Clear and Present Danger

Trump is obstructing justice in plain site. He assumes Congress can’t do anything to stop him. He may be right. Congress can issue subpoenas until it turns purple; if the Attorney General is not inclined to enforce them, they won’t be enforced. And we know William Barr is Trump’s personal attorney, so there will be no help from the Department of Justice.

It’s being said that the only way the executive branch can be forced to comply with the legislative branch is through a formal impeachment procedure. But Josh Marshall says he’s not sure that’s true.

Most of the claims Trump has made seem frivolous on their face. If courts are operating even broadly within existing precedent or the logic of the constitution Trump will lose. The issue is delays working through the courts. Possibly greater standing in an impeachment context won’t make the system operate faster. It’s also quite possible that judges — and even more Supreme Court Justices — won’t operate within precedent or the logic of the constitution. But that’s just another reason why operating on the basis of people’s wishful thinking about how judges should act is a fool’s errand.

And this illustrates the degree to which the entire structure of the U.S. government has depended on the willingness even of the most powerful officials to act within precedent. If the President and Attorney General together simply refuse to comply with law, what mechanism is there to force them to comply? I don’t believe the nation has confronted this question before.

Of course, Senate Republicans also have the power to put an end to this farce, but unlike with Nixon, they aren’t going to. That’s partly because the GOP isn’t really a political party any more. It’s just a front for something else.

Back in 2015 I wrote a post called “The Conservative Industrial Complex” about “the integrated right-wing infrastructure that has been driving U.S. foreign and domestic policy for at least 40 years.”

If you spend much time at Sourcewatch, you begin to see how the whole infrastructure, from media outlets, Heritage Foundation and other “think tanks,” and the mostly astroturf advocacy organizations are all being funded by a relatively small group. Oh, and don’t forget ALEC. Time and time again, you run into the same few names.  The Koch boys are prominent, of course, but other names that come up frequently include the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Scaife Foundations and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation.

In short, dozens of allegedly independent right-wing organizations are all being bankrolled by a relatively small group of foundations. And as Charles Pierce keeps pointing out, it’s these people who are driving the Right’s agenda, not the Republican Party.

It has been an article of faith in this shebeen almost since we opened it in 2011 that there is no actual Republican party in any real sense any more. Ever since the Supreme Court legalized influence-peddling in its Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions, there only has been a loosely held group of independent franchises who are doing business for themselves under the Republican Party brand. This is why the suits belonging to obvious anagram Reince Preibus are so very empty.

Put another way, the Republican Party has lost control of this monster and really isn’t in charge of anything any more. The GOP exists only as a facade, or as part of the nominal political infrastructure that must be used in elections.

More recently there has been some public squabbling between the Koch Boys and Trump, but last year Paul Waldman predicted the Kochs would stand by Trump anyway.

You can bet they love the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda, but more than anything else, they love the tax cuts Republicans passed last year. While Koch Industries is a private company — so we don’t know very much about its particulars — one analysisestimated that Charles and David Koch, whose combined wealth is $120 billion, will gain between $1 billion and $1.4 billion every year from the tax cut. The Koch network says it spent $20 million promoting the bill, which turned out to be a pretty spectacular investment.

The Kochs and the other obscenely wealthy people who bankroll the Right are true kleptocrats. As long as Trump is making them richer, he’s their guy. And this is the reality that must be confronted.