Cutting through Mueller’s legalese to draft articles of impeachment

The problem for the Trump impeachment is not a shortage of impeachable behavior, it’s an overwhelming ongoing pattern of high crimes and misdemeanors.  The challenge is putting the worst of it into a few easy to understand sentences, articles of impeachment subject to proof based on irrefutable evidence. 

The Mueller report, contrary to Bill Barr’s deliberately misleading PR campaign and his authoritative-sounding legal pronouncements about “insufficient evidence” and exoneration, contains a large amount of sworn testimony about presidential abuses of power.   

The detailed pattern of corrupt acts, the terrible stories recited in the prosecutorially noncommittal, balletic legalese of the Mueller report, needs to be incorporated into the articles of impeachment.  The president’s reflexive pattern of corrupt behavior must be set out in all its dramatic detail, (he does exactly the same thing every time so it’s very easy to picture him doing all this). Two or three similar, dramatic instances of his ongoing abuse of his office should be offered to stand in for the rest.

There should be an article of impeachment about his ongoing obstruction, his blanket refusal to provide any information and his demand, using flagrant, inflammatory public social media and mass media intimidation, that  all subordinates continue to defy subpoenas and refuse to testify.   Floating pardons to those willing to persist in giving false, helpful testimony and attacking and threatening those “rats” who threaten to testify truthfully. 

These larger charges, along a host of others, recited for the consideration of the Senate jury:  the hiring of his children, getting them illegal security clearances, vindictively firing a subordinate to prevent, by a single day, the vesting of his fully earned civil service pension, his brutal policies toward migrant children, his violent twitter attacks particularly vicious when attacking women and black people, especially black women, his seamless mendacity about things large and small, his vengefulness and using his office to mete out  revenge,  his refusal to put his assets into a blind trust, his monetizing of the office, his misuse of the Justice Department, his overruling military leaders about the scope of their authority, his beterayal of his oath of office,  etc., need to be incorporated into the articles of impeachment, or featured prominently during the impeachment trial, if Nancy Pelosi is the political genius she’s being touted as at the moment.

The president’s admitted shakedown of new Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky for dirt on Trump’s political rival is one easy to understand instance of the president’s abuse of presidential power for his own corrupt ends.   Bear in mind, we only know about the president’s July 25 call, records of which were immediately hidden in a secure, secret server, because the whistle blower hired a lawyer who succeeded in getting the report to Congress, over corrupt AG Bill Barr’s best attempt to illegally bury a whistle blower report improperly forwarded to him and already vetted by the Inspector General and deemed “credible” and “urgent”.  Had Trump and Barr succeeded in burying the whistleblower complaint they attempted to make disappear, nobody would have even known of this.  That was part of the cover-up.     The only reason Zelensky’s end of the deal (the quid pro quo) wasn’t consummated (Zelensky was scheduled to appear on CNN to make the announcement on September 13) was that the whistleblower report was made public before then and the bipartisan approved military aid was released on September 11.

There is debate over whether, standing alone, the withholding of military aid to embattled Ukraine until Zelensky made a public announcement that Biden’s alleged corruption was under investigation is an impeachable offense.  There is the “perfect” July 25th call itself, which followed a coordinated”back-channel” smear campaign that removed the US  ambassador: and then the attempted cover-up of this “inappropriate” call, its improper hiding  in a top secret server, the irregular forwarding of the Inspector General’s report on the whistleblower complaint to the DOJ and the DOJ’s improper attempt to bury the whistleblower complaint.  These actions are all part of the president’s impeachable conduct in relation to shaking down the Ukrainian president.  All typical actions by Mr. Trump, things we’ve all seen him do publicly many times.  Trump’s fact-twisting defense of these actions is only a further demonstration of his unfitness for office.  It’s worked for him so far, and it’s the only wayhe knows how to do things.

It’s debatable, perhaps, whether Trump’s unethical efforts in connection to Ukraine, standing alone, are an abuse of power that rises to the level of an impeachable offense.  Add in the hiding of the original call, the illegal attempt to squash the whistleblower’s credible and urgent request, the release of a doctored summary transcript of the perfect call, the obstruction of witness testimony and there is not much room for an intelligent debate against the proposition that these were corrupt acts and part of a long pattern of corrupt acts.  As a vivid, easy to understand example of more than a dozen, or maybe fifty, similar abuses of power, the Ukraine shakedown is only the clearest illustration of the pattern.   The president does this exact kind of thing, the fallout ensues and then he reacts with almost comic predictability (it might be funny if he wasn’t one of the most powerful men in the world), time after time.   

There is a very strong case that the constantly attacking president, a reflexively lawless, compulsively lying man, ready to use any means necessary to serve the pressing needs of his own roiling ego is unfit for office. Unfit for the supremely important office he holds —  leader of the world’s most powerful, most influential nation, at the moment when the world is heading toward a climate catastrophe of unimaginable destruction.

Use Plain English

In law school students are urged to write in plain English.  Make your story clear to the judge, to the jury, the non-lawyer, the high school kid.  Argue plainly and concisely, using strong, active words everybody understands.   I’m thinking about plain English after wrestling with a few of the deliberate, agile contortions in Mueller’s careful, precise legalese.  Mueller should have written his dramatic, troubling stories in plain English if he wanted Americans to really know about them.  More about that below.

I’ve been thinking of Brian Lehrer’s challenge to listeners to draft an article of impeachment.   I plan to draft one that indicts the president for a continuous course of corrupt conduct detrimental to citizens’ faith in the government and in the administration of justice.   

While mulling over how to write a crisp, irrefutable short article of impeachment for the most openly corrupt president in living memory, I’ve been listening to a great dissection of the Mueller report by a group called Lawfare, who introduced the project like this:

For the past several weeks, a group of us has been working on a project to tell the story of the Mueller Report in an accessible form. The Mueller Report tells a heck of a story, a bunch of incredible stories, actually. But it does so in a form that’s hard for a lot of people to take in. It’s very long. It’s legally dense in spots. It’s marred with redactions. It’s also, shall we say, not optimized for your reading pleasure.

They set out to make plain, in their colorful audio version, some of the many dramatic findings of the investigation, quoting the report extensively along with the media’s, lawyers and the president’s reactions to those revelations.  The podcast is excellent and highly recommended.   Hearing the vivid illustrations of a course nefarious conduct from Mueller’s own investigation made me wonder why Mueller didn’t lay out his findings nearly so forthrightly.   There are some fucking great stories in there.

You can check out the excellent podcast here.   The following paragraphs are  largely based on their second to last episode, The Fixer Flips  [1].  

There are countless examples of the president’s continuous course of corrupt conduct since beginning his campaign for the presidency.  Many are detailed in the hundreds of pages of the Mueller report.   Let’s look at the course of corrupt conduct that flows from Trump’s actions regarding a single close associate, Trump’s long time “fixer” Michael Cohen. [2]  

Michael Cohen, encouraged by Trump, agreed to a false story with Trump and their lawyers (they had a joint defense agreement at first) and lied, under oath, to Congress about the status of Trump’s long pursued billion dollar Trump Tower Moscow project.

The development signaled legal peril for Trump, whose presidency has been besieged by special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into whether his campaign team colluded with Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.

Cohen made his disclosure as he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the Moscow project. He said he made false statements to hinder the Trump-Russia investigation and to protect Trump, who was identified in court as “Individual 1”.

“I made these statements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty with Individual 1,” Cohen told the federal court in Manhattan on Thursday morning, after signing a plea agreement with Mueller. He did not say if Trump directed him to lie.

Mueller said Cohen had specified that he lied “to give the false impression that the Moscow project ended before the Iowa caucus” which took place on 1 February – the critical first vote in Trump’s presidential primary contest in 2016.

Outside the White House, Trump told reporters that Cohen was “a weak person and not a very smart person” and claimed without evidence that Cohen was lying to secure a reduced punishment for other crimes.

source

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s longtime associate and personal lawyer, by the way, nonchalantly told a TV interviewer at the time that the Trump Tower discussions with Russia had continued until right before the 2016 election.  He strenuously retracted that statement the following day.  Which is highly suspicious, of course, but also increasingly typical of admissions by Trump associates.

After Cohen became a cooperating witness (“rat” in Trumpspeak) he recanted the lies he’d agreed to tell to Congress, to protect the president.  He corroborated evidence of  damaging facts he’d been actively hiding, out of personal loyalty to the his longtime boss, the president and to cover-up their work with Russians up to and through the 2016 election.

The pertinent facts reported in this section of the Mueller report, what Mueller might have written, in plain English: 

There is substantial evidence that Mr. Trump encouraged Cohen to give false sworn testimony to Congress and that they coordinated their false story.   When Cohen agreed to cooperate with the government Trump did everything possible to dissuade Cohen from cooperating.   During their joint defense agreement, Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen were able to freely share information about the Mueller investigation and shape their legal narratives together.   After the joint defense agreement between Trump and Cohen ended, Trump continued to pay Cohen’s mounting legal defense bills and praise him publicly as a good and loyal man who would never “flip”. 

Attorney Robert Costello, a close associate of the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, contacted Cohen and informed him of a Giuliani back-channel to the president.  Costello stressed to Cohen the importance, in the absence of the joint defense agreement, of using Giuliani as a back -channel in all communications with Trump and his legal team. 

Costello sent Cohen an email reporting that he’d talked to Giuliani and that the conversation was “very, very positive.  You are loved.  They are in your corner. Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places.”   

During this time Trump publicly praised Cohen and touted his loyalty, saying Cohen was a good man who would never “flip”, suggesting publicly and in private that he could use his pardon power to shield Cohen if his former fixer stayed on message.   Trump continued to pay Cohen’s legal defense bills amid media reports of pardon discussions between the parties.

After Cohen announced his intent to cooperate with the government, Mr. Trump stopped paying Cohen’s legal bills, repeatedly attacked Cohen as a “rat”, suggested that ‘flipping’ (cooperating with the government, in mobster shorthand) should be illegal and publicly threatened Cohen’s father-in-law with criminal prosecution. 

In a good example of why lawyers have long been reviled, Mueller writes of the question of Trump’s clear intent to prevent Cohen from testifying truthfully:

In analyzing the president’s intent in his actions toward Cohen as a potential witness there is evidence that could support the inference that the president intended to discourage Cohen from cooperating with the government because Cohen’s information would shed adverse light on the president’s campaign period conduct and statements.

“there is evidence that could support the inference that…”

Instead of writing this, about the president’s public witness tampering:

Our investigation uncovered substantial evidence that the president intended to discourage Cohen from cooperating with the government.  Fearing Cohen’s truthful testimony would be damaging to him, the president repeatedly called Cohen a “rat”, repeatedly and publicly attacked his credibility, publicly stated that ‘flipping” (cooperating with the government) should be illegal and intimidated Cohen by publicly threatening his father-in-law  with a criminal investigation.

Mueller, as throughout the report, bending over backwards to appear scrupulously fair and even-handed,  drafts this opaque chunk of elegant,  accurate, nonjudgmental legalese, which says the same thing:

Before Cohen began to cooperate with the government the president publicly and privately urged Cohen to stay on message and not “flip”.  After it was reported that Cohen intended to cooperate with the government, however, the president accused Cohen of “making up stories to get himself out of an unrelated jam.”   He called Cohen a “rat” and on multiple occasions suggested members of Cohen’s family had committed crimes.    The evidence of this sequence of events could support an inference that the president used inducements in the form of positive messages in an effort to get Cohen not to cooperate and then turned to attacks and intimidation to deter the provision of information and to undermine Cohen’s credibility once Cohen began cooperating.

“The evidence of this sequence of events could support an inference that…”

There are literally dozens of similar detailed, dramatic illustrations of Trump’s many abuses of power in the report (and in Trump’s ongoing behavior), of the president’s singular focus on protecting himself above all else, manipulating subordinates using public praise, public attacks, his full presidential powers to coerce and intimidate witnesses from speaking truthfully, or at all.   His ongoing liberal use, and dangling, of the pardon power, (starting with his unpardonable pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for contempt of a federal order to stop operating his open air, self-proclaimed “concentration camps” for prisoners in the Arizona desert, and continuing through his recent overruling of the Navy’s intended expulsion of a Navy SEAL who it strongly appears committed vicious war crimes and was turned in by his fellow SEALS) is characteristic of his nonchalant, regular  abuse of his presidential power. 

The Ukraine shakedown, once more using unofficial back-channel private citizen and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to smear a well-respected career diplomat prior to her removal from Ukraine, suggests that there are many more guiltily hidden instances where Giuliani has performed such “deniable” work for the president’s reelection campaign.  The smear campaign and removal of Marie Yovanovitch were part of a long campaign to get dirt on Biden that preceded Trump’s July 25th call to Zelensky to directly make his offer of military assistance for a corruption investigation into Burisma, the company Biden’s son worked for.

The president’s recent real-time twitter attack on Marie Yovanovitch, the vilified ambassador he dismissed from her post in the Ukraine, as she was testifying in the impeachment inquiry, is consistent with his constant attacks and attempts to intimidate anyone he perceives as a threat to his presidency and/or business interests.

Trump is a man who continues to embrace the disgraced Roy Cohn as his ideal of a great lawyer.   Cohn, Trump’s unscrupulous mentor, felt the full measure of his protege’s famed loyalty as he was dying; Trump turned his back on Roy Cohn.   Rudy “Back-channel” Giuliani, the long-time Trump friend who would be Attorney General, and sometimes works, unofficially, in harness with the actual appointed A.G., appears poised for a similar send-off by the “most transparent president in history”.   A man who’d never be a rat, a man of the highest loyalty and moral standards.  A man who needs to be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, removed from office and criminally prosecuted for just a few of his more ordinary crimes.

 

 

[1]   All quotations from the Mueller report (including the email of Giuliani’s associate who offered the Fixer a back channel to the president when he was about to “flip”), are transcribed from that podcast.

From Lawfare:

This episode covers Trump’s attempts to influence another potential witness to his conduct: his former lawyer Michael Cohen. When Cohen is called to testify before Congress, with the help of Trump’s attorneys he drafts a false statement that repeats the Trump team “party line” about the Trump Tower Moscow project.

The president knows that Cohen, more than almost anyone else, has had a front-row seat to Trump’s conduct. Congress wants to hear from Cohen and the President’s lawyers take the lead in workshopping a statement to give to Congress that minimizes the Trump campaign’s missteps. Cohen goes before Congress and regurgitates the lies endorsed by Trump’s team. But Cohen is not out of trouble yet. The fixer finds himself in serious criminal trouble with federal law enforcement in New York and Trump is nervous. A host of Trump affiliates get in contact with Cohen and make allusions to a powerful weapon in Trump’s arsenal: a presidential pardon.

But Cohen then begins to cooperate with the government and the president sours on his beloved fixer. With Cohen no longer on the team, the president unleashes a storm of tweets assailing Cohen and threatening his family.

source

[2] We will leave aside, for the moment, Individual One’s secret October 2016 $130,000 payment to a porn actress to keep quiet about a sexual liaison Trump had while married to his third wife.   

The New York Times notes that the President denies he ever had a sexual affair with porn actress “Stormy Daniels”, after mentioning the $130,000 N.D.A. he had his “fixer” enter into with her.   The ‘fixer’ later testified under oath that he’d paid off the porn star right before the 2016 election, with funds not directly traceable to Trump,  at the direction of  “Individual One”.  Individual one, of course, denies everything.  Not his fault, none of it!  Never!  God forbid!

One more treasure from Bill Barr’s 11/15 speech to the Federalist Society

 I can’t help it.   Just read the remainder of Barr’s recent remarks in detail  (looking for his apparent, and telling, ad lib about Secularists — not found in the original text) and this gem was too beautiful to ignore.  In arguing about how wrong it is for courts to second-guess the actions of a conservative president, he offers this:

To my mind, the most blatant and consequential usurpation of Executive power in our history was played out during the Administration of President George W. Bush, when the Supreme Court, in a series of cases, set itself up as the ultimate arbiter and superintendent of military decisions inherent in prosecuting a military conflict – decisions that lie at the very core of the President’s discretion as Commander in Chief.  [1]

This usurpation climaxed with the Court’s 2008 decision in Boumediene.  There, the Supreme Court overturned hundreds of years of American, and earlier British, law and practice, which had always considered decisions as to whether to detain foreign combatants to be purely military judgments which civilian judges had no power to review.  For the first time, the Court ruled that foreign persons who had no connection with the United States other than being confronted by our military on the battlefield had “due process” rights and thus have the right to habeas corpus to obtain judicial review of whether the military has a sufficient evidentiary basis to hold them.

 

This Nazi motherfucker needs to be removed and disqualified from any office in a democracy.  He is sullying the Department of Justice with his highly virtuous deistic partisanship, couched in beguiling intellectualism that can justify any position, in keeping with his piety. 

I rest my case.

 

[1]  Leaving aside, of course, a probably far more consequential recent Supreme Court over-reach, Bush v. Gore, a one-off 5-4 partisan decision that instructs history not to cite it was any kind of precedent. 

Bill Barr defends the Unitary Executive

In Bill Barr, president Trump has found his long sought Roy Cohn, the fiercest, most powerful attorney a president could have — Trump appointed him  head of the Department of Justice.  Barr has been tireless in protecting his boss.   He is currently traveling the world to assemble evidence that the Special Counsel’s report, which according to Barr exonerated the president of all wrongdoing, having found insufficient evidence of indictable crime, and was a baseless partisan witch hunt — the six convicted close presidential aids charged pursuant to the investigation notwithstanding.

To me, the most shocking thing about Bagpiper Bill Barr’s recent partisan speech, delivered to the Koch-backed Federalist Society, is that the full text of it is on the Department of Justice website.   Talk about chutzpah, talk about balls!   Nobody can accuse Barr of being meek.   That’s a big reason the president hired the hard-charging doctrinaire conservative and declared defender of the Unitary Executive (sometimes called the Imperial Executive)  to oversee the administration of justice in his United States.  You can read Barr’s queasy, lawyerly marriage of church and state HERE.

Bear in mind that Barr, a true believer, is completely consistent in these remarks.  He is, militantly, what he always was.  He’s part of a modern conservative movement, along with other powerful luminaries like Antonin Scalia, Richard “Dick” Cheney and Boof Kavanaugh, guided by “originalism” (the real and imagined intent of the Framers) and dedicated, for a hard to fathom reason, to a strong, unfettered Chief Executive [1].  These are also the values of the Federalist Society — as long as the Chief Executive is not a partisan liberal traitor, or somebody not born here, or a scoundrel and libertine who lies about oral sex.

The traditional balance of powers between the branches was restored after President Nixon’s criminal abuses of presidential power.  The Executive Branch, the Judiciary and Congress were conceived of as three co-equal branches, keeping each other honest, protecting all of us from a would-be tyrant, or a cabal of such persons in any one branch.   The desire to avoid presidential abuse of  his oath of office, committing, covering up and obstructing investigations of crimes while president, led to efforts to curtail expanded presidential power.  The eventual curtailment of the criminal excesses of Richard Nixon were a vivid example, to many Americans, of the genius of the separation of powers in our constitution. 

The perceived limitations on executive power were seen as an intolerable insult by certain conservative stalwarts, Nixon loyalists like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Bork, Roger Stone, the recently decorated Ed Meese.  Don’t ask me why ultra-conservatives  support an Imperial President, since half of the presidents are Democrats who would, theoretically, rule with the same unchallengeable prerogatives as the Republican ones.  I can only surmise that the doctrine relates to the conservative Social Darwinist love of “Order”, protection under law, by a powerful CEO, of the power of the powerful to retain all of their privileges and immunities without government interference — and let the weak fend for themselves.  Makers vs. Takers, Dogg.

Barr is a hyper-partisan.   He’s a smart, if unprincipled, lawyer.  He knows how to sound extremely reasonable and definitive when explaining his legal rationales.  He is capable of persuasively misleading without lying outright, in any actionable way.   He authoritatively defanged and neutered the Mueller report, (a misguided attempt by Mueller to be scrupulously fair-minded while investigating incriminating facts that led to the convictions of six close presidential associates who lied to DOJ investigators, obstructed his investigation and committed other crimes in service of the president), and made the findings of his report a dead letter in the mind of American voters weeks before he released a single excerpt of it.   

The report, Barr said, left the ultimate call about the damning facts contained in the report up to him as Mueller’s boss  — not to a divided Congress as Mueller concluded was the only constitutional mechanism for addressing colorable presidential abuses of power in the face of a DOJ policy against criminally indicting the president — and made the call, weeks before releasing the report, or even Mueller’s carefully vetted Executive summaries, that the report  found insufficient evidence to charge the president with anything …  it basically exonerated the president.   Barr made a formal, binding decision, he declined to prosecute, on behalf of the Department of Justice.   Case closed.

Barr suggested, and later affirmed by opening a criminal investigation into his own DOJ, that the president had been the victim of a government conspiracy against him.   This gave gravitas and authority to Trump’s theme of personal persecution by sick and dangerous enemies.  Barr set out to investigate whether the investigation itself had been a possibly criminal partisan conspiracy against the president.   

Barr claimed Mueller’s report exonerated the president, the guilty-looking subject of volume two which detailed numerous acts of presidential  obstruction of justice.  Like a skilled magician, Barr made the ten troubling and dramatic scenes of presidential misfeasance, in that seamless and ongoing pattern of corruption disappear.  Barr stated there was “insufficient evidence” though an ongoing investigation into Roger Stone would, a few months later, demonstrate that Stone had also lied to protect the president.  The truth that emerged at Stone’s trial showed that Trump lied in his written answers to Mueller when he claimed, as Stone falsely did, that the president had no advance knowledge of political dirt that Wikileaks or the Russians had ready to go.   

Barr, in a written letter to the president published in newspapers, encouraged the president to make the broadest blanket immunity claim in American history– to defy all subpoenas for all testimony of anyone who ever worked for you and to refuse to produce any documents that could damage the presidency– and fight it all the way to the Supreme Court, to run out the clock on all the Congressional subpoenas, if nothing else.

Barr singlehandedly, acting on his strongly-held principle that the Chief Executive has unfettered powers that must not be unfairly encroached on by “checks and balances”, headed off the impeachment of Trump, the Congressional investigation that should have followed the release of the opaque but damning Mueller report.   He also improperly intervened in an attempt to bury the whistleblower report that had been found credible and urgent by the Inspector General.

Back to the Mueller report– there is a pile of strong, specific evidence of wrongdoing in the report, even as it didn’t find sufficient evidence of criminal conspiracy (in part because many key witnesses lied to investigators, played for time as pardons were dangled, several  destroyed evidence) it also, pointedly, could not exonerate Trump for obstruction of justice.   The arguments over the report dragged on in public, the hopes of opponents of the president decisively dashed once after Mueller reluctantly testified before Congress, answering questions laconically and continually citing his immense, detailed, legalistic report as his last word on the subject.  After Mueller testified in Congress, tepidly and against his will, months after his expurgated report was released,  Trump crowed again about how the $30,000,000 witch hunt into the Russia Hoax hadn’t touched him, had, as Barr suggested resulted in “complete and total exoneration”. 

The very next day, we learn, the president called the new Ukrainian president and told him he’d be happy to release the weapons a rare bipartisan Congress had approved for his country’s defense against Russian aggression– as soon as the Ukrainian made a public announcement that he’d reopened a corruption investigation into Joe Biden’s role in getting his son Hunter a cushy job for a corrupt Ukrainian gas company.    Partisans are now trying to impeach the president, in spite of the president’s constant protestations of innocence, in the face of his constant attacks on witnesses and demands to know the identity of the whistleblower, a person whose identity protected from vengeful superiors like Trump by the Whistleblower Act.

Last Friday, in front of his philosophical brothers at the Federalist Society, Barr laid out what he portrayed as the fundamental corruption of those trying to impeach the president.  He did this in the course of a speech on originalism and the Founder’s apparent intent that the president basically rule like a king.  Barr considers himself a virtuous person pursuing a deific end (he deftly turns this description of himself into an insult on his enemies on the left — his audience of one smiling). 

Typically, Barr put politics in rigid  black and white partisan terms, triggering the libs, as the kids who love Trump say.   The in-your-face “I know you are, but what am I?” projection of these remarks, by a man who believes it is his virtuous duty as a religious Christian to defend his sovereign, is — in-your-fucking-face.  I’ll do my best to refrain from commenting on Barr’s remarks, outside of asking you to assess his assertions based on our current political climate and the respective actions of each party.

Indeed, measures undertaken by this Administration seem a bit tame when compared to some of the unprecedented steps taken by the Obama Administration’s aggressive exercises of Executive power – such as, under its DACA program, refusing to enforce broad swathes of immigration law.

The fact of the matter is that, in waging a scorched earth, no-holds-barred war of “Resistance” against this Administration, it is the Left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.  This highlights a basic disadvantage that conservatives have always had in contesting the political issues of the day.  It was adverted to by the old, curmudgeonly Federalist, Fisher Ames, in an essay during the early years of the Republic. 

In any age, the so-called progressives treat politics as their religion.  Their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the State to remake man and society in their own image, according to an abstract ideal of perfection.  Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursing a deific end.  They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end, regardless of collateral consequences and the systemic implications [2].   They never ask whether the actions they take could be justified as a general rule of conduct, equally applicable to all sides [3].

Conservatives, on the other hand, do not seek an earthly paradise [4]. We are interested in preserving over the long run the proper balance of freedom and order necessary for healthy development of natural civil society and individual human flourishing.  This means that we naturally test the propriety and wisdom of action under a “rule of law” standard.  The essence of this standard is to ask what the overall impact on society over the long run if the action we are taking, or principle we are applying, in a given circumstance was universalized – that is, would it be good for society over the long haul if this was done in all like circumstances? [5]

For these reasons, conservatives tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means [6]. And this is as it should be, but there is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy war, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media [7].

earlier in his speech, Barr had invoked the frightful, irrational hostility of millions to the duly elected president.

Immediately after President Trump won election, opponents inaugurated what they called “The Resistance,” and they rallied around an explicit strategy of using every tool and maneuver available to sabotage the functioning of his Administration.  Now, “resistance” is the language used to describe insurgency against rule imposed by an occupying military power.  It obviously connotes that the government is not legitimate.  This is a very dangerous – indeed incendiary – notion to import into the politics of a democratic republic.  What it means is that, instead of viewing themselves as the “loyal opposition,” as opposing parties have done in the past, they essentially see themselves as engaged in a war to cripple, by any means necessary, a duly elected government [8].

By the way, Barr’s repeated invocation of Malcolm’s “by any means necessary” is not a dog whistle wasted on his prosperous, ambitious, status quo protecting white audience at the Federalist Society.   Raising the specter of an angry, uncompromising black man, and comparing all political opponents to this dangerous type, is catnip for a right wing audience, especially in our current white nationalist times.

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By the way, Barr also declares that he thinks it’s wrong to use the courts for political purposes [9]. 

 

NOTES

[1]  Barr smugly dismisses the entire ‘nefarious’ argument about the Unitary Executive thusly:

One of the more amusing aspects of modern progressive polemic is their breathless attacks on the “unitary executive theory.”  They portray this as some new-fangled “theory” to justify Executive power of sweeping scope. In reality, the idea of the unitary executive does not go so much to the breadth of Presidential power.  Rather, the idea is that, whatever the Executive powers may be, they must be exercised under the President’s supervision.  This is not “new,” and it is not a “theory.”  It is a description of what the Framers unquestionably did in Article II of the Constitution.

[2] Unlike freedom and democracy lover Mitch McConnell, denying, on behalf of his political backers, President Obama his constitutional duty to nominate a Supreme Court replacement for the Senate’s consideration. Or not allowing a hearing or vote on any House Bill the president has not already indicated he approves of. 

[3] see note 2

[4] Unlike godless Secularist so-called progressives, men like Barr devoutly believe in a universe ruled by Christ where our reward, presumably,  is in a glorious afterlife in the real paradise.

[5] see note 2

[6] see note 2

[7] The only legitimate holy war, as men like Barr see it, is for Christ’s rule on earth as it is in heaven.  The inherent disadvantage of beleaguered conservatives has been, many might say, nullified by the Supreme Court’s embrace of unlimited “dark money” in political campaigns, methinks.  More than nullified, actually.

[8] See note 2

[9]  talk about yer virtuous, deistic hypocrites:

The “constitutional means” to “resist encroachment” that Madison described take various forms.  As Justice Scalia observed, the Constitution gives Congress and the President many “clubs with which to beat” each other.  Conspicuously absent from the list is running to the courts to resolve their disputes.

 

 

Religious Fanatic, Polished Partisan Liar, Authoritarian and ‘Pathetic Porcine Puppet of a Puerile President’

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A few recent sickening details HERE.

The burning soul of fellow religious fanatic lawyer Antonin Scalia lives on in Bagpiper Bill Barr,  the relentless, moralistic worldview that justifies every outrage in lawyerly cavil.  They are the moral equivalents of the original Jesuits, lawyers for the Spanish Inquisition, defenders of the faith and the auto de fe. 

The over-the top, in-your-fucking-face-asshole stuff this man spouts is horrifying.   He was careful not to tip his hand during the confirmation process, not to mention his fervent willingness to protect the president for anything and everything, erring on the side of caution.  Now that he’s the top law enforcement officer in Trump’s United States of America, he’s playing with house money.  He’s in like Flynn, like Kavanaugh, like Trump himself.

His moralistic war-like view of life, Christian Good versus Secular Evil, stems from his conservative, religious worldview — if Jesus tells you what to do, you never have to worry about not being right.  Anyone who opposes you, for any reason, is irredeemably evil, end of story.   This merciless worldview flows from an enraged morality, the logic cold and final, expressed, even if ineloquently, in provocative terms no law can touch.

If I was a better person, a better Christian, I might be able to take a less violent view of this latest incarnation of that power-drunk, unappealably assertive religious zealot who wants to make you do the thing whether you want to do it or not, whether its fair or not.   I’m just not that good, yet. 

If you want to get your guts in an uproar, go  read this short insightful article about this righteous, wrathful, Christian warrior and the latest outrage from Trump’s personal Roy Cohn, the (historically corrupt) Attorney General of the United States (for fuck’s sake).

 

A-B test (from Wednesday’s opening statements in impeachment inquiry)

A: 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Although we have learned a great deal about these events in the last several weeks, there are still missing pieces. The president has instructed the State Department and other agencies to ignore congressional subpoenas for documents. He has instructed witnesses to defy subpoenas and refuse to appear. And he has suggested that those who do expose wrongdoing should be treated like traitors and spies. These actions will force Congress to consider, as it did with President Nixon, whether Trump’s obstruction of the constitutional duties of Congress constitute additional grounds for impeachment. If the president can simply refuse all oversight, particularly in the context of an impeachment proceeding, the balance of power between our two branches of government will be irrevocably altered. That is not what the Founders intended. And the prospects for further corruption and abuse of power in this administration or any other will be exponentially increased.

B: 

REP. DEVIN NUNES:  But we should not hold any hearings at all until we get answers to three crucial questions the Democrats are determined to avoid asking. First, what is the full extent of the Democrats’ prior coordination with the whistleblower, and who else did the whistleblower coordinate this effort with? Second, what is the full extent of Ukraine’s election meddling against the Trump campaign? And third, why did Burisma hire Hunter Biden, and what did he do for them, and did his position affect any U.S. government actions under the Obama administration? These questions will remain outstanding, because Republicans were denied the right to call witnesses that know these answers. What we will witness today is a televised theatrical performance staged by the Democrats.

 

In comparing and contrasting the factual basis for these two opening statements, use Judge Martha Kavanaugh’s famous formulation, the one that underlies all of her scrupulously impartial son’s decisions, now as a lifetime Supreme Court justice: ‘use your common sense, what has the ring of truth?  what rings false?’

Which way the facts ring, of course, will be a matter of hot emotional debate in our black and white, white is black America of 2019.

Junior High School posters employed by Grand Old Party

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In what used to be called propaganda, Republicans placed large posters conspicuously on the podium behind the leaders of the Intelligence Committee, for viewers at home, whenever the committee chairman spoke.  The signs underscore what they continue to portray as a corrupt, partisan lynching.   Adam Schiff (“Shifty Schitt”) stated several times, and reiterated in closing, that to this day he doesn’t know the identity of the whistleblower.

No matter.   Trump says Shifty Schitt is a fucking liar.  

Two days later, as hearings continued, that poster was updated to read 95 days. Consistency is important in hammering home a talking point, sometimes. 

Our Polarized Polity (part 71)

As the impeachment inquiry continues and the former U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine testifies, two distinct stories are emerging.   They are two unreconcilable stories, one Red, one Blue (White is conspicuously absent from this patriotic stalemate  — except perhaps for the color of the lies everyone now expects and dismisses as beside the point).   

In one story, the president has abused the powers of his office since the day he was sworn in and credible evidence of that pattern of abuse is mounting daily.   A long string of his closest aids continue to resign or are banished for opposing his will, several were indicted and a few are already imprisoned — as the president continues to defy the law by asserting an unlimited blanket privilege to prevent the release of any and all subpoenaed documents and testimony.  In this story the president is a mendacious monster of vanity and impulsiveness, many of his worst deeds, done openly, have already been seen by everybody.    

In the other story, the president’s term has been near-perfect, his achievements are many, his attackers are a partisan cabal of jealous losers motivated by revenge for the president’s decisive defeat of their party’s monstrous candidate.   In that story, if not for hateful traitors, there would not even be any allegations of wrongdoing against this great American.  In that story the “whistleblower” is a criminal who must be unmasked and confronted publicly.

It’s a familiar tale, and familiar in the sense that many families know these kinds of angry divisions intimately.  The brother-in-law, a jovial un-prosecuted  serial criminal with a history of violence, who one must never criticize, the opinionated uncle freely spouting abhorrent beliefs, the aunt reserving the right to physically discipline her nieces and nephews for their disrespect.

Charles M. Blow put the situation succinctly in the New York Times the other day:

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The Red team and the Blue team, each in its own information silo.  If you wear the red hat, today’s conviction of Roger Stone, political provocateur and longtime Trump adviser, for seven counts of perjury and obstruction of justice, including lying under oath to the Mueller witch hunt, is just more proof of how determined ruthless, partisan “Democrat” liars are to bring down Mr. Trump by any means they can glom on to.    The partisan Mueller team, under DOJ criminal investigation themselves now for possibly treasonous crimes against the president, completely and totally exonerated the president and the corrupt Democrats still won’t shut up about its so-called “findings”!  It’s the same with the secret star chamber testimony given in those depositions Democrats keep releasing full transcripts of– a lynch mob conducting a baseless witch hunt with NO DUE PROCESS for POTUS!   

Ordinary citizen members of the blue team may not examine the evidence very much, or at all, before leaping up, fist in the air, to see Stone convicted for lying to protect Trump when he perjured himself to the Mueller team.   I’m not trying to be even-handed here.  There are stupid bastards, willfully ignorant bastards, stubborn bastards and plain old hateful, angry bastards on both sides.  It doesn’t mean there aren’t facts that can be placed on the table for discussion.  The fact that Republican questions appear all over the released deposition transcripts, and the witnesses were compelled to answer them (Read the Transcript!), clearly and irrefutably debunks the talking point that these were secret “star chambers” where Democrats proceeded in darkness, with no Republicans present, to extract anything harmful to the president.   

But as we all know, nothing can be debunked with plain facts in a fact-free zone and as even a quick glance at FOX news will demonstrate, inconvenient facts will never be presented to FOX viewers.  The point of view they receive will be their own point of view, forcefully confirmed for them by talking heads who confidently inform them of what they already know, while expressing no doubt or hesitation.  Abortionists, fornicators, homosexuals, transsexuals, angry blacks and Hispanics, criminal illegal aliens and their defenders, liberal cucktards, feminists, militant evangelical atheists, liberal elites, Communists, Socialists, insane, privileged “social justice warriors”, climate hysterics, George Soros, Barbra Streisand and other haters of America have an organized, well-funded, insidious agenda to turn the once-glorious United States of America into a weak and despised European-style socialist shit-hole.

At the risk of seeming to take sides here…  this interview with Liz Holtzman, at one time the youngest member of Congress (during the Nixon impeachment) lays the facts out beautifully while comparing the underlying facts of the two impeachments.    Check it out, well worth the fourteen minutes and twenty four seconds of your day.