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Federalist Society not nearly fascist enough for Stephen Miller


Here’s a truly terrifying article from Maggie’s troll farm. The gist is that revenant Joseph Goebbels, aka Stephen Miller, is leading an effort to stock the second Trump administration with lawyers who will weaponize the vast powers of the federal government for the explicit purpose of persecuting Donald Trump’s enemies, real and perceived.

“The Federalist Society doesn’t know what time it is,” said Russell T. Vought, a former senior Trump administration official who runs a think tank with close ties to the former president. He argued that many elite conservative lawyers had proved to be too timid when, in his view, the survival of the nation is at stake.

Such comments may surprise those who view the Federalist Society as hard-line conservatives. But the move away from the group reflects the continuing evolution of the Republican Party in the Trump era and an effort among those now in his inner circle to prepare to take control of the government in a way unseen in modern presidential history.

This sounds really bad . . . and it gets a lot worse:

By the end of his term, lawyers he appointed early in his administration had angered the White House by raising legal concerns about various policy proposals. But Mr. Trump reserved his deepest rage for the White House and Justice Department legal officials who largely rejected his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, according to people who spoke with him. Casting about for alternative lawyers who would tell him what he wanted to hear, Mr. Trump turned for that effort to a group of outside lawyers, many of whom have since been indicted in Georgia.

People close to the former president say they are seeking out a different type of lawyer committed to his “America First” ideology and willing to endure the personal and professional risks of association with Mr. Trump. They want lawyers in federal agencies and in the White House who are willing to use theories that more establishment lawyers would reject to advance his cause. This new mind-set matches Mr. Trump’s declaration that he is waging a “final battle” against demonic “enemies” populating a “deep state” within the government that is bent on destroying America.

Final battles with demonic enemies rarely provide a final solution, except in the Bible and similar texts. Umberto Eco:

For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. This, however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such a “final solution” implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded in solving this predicament.

Oh stop being hysterical.

Hard-right allies of Mr. Trump increasingly speak of typical Federalist Society members as “squishes” too worried about maintaining their standing in polite society and their employment prospects at big law firms to advance their movement’s most contentious tactics and goals. . .

But the union between Mr. Trump and the conservative legal establishment could be more fraught than it sometimes appeared. As his presidency wore on, Mr. Trump attacked and sidelined many of the lawyers around him. That included Mr. Leo.

One episode, described by a person familiar with the incident, illustrates the larger chill.

In January 2020, Mr. Leo was having dinner at Mar-a-Lago when Mr. Trump strode up to his table. The president stunned Mr. Leo, publicly berating him and accusing him of recommending the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who appointed a special counsel to investigate ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

Taken aback, Mr. Leo protested that he had actually suggested someone else for the position — Mr. Cipollone. Mr. Trump walked away without apologizing.

Nearly a year later, when Mr. Trump was trying to enlist legal assistance for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, he reached out three times to Mr. Leo. But Mr. Leo declined to take or return Mr. Trump’s calls, and has since only dealt with him through others.

Those leopards are getting pretty hungry!

Mr. Paoletta also believed that Mr. Trump could have exerted greater personal control over the Justice Department, although Mr. Paoletta said in an interview that he did not advocate using the presidency’s command over federal law enforcement for partisan and personal score-settling. He and other advisers likely to follow Mr. Trump back into power view White House authority to direct the Justice Department as proper under the so-called unitary executive theory. It holds that presidents can directly command the entire federal bureaucracy and that pockets of independent decision-making authority are unconstitutional.

“I believe a president doesn’t need to be so hands-off with the D.O.J.,” Mr. Paoletta said, adding: “It’s not an independent agency, and he is the head of the executive branch. A president has every right to direct D.O.J. to look at items that are his policy priorities and other matters of national importance.”

Mr. Trump is not known for pondering legal philosophy. But he has found common cause with lawyers who have a sweeping view of presidential power.

In his 2024 campaign, Mr. Trump has promised to “appoint a real special prosecutor to go after” President Biden and his family — shattering the post-Watergate norm of Justice Department independence. More than any legal policy statement on his campaign website, retribution may be the closest thing to a governing philosophy for Mr. Trump as he seeks a second term.

Mr. Trump has rarely looked closely at a lawyer’s area of specialty. Instead, he has often looked at whether a particular lawyer can help him gain something he wants. He spent much of his first term railing against the lawyers who worked for him and wondering aloud why none of them could live up to the memory of his notoriously ruthless mentor, Roy Cohn, who represented Mr. Trump in his early business career in New York.

Here’s my personal favorite graph in this whole train wreck:

Mr. Trump was also infuriated that the justices he had put on the Supreme Court declined to repay his patronage by intervening in the 2020 election. As Mr. Trump criticized the court, Mr. Leo with the Federalist Society is said to have told associates he was disappointed that the former president’s rhetoric made his judicial appointment record look “transactional,” aimed at advancing Mr. Trump’s personal interests rather than a broader philosophical mission.

Conservative elites support a populist demagogue, because they’re confident they can ultimately control this crude and clownish buffoon to advance their own interests, while keeping the demagogue under sufficient control so that things don’t get too out of hand? Where does this story line go again?

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