Home / General / The Trump/Ryan/McConnell War on the Rule of Law

The Trump/Ryan/McConnell War on the Rule of Law


I have a piece for The Week about what Congress will do if Trump fires Robert Mueller. (SPOILER: nothing, because tax cuts and neoconfederate judges):

And despite the (not actually true) cliché that “it’s the coverup, not the crime,” it’s nearly certain that Trump is engaging in a coverup because he’s guilty of serious wrongdoing. It’s telling that Trump’s most strenuous objections have come after Mueller’s team started to look into Trump’s financial transactions. There’s a reason Trump violated longstanding norms by refusing to release his tax returns, and it’s certainly not because he has nothing to hide.

So we have a president who may well be guilty of serious offenses, and these offenses may have involved colluding with a foreign power’s interference into an election. And yet, Trump can probably fire Mueller and get away with it, at least in the short term. How?

In some respects, America’s Constitution might allow Trump to evade accountability. The American people saw enough problems with Trump to reject him at the ballot box, but the Electoral College installed the popular vote loser. And one prominent mechanism that can now allow Trump and his associates to evade punishment is also in the Constitution. While there’s serious question about whether Trump can pardon himself, the president is right that he has an absolute power to pardon anyone, and he can pre-emptively pardon anyone who might be implicated in illegal activity on behalf of Trump himself.

But the Constitution does have one remedy: the impeachment power. Trump would be much less likely to fire Mueller if there was a credible threat to remove Trump from office. Nixon’s decision to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox helped create a bipartisan consensus that Nixon had committed impeachable offenses. When Nixon was told that support among Senate Republicans was collapsing, he pre-emptively resigned. If the Republican congressional leadership made it clear that firing Mueller was unacceptable, Trump might be dissuaded, and if he went ahead anyway he could potentially be held accountable at an impeachment trial.

But all indications remain that Republicans will do no such thing. After all, evidence of Trump’s corruption was clear before the election, and his disregarding of norms and use of the office for his own material benefit has, if anything, exceeded the fears of his critics. And yet, congressional Republicans have been notably unwilling to exercise their oversight authority. There’s an implicit deal: Getting Republican-nominated judicial and executive branch appointments confirmed and a Republican signature for legislation that a Republican Congress can pass means that Trump can be as corrupt as he wants.

Remember: Trump can continue to hide his tax returns, inter tot alia, because Ryan and McConnell are allowing him to.

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  • Murc

    It’s telling that Trump’s most strenuous objections
    have come after Mueller’s team started to look into Trump’s financial
    transactions. There’s a reason Trump violated longstanding norms by
    refusing to release his tax returns, and it’s certainly not because he
    has nothing to hide.

    You know, I used to think he just refused to release his returns out of combination of “it would show he isn’t as rich as he says is” and “no, fuck YOU.”

    But recently I’ve just been thinking “good god, there must be some truly, insanely, deeply toxic in sludge in there.”

    • Joe Paulson

      We really don’t need to go this far.

      I would not be “100%” okay. That isn’t even the same as “taking the deal.”

      Sometimes, you take deals while still being uncomfortable about things. A “nakedly corrupt Democratic president” will lead to various problems, including poisoning the public’s trust in government and (beyond that) the institutions in place long term.

      • mattmcirvin

        Not only that, it would politically taint the whole liberal agenda, and probably lead to a massive right-wing backlash that would yank most of that back. Liberals have always been held to higher standards, and it’s not fair but it’s what we have to deal with.

      • Xer

        I take the degeneration of the ANC in South Africa as my warning. For even worse, look north to Zimbabwe. Intense corruption quickly shifts from abetting a policy platform to becoming THE policy platform. Before you know it, Roe ceases to exist in half the country in exchange for quiescence on the ruling party’s worst actions. You have to stop people from rising up in the streets, after all. Even if the riots are all south of the Mason Dixon. Meanwhile, the environmental laws apply to every company NOT run by your cronies, which is a smaller number every year.

        I’d love to have action on climate change, reproductive choice, and access to healthcare. But I’ve already chosen democracy over many other liberal policy goals (mostly in the realm of criminal justice). Convincing others to do the right thing takes forever, but I don’t see any viable alternative.

        Naked, entrenched corruption never turns out good in the long term. Well, at least I can’t think of any examples.

      • Yestobesure

        Agreed, Joe. It’s a mistake to think that what’s disputed is all there is, and that the only thing that matters is what can be gained in the near term. There’s lots of things that don’t get much attention or support precisely because neither side opposes them. That doesn’t make them less important than the stuff we fight ovet.

    • keta

      Seriously? So any time you rail against Republicans for breaking the law it’s just sanctimonious bullshit covering your envy for their successes?

      If everyone on both sides felt this way then I don’t see why America shouldn’t just burn the whole fucking thing down to the ground. Christ.

      • Murc

        So any time you rail against Republicans for breaking the law it’s just
        sanctimonious bullshit covering your envy for their successes?

        Not at all. It depends on what laws they’re breaking, why, and what the possible alternatives are.

        I would prefer a non-corrupt democratic president. But if you offered me the choices of “deeply corrupt Democratic president who is planning on building a Scrooge McDuck style money bin but will enact the liberal agenda, a non-corrupt Democrat who gets nothing done, or any sort of Republican” I’d take the first choice. No question.

        • keta

          “Both Sides Should Do It!” seems an ignominious hill to dig in on, Murc.

          I understand what you’re saying here in your extremely narrow parameters, but it’s naivete defined to think that “a deeply corrupt Democratic president” would be a crook in only ways you find acceptable.

          Some sort of adherence to the rule of law and the constitution looks to be the only way out of the mess the US is mired in. Disdain for these principles is how we all got here, and I fail to see how further lawlessness would in any way improve things, other than provide a temporary salve for what burns today.

    • McAllen

      I would be 100% okay with an openly, nakedly corrupt Democratic president if they were signing everything a liberal Congress put in front of them and appointing forty-year-old socialist fire-breathers to the courts and to federal agencies.

      But what if that president was clearly in the pocket of, say, China? I’d like to think I’d at least object somewhat more than Republicans are now.

      • Murc

        But what if that president was clearly in the pocket of, say, China?

        If China wants to back a robust platform of liberal policies both here in the US and abroad, this would be a very surprising thing. If that very surprising thing happened, I suppose I’d be okay with it depending on what the alternatives were.

        • Bufflars

          Having a US President focused on a welfare state at the expense of the military might actually be very much in China’s interest.

        • tsam100

          Regardless of the other alternatives, this is wading into pretty dangerous territory. You can’t have the top policy maker/executive having an outsized personal financial stake in policy directives, especially where indebtedness to oligarchs is concerned. If we’re talking corrupt as in shady campaign contributions from plutocrats, I can kinda see where you would have a shrug in exchange for progressive policies. To me, that compares to how I feel about baseball players and their PEDs. Most of my thoughts on that add up to whatever–it’s part of the game and isn’t going anywhere. But Trump’s level of entanglement with people who have a personal stake in fucking over Americans (and everyone else but other oligarchs for that matter) is actually dangerous. People could be killed over this.

    • KiddoMcLargeHuge

      Your line of thinking completely legitimizes the congressional GOPs collective head in the sand with regards to Trump.

      • postmodulator

        Yeah, and I don’t think they felt fully empowered to go through with it until Murc said he was okay with it. Way to break the postwar liberal consensus, Murc.

    • DamnYankeesLGM

      I would be 100% okay with an openly, nakedly corrupt Democratic president if they were signing everything a liberal Congress put in front of them and appointing forty-year-old socialist fire-breathers to the courts and to federal agencies. I’d take that deal.

      The word “corrupt” is doing a lot there. I wouldn’t be having anxiety if Trump was just enriching himself. But he’s tearing at the fabric of our whole system. Would you support a Democratic President who politicized the military, pardoned himself for crimes, attacked voting rights, etc.? Would you overturn our most basic democratic features to get these things? I’d like to think I would not.

      • mattmcirvin

        …especially, who went out of his way to stir up terrorist violence on his behalf?

      • McAllen

        And even if I were being completely partisan, I’d be worried about this president discrediting the Democratic party.

        • Murc

          I’m gonna be honest. I’ve started to think that political parties in the American context CAN’T be discredited, at least, not a meaningful way.

          The Republicans have proven that a conservative party can’t, at any rate. I am somewhat unsure the same immunity to being discredited applies to a liberal party but only somewhat.

          • McAllen

            You’re probably right that American political parties can’t be permanently discredited (although if I were a Republican I’d still be worried about it as a worst case scenario if Trump’s crimes prove to be disastrous enough). But I certainly think the Russia stuff is hurting Republicans, and if I were one I’d be strongly doubting whether it was worth it.

      • Murc

        Would you support a Democratic President who politicized the military,
        pardoned himself for crimes, attacked voting rights, was literally in
        hock to a foreign adversary, etc.?

        Depends. What are the alternatives on offer at the time?

        • DamnYankeesLGM

          Marco Rubio.

          This is not a hard choice, dude.

          • Murc

            If you think Marco Rubio wouldn’t politicize the military, pardon himself for crimes, and attack voting rights, I can only say that I do not agree with your assessment.

            • DamnYankeesLGM

              I think this is absurd. Marco Rubio is a ridiculously standard Republican. That’s, you know, bad, but it doesn’t mean he shares every trait that Donald Trump has.

              Donald Trump is uniquely unsuited to be the President of the United States. Just because both he and other Republicans would be bad doesn’t mean they are *equally* bad.

              I maintain, and make an effort to be serious about, my belief that Trump is worse in ways that are materially and integrally different than other standard Republicans. The moment you treat all members of your political opponents as embodying the traits of their very worst representatives is when you give yourself license to do *anything* to stop them. Which is what the GOP has done and its why they are in the position they are now in.

              • econoclast

                DamnYankeeLGM’s autocorrect dictionary consists solely of Unix commands.

                • DamnYankeesLGM

                  I don’t get it…

                • econoclast

                  You had a typo of “uniq”, which is a Unix command.

              • The Lorax

                Very well put.

        • aab84

          I would absolutely rather have a non-corrupt Republican administration than a liberal Trumpist one.

          • Murc

            So given the choice between corruption coupled with a policy agenda of saving the planet and helping the most vulnerable among us, and actively destroying said planet and putting the boot into the most vulnerable among us but in a completely above-board and non-corrupt way, you’d pick the latter?

            This seems dubious to me.

            • aab84

              Put as plainly as I can: if you promised me that I could have every single policy preference I have enacted (including the ones where I have odd, idiosyncratic views out of step with the traditional liberal mainstream), but that the only way to get it done would be through a corrupt, authoritarian, liberal Donald Trump who would destroy just about every Democratic norm we have, I’d reject the deal in a heartbeat.

              The how is exactly as important to me as the what.

              • Murc

                And if that promise included the addendum “if you reject this, you get the conservative policy agenda instead, including the overturning of Roe and ethnic cleansing?”

                • aab84

                  In a non-corrupt way? Yep. I’d be never-liberal-Trump all the way.

                • Rob in CT

                  I mean, what you’re saying is “winning is the only thing that matters.”

                  Now, I get that it’s not a game. Winning/losing in politics leads to actual policy outcomes that affect people’s lives.

                  And unless we destroy our representative democracy*, losing is only temporary. Awful, awful things can happen in the interim (see: the Dubya years), but losing an election isn’t the actual end of anything (ditto winning an election). The fight goes on.

                  * perhaps by too many of us embracing win at all costs I don’t care if my guy/gal’s corrupt as long as he/she does stuff I want.

                • D. C. Sessions

                  The fight only goes on if you haven’t destroyed the social capital that enables another season.

                • DamnYankeesLGM

                  The most important thing – far more than any individual policy other than in the most extreme cases – is sustaining democracy. If you we have free and fair elections with fair representation, then even if the current government imposes harsh policies we hate, there’s always a future to fight for. An ability to win.

                  If you throw out the democratic process in exchange for policy wins, you’re fucked. There’s no way to resolve disputes besides violence or submission. That world is far worse than the one where Roe v. Wade is overturned, in my view.

                • The Lorax

                  I’ve been imagining what I’d do if, say, Hugo Chavez came to power in the Democratic Party. Even if he had all the right policy preferences; I’d oppose him if he had no respect for the rule of law and Constitution.

                • rm_rm_rm

                  You keep adding ridiculously specific caveats to your hypothetical.

                  This reminds me of “ticking time bomb” arguments.

                  Or the anti-BLM racist wingnut I called out on facebook who had said drivers should run over protesters who block highways, and when I pointed out that would be murder, gave me a scenario in which I was riding in an ambulance with my child who was critically injured and the protesters blocked the ambulance and also they threatened to shoot us and also they were going to pull us out of the ambulance and rape us . . . .

        • McAllen

          If I may, Murc, it seems like you’re proposing a hypothetical choice between a Democratic president who is destroying the Republic and the actual Republican party, who are also destroying the Republic. In real life the choice is between Trump, who is destroying the Republic, and the Democrats, who are not. I know conservatives think they are, but they are self-evidently wrong.

      • Abigail Nussbaum

        Exactly. The ways in which Trump is corrupt and unfit for the presidency are in direct opposition to core progressive principles, right down to the value of democracy and the rule of law. The thought experiment of “what if there was a Democratic Trump” collapses in on itself immediately.

      • llennhoff

        This reminds me of the hypothetical of whether one would vote for Trump if he ran as a Democrat. You can’t have a open nakedly corrupt Democratic president and a liberal Congress for long. Either the corruption would have to be rooted out, or it would spread,

    • aab84

      Man, I wouldn’t take that deal at all. How you do things is as important as what you do. It’s why Huey Long was Bad.

      • DamnYankeesLGM

        I remember reading (I think it was by Bill James) that in the turn of the century there was some politician in a deep south state who was basically turning into a dictator for life – he’d actually lost re-election but due to his political connections had managed to overturn the results.

        He was then assassinated. James talks about how this was not a sad result given the tyranny that lay at hand. Kind of shook me that he could describe such a thing in an American state. But it can happen here.

      • cpinva

        “Man, I wouldn’t take that deal at all. How you do things is as important as what you do. It’s why Huey Long was Bad.”

        geez, you’re one of those, who think winning isn’t as good, if you don’t play by the rules. that’s why you’re a loser dude! you think Bill Belichick cares about the rules? hell no! all he cares about is winning, by whatever means necessary. you think Kraft cares about the rules? hell no, rules are for losers and rubes, winners win by doing whatever they need to do, and damn “the rules”!

      • The Lorax

        Ha! My friends who are big Huey Long supporters came out for Trump after Bernie left the race.

    • But when you talk about corruption

      Don’t you know that you can count me out

      • Don’t you know, it’s gonna be all white?

      • reattmore

        “In,” says John in an aside, on (wouldn’t you know it) the White Album.

    • Joel Wesson

      ‘But recently I’ve just been thinking “good god, there must be some truly, insanely, deeply toxic in sludge in there.” ‘

      Why would you write down insanely toxic sludge on your IRS forms? Wouldn’t that be likely to get you in a lot of trouble with the IRS?

      • Murc

        Toxic as in politically toxic, not illegal.

        I admit, it is hard for me to see what could be in there that’s worse than what we already know, but Trump is sure acting like there’s some crazy shit in there.

      • Dennis Orphen

        It would reveal the trailheads that lead deeper into the forest. Forensic accounting has to begin somewhere.

      • Solar System Wolf

        AFAIK, Trump’s still being audited.

    • Rob in CT

      This way lies madness.

      I mean, hell, I understand it. I’ve been increasingly radicalized. But no, Murc.

      This is the sort of thing that begets, say, Hugo Chavez (and yes, I know, the Right in Venezuela is awful!).

      • Murc

        Given the choice between Chavez and the Venezuelan right, I would absolutely pick Chavez.

        • Rob in CT

          Well, thankfully we have not yet faced that choice.

          And it’s our responsibility as Democrats to not allow it (by refusing to nominate a Dem version of Trump).

          If we do end up with this sort of choice, I will probably give in to despair.

          • Murc

            Oh yes, of course.

        • Pete

          But would you select them over Maduro?

    • rewenzo

      No, they could switch him for Pence. Trump is not necessary to their goals, just the most convenient. Will there be an electoral cost to doing so? Probably, but realistically 2020 is not going to go well for them anyway.

    • cpinva

      “But recently I’ve just been thinking “good god, there must be some truly, insanely, deeply toxic in sludge in there.”

      no, there isn’t, not on the surface anyway. you’d have to audit those returns, to find the toxic sludge. the example i’ll give is the recent disclosure of two pages of his (i think) 2005 returns. they showed a $15 mill. carryforward NOL, and $1 mill. current year NOL. all that proved is that he’s a lousy businessman, something we already knew from publicly available records. big deal. the toxic sludge sits in the source of those NOL’s, the related Partnership & S Corp. returns. those are the returns that would really need to be delved into, along with the foreign accounts he has control over. i’m going to assume he properly reported those also, unless he has a death wish. no ethical CPA would sign off on those returns, if he didn’t properly report them. further, that ethical CPA would memorandize his/her advice to Trump that he do so, to cover their butt. i know i sure as hell would.

      if, as he claims, he’s been constantly audited, the sludge would have been found by now. i know some of those guys in the Manhattan IRS office. they’re very good, and even more obnoxious than Trump, and i mean that in the best way. they wouldn’t have any compunction at all, about reaming him. it’s what they do, and they enjoy their work, as i did mine.

      it is possible the toxic sludge is of recent origin (meaning within the past few years). if so, it will eventually be discovered, it just takes a while. an individual like Donald Trump, who probably files a relatively huge 1040, takes a bit of time to examine properly, mostly because of those previously mentioned related returns. each one requires its own examination, though i suspect the majority of them have no activity. the ones that do can be time consuming: requesting/securing/reviewing all the source documents for major transactions. they aren’t overnite affairs.

      • D. C. Sessions

        An ordinary audit doesn’t go into the sources of monetary transfers as long as they’re properly declared and not claimed for special treatment. OTOH, they do point to stuff like RTNs that the IRS doesn’t care about but a prosecutor would — so these inquiries into his tax records may well provide clues to some seriously hinky deals.

    • I think your hypothetical is wholly backward. As an atheist, I am sorry to get Biblical, but as the Christ says, “you will know a tree by its fruits.” You say that you’d make this deal to advance liberal/progressive policy, but when in history has this deal been offered? When corruption/moral failings are revealed, we see time and again that the rot is deeper and more widespread than first imagined. Edwards, Blagojevich, et al. These guys get rooted out of the party for good reason, and good riddance.

    • econoclast

      I wouldn’t. Countries that don’t have a certain minimum of good governance eventually turn to shit. Look at Venezuela.

    • “To be honest, I have a hard time blaming them for this deal.”

      I don’t. I would certainly not be “100% okay with an openly, nakedly corrupt Democratic president if they were signing everything a liberal Congress put in front of them and
      appointing forty-year-old socialist fire-breathers to the courts and to
      federal agencies.”

      Of course, one does not have to be 100% okay with something to acquiesce to it, but understand what it would mean to acquiesce to this. And by “acquiesce”, I mean basically say “It’s too bad the President’s corrupt, but we must not allow the President to be held accountable for it under the law; we must allow the President to be above the law and to go on committing crimes with impunity.”

      To accept this would mean accepting authoritarian rule, because we are saying the ruler cannot be held accountable. It means either lying in the service of protecting the President from accountability (“There is no evidence of any wrongdoing! Fake news!”) or being brazenly authoritarian (“Our people won, so they can do whatever they want”). So we are corrupted as well. We corrupt ourselves, we accommodate and promote soft tyranny, and the last vestiges of democratic constraints on power are trampled underfoot.

      For me to accept it at all we would have to be pushed to into an extreme situation where the alternative would be even worse. Hopefully we will not get to that point. We are already far too close to it for comfort. But as for the idea that we could wholeheartedly embrace such a scenario– in such a notion, democracy as we know it is already dead.

      • nemdam

        Right, the only scenario where this would be acceptable is if the country devolved into a civil war between dictators like some of the old Roman civil wars. If the rule of law is already obsolete, I guess I would go with the guy who’s closer to my values. But I’m gonna go out on a limb and say our country hasn’t devolved that far.

    • nemdam

      This is appalling. In fact, this is pretty much authoritarianism.

      As long as you feel you have your guy in charge doing what you want, you will turn a blind eye to any and all corruption and criminality because you think he has your back. This is a mindset that enables tyranny. In a race against a Trump-like ideal liberal vs a Jeb Bush, I would vote for Jeb every time and not think twice. Two reasons.

      1) What makes you think this President would have your back? A President
      this nakedly corrupt obviously doesn’t care at all about a liberal
      agenda and will only act in a way to enrich himself. If this means
      enacting liberal polices, OK. If this means implementing conservative
      policies, he’s all for it. He will only be out for himself and there’s
      no incentive for him to actually help people. He will basically sell the
      government to the highest bidder, and if they don’t want liberal policies?
      Too bad.

      2) I have no idea how one can be an ideal liberal with Trump’s flaunting of the law. A core tenet of liberalism is equal protection under the law. If the President will not allow himself to be held accountable, there’s no reason to think he will enforce the law fairly. He will protect those that enrich him, express apathy at those who do not, and punish those who oppose him. It is incompatible to uphold liberal values while being this nakedly corrupt.

      No matter the rhetoric or politics, a country run by a man who is so flagrant in abusing the law will inevitably devolve into a corrupt autocracy with the winners being only those who can somehow enrich the President. Whatever your thoughts on pre-Trump Republicans, they did not do this and made a commitment to the rule of law. A society that does not do this is one run by autocrats, and there is no way that an autocracy is in any way compatible with liberal ideals.

  • reattmore

    I keeping hoping every morning when I wake up that it was all a bad dream, that it’s still the first Wednesday morning in November and someone sane has got elected last night. No luck so far . . .

    • econoclast

      I’ve recovered at this point, but for months after the election, every few days my mind would reel at the thought that Trump was actually President.

  • postmodulator

    See also: Josh Marshall pointing out that the Constitutional crisis is already here, given that Trump is signaling that he will permit no real investigation.

    There turns out to have been a lot more unexploded ordnance in the Constitution than just the Electoral College. And Trump is picking it all up and shaking it.

  • BiloSagdiyev

    I really have to say that at this point, in Muppet terms, Sam the American Eagle type conservatism is dead and gone.

    • McAllen

      Absolutely. All the nationalist Republicans are gone, replaced by people who care either about white christiandom (and thus see Russia as an ally) or their own political careers.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Thank you. The whole “us white Christians vs. the swarthy A-rabs!” angle of his Putinfluffing has gone pretty much undiscussed in the MSM.

      • Bizarro Mike

        I’m still a bit dizzy seeing the Sams vanish so fast after Obama left office. They were all weeping over what he supposedly had done to the constitution and whispering about his collusions with (always unnamed) foreign powers.

        • Pete

          There are still a few out there — just not in elected office. You can see them on Twitter. They may be a source for a new minor party by 2020, because it’s hard to see them reconciling with the Trump cult or his enablers.

  • Urizon

    The entire GOP leadership knew about the collusion. It would be the equivalent of the getaway driver prosecuting the guys who pulled the heist.

    • postmodulator

      If it helps, the getaway driver turns on the guys who pulled the heist all the time. Of course, given the vagaries of the American judicial system, sometimes the guys who pulled the heist get six weeks and they put the getaway driver under the jail.

  • sigaba

    They would get neoconfederate judges and tax cuts with Pence, for a lot less heartburn.

    But they’d all be primaried. Trump is the only thing Republican base voters actually support about the Republican party. They don’t care about tax cuts, they don’t want Obamacare repealed, they don’t care about judges any further than who appointed them. What they want are symbolic victories on crank issues– border wall, removing the Mexican scourge from American life, purging BLM and SJWs in the most telegenic and loud way possible.

    • KiddoMcLargeHuge

      But exactly how strong is that base that loves them some 45? Even marginal defections are going to hurt them, given the narrowness of their victory. And there’s the whole ‘fewer people are IDing as Republicans which buoys up his support’ way of thinking as well.

      They may think they need to be afraid of their base wrt Trump, but I think it’s pretty shaky.

      • WHERE THE FUCK do you get the idea that fewer people are identifying as Republicans? Because there is no evidence of this happening. None. Nada. Zip. There is at best a leveling off in the rate of increase.


        The only group losing in the Partisan Identification battle is the DEMOCRATS. Which is absolutely not a good thing!

    • sq1learning

      “Able bodied coloreds need to go out and get a real job and stop raking in the welfare bribes, and libtards have to stop mucking up the intertubes with their fake news and communisms.”

      (Reduction of dialog overheard at garage sale in Cleveland this past weekend.)

      • And the sad this is, this idiot still gets 1 vote.

        • Lurking Canadian

          The really sad thing is that determined Reublican vote suppression means the idiot effectively gets more than one vote.

      • sigaba

        Exactly, they want phoney problems compalined about as loudly as possible. They don’t want solutions, they don’t want a tax cut, they just want the new host of the America Show to tell all the right jokes.

    • mattmcirvin

      I read them on Facebook–they do so want Obamacare repealed. They just don’t know what the phrase “Obamacare repealed” actually means. They think it means their insurance premiums will go down.

  • MacCheerful

    As an exhibit on how establishment R’s will consider a Mueller firing I give you Rich Lowry at NRO:


    For those who do not wish to click, Rich takes a “purely analytic perspective” and here is the take on the case for firing:

    The only reason firing Mueller makes sense on Trump’s terms is if Trump finds it so intolerable that this investigation has reportedly spread from a Russia-collusion story to his business dealings that he simply can’t let it go, either because he thinks it’s so unfair or because he has things to worry about in his past. Even if it’s the latter, it would still be better to see what Mueller comes up with, and resort to the “old news” or “everyone — or every real-estate mogul — does it” defense, if it comes that.

    All that said, if Trump is determined to fire him (and cares about it more than the prospects of tax reform), sooner probably makes more political sense than later — it will be an incredible shock to the system and the more time it has to absorb it, the better.

    They are prepared to hunker down under the rain of insults from late night hosts and various t.v. commentators and then just move on. The idea that Congress would impeach isn’t really on the radar, regardless of what Mueller comes up with respect to business fraud or crimes unrelated to Russia.

    • howard

      no matter what kind of wave election 2018 might possibly be (i make no predictions), we aren’t going to end up with 67 democratic senators, so the odds of even a wave-based democratic house impeaching doesn’t get us very far: i can’t see any gop senators whom i would today regard as likely “guilty” vote.

      • D. C. Sessions

        The unanswered question is how many Republican Senators are going with the herd because of pressure? At what point would some of them find (as with Nixon) that continuing to support an unpopular President despite the extremely-well-publicized weight of evidence from the media saturation coverage of the trial was simply not a viable career choice, if not an even worse hazard?

        Even Senators have families, friends, and others outside of politics whose opinions matter to them.

        • The unanswered question is how many Republican Senators are going with the herd because of pressure? At what point would some of them find (as with Nixon) that continuing to support an unpopular President despite the extremely-well-publicized weight of evidence from the media saturation coverage of the trial was simply not a viable career choice, if not an even worse hazard?

          Questions answered: All and zero, in that order.

        • At what point would some of them find (as with Nixon) that continuing
          to support an unpopular President despite the extremely-well-publicized
          weight of evidence from the media saturation coverage of the trial was
          simply not a viable career choice, if not an even worse hazard?

          For any Republican, voting to convict Trump is a guaranteed career-ending decision. No ifs, ands, or buts. The Republican party would never allow them to run again after such a betrayal. And they wouldn’t be getting any of the private industry positions that retired Republican Senators usually get either.

          So the answer is, as CV Danes said, Zero.

  • Bizarro Mike

    You guys, going after a president over past real estate deals is totally unprecedented and wrong. Also no one knows how real estate could be used to launder Russian money because it has never been done. That's why the government settled that case for only $6m and no admission of guilt.

  • DamnYankeesLGM

    Someone tell me if I’ve been too dour recently. Over the past week, I’ve genuinely struggled with a stone on my heart over what seems like could be the genuine end of the Republic as we know it. If Trump pardons himself and the GOP does nothing, it’s basically over. The GOP will have carte blanche to literally do anything with the knowledge that they will be pardoned – and this “anything” wouold include doing whatever is necessary to ensure the Democrats never win a federal election again, including soliciting foreign interference to ensure that.

    It just seems like its over if that happens. And it’ll be over in entirely plain sight. The GOP, even though it has the slimmest of majorities, will just choose to let this happen. And why? Fuck me, I don’t know. But I can’t help but feel a profound angst about it. We’re standing on the precipice and I don’t see a way off unless Collins, Heller and Murkowski all get together and collectively announce they are leaving the GOP to become independents.

    Which will never happen. I despair.

    • McAllen

      Honestly even if Trump resigned tomorrow, the Republic would still be in a lot of trouble given the modern Republican party.

      • DamnYankeesLGM

        This is true, but there’s a world of difference between “alot of trouble” and where we are now.

      • howard

        even if he resigns (which i truly do not expect), he isn’t going away, which is a further aspect of the trouble we are in….

    • BiloSagdiyev

      You’re not the only one.

      Here’s a grim little ditty from the 90’s by some angry young men.

      When freedom is in hiding from morality, when you’ve finally scrubbed this great land clean of those values you hold in such high esteem, when you’ve finally divorced the numbers from the names we can return to your ‘good old
      days’ bound and gagged by sex and race, chained by family, crazed by god.

      While we raise the flag, shout down the past, the stars and stripes stream by at half mast. Your eyes well up with tears, and yeah so do mine. I never knew the high price of hypocrisy; so pledge allegiance to the death penalty. Believe in your drug war, bow down to the TV set; you need to cultivate that apathy that swells inside your throat. Raise the flag, shout down the past. Your stars and stripes stream by at half mast.

      Your eyes well up with tears, and yeah so do mine. Half mast: dehumanized, half mast: divided, half mast: overloaded, half mast: who the fuck cares.

      So long as you can sleep well under the iron fist.

      Set to horrible music at:

    • Dennis Orphen

      In the heat of a summer night

      In the land of the dollar bill….

    • No, we are in a genuine constitutional crisis, and you have genuine reasons to be concerned.

    • Solar System Wolf

      I’m with you. I think the U.S. is in for a few lost decades in the best-case scenario. I really don’t think my children should continue to live here. I think they can do better.

      • nemdam

        If only someone could run against Trump asking what kind of country we are where children will grow up with him as President. Actually, nah. People will probably just say the message is too negative and hysterical.

    • The Lorax

      They will get away with this because of our stupid fucking media. They will ride both-sides-do-it ism until the Republic is destroyed. And at that point Morning Edition will report on it as a story about how both sides claim different things.

    • nemdam

      Exactly, and this is why I feel despair at every pundit (and sad to say, this does include Scott) who glibly asserts “Republicans will do nothing about Trump firing Mueller/Russian collusion. Oh well, I guess we will have to show them in 2018!” If Trump can declare himself above the law, the Republic is effectively finished. I hate to be so dramatic about it, but I can’t think why it wouldn’t be. If Trump will not be held accountable for anything, I see no reason to believe he won’t remove the last check on his power which is free and fair elections. Leaders in other countries have fixed elections before; there’s no reason it can’t happen here.

      And if Trump will never be held accountable, what’s to stop him from, say, packing/defying the courts? Or going after journalists? Or putting tax dollars directly into his pocket? Or threatening and bribing members of Congress who don’t rubber stamp his legislation? Or requiring the military to swear an oath to him personally? Or disregard our basic freedoms in infinitely horrifying ways? At this point, he is a tyrant and the history of how you oppose them is, well, not good.

      Maybe this is naivete to help me sleep at night, but this is ultimately why I think Trump will be removed. When our country has to finally face the facts about the consequences of allowing Trump’s criminality to go unchecked, in some way or another, the country will oppose the path of autocracy and Trump will be rejected. It will not be easy, dealing with the fallout will be painful, but given the alternative, I believe it will happen especially given Trump’s unpopularity.

  • aab84

    This will no doubt look naive in the extreme two weeks from now, but while I think defending Trump to the death for firing Mueller is absolutely the right move for the GOP from a political perspective, I actually don’t think they’ll do it. It’s such a brazen, blatant move that it’s essentially throwing the rule of law out the window and fundamentally and permanently altering the balance of power between Congress and the White House.

    I have no doubt that, like, James Inhofe will go along gleefully. But I legitimately think firing Mueller earns Trump real backlash from enough Senate Republicans to make his life difficult.

    • Yixing’s Fluffer

      Thoughts running through Republicans’ minds right now:
      1. We got no credit for forcing Nixon to resign. Slaughtered in ’74.
      2. Iran-Contra disaster avoided by sticking with WH.
      3. Clinton’s crimes just as bad as Trump’s; both sides do it.

      • aab84

        I’ve made this exact point before and still think it’s 100% right politically. But there’s a point at which politics isn’t the only thing that matters if you still want to have a Republic. Firing Robert Mueller is that point.

        • Yixing’s Fluffer

          I think what’s different now is the GOP is one bad election away from losing any last bit of control over the far right wackos.

        • sigaba

          Some genuinely believe that Russiagate is a politically-motivated prosecution for things “everybody does” or everybody would do if given the opportunity.

          Some think the Republic can only exist if conservative people of European extraction dominate its politics.

          Some would rather be rubber-stamp US Senators than legendary, honorable city councilmen.

          • mattmcirvin

            I remember the “everybody does it” excuse for Watergate as well, even coming from liberals years after Nixon resigned.

            • DamnYankeesLGM

              It’s probably also truer for Watergate. The crimes committed in Watergate are of the type that I would think are much more common than what Trump & Co. appear to have committed.

              • Solar System Wolf

                I think the new crimes are actually a more sophisticated riff on the old ones. Instead of getting our own burglars, let’s have a foreign ally do the work while we claim plausible deniability!

        • McAllen

          How many Republicans want to keep a Republic? I really think a lot of them would like to have a one party state.

          • rudolf schnaubelt

            They don’t care about the republic. Property rights are all.

          • nemdam

            This is the question, isn’t it? Honestly, if the vast majority of Republicans don’t even want a democracy, then there’s a real chance the Republic is over.

        • Your mistake is that you assume the Republicans want to have a Republic.

          They do not. They will be perfectly happy with a fake “republic” along the lines of Putin’s Russia or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

      • postmodulator

        There may be individual Senators who remember that Barry Goldwater gets to be remembered as an honorable man because he led the delegation that told Nixon to give up. I don’t know how strong a force that is in any of their minds, though.

        • howard

          the difference is that in 1974, there was much greater ideological diversity across both parties. the great ideological and geographical sorting of the last 43 years makes the notion of this kind of statesmanship from the gop less and less likely.

          • mattmcirvin

            Frank Rich pointed out the flip side of that: while the Republicans were much less united behind Nixon, Nixon also had a lot of allies among the Democrats, and Trump has none.

            Rich thinks Trump’s position is more precarious than it looks, and that the situation has more in common with Watergate than we think. The difference with unknown effects is just that Trump’s coalition basically is the Republican party, whereas Nixon’s was somewhat bipartisan. I guess we’ll see.

            • DamnYankeesLGM

              It’s also precarious simply because all of this is happening in objectively good exogenous circumstances. If there’s a recessions, or a natural disaster, or an attack…who knows.

              • mattmcirvin

                Attacks by enemies give you power and legitimacy in the short term. What Dubya Bush did with that was bad enough. Trump after a 9/11-like crisis might erode the democratic correction mechanism so severely that once it goes sour and his popularity drops, there’s still no way to dislodge him short of civil war.

            • howard

              in the end, though, nixon had no democratic supporters that mattered: peter rodino had the support of all the democrats on the judiciary committee and basically turned to the moderate republicans and said “you write the articles of impeachment.”

              as a result, rodino got all the democratic votes on the articles except for two southerners on the third article of impeachment, and 1/3 of the gop (6 out of 17) supported articles 1 and 2 (only 2 supported article 3).

              if a democratic wave election put the dems in a house majority, i don’t know who the new chair of judiciary would be, but i’m highly confident that there is zero likelihood of 1/3 of the republican members joining in an impeachment.

        • Yixing’s Fluffer

          Given the choice, almost any Republican would rather be Trump than McCain. They don’t care about prestige – they want power.

        • rewenzo

          The issue is history won’t remember any of these guys individually anyway. (Goldwater was already famous. Booting Nixon didn’t earn him his bones.) These guys will only get their comeuppance (if ever) at the ballot box. There will never be a truth and reconciliation commission where these assholes are exposed and humiliated for the craven scum there are (among other reasons, this would do violence to the sacred principles of senatorial comity). May as well loot the republic, collect your $174,000, and relax.

          • DamnYankeesLGM

            The issue is history won’t remember any of these guys individually anyway.

            I’m not sure you can be so confident in this. There’s no real precedent here. To state an obvious example, we just had a pretty famous movie come out a few years ago which focuses heavily on several back bench Democrats who voted for the 13th amendment, breaking with their party. History remembered them.

            Is that enough to make someone like Collins do this? Maybe not. But it’s not because she’ll be forgotten by history. It’s because she doesn’t want to do it.

            • N__B

              I thought that Collins was driven by her upcoming run for governor and wanting to appear to not be a lickspittle to lunatics.

            • rewenzo

              Yes, they will be known to American history nerds. And if somebody makes a musical or movie about that period in history, they may even become briefly known to 2% of Americans who see it.

              • DamnYankeesLGM

                Isn’t that basically what “known to history” means?

          • Rand Careaga

            Your $174,000 figure is, essentially, an urban legend. John Dingell, and others of his political generation (few served that long), might receive pensions in that neighborhood, but anyone who joined Congress after 1984 comes under a considerably stingier plan. Not that most of them don’t have other income streams…

        • cpinva

          none at all, they think Goldwater was a traitor.

      • DamnYankeesLGM

        Who is “we” here?

        Imagine if Trump fires Mueller and/or pardons himself. And then you have a clique – say Collins, Murkowski, Heller, maybe one or two others – who get up a say “given these events, we have decided to vote for and demand an investigation of what happened, and if that doesn’t occur with the GOP leadership in charge of the Senate, then we will put the Democrats in charge to make it happen.”

        These people would become pretty famous in American history. Assuming there’s a real problem with the Russia connection, they’d be heralded as heroic. I can see why they would do that.

        I don’t think they *will* do it, of course. I’d put the odds under 2%. But there’s a pretty good story there if they *wanted* to do it.

        • mds

          John Bush is a documented serial liar and a far-right bigoted reactionary sack of sewage. The egregiously unsuitable John Bush now has a lifetime federal judgeship thanks to … how many Republican senators again? Oh, right, all of them except the absent McCain (who would have been Yes). So I think even setting the ceiling at 2% is a wee bit optimistic.

          • DamnYankeesLGM

            Maybe. But fi John Bush’s appointment was a huge news story, if activists were rallying around it, if its where the political pressure was…maybe a few wouldn’t vote for him.

            I’m not saying Collins or Murkowski would do this out of sincere belief. I’m saying they might if there’s a chance to look heroic on the stage of history. They would get no reward for vetoing John Bush. They might for standing up to Trump. Maybe.

            Again, not likely. But a different situation than voting against an appellate court judge that wasn’t in the news.

            • mds

              Yeah, well, I can see the calculus is different. But only if their voter base is already sufficiently squishy on the subject. You come at the king, you’d best not miss. They’re only heroes if they win. (I know you made it sufficiently equivocal. I’m just harping on it some more.)

              • DamnYankeesLGM

                But only if their voter base is already sufficiently squishy on the subject. You come at the king, you’d best not miss. They’re only heroes if they win.

                Sure, but you don’t need many to “win” here. 3 is enough. And wouldn’t Heller, Collins and Murkowski all be better off as independents anyway?

          • econoclast

            You’re comparing confirming a shitty judge to abetting treason by the Office of Presidency?

            • mds

              I’m saying that they will support him unless or until it’s a net negative to their personal prospects. So yeah, right now if Donald Trump beat an adorable puppy to death on national television, some of them might express concerns that they’re uncomfortable with the questions raised by the philosophical concept of puppy bludgeoning, then line up to support a sense of the Senate that this puppy had it coming. Because they are morally-bankrupt piles of shit, just like the core of their voting base. If they weren’t morally-bankrupt piles of shit, they wouldn’t still be Republicans.

      • Barry_D

        “Thoughts running through Republicans’ minds right now:
        1. We got no credit for forcing Nixon to resign. Slaughtered in ’74.
        2. Iran-Contra disaster avoided by sticking with WH.
        3. Clinton’s crimes just as bad as Trump’s; both sides do it.”

        4 years after Nixon trashed the place, we retook the Senate (’78).
        2 years after trashing the place and losing in ’08, we retook Congress.
        In the end, it would take the Great Depression *and* holding that bag to put a dent in us.

    • DamnYankeesLGM

      It’s such a brazen, blatant move that it’s essentially throwing the rule of law out the window and fundamentally and permanently altering the balance of power between Congress and the White House.

      Ryan gave an interview this morning supporting Mueller, which was good. But of course he did it in a chickenshit way. He was being pressed on the fact that Mueller’s team members had previously donated to Clinton, and Ryan pushed back saying that they are Republicans.

      I really wish he hadn’t done that. Dude is the Speaker of the House, and needs to reaffirm the idea that we need to have faith that people of any political ideology can effectively carry out the law. Ryan effectively conceded that law enforcement by Democrats is illegitimate. If we as a society can’t agree that Democrats and Republicans are both capable of executing the law, we’re done for.

      • Marlowe

        Don’t you see, only true died in the wool Rethuglicans (including staff) can conduct investigations of political figures. Any investigator with any Democratic ties at all is hopelessly conflicted when investigating a Rethuglican. And any investigator with any Democratic ties at all is hopelessly biased when investigating a Democrat. AS is usual with the standards of the modern Rethuglican Party, heads they win, tails you lose.

      • nemdam

        It is total chickenshit, but for Ryan, that’s encouraging. It’s microscopic, but I can’t remember Ryan every rebutting any of Trump’s talking points no matter how softly. There are a few other minor moves that make me think a few Republicans at least thinking of abandoning ship, and this Ryan comment only adds to my belief.

    • sigaba

      An issue is that in the event, no overt act is required from Congress. He fires Mueller and the Republican congresional leadership merely need to do nothing. None of them are very big on standing up for him but they haven’t displayed any tendency to but the brakes on anything. On exception is maybe the Russia sanctions bill.

  • smartone2

    People forget that famous 2012 quote from Grover Norquist
    “”. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it. ”

    So basically Republicans got the guy who can hold a pen with a tremendous amount of baggage

    So far Obamacare repeal is not passing not because Trump is corrupt and in bed with Russians but because Republicans can figure out a way to sale this pile of crap of a bill to public.

    So yes Republicans are going to let Trump do whatever he wants to make sure they have the guy with the pen ..

  • KeithB

    Pardons won’t necessarily stop the investigation. Pardons cover past offences, not offences committed in the future. In particular, they don’t cover perjury about past crimes. People who have been pardoned can’t plead the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying, because they have no legal liability for crimes they’ve already been pardoned for. If they then lie under oath, they can still be convicted of perjury. In addition to being an admission of guilt, pardoning his co-conspirators may make Trump more exposed than he is now.

    • nominal

      Pardons absolutely can stop the investigation. People can just ignore the subpoena, the President can give them a pardon for not showing up, and that’s it. Rinse and repeat until Trump’s out of office.

      • KeithB

        I don’t think the President can pardon someone for civil contempt. If you refuse to testify, the judge just sends a marshal to put you in jail until you give in. There’s no crime, so there’s nothing to pardon. I suppose you could flee the country or go into hiding to avoid a subpoena, but you can’t just ignore it.

    • Wapiti

      Which is why President Bush I pardoned Caspar Weinberger as late as possible, after Bush lost to Clinton, but before Weinberger’s trial started.

    • reattmore

      Pardons won’t necessarily stop the investigation.

      So, Trump pardons everyone in sight, and says there is no longer any need for an independent counsel. Mueller isn’t fired, exactly–he’s laid off as redundant and unnecessary. Democrats claiming there is still a need for further investigation are just being partisan and wasting the public's money.

      • DamnYankeesLGM

        It’s not really clear what a pardon would look like which could undercut an investigation, because the pardon would need to state what exactly you’re being pardoned for in a way such that no investigation could *possibly* include crimes not covered by a pardon. I’m not sure that such a pardon could be drafted in an enforceable way.

        • Deborah Bender

          Ford’s pardon of Nixon was very broadly worded.

          • Just_Dropping_By

            But never tested in court, IIRC.

        • Richard Gadsden

          Surely you could pardon someone for “any and all Offences they may have committed or may commit in future against the United States”?

  • cpinva

    “Remember: Trump can continue to hide his tax returns, inter tot alia, because Ryan and McConnell are allowing him to.”

    no, he can continue to hide them, because there’s no law mandating he give them out. presidential candidates disseminating their tax returns is only custom. at that, it’s a fairly recent custom, not going back to the inception of income taxes. McConnell & Ryan could scream/pout/threaten all they want, and Trump will tell them to go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut, and there’s zilch they could do about it, short of impeachment. that isn’t going to happen, even if Trump turns into a werewolf, and starts killing/eating people, on live tv, as long as he signs off on their legislation.

    • DamnYankeesLGM

      Can’t his returns be subpeonad by Congress as part of an investigation? I think that’s what Scott’s referring to.

  • Oppen

    You know that Mueller’s position was created by statute, right?

    And that there are statutory procedures for removing him that are not as simple as just firing him?

    You might want to look into these relevant facts before writing op-eds that don’t mention them.

    • aab84

      The independent counsel position was eliminated years ago. There’s no statute anymore. Mueller’s position is governed by regulation, not statute.

      Sick burn, though.

  • This makes me wonder about some of the second order effects that have to start manifesting strongly (not that they haven’t already) in terms of brain drain for the Republican organization.

    When you all but admit that your party is a money making scheme which doesn’t care about the rule of law or even pretend to care about effective policy, and for which intelligence is only an asset in so far as you can detect whose ass to kiss and when to switch asses, you aren’t going to attract the basic level of competent, decent people necessary for any organization to survive.

    This has been going on for a while with the Republicans, but the asymmetry has been undeniably obvious for at least the past 20 years, and the current batch of Trump sycophants and cretins may just be the tip of the iceberg of idiocy coming that way.

    • You talking about a political party whose base is a group of people the majority of whom believe that higher education is a threat to the republic. Intelligence is not an asset with this group.

      • I agree, but I just wonder how possible it is medium-long term to hold together a complex organization where intelligence and decency are themselves exclusionary criteria.

        • Dennis Orphen

          You only have to be smarter than the people whose pockets you’re picking, a bar so low to clear it might as well be the shadow of a pole upon the ground.

        • Organized crime has been doing it for thousands of years.

  • Bloix

    “and he can pre-emptively pardon anyone who might be implicated in illegal activity on behalf of Trump himself.”

    There’s nothing in the Constitution that expressly permits the president to pardon someone before they’ve been convicted. That interpretation was adopted by the Supreme Court in 1866 in a case called Ex parte Garland. IMHO it was wrong then and it’s wrong now. It violates the separation of powers by usurping the powers of the courts and it makes any president who wants to be a dictator into one.

    • altofront

      Wasn’t Ford’s pardon of Nixon pre-emptive? “[I] do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.” It wasn’t pre-emptive in the sense of covering future crimes, but obviously there was no conviction, or even indictment, when it was made.

      • Just_Dropping_By

        Yes, but I don’t believe any prosecutor ever actually tested the validity of that pardon in court, did they?

  • What we have right now is the rule without the law, and a political party that (quite successfully) wants to rule forever.

    • Dennis Orphen

      You say political party, I say criminal organization.

    • random

      If they can’t even pass their signature policy that they’ve been loudly promising for years, are they really ‘ruling’?

      • Dennis Orphen

        Agree, but they never gave a shit about that signature policy. In fact, they never even had a policy, just a club to beat the Dems and rile up the base with.

  • Yes, the thought of a Republican Congress impeaching Donald never ceases to amaze me. He is too useful to them and the blowback from the GOP, I’m sure, frightens them. Besides, I’m sure impeachment wouldn’t make their special interests happy either.

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