Friday, August 24, 2018

If the Very Stable Genius turns out to be a felon, we have certain obligations as a country

Your must-read for today is John Podhoretz's piece at Commentary entitled "10 Things I Hate About What Just Happened."

And I mean "your" as broadly as possible. It's a must-read for Trumpists, hard leftists, conservatives of the "we have to align behind Trump even though he's reprehensible" variety, and actual conservatives who refuse to bend their principles.

All the above need to read it because we all may be looking at a hard fact: the president of the United States may have committed a felony.

Okay, I feel so strongly about this, I'm going to reprint his entire ten-thing list:

  1. He has pled guilty to a felony. He says Trump did it with him. If he is telling the truth, Trump committed a felonious act before he was president. So if Trump is guilty of a felony, why isn’t he being indicted?
  2. Justice Department guidelines say an indictment of a sitting president would impair the executive functions of the presidency and the performance of his constitutionally assigned tasks. These guidelines were first issued under a Republican president (Nixon) and reaffirmed under a Democratic president (Clinton), so they have bipartisan street cred. That said, they are guidelines. They are not law. A complex Constitutional theory has it that, since the executive branch has a unique structure in that the exercise of its powers flow through the president personally as the sole official elected by all the people, it makes no sense that the president could in essence indict himself. Any person who would indict himself would presumably resign his office before doing so. Still, this entire discussion is predicated on the assumption that the president committed a felony.
  3. The question then goes to whether a campaign-finance violation is sufficient grounds to remove someone from the presidency—either through a rejection of the Justice Department guidelines that sees him being indicted or through an impeachment proceeding followed by a Senate vote to kick him out. That’s a good question. But any way you look at the question, you’re still looking this fact in the face: The president committed a felony.
  4. Those who defend him on the grounds that he shouldn’t be removed from office for this offense, as it does not rise to the level, must still acknowledge that the president committed a felony.
  5. There will be those—Trump is already one of them—who will say that Barack Obama’s campaign was found guilty of campaign finance violations and only had to pay a significant fine. But that’s a different kind of case, because nobody says Obama himself ordered such violations. Once again, though, we stand face to face with the idea that the president committed a felony.
  6. Trump is also fond of saying, in other contexts, that everybody does these kinds of things, we should all grow up and look reality in the face.”Everybody does it” is fine as a debating point, perhaps, but it doesn’t address how you handle an open discussion of wrongdoing. In truth, only three times in the modern era has the American polis had to face the possibility that the sitting president committed a felony.
  7. Once the president resigned rather than face impeachment. Once the president beat the charge. Trump is the third president about whom we have to have a continuing conversation that seems to accept the contention he committed a felony.
  8. It is very bad for people to commit felonies. Donald Trump does not seem to believe this, perhaps understandably. He is on Twitter today actively defending his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort—based largely on the fact that Manafort didn’t “break,” unlike Michael Cohen. Manafort has just been found guilty by a jury of his peers of committing eight felonies.
  9. Unless it can be proved somehow that he did not tell Cohen to violate campaign-finance law, Trump is clearly going to force Republican politicians and Republican supporters to make a choice: Him personally or the rule of law and the principle that no president is above the law. He will threaten them with the anger of his base if they decide they cannot countenance a president who committed a felony.
  10. It’s not going to be pretty.
If - and we must couch it thusly, since Constitutional principles must be adhered to more fervently than ever at this late date in post-America - he is found to be a felon, then we are looking at a set of circumstances that makes most of the current tribalistic digging in of heels irrelevant.

We can't have a felon sitting in the Oval Office.

I'd also refer you to Jonathan V. Last's argument at The Weekly Standard that, had the revelations about Daniels and McDougal come out in the weeks prior to the election, the outcome could have been different.

Which gets us back to the basic point: All this is sucking these vast quantities of political and journalistic oxygen because Donald Trump habitually makes poor moral choices.


  1. Are felonies high crimes, or even high misdemeanors? The argument will go on for the entirety of the 2nd half of his term Even Dems are split on impeachment.

  2. The very most overarching question of all is, what would it take for America to elect a president who combined an admirable personal life, a first-rate intellect, and a solid understanding of the country's underlying principles?

  3. The debate over the significance of the campaign violations enumerated in the Cohen pleadings is destined to soon vanish like a puff of smoke on a windy day. The dismemberment of the Trump crime organization is only just beginning.

    Personally I do not favor impeachment because I agree with James Comey that this is a mess we citizens allowed to happen -- largely by sitting on our collective asses when duty called -- and it is therefore ours to clean up...wax on (2018)...wax off (2020).

    If, however, Trump leaves office before the end of his first term it will most likely be part of a plea deal in which he resigns and in return neither he, nor Jr, nor Ivanka must do any jail time (Jared...probably not so lucky).


  4. A possible scenario. Myself, I'm not inclined to predict how this is all going to go. Things too easily get too weird in this day and age for the forecasting of anything unfolding in a nice, linear fashion.

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