My friend, after taking my recommendation and reading Jason Stanley’s great short book about the rise of fascism, which follows an identical path everywhere it takes hold, called the book a bit hyperbolic. Two years later, after an angry mob of violent “patriots” overran the Capitol, at the urging of their leader, he laughed when I described a cartoon of us I’d like the discipline and talent to draw. He and I are emaciated, dirty, dressed in striped pajamas, skeletal hands on the barbed wire fence in front of us, staring ahead with dead eyes. The caption: “still think Stanley’s book was hyperbolic?”
Our democracy is like the famous frog, comfortable in the warm, then hot water, until he begins to boil and learns it’s impossible to leap with boiled legs. When something awful happens by degrees it can slip by unnoticed until it’s too late to do anything about it.
Biden’s earnest Attorney General Merrick Garland will not convene a grand jury to investigate the now well-documented plot to overturn an American presidential election. Even though there is a federal statute directly on point.
Garland doesn’t want, God forbid, to look political so he takes no action, even knowing there was a coordinated, multi-pronged plan, involving the former president, members of Congress, several lawyers, a grimly effective fascistic political strategist/podcast host, at least one former military officer, several talking heads of extreme right-wing media, plus the wealthy donors who paid, in dark money, to finance what we now nonchalantly refer to as The Big Lie and the MAGA riot.
Even knowing there was a January 6th election overturn command center, paid for by Trump’s campaign, at a hotel a block from the White House, where several conspirators huddled before and during the violent assault and breach of the Capitol to prevent certification of the 2020 election, Garland’s principled passivity is as supine as the famously supine passivity of the idealistic democratic leaders of the Weimar Republic, during the final days before the Thousand Year Reich.
So scrupulous is Garland about appearing nonpartisan that he won’t even indict Steve Bannon for openly telling Congress, the Department of Justice and the rest of the administrative state he despises to go fuck themselves, stick their subpoena where the sun don’t shine. Nineteen days after the House made the contempt referral to DOJ (Glenn Kirschner’s counting it down), Garland continues to agonize over how to apply the facts (legal subpoena, Bannon “fuck you”) to the law (willful defiance of legal subpoena without legal grounds = contempt).
The recent subpoena for pardoned asshole, admitted perjurer, QAnon promoter and former general Mike “Lock Her Up!” Flynn brings us full circle on Trump’s endless merry go round of obstruction of justice.
When, weeks into the Trump administration, Flynn lied about illegal contacts with Russians, and forgot to disclose, while getting top security clearance, that he was on the payroll of Turkey and likely other foreign governments, Trump was forced to fire him. Then the big guy cornered the FBI director, problematic anti-hero James Comey, and one on one, over dinner, asked him to drop the Flynn thing, Flynn being a good guy and a valued member of Trump’s team. Comey refused, was fired. Flynn was prosecuted, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. This was all normal DC politics and the law, playing out pretty much as it always had.
Then as Flynn watched other Trump operatives play coy in legal proceedings, counting on the quid pro quo pardons that Trump continued to dangle for self-proclaimed political ratfuckers like Manafort and Stone, encouraging them to obstruct their own trials, intimidate witnesses, change their stories, playfully threaten a federal judge or two, he realized how stupid he’d been to plead guilty, just because they had the proof of his lies and it would have been worse for him to go through a full trial.
Flynn hired the insane, well-connected right wing attorney Sidney Powell who argued that Flynn had been tricked into his guilty plea by the cunning canards of a cabal of cannibal pedophile cucks. The Department of Justice worked closely with Flynn’s new attorney, a true right wing Kraken superstar (at that time), and they hastened to dismiss all charges against Flynn, claiming now that Trump’s FBI had been compromised by treacherous partisan Democrats who hated Trump and that Flynn had been suckered into lying and then lying about lying.
Trump’s gunsel, Bill Barr, took the extraordinary step of arguing against his own Department of Justice, who had successfully prosecuted Flynn. He did this behind the scenes, as well as publicly.
At the same time, he loudly appointed a Special Counsel to start an investigation into the Mueller “witch hunt” with an eye toward a propaganda coup, that could be announced with great fanfare right before the 2020 election, like Comey’s 2016 game changer about Hillary Clinton. It turned out Durham had turned up an irregularity in a FISA warrant for Trump associate Carter Page, the apparent lie being the omission of the pertinent fact that Page had been a CIA asset or something of that nature. Barr ran with this — if the Page warrant was obtained based on a lie, the whole Mueller investigation was based on pure hatred of Christian Dominionists by Satan worshipping secular cuck anarchist antifa liberals.
Trump successfully obstructed justice during the Mueller investigation, in at least ten separate counts that Mueller could not exonerate him for. He successfully obstructed justice again by having Barr bury the whistleblower complaint about Trump’s shakedown, two day’s after Mueller’s shambling testimony left no doubt that the Mueller investigation had failed to nail him, of the new Ukrainian president for dirt on Joe Biden. Trump was “acquitted” in two separate witness-free impeachment trials, run by his own party, working closely and openly with Trump’s demented defense team.
After lying for months, now a year, about his election loss and conspiring with a cast of pathetic but energetic characters, he fomented a riot to Stop the Steal. He also had a plan to subvert the constitutional order, sought to replace an acting AG intent on following the law, tried to strong arm his loyal vice president to go along with a mad plan to keep control of the government, and when he refused, incited a mob to string the fucking cowardly traitor up.
If you were writing a novel about a corrupt leader obstructing justice, you might be afraid to put this much detail into it, for fear of straining the readers’ willingness to suspend disbelief.
If I were an Australian, with a deep stake in American democracy, Jim Jefferies, for example, I would probably at this point call Merrick Garland a cunt, though I realize that’s not a word we can use here, in the USA, where words fucking matter.
Garland may well be a very principled, judicious, deliberate man, but he’s not a wartime Attorney General ready to deploy the law boldly against seditious conspirators, making them actually obey subpoenas from Congress — for starters, to end the GOP’s seamless obstruction of justice and ensure that fascism is not our immediate fate here in the land of the free and the home of the highly principled.
Mike Flynn is laughing his autocratic ass off now, as the far-right’s Steve Bannon continues to bray from his basement, basking in his open contempt of Congress and law, and the good citizens shudder, wondering when they will finally just take over, put troops and angry mobs of armed vigilantes in the street and the Enemies of the People, and bigmouths like me, into harsh, airless, stinking, sun-baked Joe Arpaio-style prison camps.