure how it could have worked even in Eisenhower-era America. If political leaders believe that their political opponents will prosecute them for perceived transgressions, that undermines the likelihood of a stable transition between elections. I don’t know how to solve this, apart from by handing the power to prosecute abuse of power by government officials over to an authority entirely independent of the political process, and the only one I can think of is an international body that isn’t disproportionately controlled by any one government.

                • efgoldman

                  I doubt anyone here would complain.

                  Nope. As an attorney and a professor of constitutional law, Obama knew and knows better. He could, once elected, ask the DOJ to investigate and see if charges were appropriate, but I doubt he’d acknowledge that publicly, either. But war crimes charges, specifically, should be brought and tried in an international court. That’s the standard established after WW2.
                  If you want to try to make a case that the Geneva accords, which are treaties having the force of law, may have been violated, I dunno’ if that’s possible. IANAL. Has anyone ever been charged and convicted for violating a treaty?

                • (((Hogan)))

                  The executive branch is required to judge someone guilty before the judicial branch can weigh in at all.

                  You’re equivocating on the word “judge.” An executive official needs to believe that someone’s guilt can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Anything beyond that is personal opinion. Adjudication is done somewhere else.

                • I put it like this, had Obama said during his campaign, “Cheney deserves to be in jail for what he’s done” I doubt anyone here would complain.

                  Oh FFS. Had Obama made any such statement, of course people would have complained, because he would have prejudiced any potential trial.

                  Nixon brought down a shitrain with his comments precisely because he jeopardised Manson’s prosecution. It’s right up there at the start of the original post — “Manson’s attorneys called for a mistrial”.

                • Norrin Radd

                  Good Doctor Bimmler, stop being preposterous. How many people were outraged when Obama made his comments about sexual assault in the military even though it crater 2 prosecutions?

                  “The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this,” Obama said, according to an NBC News story submitted as evidence by defense attorneys in the sexual assault cases.

                  ‘I expect consequences,” Obama added. “So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable — prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”

                  So the Executive can and should call for prosecutions when they’re warranted. That, after all, is why our charging authorities are part of the executive branch and accountable to voters.

                • So my argument is that Presidents should not weigh in about the need for a trial or a particular sentence when it would prejudice a trial and provide the defense with ammunition. And you refudiate my argument by raising an example of a President weighing in about the need for a sentence and thereby providing the defense with ammunition.

                  Is this really what you were intending?

                • lizzie

                  This is in reply to Murc:

                  This isn’t true. The executive branch is required to judge someone guilty before the judicial branch can weigh in at all. You need both sides to say “yes, this person is guilty.”

                  I’m not talking about bringing charges. I’m talking about convicting someone of a crime—that is what I mean by “adjudge an individual guilty.” The executive branch can accuse you of a crime and initiate a criminal prosecution. It cannot judge you guilty of a crime.

              • gmack

                To me, I think the real problem is using the prosecution of a political opponent as part of a political campaign. I ultimately agree with the claim that members of the Bush administration should have been investigated and potentially prosecuted.* However, making such a proposed prosecution a central component of one’s political campaign is something that would be worthy of condemnation. A central principle of the rule of law is that we don’t use the vagaries of electoral politics to decide who gets investigated or prosecuted. Trump pretty directly violated that idea.

                *I’m also more sympathetic than some to the counter-argument that this would have been a bad idea. I come out in favor of investigation/prosecution mostly because I think the crimes in question are so serious. But I think it’s important to take the potential damage to democratic institutions seriously.

                • Rob in CT

                  *I’m also more sympathetic than some to the counter-argument that this would have been a bad idea. I come out in favor of investigation/prosecution mostly because I think the crimes in question are so serious. But I think it’s important to take the potential damage to democratic institutions seriously.

                  I waffled back and forth and ended up agreeing with Obama and other prominent Dems that it was not actually a great idea. I’m like 51-49 on this. Either choice involved damage.

                • Stag Party Palin

                  I come out in favor of investigation/prosecution mostly because I think the crimes in question are so serious. But I think it’s important to take the potential damage to democratic institutions seriously.

                  Most people here are saying the damage to our ‘democracy’ would be too great. I’d like to hear what damage is unacceptable, when measured against, to pick just one example, the incredible death and distress that we brought to Iraq that will happen again someday because people know they will not be held accountable.

                • To name one possible outcome, internecine civil war? There are a lot of heavily armed people in this country who are already far out of touch with reality. Seeing a member of their political tribe prosecuted for what they would inevitably perceive as purely political reasons could, even if the prosecutions were entirely by the book and for entirely justifiable reasons, lead them to armed revolt on a scale we’ve never seen since, well, the Civil War.

                  I think the Bush admin should be prosecuted. I just think that, if Obama or any other Democratic administration had done it, the entire fabric of the country would have collapsed.

                • so-in-so

                  The crimes of the Iraq war and the torture of prisoners should fall under jurisdiction of the UN and the ICC, no? If they had seen fit to investigate and order an arrest it would remove the issue of internal politics somewhat. Since they have not, it appears how ever much we agree on this, the international community is more “meh”.

                  I know we didn’t ratify the treaty for the ICC, but an indictment from them would still signal the culpability of the Bush regime and/or Kissinger.

      • I don’t completely agree. I don’t think having power should preclude one from being prosecuted for crimes. Unfortunately, I also don’t think it’s possible to prosecute one’s political opponents without undermining the very fabric of democracy, regardless of whether they have broken the law or not. Bankers should indeed have been prosecuted – they are not elected political officials and they broke the law. The Bush admin should have been prosecuted as well, but if Obama had in any way been involved in doing so, it would have broken the country. Republicans already went apeshit even though he spent a lot of his first term trying to cooperate with them; if he had actually gone after the last president, we would’ve seen things get at least ten times worse. I don’t think there’s anyone in the country who could’ve done it, except maybe other Republicans. And they didn’t do it. So that leaves us with international prosecutors – den Haag, maybe. There’s no way for someone within our own system to prosecute political enemies, even if they have committed crimes, without undermining democracy itself.

        Not to mention that, as I pointed out in the previous thread, nearly every president going back to FDR did something that was either clearly illegal, unconstitutional, or both. Many of these things may have had broad popular support at the time, but that doesn’t make them any less heinous. If we’d prosecuted all of them, the country would’ve crumbled a long time ago.

        • Norrin Radd

          Special prosecutors. This is why we appoint special prosecutors…America did not crumble because Scooter Libby was prosecuted for outing Valerie Plame.

          • Well, yes. It wasn’t, however, Libby’s political opponents who appointed Patrick Fitzgerald to prosecute him. It was, as far as I can ascertain, the DoJ and the FBI, who did so at the behest of the CIA. If Democrats had been responsible, the reaction would have been quite different.

          • howard

            I’m not unsympathetic to your argument, but surely you realize the track record of special prosecutors isn’t unblemished?

            • Norrin Radd

              Short of a World Court, we have nowhere else to go…Ken Starr wasn’t the only independent counsel. I don’t hear many complaints about the guy who prosecuted Iran-Contra.

              Perhaps we could invest the responsibility in the Inspector General of the DOJ.

          • Brien Jackson

            This works in theory, but you’d need some sort of independent prosecutor as a standalone feature of American Constitutional governance. A special prosecutor appointed by the President or Congress still carries the air of partisan politics in going after the opposition part.

            • Right. The only way it works under the current system is if Congress and/or the presidency is controlled by the same party as the person being accused of crimes. Otherwise it just comes across as a partisan witch-hunt.

              • Brien Jackson

                It also works when you have something of a broad consensus in favor of the legal action. Watergate, Iran-Contra, Scooter Libby didn’t have any really meaningful level of outright opposition to the notion that guilty parties ought to be held legally accountable. But if, say, you tried to go after Bush and Cheney for torture with a significant portion of the electorate agreeing with the use of torture as a matter of politics, then you risk collapsing the frameworks of antagonistic democracy.

                • efgoldman

                  Scooter Libby didn’t have any really meaningful level of outright opposition to the notion that guilty parties ought to be held legally accountable.

                  Well, except the guy at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that pardoned him.

            • Murc

              This works in theory, but you’d need some sort of independent prosecutor as a standalone feature of American Constitutional governance.

              Not possible. Such a figure would either be elected, or appointed. There are no wholly independent offices. Even the Supreme Court and the Fed have to navigate Congress to get their jobs.

        • Bill Murray

          Unfortunately, I also don’t think it’s possible to prosecute one’s political opponents without undermining the very fabric of democracy, regardless of whether they have broken the law or not.

          But we ended here by not prosecuting. In areas like this tolerance encourages. Realizing there is no threat to anything they do clarifies the ind wonderfully.

          • Well, like I said, these people should be prosecuted. I just don’t think that, if their own party won’t prosecute them, it’s even possible to do it within the constricts of a democracy. This is why international organisations prosecute war crimes independently – the Hague, for example. The fact that these crimes were not prosecuted seems to me to represent a failure of international institutions. I’m not sure what needs to be done to reform them, but something should.

      • science_goy

        You’re drawing a false equivalence between public sentiment and the statements of political leaders. It’s one thing for members of the public to express anger about Nixon’s pardon; Carter promising to “undo the pardon, lock Nixon up and throw away the key” would’ve been way, way beyond the pale. Similarly, while plenty of folks on the left called Bush Jr a “war criminal” who needed to be put on trial, it would’ve been completely unacceptable for Kerry to make that a pillar of his campaign. Yet Trump has done exactly that vis a vis Clinton.

        • Norrin Radd

          It would’ve been entirely acceptable for Kerry to make jailing Bush the Lesser and Darth Cheney a pillar of his campaign. Just because someone bribed the Supreme Court and got appointed President doesn’t make them immune to the laws. What the hell? Where is that in the Constitution? They impeached Bill over a blowjob, but somehow saying we should appoint a special prosecutor to go after the previous Administration is unsavory?

          • science_goy

            Nobody said that anyone’s immune to the laws. Just that, in a functioning democracy, it’s not kosher to threaten your political enemies with retribution using the power of the state. Rule of law and all that.

            • Norrin Radd

              Yeah God forbid rich white people should face the same treatment that poor black people face from DAs every day…Its ok for Trump to say he’s bringing Law and Order back to the inner city, but how dare he say he’s bringing it back to DC.

              And we wonder why the working class distrusts the ruling class so much.

              • science_goy

                Trump hasn’t faced criticism for his racially-charged comments about the “inner city?” Ooookay. Since it appears you’ve been watching a completely different election season than the one actually taking place in reality, I don’t see the point in arguing further.

              • No one here is OK with Trump’s declarations of war on the inner city, either. Do you even read this blog?

              • witlesschum

                If he’d actually said the same general thing about Washington D.C. he’d said about the inner city, no one would have batted an eye. The fact that he’s specifically threatening his opponent in an election with imprisonment on national television is in fact pretty damned different than making his deplorable general statements.

                Both are bad, in my mind, but there’s only strong political norms against one in this country. Again, in my mind, that’s too bad. But, the U.S. sadly has shown itself able to stay a functioning government while oppressing black people.

                If you think politicians will react to the total destruction of this norm by being more honest and breaking fewer laws, you’re a more optimistic fellow than I am. We’re talking system breaking down type stuff if prosecuting the past administration for whatever you can drum up becomes standard procedure. I hate that the U.S. is a deeply structurally and institutionally racist nation, but I’m glad we aren’t a nation with a political process that teeters on the brink of civil war whenever we have a change of government. We could well end up as both, because there’s nothing at all even a little bit either or about this.

                • Norrin Radd

                  I hope that all Administrations–regardless of Party–prosecute the previous Administration “for whatever they can”. Laws exist for a reason, and I don’t think, as a matter of principle, that being of my Party exempts you from following the laws, no matter how much I may agree with your policy platform.

            • Murc

              Nobody said that anyone’s immune to the laws. Just that, in a functioning democracy, it’s not kosher to threaten your political enemies with retribution using the power of the state. Rule of law and all that.

              Which is it?

              If you’re not allowed to prosecute your political rivals merely because they’re your political rivals, then you don’t have rule of law; you have privilege. Those people become, de facto, immune to the law.

              Or are you just saying that we should do it, but that nobody doing it should talk about how they’re going to do it?

              • I’m saying that we should not be prosecuting political opponents at all. I’ve made it entirely clear that these people should be prosecuted, but not within our system. I would be entirely okay with an international war crimes tribunal – which is by definition completely independent of our political system – doing the prosecution.

                • Murc

                  I would be entirely okay with an international war crimes tribunal – which is by definition completely independent of our political system – doing the prosecution.

                  You are arguing that there should be some sort of completely independent world power that picks people up and prosecutes them, because we’re too incompetent to do so. This seems to me to be an argument that certain classes of people should… just never be prosecuted.

                  I mean, how would this even work? Traditionally, international tribunals operate with influence and oversight from the polities they oversee, which according to you makes them incompetent to oversee the crimes of politicians. Very occasionally, they operate from the principle of “we kicked the shit out of you and now we get to apply our laws to you.” This seems to be something we want to avoid as a matter of course, because wars are sort of costly and damaging.

                • I don’t understand how this is at all an argument that anyone should never be prosecuted. Indeed, I’m explicitly saying that if someone commits war crimes, they should be prosecuted.

                  International war crimes tribunals being influenced by world governments is one of the flaws that needs to be addressed in them. I don’t have any particularly firm ideas on how this should be accomplished, although the UN Security Council veto should certainly be eliminated for starters, However, they are certainly independent from the partisanship of American politics. If a tribunal prosecutes a Republican official, it can’t credibly be claimed by Republicans as a Democratic partisan witch hunt, because it’s not Democrats doing the prosecution. This lends the tribunal a credibility that an American prosecution would not be able to possess.

                • Murc

                  International war crimes tribunals being influenced by world governments is one of the flaws that needs to be addressed in them.

                  I… don’t think you can?

                  I mean, unless you constitute them as an authoritarian power that answers to nothing and nobody but itself, you can’t make judicial bodies wholly independent and free of influence.

                  Nor, in fact, should you. Our judicial branch is open to all kinds of influence from the other branches, by explicit and necessary design. It doesn’t select its own judges; those judges are appointed, sometimes elected. It can’t send out its own armed offices to enforce the law; it relies on the executive branch to do that. It cannot make the law.

                  A completely independent body tasked with upholding “international law” would need its own army, one big enough to knock down all comers. At that point, it has become a nation-state on its own. At which point in order to have legitimacy, the people it governs need to have a say in how and when it operates.

                • Surely, removing the UN Security Council veto would go a long way towards making this a possibility.

                  Certainly, individual governments would have a modicum of influence over such a body. But – and this is important – none of them would have disproportionate influence over it. As matters stand now, the few countries with a Security Council veto get way more influence over it than any other countries. That’s a major problem, and is almost certainly also a major contributing factor to why war crimes by the U.S. and other major powers rarely get prosecuted.

                  Eliminating the Security Council veto won’t be the only step to fixing the international system, but it will be a major first step. And obviously, you can’t have a completely independent international governing body, nor should you, but if you minimise any one country’s influence over it, that goes a long way towards increasing its impartiality towards all of them.

                  There are probably other major reforms that need to be enacted before this becomes truly practical as well, and I’m not trying to say this is a conclusive solution. But it’s also the only one I can see coming even close to working. If you have another one that won’t result in partisan warfare within this country, I’m interested to hear it, though.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Murc,

                  I don’t think this is helped by taking what is, in essence a specific question about torture prosecutions and turning it into a generalized view on the rule of law. If, say, there was mountains of evidence Dick Cheney was straight up taking kickbacks from Haliburton or something I suspect it wold be rather easy to arrest and try him. What makes torture different is that the GOP made the torture question one of politics, and a whole bunch of voters agreed with them on it. Regardless of what the law says, to pursue the prosecutions, and especially to CAMPAIGN on pursuing the prosecutions, would be an inherently political statement that would significantly threaten the basis of our form of transactional democracy. Yes, it’s amazingly fucking awful that supporting torture, but its awfulness doesn’t change that history, and using the criminal justice system in retribution against one side of an actually contested political question is really dangerous. Even moreso because the likelihood that there’s any kind of “smoking gun” you could decisively hang any senior officials with, and Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al. are no doubt shielded by a wall of paperwork from the Yoos and Addingtons and Gonzalezes promising them that the tactics they were sanctioning were legal, so rather than a simple adjudication of fact you’d mostly be stuck arguing over the extent bear culpability when taking the word of government lawyers.

              • efgoldman

                You are arguing that there should be some sort of completely independent world power that picks people up and prosecutes them

                Slobodan Milosevic? Karadzic? They didn’t stroll to the Hague on their own.
                Also, I said a few earlier subthreads up: IANAL, Has any American citizen ever been prosecuted for violating a treaty? The prohibition against torture is in the Geneva conventions. It’s also in the Bill of Rights, but that’s not a statute. The UCMJ doesn’t apply to civilians. Unlike, say, Watergate, nobody perjured themselves or suborned perjury, obstructed justice, etc. I think there’s a case to be made that Yoo and Bybee should be disbarred, but that’s not a criminal matter.

                • Murc

                  Slobodan Milosevic? Karadzic? They didn’t stroll to the Hague on their own.

                  They were brought there by a coalition of nations which decided to act for their own political reasons, not by some independent body.

                  Also, I said a few earlier subthreads up: IANAL, Has any American citizen ever been prosecuted for violating a treaty?

                  I don’t know, but I don’t see why they couldn’t be. Treaties ARE laws in the US; the one venn diagram is wholly contained within the other.

          • If he had made jailing them a pillar of his campaign? Yes. What planet have you been living on for the past twelve years? The RWNJs would have responded by salting the earth. There would be nothing left of the Republic. They respond to anything Democrats do by hitting back ten times harder. If anything of the country were still standing twelve years later in a counterfactual timeline where Kerry tried something that stupid, I would be entirely amazed.

            At most Kerry could perhaps have stated that he would investigate possible crimes by the previous administration. That still might have created chaos, but perhaps not on a “Constitutional crisis” level. He could not threaten to flat-out jail them, as Trump did tonight. That is utterly beyond the pale and the fact that you are effectively defending it is honestly confounding.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            there’s this kind of “it goes without saying” thing going on here. It damn well *does* need to be said out loud and up front that there is going to be a fair and open trial- *if* an investigation turns up enough facts to warrant a trial. Calling for prosecutions, fine- calling for someone to be jailed as if they don’t have the right to a trial isn’t. It’s closer than you think to the attacks on attorneys who have defended scummy people

    • BigHank53

      If we still had a functioning country, Trump’s campaign would have been cut off at the knees months ago.

      Two parts there. One: our country is still functioning fine. For now. One of our two main political parties has come unglued, which leads to the second part…

      Who was supposed to stop Trump, and how? The Party leadership? They pulled the control rods out of their funding structure and threw them away–any clod who makes friends with a billionaire can keep running for President. Rick Santorum, who has the charisma of a Diaper Genie, keeps running on Foster Freiss’s dime.

      The media? After the eighties, they’ve been competing for ratings just like every other piece of eyeball-bait coming out of the cable box. Reporting is hard and boring…and you’ll notice that Fox News made a ton of money without bothering to do any. But even twenty years of Roger Ailes’ best efforts (gag) have left the viewers craving harder stuff: cue the rise of InfoWars and Breitbart.

      The voters? The GOP has invited every single-issue voter they could find into their tent, from the fetus people to the gunhumpers to the goldbugs and of course all neoconfederate racists. They weren’t big on logic to begin with and as far as I can tell Obama’s election caused them to abandon it entirely. A substantial portion of our electorate has eaten nothing but lies for a generation, and it’s ready to jettison democracy itself rather than accept reality circa 2016.

      All you need now to compete in the GOP is money and big mouth, and I have no idea how they can fix that.

  • ChrisS

    The thing is that the majority of the GOP voters think that this is perfectly acceptable behavior. Paul Ryan(!) is being accused by them of working for Clinton.

    When Trump loses, in their opinion, it will be because the GOP failed Trump and the democrats rigged the election to elect a should-be felon.

    Who is going to be ideologically pure enough to nominate in 2020? Tom Cotton? Rodrigo Duterte?

    • CrunchyFrog

      Well, now it’s clear that it’s not an exaggeration to day that the large majority of GOP voters would vote for a dictator-for-life, even knowing that he was a Putin Puppet, as long as he was on the “right” side.

      One of the signs of fascism is that the fascists don’t respect the countries systems and norms as legitimate.

      • Norrin Radd

        That’s definitely true. He could wrap the Constitution around his ass and use it like a diaper and they’d applaud so long as he sent the Mexicans to jail and let them grab wimmenfolk by the pussy too.

    • Grumpy

      As to your question, the exhumed corpse of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

    • efgoldman

      Who is going to be ideologically pure enough to nominate in 2020?

      Didn’t some RWNJ Republiklown bring up Zombie Pinochet last week?

  • McAllen

    At this point, Trump really isn’t going to concede if (when, knock on wood) he loses in November. How can he, after all this?

    • Todd

      Maybe he can keep this thing going, and ruin two congressional elections for Republicans.

    • cleek

      he’s sewing FUD about the election now because it’s going to be a central theme in his upcoming alt-right media venture.

  • Crusty

    While its beyond clear that Trump is a supreme asshole of the highest order, and while nobody ever accused him of being a genius or any kind of intellectual, last night, I thought he appeared more stupid than previously. And I think the jail her comments are more related to his stupidity, ignorance and empty-headedness- he’s so poorly read, poorly educated and just plain stupid that he doesn’t realize no Donald, we don’t do that, that’s not how it works, that’s what Castro, etc. do. The same way he asks national security advisers how come we can’t use nukes if we have them, what’s the point of having them if we don’t use them? What fun is it being president if you can’t put your enemies in jail. And while its an awful thing to say and he’s awful, I think it stems a little more from his stupidity than his awfulness. I suppose at this point I’m just splitting weirdly colored, oddly fluffy, unexplainable hairs.

    • Downpuppy

      There’s nobody left around him willing to separate reality from the fever swamp. He’s now a walking, stalking, RedState comment section.

      • Small but possibly important nitpick: RedState has actually been one of the few consistently anti-Trump conservative blogs in this election. He’s more of a walking, stalking Breitbart comment section.

        • Cheerful

          I have been surprised at their coverage. Their understanding of liberal/progressive/Democrats is as off base as usual, but they seem to be getting a clearer and clearer view of Trump and his people.

          • Indeed. Unlike a lot of Republicans this election cycle, they’ve demonstrated that they actually have principles. I don’t agree with many of their principles, but I can at least respect these people in a way that I don’t respect most other Republicans, who don’t seem to have any principles to speak of. I’ve only read about twenty articles or so from them this cycle, but I don’t get the impression, as I do with most Trump supporters, that they’re actively trying to tear other people down – they mostly seem to be advocating for what they honestly believe is best for the country. If the whole Republican Party were like them, we’d probably be in much better shape right now.

    • JL

      He sounded to me like a Markov bot that had been trained on previous Trump stump speeches.

  • Happy Jack

    I thought they repealed the special prosecutor law. Unless martial law is declared.

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      If Trump somehow became President, I don’t think he’d bother declaring martial law- he’d just do stuff without the slightest attempt to justify them legally.

      • science_goy

        No doubt his Supreme Court would do their best to ensure that whatever he does is ultimately declared legal.

      • AB

        Trump just needs an Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz).

    • Downpuppy

      Details, details. Sentence first, trial afterwards.

      • Tyto

        “We’re gonna have a fair trial, followed by a first-class hangin’.”

    • Murc

      I thought they repealed the special prosecutor law. Unless martial law is declared.

      You’re thinking of the Office of the Independent Counsel, which had an independent prosecutor. The enabling legislation for that has indeed been repealed. But special prosecutors are still a thing.

      I keep going back and forth on it. On the one hand, under Starr that thing was out of control. But in hindsight, it sure was convenient for the Republicans that they imploded an independent investigative arm through overreach and incompetence, wasn’t it? Super convenient.

      • NonyNony

        But in hindsight, it sure was convenient for the Republicans that they imploded an independent investigative arm through overreach and incompetence, wasn’t it? Super convenient.

        Are you kidding? Republicans had been against the independent prosecutor office ever since it was created. At the time of the Ken Starr investigation it was obvious that while the main point was to make political hay to try to gain Republican victories, a major second point was to discredit the entire idea of an independent prosecutor so that even the Democrats would be begging to trash the office.

        And it worked.

  • Karen24

    I am petrified of the consequences of typing something even remotely optimistic here, but there does seem to be a lot of pushback from the press about this comment. CNN has an article listing the political opponents of dictators who are now in prison, and includes a discussion of people like Pinochet, complete with threatening black and white picture of scowling guy in over decorated uniform. Who knows what the ultimate effect will be, but at least they’re not passively accepting “it’s just a joke!’ This time.

    • BigHank53

      Even the dimmest journalist realizes that if Dear Leader can have his political enemies tossed into jail on a whim, journalism becomes a much less attractive career.

      • Thom

        More glamorous (for those who survive and stay out of prison), though.

        • BigHank53

          As long as you enjoy kissing the ass of Dear Leader.

    • Marc

      Yes, I wish that liberals could give the biased media thing a rest. The media is attacking Trump hammer and tong at this point. You can’t read the headlines and think that they’re pulling their punches at all.

      Now, given what Trump is, I think that it’s actually appropriate. I just find it to be wishful thinking to believe that he wouldn’t be where he is if the media had done things differently. Republicans have their own alternative media universe and their candidates feed off of attacking the “mainstream” media, and have for decades.

      • Cash & Cable

        If the media had come out strongly against Trump during the primaries, things might have been different. Remember, a lot of Trump supporters only came on board during the partisan consolidation period after he clinched the nomination. If the media had sounded the alarm about Trump, that might have facilitated a more coordinated campaign against Trump (heck, his competitors might have even done some oppo work!). Instead, the media alternatively dismissed his chances and normalized his antics.

        Would this have guaranteed a different nominee? No. But I give it at least a 30-40% chance of making a significance difference in the arc of the campaign.

        [Also: the media remains hopelessly biased. The only reason they’re attacking Trump now is because he’s played them one too many times for free hotel publicity and journalists are starting to worry about their own future under an ur-fascist administration. The shift in campaign coverage has been triggered by raw self-interest.]

        • NonyNony

          But I give it at least a 30-40% chance of making a significance difference

          Too high.

          These are Republican primary voters we’re talking about. Do you think any of them give a single rat’s ass what the New York Times or the Washington Post or CNN think about anything? No, they do not. Except to the extent that cleek’s law is in play – in which case a loud denouncing of Trump by the “lieberal media” would have had the reverse impact of what you’re suggesting.

          You could make a case that if Fox news had come out against him then maybe. Except I don’t buy it – I’m related to too many wingnuts. They don’t trust Fox News – they watch it because it tells them what they want to hear. When Fox News tries to make opinion instead of amplify already-existing wingnut opinion they get turned off. They have to be very subtle about opinion making – if they actively come out against something their viewership likes and wants they end up with lower ratings rather than making opinions.

          • Cash & Cable

            I’m related to a depressing number of Republican primary voters, but even among that crowd I’d say fewer than half are exclusively Fox News viewers and maybe 15% are into the Infowars stuff. They’re not devotees of the MSM, but they’re not immune to MSM stories and narratives when they’re given sufficient billing.

            • My parents have voted Republican most cycles going back to Reagan, as I have said several times. They voted for Kasich in the primaries and are deeply opposed to Trump. I know my father will vote for Clinton without reservation and I think my mother will, reservedly. They also get most of their news from sources like the NYT, NPR, and CNN, and despise Fox News. I don’t think there are too many Republicans like them left, but there can’t be an entirely insignificant number. Would it have swayed the primaries if the coverage had been different? It’s impossible to know for sure, but it’s certainly at least possible.

            • NonyNony

              Yes, but did any of them vote for Trump in the primary?

              All of the wingnuts I’m related to enthusiastically voted for Trump. All of the “sane Republicans” I’m related to had Trump at the bottom of their lists in the primary. And most of them have decided to vote for Johnson or skip the presidential line this cycle (I’ve got one in a swing state I’m this close to convincing to vote for Clinton – if her polling gets too good in his state he’ll bail but if it stays close he’ll go for Clinton I think).

              The media narrative wouldn’t have impacted the 40% of Republican primary voters who enthusiastically lined up behind Trump. And without an alternative that the remaining 60% could line up behind, Trump was going to win it even if the NYT was screaming about how awful he was.

        • efgoldman

          If the media had sounded the alarm about Trump, that might have facilitated a more coordinated campaign against Trump

          Nobody – his primary opponents, the Village, the public – took Rapey Circus Peanut seriously until it was too late.
          He was good copy, and he kept eyeballs on the cable, and nobody, not even political junkies :::raises hand sheepishly::: took him seriously.

    • efgoldman

      I am petrified of the consequences of typing something even remotely optimistic here

      You typed that just for me, didn’t you?

  • bobbo1

    I’ve got blisters on my fingers

    Actual mic drop!

  • ploeg

    It is, in fact, a shrewd strategy. With the number of criminal referrals that are sure to follow from reports of Trump’s tax shenanigans, charity shenanigans, bribery shenanigans, groping shenanigans, et al, et nauseum, Trump is simply inoculating himself from any possible action by any government authority that he can’t buy off.

    Of course, if he should manage to win….

    • Rob in CT

      This occurred to me as well.

  • Warren Terra

    Just in case there’s any confusion about whether Trump’s outrages separate him from the party that nominated him, Mike Pence apparently said on MSNBC that Trump’s threat to jail Clinton was one of Trump’s best moments in the debate.

    • Rugosa

      And because Pence doesn’t visibly froth at the mouth on stage, he is the “moderate” one. Trump displays openly what the Republican party has stood for since Goldwater – exploit the country for wealth and power, and keep women and minorities in their places. I don’t believe the pieties of Pence or any other R go any more than skin deep, whether toward the country or religion. They are nothing more than whitewash over a cynical program of advanced selfishness.

  • Dagmar

    Trump proudly wears his tinfoil hat. Remember the Nixon Palace Guard uniform fiasco? Imagine a Trump White House with all the columns on the portico painted gold and the guards wearing comic opera uniforms.

  • Procopius

    I didn’t notice any great outcry when President Obama declared at a press conference that Bradley Manning was guilty of spying. At the time Manning was being tried by a court martial, and “command influence” is always a concern in military justice. Any military judge has to consider what his chain of command wants, and the President is the Commander in Chief. There was certainly more chance of his remark prejudicing the outcome than in the case of Nixon and Manson, but the left never said a word that I was aware of.

    • Paul Campos

      Two things:

      (1) There was in fact a considerable outcry about this from Manning’s defenders.

      (2) Commenting on the guilt or innocence of a defendant in an ongoing criminal proceeding is not something a president should do, and Obama was wrong to do so, just as Nixon was.

      Doing so, however, is a very far cry from announcing that if elected you are going to jail your opponent. It’s rather depressing that at least one person in this thread considers this sort of distinction to be “hair splitting.”

      • Murc

        (2) Commenting on the guilt or innocence of a defendant in an ongoing criminal proceeding is not something a president should do, and Obama was wrong to do so, just as Nixon was.

        This doesn’t seem right to me. If the executive branch doesn’t think a person who is currently undergoing trial is guilty, why are they proceeding with the trial? Because, you know, they’re only supposed to prosecute people who they think are guilty.

        The mere act of having a trial is a “comment” by those wielding executive power.

        • sibusisodan

          Yes, but it’s a ‘comment’ which allows the accused a proper defense, and which shows deference to the rule of law.

          Speaking, pronouncing judgement, from outside of the system of trial and representation is unfair to both the accused, and to the system designed to figure out what happened in a way we can all accept.

          Doesn’t stop the President as citizen from having an opinion on a defendant. But as upholder of the constitution, they may not express it.

          • Murc

            Speaking, pronouncing judgement, from outside of the system of trial and representation is unfair to both the accused,

            Speaking, pronouncing judgment, from outside the system of trial and representation is the job of the executive branch.

            It is one of its biggest, most important jobs! It does it every day! People by the hundreds and the thousands are rounded up by the executive branch, jailed, and presented to the judicial branch with the comment “these people are guilty of crimes. Adjudicate this, please.”

            Doesn’t stop the President as citizen from having an opinion on a defendant. But as upholder of the constitution, they may not express it.

            By this logic, a President should never pardon or commute the sentences of anyone.

            • sibusisodan

              “these people are guilty of crimes. Adjudicate this, please.”

              Precisely: having handed over the job of adjudication to the judicial branch, the executive cannot comment on it further without messing up that adjudication.

              By this logic, a President should never pardon or commute the sentences of anyone.

              Why? At the point of pardon, the defendant is no longer a defendant. The trial system has done its job.

              Pardoning or commutation is also a comment on the judicial system, but it’s a systemic one, not a random irruption whenever the President feels like speaking about certain trials.

              I’m puzzled that you’re not seeing the distinctions here. What am I missing?

            • Murc

              Precisely: having handed over the job of adjudication to the judicial branch, the executive cannot comment on it further without messing up that adjudication.

              So it’s okay for the executive branch to say “yeah, these guys are totally guilty” when they hand people over for trial, but once they’ve mounted the courthouse steps, they have to… pretend they never said that?

              That just seems foolish. They’ve already commented on the persons guilt in the strongest possible fashion; they sent people to arrest that person, tossed them in jail, and handed a big old pile of evidence over to the judicial branch.

              But somehow re-iterating that after the fact is a bridge too far?

              Why? At the point of pardon, the defendant is no longer a defendant. The trial system has done its job.

              Yeah, and the President is saying “you done fucked up your job.” Its okay for him to say that after the fact, or before the fact, but not during the fact?

              I’m puzzled that you’re not seeing the distinctions here. What am I missing?

              Hell if I know. To me, these “distinctions” amount to play-acting by everyone involved.

              • So it’s okay for the executive branch to say “yeah, these guys are totally guilty” when they hand people over for trial, but once they’ve mounted the courthouse steps, they have to… pretend they never said that?

                That just seems foolish. They’ve already commented on the persons guilt in the strongest possible fashion; they sent people to arrest that person, tossed them in jail, and handed a big old pile of evidence over to the judicial branch.

                But somehow re-iterating that after the fact is a bridge too far?

                I don’t see how they’re saying that at all when they hand them over for trial. They’re saying, “These guys look suspicious enough that they should be tried.” That’s not a certain statement that they’re definitely guilty. Guilt has to be established beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction (or for a “preponderance of the evidence” in civil suits, IIRC). Submitting a case for a prosecution isn’t saying that exists. Saying “he’s guilty” when the case is under way kind of is.

                Yeah, and the President is saying “you done fucked up your job.” Its okay for him to say that after the fact, or before the fact, but not during the fact?

                Well, if a pardon is issued after new evidence comes to light that shows that the initial trial and/or verdict was flawed, which is the case for an awful lot of these, then I don’t see any way in which it could be perceived as being not OK. I can’t speak for sibusisodan on where they’re going with the other cases, though. I’m too tired to be able to speculate on that at this hour.

              • sibusisodan

                So it’s okay for the executive branch to say “yeah, these guys are totally guilty” when they hand people over for trial, but once they’ve mounted the courthouse steps, they have to… pretend they never said that?

                They have to maintain that their judgement of guilt – however confident, however correct – is not sufficient to impose civil or criminal penalties. And they have to shut up during the trial so that the accused gets a fair trial.

                Its okay for him to say that after the fact, or before the fact, but not during the fact?

                Yes: because it maintains the independence of the judicial branch during the process of trying somebody’s guilt, or otherwise.

                Much of a political system is play acting. But it’s play acting with agreed significance, and within agreed norms. It stops things being (too) arbitrary, which would be the outcome if the President could pronounce sentence, or not, whenever they felt like it.

              • Murc

                I don’t see how they’re saying that at all when they hand them over for trial. They’re saying, “These guys look suspicious enough that they should be tried.”

                … the executive branch sends a guy, a guy in their employ, who they pay, whose entire job is to make these sorts of decisions, to stand in front of a judge and jury, point at the defendant, and say “That motherfucker is guilty as sin.”

                Prosecutors do not say “well, I don’t know that this guy is guilty. He might be! Let’s find out together!” That’s… that’s not how trials work. If a prosecutor doesn’t think a guy is guilty, he doesn’t (or shouldn’t) bring the case to trial.

                Submitting a case for a prosecution isn’t saying that exists. Saying “he’s guilty” when the case is under way kind of is.

                Again, the executive branch sends a dude to say “He’s guilty!” over and over and over again during the course of a whole trial.

                I’m too tired to be able to speculate on that at this hour.

                Ah, you’re one of our readers in the eastern hemisphere.

                And they have to shut up during the trial so that the accused gets a fair trial.

                That’s a little hard being as how the executive branch is one of the parties to the trial and the trial is only taking place because the executive branch fingered a guy, said he was guilty, and threw him into court.

                This is a little bit like demanding someone shut up after they just gave a three-hour speech. It’s like, that horse has already left the barn.

                • … the executive branch sends a guy, a guy in their employ, who they pay, whose entire job is to make these sorts of decisions, to stand in front of a judge and jury, point at the defendant, and say “That motherfucker is guilty as sin.”

                  However – and this is important – the prosecutor’s word alone is not enough to result in a conviction. Also, just because the prosecutor is in the employ of the executive branch does not mean that other employees of the executive branch can comment on the trial with the same effect. If the president says that someone is guilty, that has a much different effect than a prosecutor saying it.

                  Ah, you’re one of our readers in the eastern hemisphere.

                  Nah, I just didn’t really sleep much last night. I’m actually in Florida.

              • efgoldman

                That just seems foolish. They’ve already commented on the persons guilt in the strongest possible fashion; they sent people to arrest that person, tossed them in jail, and handed a big old pile of evidence over to the judicial branch.

                Are you old enough to remember Tricksie Dicksie Nixie’s and Sanctus Ronaldus Magnus’ politicization of the DOJ and IRS? I know you remember W’s.
                In the sense of the constitutional separation of powers, the DOJ, Treasury, IRS, Investigative and regulatory agencies are in fact under the executive. The president appoints the various heads, (mostly) confirmed by the senate. But they are not political agencies. They are supposed to work independently of the president. You’ll recall that a special prosecutor and two AGs quit in protest when Tricksie Dicksie Nixie gave them orders they couldn’t follow.

                You’re smarter than that. You justifiably have a hair across your ass about W and his merry band of shitheads. Politicizing the investigative, regulatory, and prosecutorial agencies is not the way to remove it.

                ETA: Also the president has no power to arrest anybody or refer them to DOJ for investigation and prosecution.

                • Murc

                  It’s a good thing I’m not at all calling for anything to be politicized at all, except in the very general sense that all legal disputes are also political ones.

                  I want people who commit serious crimes brought to trial. I want the people who are going to determine that to say specifically that they’re going to do so.

                  And yes, the President determines that to a large extent. They staff the damn agencies! Their desires are going to be reflected in that staffing. I would like a President to say to the country “I will staff the DOJ with people who will go hard after the war criminals who walk among us.” I want to know that that President believes that we do, in fact, have war criminals walking among us. Knowing that the President can see clearly enough to make that determination seems to be a very important thing!

                • A president directing his DOJ to prosecute a previous administration of the opposing party for war crimes would be perceived as politicised regardless of whether it actually was, and would irrevocably alter the political landscape of the country. This is what you don’t seem to be understanding: You’re saying, “Let’s prosecute politicians of opposing parties for crimes without politicising it”. But that can’t happen. Doing this will be perceived as inherently political even if it isn’t, and it will result in an irrevocable politicisation of the justice system.

                • Murc

                  A president directing his DOJ to prosecute a previous administration of the opposing party for war crimes would be perceived as politicised regardless of whether it actually was, and would irrevocably alter the political landscape of the country.

                  I could give a shit about perception. I care about reality. We’ve tried giving people de facto immunity to prosecution for political reasons and the result has been four decades of Republican criminals waltzing into and out of power in the sure and certain knowledge that they’re never, ever going to be held accountable.

                  I find this unacceptable and am prepared to try doing it the way where we actually, you know, prosecute criminals.

                  It is one thing to say “this is not feasible at this time.” It is another to say “this will never be feasible; the political makeup of the nation doesn’t allow for it.” That’s surrender talk, a blithe admission not that we might not just lose, but that we shouldn’t try.

                • How do you propose to make it feasible? Until the old bigots that make up the biggest part of the GOP’s base die off, I don’t see any way it can happen. And even if we get a less virulent GOP in the distant future, I also don’t see how it still won’t be perceived as politicised even if it isn’t. Just because you don’t care about perceptions doesn’t mean that they won’t affect politics or unravel our country in the process.

                  And again: I’m not saying these people shouldn’t be prosecuted at all. But it has to be someone outside the partisan political system of this country who does it, or else it will undermine the fabric of the whole country.

                • Murc

                  How do you propose to make it feasible? Until the old bigots that make up the biggest part of the GOP’s base die off, I don’t see any way it can happen.

                  At that point we won’t need to do it anymore, tho!

                  Our political system needs to be able to see to our basic needs not only when all parties to it are working in good faith, but when some parties to it are not. One of those basic needs is “the provision of justice.” When someone decided to violate the social contract by holding up a liquor store, they get thrown in prison. If our political system can’t handle throwing someone who commits crimes on a far more massive scale than that, the solution isn’t “oh well, sucks to be us.” It’s to demand the system start doing its job, and that begins with filling it with people willing to use it to that end.

                  But it has to be someone outside the partisan political system of this country who does it, or else it will undermine the fabric of the whole country.

                  If the political fabric of the country demands that we tolerate war criminals, then it deserves to be undermined.

                  Also too: every political system, everywhere, will always be partisan. Always. If we were to establish some sort of international superstate or one-world government, factions would form within it for the purpose of wielding power. At that point we’re in the same standoff just at a higher level.

                • so-in-so

                  How many countries DO prosecute leaders for war crimes, sans revolution?

                  It’s not like Nuremberg trials went after Allied leaders over Tokyo and Dresden, much less the A bombings.

                • Perhaps the solution, then, is to design an entirely independent system within the world government that has effective checks and balances with the others, so that it can independently wield power to punish those who abuse authority in the other branches. I’m not sure how this would be engineered; it’s honestly been too long since I took comparative world government for me to remember enough about this.

                  But beyond that, so-in-so has a valid point – when have we prosecuted leaders for war crimes? In a different comment thread, I listed crimes committed by every president going back to FDR (with the possible exception of Carter, for whom I could only think of something that may not qualify as criminal depending upon one’s interpretation of the statutes and facts). None of them have been punished for these crimes. You’re singling out the Bush admin, but it’s not unique to them and it’s not even unique to Republicans. Roosevelt had Japanese internment camps; Truman had Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the firebombing of Dresden; JFK had dodgy shit with Cuba and Vietnam; LBJ had Vietnam; Carter sold weapons to Suharto while he was committing genocide in East Timor (although Carter may not have been aware that this was happening); Clinton bombed a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, which is a war crime; Obama has assassinated a U.S. citizen without due process and has violated international law with drone strikes. If we’re going to be serious about holding our presidents accountable, we need to hold all of them accountable, and if that were carried out to its logical conclusion, it would mean that all of them would go to prison. That is never going to happen. Perhaps it should, but it never will.

                  I’d love to see your idea of a world where everyone who commits a crime is held responsible for it. Unfortunately, the only practical way I see of that ever happening is by eliminating power disparities entirely – in other words, anarchy. This is actually what I support as an end goal, but I’ve long since given up any hope of seeing it in my lifetime.

        • (((Hogan)))

          Block that jump from “president” to “executive branch”!

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