About two fortnights ago, almost all evidence of the Mueller investigation’s progress stopped. This was expected, as it is a Justice Department rule to not do things, like issuing indictments, from several weeks prior to an election, until after the election.
Coincidentally (?), yesterday, a document was released to the public that dates back to the days of Watergate. This document is, in essence, an indictment issued by the Watergate grand jury, bring charges against Nixon. However, since the policy was to not actually indict a sitting president, this special indictment was given, not to a federal prosecutor, but to the US House judiciary.
So, there are two things floating around in my head that I’m wondering about.
First, and most obvious, is this: Will next Wednesday, or at least, the latter half of next week and perhaps a day or two into the next work week, see a series of actions from Mueller? And if so, what?
Second, and less obvious, is this: The document that was released yesterday isn’t just a grand jury document, but also, the decision by a federal judge that this grand jury indictment-thingie should properly be passed to the house, secretly, just as a normal indictment would be passed to a federal prosecutor, secretly. The secrecy part is just because all grand jury proceedings are secret. It is then up to the prosecuting body to make things public by carrying out actual indictments and prosecutions, or in the case of the house, impeachment.
The point is, it is now federal case law that a Grand Jury investigating a president can hand over what would normally be an indictment to pass on to a federal prosecutor to the House Judiciary Committee, for their consideration. It is secret when that happens, and if the committee decides, it can remain secret.
So, is it possible that the Mueller grand jury has already written one of these embryonic indictments, and is planning to hand it over after the election? Or after the new House is sworn in? Depending on how the election goes????
Is it possible, in fact, that such a document has already been handed over, and is being ignored by the Republican leadership in the House? If so, will it be resubmitted to the new Congress later?
I suggested several weeks ago that there would not be any action until after the election. Now, I’m noting that the election is about to happen, so we can expect … something.
Andrew Johnson was impeached for matters related to what to do with the South after they were defeated in the American Civil War. I would like to know more about that. What I understand of it now is that it may have been a great Irony, in the sense that Johnson was a Democrat, appointed as a Republican’s VP, who had the intention of implementing that president’s policies after his assassination by a pro-Slavery assassin, but those policies went easier on the South because that is how Lincoln wanted to approach reconstruction, and the Republicans in Congress wanted to crush the South. But I’m sure I’m leaving out important details. Anyway, Andrew Johnson was impeached and nearly thrown out of office.
Later on, Richard Nixon was impeached because he and his minions carried out crimes that were kinda bad and then tried to cover them up, which led to the absurd modern day aphorism that “it’s not the crime, its the cover up,” implying that no matter how bad the crime is, the cover up is worse (wrong). Nixon was not thrown out of office, but rather, he left on his own.
Later on, Bill Clinton was impeached for his affair with a White House Aide. But other than anti-Clinton Republicans, most people, while not liking the affair thing, did not see this as worthy of impeachment, and recognized the Republican effort to impeach Clinton as a bald faced political move.
Now, we are faced with Trump. We don’t know where impeachment will go. It may be impossible until there is a Senate super majority, and that may not happen any time soon. Trump will have to be caught talking on the phone to Vladimir Putin, discussing their recent successful assassination of Bambi. But likely, that won’t do it either. Republicans put party over country every time. The only way Trump is going to leave office is feet first in the case he croaks on his own, or by being voted out of office, and the latter is not likely to happen because, face it, Trump represents American values in he (slim) minority, but that minority rules due to voter suppression and Russian-powered ignorance.
Whatever. The point is, impeachment is on the table, and there is a new book out that helps us understand the earlier impeachments, and I recommend it. Impeachment: An American History by Jon Meacham, Peter Baker, Tim Naftali, and Jefrey Engel.
Four experts on the American presidency examine the three times impeachment has been invoked—against Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton—and explain what it means today.
Impeachment is a double-edged sword. Though it was designed to check tyrants, Thomas Jefferson also called impeachment “the most formidable weapon for the purpose of a dominant faction that was ever contrived.” On the one hand, it nullifies the will of voters, the basic foundation of all representative democracies. On the other, its absence from the Constitution would leave the country vulnerable to despotic leadership. It is rarely used, and with good reason.
Only three times has a president’s conduct led to such political disarray as to warrant his potential removal from office, transforming a political crisis into a constitutional one. None has yet succeeded. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 for failing to kowtow to congressional leaders—and, in a large sense, for failing to be Abraham Lincoln—yet survived his Senate trial. Richard Nixon resigned in August 1974 after the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against him for lying, obstructing justice, and employing his executive power for personal and political gain. Bill Clinton had an affair with a White House intern, but in 1999 he faced trial in the Senate less for that prurient act than for lying under oath about it.
In the first book to consider these three presidents alone—and the one thing they have in common—Jeffrey A. Engel, Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, and Peter Baker explain that the basis and process of impeachment is more political than legal. The Constitution states that the president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” leaving room for historical precedent and the temperament of the time to weigh heavily on each case. This book reveals the complicated motives behind each impeachment—never entirely limited to the question of a president’s guilt—and the risks to all sides. Each case depended on factors beyond the president’s behavior: his relationship with Congress, the polarization of the moment, and the power and resilience of the office itself. This is a realist view of impeachment that looks to history for clues about its potential use in the future.
Read this book as a distraction from the current intense and rather explosive (nearly explosive?) political climate. A little history to distrat you from the future…
As Benjamin Franklin famously put it, Americans have a republic, if we can keep it. Preserving the Constitution and the democratic system it supports is the public’s responsibility. One route the Constitution provides for discharging that duty?a route rarely traveled?is impeachment.
Cass R. Sunstein provides a succinct citizen’s guide to an essential tool of self-government. He illuminates the constitutional design behind impeachment and emphasizes the people’s role in holding presidents accountable. Despite intense interest in the subject, impeachment is widely misunderstood. Sunstein identifies and corrects a number of misconceptions. For example, he shows that the Constitution, not the House of Representatives, establishes grounds for impeachment, and that the president can be impeached for abuses of power that do not violate the law. Even neglect of duty counts among the “high crimes and misdemeanors” delineated in the republic’s foundational document. Sunstein describes how impeachment helps make sense of our constitutional order, particularly the framers’ controversial decision to install an empowered executive in a nation deeply fearful of kings.
With an eye toward the past and the future, Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide considers a host of actual and imaginable arguments for a president’s removal, explaining why some cases are easy and others hard, why some arguments for impeachment have been judicious and others not. In direct and approachable terms, it dispels the fog surrounding impeachment so that Americans of all political convictions may use their ultimate civic authority wisely.
The history and future of our democracy’s ultimate sanction, presidential impeachment, and a guide to how it should be used now
To End a Presidency addresses one of today’s most urgent questions: when and whether to impeach a president. Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz provide an authoritative guide to impeachment’s past and a bold argument about its proper role today. In an era of expansive presidential power and intense partisanship, we must rethink impeachment for the twenty-first century.
Of impeachments, one Constitutional Convention delegate declared, “A good magistrate will not fear them. A bad one will be kept in fear of them.” To End a Presidency is an essential book for all Americans seeking to understand how this crucial but fearsome power should be exercised.
The exact way the Trump presidency ends is not clear. Anything could happen.
Trump had zero idea of what he was getting into with this president thing, and the stresses must be amazing. Clearly, he is being driven over the edge by relatively minor day to day events. Nothing has yet actually happened in this administration. If you ignore self inflicted wounds and self generated drama, and all the protesting against Trump, the world has been pretty quiet. It is as though all the bad guys, all the individuals who do the things that become major international issues or domestic crises, have stocked up on popcorn and are just watching Donald Trump in awe. Normally, things happen now and then that become major issues that need to be addressed by the President of the United States. For the last six weeks, since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the Republican President, we’ve seen nothing.
Here is a list I compiled, with help from my Facebook friends, of exemplars of things past, and ideas for things future, that could happen and that did or would demand attention and proper response from a United States president.
a military coup takes over a neighboring or allied government
a smaller country such as Iraq invades another country such as Kuwait
arkstorm hits western states
attack on the US power grid
collapse of a major fishery
crop failure; multiple simultaneous crop failurs
debilitating cyber attack
Deepwater Horizon explosion
dirty bomb goes off somewhere
global financial crisis
hostage taking at a US embassy
India and Pakistan have a military confongration
Iran: US embassy hostage taking
Israel and Iran exchange missles
large earthquake or tsunami in the United states
major river flooding
major tropical storm strikes major metropolitan area
major volcanic event
massive earthquake or tsunami somewhere
North Korea actually attacks someone
possible epidemic threat
Russia invades another country
solar flare damaged US power grid
terrorist attack, large
terrorist attack, small
terroristic disease or chemical attack
unprecedented killer heat wave
Death of a world leader in a sensitive region
Crash of a US airliner
Korea or Iran takes a US naval ship
Outbreak of a major famine
The point of this list, to which any student of American History can add many more items, is to make clear that crises are sufficiently numerous that large ones are bound to happen in any given span of a few months time.
Something is going to happen soon, and when it does, how will Trump react, what will he do? What will he tweet? Will the chaos that ensues, the pressure that mounts, the overall intensity of of the situation, put him over the edge?
He doesn’t know what to do, no one around him really knows what to do. He will be exploited and the will of the United States twisted and used, if possible. We will lose in any confrontation or competition that arises as the result of any crisis, and that will compound the badness.
All that has to happen is for history as it is being born to run its normal course, for Trump and his presidency to collapse under the weight of reality.
Ultimately, this may kill him. He may simply die of a heart attack or stroke because of the stress. Or, he may take steps that are so outrageous that someone else kills him. In fact, he is currently courting that sort of attack every day, as his immigration policies ruin the lives of thousands of people. Listen to the weeping of innocent children as their parents, also innocent, are being taken away by the ICE jack-booted thugs. Then put yourself in the position of a father or grandfather who happens to be mentally and emotionally capable, and physically ready, to act in an entirely inappropriate, violent way. That small list of crazy people that seemed to follow around Gerald Ford, or that supplies the assassins of the like that shot at Reagan or killed Lennon, has got to be very small indeed compared to the number of people who wish to end the life of a despot like Trump. It may only be a matter of time before someone on that list gets through.
Or, there is the 25th Amendment. It is possible for various government officials to simply remove an off the rails president from office. Such a thing could happen if anything like the above list of crises starts to materialize, as it will, and Trump’s reactions are so dangerous that even the selfish, politics-only, non-governing yahoos who reside in the Executive Branch actually do something to preserve our democracy.
Or it could be impeachment. Impeachment requires that the Know Nothing and Do Nothing Republican Congress grows a spine and learns something and does something. That is very unlikely to happen, but around the country right now, people are showing up by the thousands, daily, demanding that they do something, so … maybe.
A Congressional turnover, followed by impeachment, is a possibility. Maybe the American Citizenry, who usually vote against their own self interest, will grow a brain and throw the actual bums out, and a new Democratic House will impeach and a Democratic Senate will hold a trial, and Trump will be ended that way.
But none of that matters until this other thing happens, which maybe, or maybe not, is currently underway.
How Trump Can Stay In Power Forever
Donald trump is likely to stay in power as long as he wants to, even after his presidency ends, because Chuck Todd will make sure it happens. Andrea Mitchel will work to keep Trump in the White House. All the CNN reporters, and all the TV reporters in general, will work on this on a daily basis, tweaking the news, affecting public perception, in such a way as to make sure Trump is not removed by virtue of the 25th, or impeached, or even stressed out too much.
Why? This is why and how that happens. Go read that post if you want to understand how the news media fails us all, every day, and why they may not be able to stop themselves.
There is another possibility, though.
Last Tuesday, Trump gave his “joint address” (a form of State of the Union with a different name). During the address, he said all the things we expect if we assume he is not changing his policies. He also introduced an alarming new thing, a fund to increase the level of national hate against immigrants. All in all, any intelligent watcher of politics would have come away from that address knowing that Trump is still Trump, and nothing has changed.
The astute observer would also note this: Trump’s address was a carefully written speech that Trump clearly did not compose, but that he did work hard to read correctly off the teleprompter. That is actually bad news. It means that Trump’s handlers are on board with keeping him in the groove he is already in, and are helping him do that by constructing a speech with no change in direction, but that is less shocking in its messaging qualities.
Soon after Trump’s speech, I pulled the shotgun I keep under the couch out, pumped five rounds into the TV, and threw the smoldering wreckage right through the big glass window onto the street.
OK, I didn’t really do that. I don’t actually have a shot gun under the couch. But if I did…..
What actually happened was this: Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchel and the talking heads on PBS, and all the other reporters got all titilated about how Trump finally sounded presidential, about how everything would be fine now, about how the “presidential pivot” had finally happened.
They failed to notice that all that really happened was that Trump read the speech off the teleprompter and that the speech was a little more carefully written than usual — well, not for an address to the joint session, but for a Trump speech. They failed to notice that nothing had changed except a couple of things that went bad. They went on and on about how great the speech was and failed to mention the 18 or so bald faced lies, or the exploitation of a war widow to justify a failed military action, or, once again, the initiation of a hate-the-immigrant program.
They failed to save Democracy from Trump. For that, they should all be fired. For that, I get the shotgun out from under the couch and blast the TV to smithereens. Or, really, imagine myself doing it.
100% certain to end Trump: Reinforcements are always welcome!
But then something else happened. Trump did two things over the following few days, neither unexpected but both critically important.
1) He kept being Donald Trump; and
2) He actually got worse.
Believe it or not, and I’m still not quite believing it, this may have caused the press that fall in love with him on Tuesday to step back and realize they had been duped. They will never admit this because, frankly, only a stupid child could have been duped this way. But Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchel and the rest of them are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. They were all fooled, badly fooled, on Tuesday, then later in the week, made to appear as the embodiment of foolishness itself as the reality of Trump re-tweeted, er, re-emerged.
I was mulling this over this morning while checking over some of the previous day’s news reports and commentaries, when I came across this piece by Lawrence O’Donnell on his show “The Last Word.”
Watch it. Then, for fun, and a good cry, watch the next piece as well.
O’Donnell seems to believe that the press can snap itself out of its own stupidity if Trump is so blatantly bad as he was last weekend. I don’t. But it is quite possible that I am wrong and O’Donnell is right. And in hopes that this is the case, I’m going to unload the shells from my imaginary shotgun. For now.
So, yes. Trump’s presidency ends when Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell say it ends.
Now, watch this to the end. THE END. Just do it.
The end end, not the part you will think is the end. Just wait until the “tape” runs out. Past 4:20
Imagine that child crying is your own.
To hell with it, I’m putting the imaginary shells back in the damn gun.
PS, I know someone is going to complain about the shotgun, because some people are just that way and can’t help themselves. The shotgun is to shoot the TV because the news, and the way it is handled, and reported, is so frustrating. It is not to shoot a person. I would never do that, you should never do that.