Above The Law

On May 1, 1977 David Frost had the interview of his career. This was three years after Nixon resigned. Nixon was working on his memoirs and his publicist believed that these interviews would boost his popularity. Frost was able to get Nixon to admit that he DID cover up the Watergate burglary but that it wasn’t obstruction of justice because, in Nixon’s opinion, the President can’t do anything illegal.

Trump’s lawyer just floated the same defense for Trump.

This argument was first proposed by Alan Dershowitz this summer after the Comey firing. That argument has been dismissed by many legal scholars since including the Brookings Institute. In their document entitled “Presidential Obstruction of Justice: The Case of Donald J. Trump” they make the case that even if Trump had this authority (which is highly suspect) he cannot exercise it for corrupt purposes. Stopping an investigation into crimes committed by those in the White House is corrupt.

The problem is that Trump’s claim isn’t just for past actions. His attorney was asserting his ability to intervene in “any case” that may come up in the future. If the Mueller investigation is able to turn up credible evidence linking Trump to the crimes of others, Trump is asserting his right to “express his view” by firing everyone associated with the investigation.

Dowd is basically arguing that as the chief law enforcement officer, Trump has the authority to block investigations into himself, his allies and into his friends, and nothing he does can be construed as obstruction of justice,” Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman, told me this morning. “The logical extension of all this is that Trump can try to remove Mueller and it would be entirely legitimate.

But this ultimately won’t be a legal issue. It is a political one. That’s why the authors of the constitution gave Congress broad authority to hold the executive and judicial branches accountable for actions that were damaging to the country, even if they weren’t illegal.

Which brings us to the current problem.

Trump feels as though he can largely act with impunity because no matter what he does Republican Party leaders stand with him.

Here’s a brief list of his actions over the past couple of weeks.

  • Disputed the validity of the Hollywood Access tapes – No Republican response
  • Distributed inflammatory European anti-Muslim videos – British respond. Mild Republican response
  • Calls Sen. Warren Pocahontas at a meeting with American Indians – no Republican response
  • Piled on the sexual assault claims of celebrities and Democrats while ignoring accusations against himself and other Republicans – no Republican response
  • Wrongly claimed that the tax plan doesn’t benefit him – no Republican response
  • Endorses Roy Moore – Republican leaders (including McConnell) back off of their previous condemnations

He may be right when he says, “Hey look, I’m President. I don’t care. I don’t care anymore.”

He understands that he has the Republican Party right where he wants them. They need the passage of a tax bill (any tax bill) to support their campaign in 2018. They are not going to abandon Trump and risk fracturing the party when they are on the cusp of winning. He’s how EJ Dionne characterized it.

Don’t count on Republican politicians abandoning Trump quickly now that their tax victory is in sight. They and the president have a lot more in common than either side wants to admit. The primary loyalty they share is not to God or country or republican virtue. It is to the private accumulation of money, and this is a bond not easily broken.

The reality is that sexual assault and pedophilia are now acceptable as long as you are a Republican.

You need no more evidence than the tax plan to understand that the Republican Party does not care about the white working class voters that put them in office. When questioned about the faulty math in that bill Chuck Grassley said, we’re not talking about math here, we’re talking about philosophy. That philosophy is that what is good for business and good for the wealthy is good for the country.

What is happening instead is that Trump is remaking the Republican Party in his own image. By their silence, they are allowing Trump to define what the party stands for.

The Moore election in Alabama is a perfect example. Trump’s argument is that voters should ignore the claims of pedophilia because it is more important to have a key Republican vote in the Senate. Moore’s own defense is that his pro-life position should be all voters care about. Senate Republicans have now said they will accept whatever choice Alabama voters make.

If this is true, is there anything that Trump (or Moore) could do to cause the Republican Party to turn against him?

At this point I doubt that even video supporting the Steele Dossier Russian orgy claims would damage Trump’s core support.

Would invading North Korea and putting US territory at risk of a nuclear attack be a problem?

How about bombing Iran in an effort to destroy their nuclear facilities?

Trump is obsessed with testing the limits of his support. That has been true in his personal life. Now it is being demonstrated in his political life. The difference is that it is now our constitution and the fabric of our democracy that he is testing rather than the fidelity of his spouse or the loyalty of his employees. The only thing we can be sure of, is that as long as he is in office, this will continue. He will systematically break every taboo and challenge every social and political norm in order to prove that he is the most powerful man in the world. History tells us that these people always fail eventually. He is in the process of taking the Republican Party down with him. It will be interesting to see what the final straw will be for the rest of the country.

8 Responses to “Above The Law”

  1. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Not sure what this Clinton clip is supposed to prove.

    Clinton was impeached by the House by a Republican House majority for lying under oath and obstructing justice.

    http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1998/12/19/impeachment.01/

    Clinton was acquitted of all charges in the Senate because the Republicans, although they were in the majority, did not have enough votes to meet the 2/3 requirement to impeach. After his acquittal, Clinton had the highest approval ratings of any modern President (73%). He left office with the highest approval ratings of any departing president since Truman (65%).

    His popularity is what kept him from being convicted. Most people felt that he was an effective President and his personal life was his own business.

    The difference is that Trump is HISTORICALLY unpopular with voters.

    But because of the 2010 tea party election and the gerrymandering which followed, there are still Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Even though more Democratic votes were cast in the last election than Republican votes AND in states like Michigan and Wisconsin, more democratic votes were cast in the state than Republican votes, but Republicans still control state government and have a majority representation in the House.

    The ONLY way that Trump will be impeached is if there is a Democratic majority in the House. It is possible that this will happen in 2018. It is HIGHLY unlikely that the Democrats will get a 2/3 majority in the Senate as a result of the 2018 vote.

    The real test is going to be 2018. If Trump candidates lose, then perhaps the party will feel that he is a handicap and will begin to distance themselves from him. But so far his support among voters has remained in the solid high 30’s. As a result, most Republican office holders and keeping their mouths shut. IMHO, they will ultimately pay the price for that.

  2. Jeff Beamsley says:

    BTW, Nixon’s approval rating was 24% in the months before he resigned. The only one with a lower approval rating was Truman. His rating fell to 22% in February, 1954. That was because the Korean war was at a stalemate, inflation was headed up because of war spending, and Truman was slow to respond to a corruption scandal at the IRS. Bush II hit 25% in October, 2008 with a similar confluence of bad news with the failed Iraq war and the collapse of the economy.

    With this as a backdrop, I guess that one of the things that could get Trump in trouble is if his tax plan causes inflation to spike and ultimately drives the economy into a recession. Pile on top of that some ill conceived foreign adventure in Africa, Afghanistan, NK, or Iran and maybe that might do it. It doesn’t appear that any amount of domestic corruption is going to convince the minority who currently support Trump to change their minds.

  3. Keith says:

    YS)Don’t count on Republican politicians abandoning Trump quickly now that their tax victory is in sight. They and the president have a lot more in common than either side wants to admit. The primary loyalty they share is not to God or country or republican virtue. It is to the private accumulation of money, and this is a bond not easily broken.

    The reality is that sexual assault and pedophilia are now acceptable as long as you are a Republican.

    MR) the video … you are certainly disingenuous in your comments about republicans. The Dems full throated “victory celebration” on the video moments after being impeached was as vial to us as what’s happening today for you. It’s both parties sir and it did start today. Both parties would do exactly this.

  4. Keith says:

    It didn’t start today

  5. Jeff Beamsley says:

    MR) the video … you are certainly disingenuous in your comments about republicans. The Dems full throated “victory celebration” on the video moments after being impeached was as vial to us as what’s happening today for you. It’s both parties sir and it did start today. Both parties would do exactly this.

    This video was recorded after the Senate exonerated Clinton of all charges in the impeachment indictment passed by the House. In a political trial, his admitted lies failed to meet the standard of impeachment.

    There is equivalence in the sense that these are political matters and Clinton won his case because a large majority of voters felt that his impeachment was a political overreach by the majority Republican Party.

    Trump and his supporters also believe that the Mueller investigation is a political overreach. But the difference is that the Democrats are not in the majority. The reason Mueller got appointed is because of Trump’s actions and Session’s lies during his nomination process. They did this to themselves.

    The differences are profound.

    1. Clinton was getting high marks with regard to job performance even during this period of time. Trump’s job performance in the eyes of voters is the lowest ever registered for a President at this point in his term.

    2. Clinton lied about a consensual sexual encounter. Monica Lewinsky told others that her plan was to have a sexual encounter with the President. Clinton was investigated for many years and at great cost to the public on all other charges of sexual assault. No charges were ever brought forward. There are more than a dozen women who claim that Trump assaulted them. One of them is taking him to court for defamation. His only defense is that they were all lying. While Clinton initially said the same thing about Lewinsky, the issue was never sexual assault. There is a big difference between assault and consensual sex.

    3. If the court allows the case to move forward against him, Trump will have an opportunity to defend himself. If he is found innocent of this particular claim, he is welcome to give a similar speech. What will likely happen is that he will settle before there is any trial which will leave his guilt or innocence still in question.

    4. Trump will likely NOT get impeached for sexual assault. He will likely get impeached for obstruction of justice in his attempts to cover up his campaign’s involvement with the Russians. That impeachment will only happen if the Democrats regain control of the house. They have a chance to regain control of the house BECAUSE, in the eyes of voters, Trump is doing a bad job. He will likely not be found guilty in the Senate unless there is a clear case for treason because there aren’t enough Democratic votes. The big question is, if Mueller does come out with a recommendation to indict Trump, will he resign or go through the impeachment process?

  6. Jeff Beamsley says:

    It didn’t start today

    Not quite sure what this means.

    But here’s my take.

    This is not political bias.

    There is certainly political bias at work, but every President faces opposition. Obama faced fierce opposition, but there was never a credible case for impeachment even after Republicans gained control of the House.

    There IS a credible case for impeachment for Trump because he fired Comey during an active investigation and later said that firing was because Comey refused to stop the investigation.

    That is Trump’s fault. Democrats didn’t encourage him to fire Comey. Trump did it because he felt that he could get away with it.

    So no it didn’t start today. It started when the Trump campaign lied about their contacts with Russians and it became an impeachable offense when Trump fired Comey.

    We’ll see how far this goes when Mueller finishes his investigation. BTW, the fact that Mueller is getting financial information on Trump’s loans from Deutsche Bank may establish the link that Mueller was looking for to explain WHY Trump has been so friendly to Russia. If Deutsche Bank sold some of the loans they provided Trump to Russian interests, there would be a clear conflict of interest that Trump should have disclosed. But this is what thorough investigations are supposed to do. Follow every path and answer every question. BTW, this aspect of the investigation is also Trump’s fault. If he had released his tax returns as every president on modern history has done, we would already know what, if any, financial connections exist between Trump and Russia.

    Also just to tie a bow on this conversation, Trump is also responsible for the large investments that media are making into investigative journalism.

    Rather than work with the press, he made them the enemy.

    Their response is to defend themselves and prove their value to the country by investigating ALL of Trump’s claims.

    This is HIS fault. It was a CHOICE that he made. Now he and his supporters are going to have to live with the consequences. Those consequences will ultimately be profound.

  7. Jeff Beamsley says:

    BTW BTW, just a comment about the economy and the proposed tax rewrite. These quotes are from an article today in the NYT.

    Economists almost universally say Mr. Trump has had little to do with the rebound, which began long before he was elected and has not accelerated meaningfully since he took office. But with unemployment low and wages beginning to creep upward, voters may be more inclined to give credit.

    “It’s a really, really strong economy,” said Tom Gimbel, chief executive of LaSalle Network, a staffing firm in Chicago. “Companies really want to take advantage of the economy, so they want to hire and get while the getting’s good.”

    That strength could also pose challenges, particularly in light of the $1.5 trillion tax cut that Congress could pass as early as this month. Economists expect the tax bill to provide at least a modest lift to the economy — but they are not sure that’s a good idea.

    With unemployment so low and the economy fundamentally healthy, a tax cut could lead the economy to grow too quickly, pushing up inflation and forcing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates faster than planned.

    “It’s a very poorly timed fiscal stimulus,” said Joseph Song, an economist at Bank of America. “It kind of raises the risk of a boom-bust cycle.”

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