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.

11 thoughts on “Clear and Present Danger

  1. You could begin by impeaching the Attorney General.  If nothing, it would be an interesting exercise.

  2. But how do we confront our new reality?

    Pitchforks?  Tumbrels?  Guillotines?

    Civil war?

    The answer needs to be, has to be:  TAX THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF THE SUPER-SUPER-SUPER RICH!!!!!

    But that can't happen because…

    "Nice catch you got there, that 'Catch-GOP.'"

  3. The turning point for the Republican party was the Reagan administration. Since then it has changed into a PR firm and operations center for oligarchic kleptocrats. They started with simple sales techniques like putting Reagan in front of national monuments to make speeches on the teevee. They progressed through Gingrich's negative sell words, then Fox News and all the freaks in its shadow, including policy "intellectuals" in think tanks. Now, in part thanks to the operation being fittingly taken over by an amoral game show host, R's have arrived in an alternative political universe with its own alternative facts (thank you, Kellyanne). There's nothing haphazard about it. A lot of social science has been applied. Democrats have been, to put it kindly, slow to react.

    For all that, there's finally some change in the air. There were the midterms. There's the new mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot. There's the Democratic presidential candidates field, in which an old white guy probably won't be victorious, no matter the conventional wisdom of the moment. In most polls voters claim they will vote against Trump by almost 2 to 1. Things are weird, but not at all hopeless.

    • Excuse the unintended exaggeration. In the general population the ratio of voters those who say they'll vote against Trump versus those who will vote for him is about 5 to 3.


  4. I’m sure the sharp minds at Lawyers, Guns, and Money aren’t the only ones looking at Nixon’s articles of impeachment. This post starts with the 3rd article:

    In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, contrary to his oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives on April 11, 1974, May 15, 1974, May 30, 1974, and June 24, 1974, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas. The subpoenaed papers and things were deemed necessary by the Committee in order to resolve by direct evidence fundamental, factual questions relating to Presidential direction, knowledge or approval of actions demonstrated by other evidence to be substantial grounds for impeachment of the President. In refusing to produce these papers and things Richard M. Nixon, substituting his judgment as to what materials were necessary for the inquiry, interposed the powers of the Presidency against the the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives…

  5. OT:

    Ya gotta appreciate that North Korea wanted $2 million in medical bills for Otto Warmbier before they released him.  He's the college student they tortured almost to the point of death – and who died shortly after being returned to America.

    tRUMP supposedly gave NK a promissory note.

    A promissory note?

    From tRUMP!

    What was Lil' Jong-Un thinking?

    Considering his history of non-payment to… well, not just contractors, but EVERYBODY, you need the money up front!

    I'm glad that NK was stiffed – if they were, since we don't know all of the facts yet.

    But can you imagine if Obama promised to pay NK?

    Conservatives would be flying above the clouds, due to the massive uplift from their uproared tits.

    I'd almost say, then, that pigs were flying!


  6. The "value" in the Trump "presidency" is it shows just how flawed the Constitution is.  All it takes to thwart it is the existence of a corrupt political party in power with an incompetent and criminal president who is unpatriotic and shameless enough to just ignore the law.

    It's required that we brag incessantly on the world stage of how great and perfect American democracy and its Constitution is.  Trump is showing so far its not worth the paper its written on. 

    If "we" don't find a way to hold Trump accountable this will be the historical legacy of not just the GOP but the democratic party as well.

    • csm.. The Constitution isn't flawed, it's people who refuse to honor and uphold it who are flawed.

      Jon Meacham said it best.. the Constitution was written in belief that it had a moral underpinning, and that the people would act in accordance with that morality.

      So far it is only Trump who trashing the concepts of the Constitution. When the repugs are faced with the hard reality of turning their backs on 243 years of established precedent and history knowing it represents the foundation of our republic, I'm not so sure all the noise in protecting Trump's criminal activity won't fall to the wayside.

       Trump is just digging himself in deeper because he doesn't know how to put on the brakes to rid himself of his lies and foolishness. Trump has always operated in an arena where civil penalties were the extent of his liability. A wrist slap with financial penalties. Now he's in a different arena where criminal penalties are in play so he's got to fight like hell to get away from his deeds..So naturally he's going to try to tear down the foundations… And I don't think he's going to succeed in doing it.

      Momma always said.. When you're in trouble, your in trouble alone.

  7. This is one of those times when it's good to talk about the elephant in the room. 

    We all remember Benghazipalooza.

    We all remember that the GOP requested information on the IRS giving GOP-leaning applications for nonprofit status a hard time – and then excoriated the IRS for discriminating against GOP-leaning groups, based on a report that didn't even *try* to find if the discrimination was general (it was). 

    We all remember Terri Schiavo – and how the GOP didn't look at the public record, and made their followers think that 20 separate judges would ignore a woman's civil rights to let her die, and why? So they could ask "why do liberals want Terri to die?"

    We all remember that the GOP, as a whole, used "lock up an innocent public servant" as a rallying cry for 2016, when they all knew there were no criminal charges that could be brought by any ethical prosecutor. (There's no evidence she deliberately shared classified information; and "gross negligence" – well, look it up. It's a term of art. It's the equivalent of "I left my keys in my unlocked car, and walked away for an hour.") 

    We remember that Bill Clinton having a quick on-tarmac chat with an old friend was a BIG DEAL because he could be hatching a conspiracy then and there (rather than, say, over the *PHONE*). 

    But the President using his authority to try to shut down an investigation, getting revenge on public servants, and *still* trying to prosecute an innocent woman,  that's all okay. So, presumably, although he was trying to score a $300 million payday from Russia, his team met with Russians hoping for dirt, his son-in-law wanted a secret back-channel to Russia without any US oversight, and sure, Trump is all happy-puppy over Putin, presumably, in spite of all that, the investigation was so baseless that it's okay that he *tried* to shut it down, because he didn't succeed. 

    I read an essay once – it claimed that, when Hitler's Final Solution was brought forward, there were a lot of people in the room who were truly shocked and horrified. The thing is, they were *all* dirty. And if just one speaks up, that person dies. If a couple people speak up, they've been infiltrated by spies. By the time the final solution was proposed, they'd gone too far down the road, and all of them were too badly tainted, to feel they could resist. 

    We're not there – I'm not saying the GOP is like the Nazis. Still, look at how much they're doing to protect their boy, and how much of it is unthinkable from a moral and ethical perspective. They're marching down that slope, and they're normalizing what they're doing now, so they'll feel free to stretch the boundaries a bit more.

  8. The billionaires built the bus. They allowed Trump to take over the rage machine their money created. He is driving and he is batshit. His followers are batshit. The builders are scared of their monster but happy with the money and power. This will not end well.

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