Thursday, May 11, 2017

High crimes and misdemeanours

Where do we even start? No, seriously! WHERE do we even start? The US has a dangerous unhinged autocrat in the White House, and no one seems to know what to do, or even what the hell is going on. I don’t either, but we all have some thoughts on this whole mess. Here are a few of mine.

Did Don fire Comey to try and avoid prosecution?

It sure looks like Don fired FBI Director Comey because he was investigating the links between Don’s campaign—maybe even Don himself—and the Russian government’s attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 US elections. After all, Don fired two others who were investigating him, so, where there’s smoke there’s fire, right?

That may be, but it’s also possible that it was the people most likely to be investigated (indicted?) told Don to fire Comey, and he did. And, as we all know, Don is way too narcissistic to believe that he’ll ever face prosecution for anything.

It’s also possible that Don just got his knickers in a twist, probably because Comey was getting far more media attention than Don was, and Don hates that. That coverage not only made Don look bad, Comey also had the temerity to say publicly that Don’s lies about President Obama “bugging” Trump Tower had no basis in fact. So, it’s equally plausible that Don just got pissed off for purely personal, petty, egotistical reasons. Supporting evidence includes the fact that there was clearly no plan, no probable successor, no media talking points ready to go, and the letter firing Comey was delivered to FBI Headquarters—not where Comey actually was at the time—by Don’s personal bodyguard, not a government official. It all seemed so impulsive and without any critical thought, like a live-action version of one of Don’s Tweets.

What we know for sure is that their stated reason for the firing is utter nonsense: Don spent months attacking Hillary Clinton over her emails, so to expect us to now believe he NOW thinks Comey was too hard on Hillary is laughable: That’s NOT why Comey was fired, and we’re not stupid enough to believe that steaming pile of male bovine excrement.

But Don’s second paragraph in his letter firing Comey speaks volumes about his motivation, and may be his undoing:
While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.
What the F…?! “Under investigation” for what, precisely? Collusion with Russia to influence the election outcome? Engaging in corrupt business practices overseas in violation of US law? Violating the emoluments clause of the US Constitution? Don doesn't say, but it sounds an awful lot like Richard Nixon declaring, “I am not a crook”, and that didn’t turn out too well for Nixon. In any case, it’s a totally irrelevant insertion into the letter and actually increases the likelihood that Don fired Comey in an attempt to stop the Russia investigation (among others). It’s the focus of what Comey was investigating, and that paragraph makes it look like Don was desperate to make himself sound blameless. At the very least, it certainly increases the appearance that it was the motive for the firing.

This really is similar to Watergate.

The comparisons to Watergate have been flying everywhere, and that makes perfect sense: It’s the closest thing we have to this situation. In that case, the president fired a special prosecutor who was investigating his administration, and, it turned out, the president was a crook. In 2017, the titular president fired the man investigating his campaign for criminal and possibly treasonous collusion with a hostile foreign government to steer the results of a US election. Then, the questions were, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” Now, the questions are exactly the same, and, also just like back then, there’s the strong probability of criminal activity by people close to the sitting president.

Firing the special prosecutor was one of the actions that led directly to the probability that Nixon would be impeached and removed from office, so Nixon resigned instead. Will that history repeat, too?

Don will almost certainly not be impeached.

For impeachment to happen, Republicans would have to agree to do it, since they control both houses of Congress. There is simply no way that Republicans—who always put the interests of their party ahead of the needs of the country—would ever agree to bring articles of impeachment to a vote in the US House. Hell, they’ll never allow the House Judiciary Committee to consider articles. We know this because of the unholy alliance of the radical-right extremists known as the “House Freedom [sic] Caucus” and ordinary self-serving politicians who are terrified of losing their elective office and the money-train that gives them.

However, if Don’s situation becomes absolutely untenable, and the House did the unthinkable and actually voted to impeach, then the situation changes.

The US Senate is no less partisan than is the US House, however, it isn’t under the stranglehold of the radical right. That means that should Don be impeached, then there is the very real possibility that the Senate would convict him and remove him from office.

But the House will almost certainly never allow impeachment to proceed unless there’s an equivalent of Nixon’s Oval Office tapes lurking somewhere—or something worse. Then, they’d have no choice.

There are things that can happen.

First, Mike Pence, Don’s Vice President, and a majority of the cabinet could certify that Don is unable to execute the duties of the office of president, and Mike would become acting president. This is the bloodless coup allowed by the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution. What’s unclear is, why couldn’t Don just then send his own letter saying Mike's wrong and he’s fine? And if that happened, what next?

Second, Democrats could re-take control of Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. They could then impeach Don and remove him from office. Or, they could just do to Don what Republicans did to President Obama with such great success: Refuse to go along with anything that Don wants. That has the benefit of not putting Mike, a religious extremist, in the Oval Office.

Third, Don could just resign. As I said recently, Don may have already been hinting that he’ll resign. But to encourage him to do so, Mike would no doubt have to promise to give Don a pardon, much like the one Nixon got. Mike would definitely use that as precedent, though there’s no evidence that President Ford ever promised in advance to pardon Nixon.

This is not normal.

Nothing about Don, his behaviour or anything related to his regime, is normal, and this situation isn't normal, either. But because it's all so abnormal, none of us has any idea how this story will end, or when. There will be inevitable leaks about Don and/or his people, and there will be a lot of attempts at distraction and diversion—it's what Don always does, after all. I'm not convinced it will work anymore.

But, then, nothing is normal about all of this. So, who knows?!

1 comment:

rogerogreen said...