Now our benevolent Tyrant wants to execute drug dealers like his BFF “Killer” Duterte

Trump, according to Axios, has privately been talking up a new strategy in the nation’s ongoing struggle against the opioid epidemic: imposing the death penalty on drug dealers, just as they do in Singapore and Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines. According to Axios’s multiple sources, Trump is given to “passionate speech[es]” in private on the subject, saying “he would love to have a law to execute all drug dealers here in America, though it would probably be impossible to get a law this harsh passed under the American system.”

Even if he does realize it’s an idle authoritarian daydream, Trump’s fascination with this brutal tactic is meaningful, as is the way he came upon it. What’s more, his casual musings upon it are part of a larger pattern in which the administration uses crises to threaten the rest of us.

There’s no real need to explain that the summary execution of drug dealers is a bad idea, though it is a very, very bad idea. It’s enough to note that the country already tried an aggressive enforcement approach to drug crimes — the four-decade-long war on drugs — and among experts and law enforcement officers themselves, it is almost universally acknowledged as a massive failure in economic and practical terms. (Trump’s Justice Department is a notable outlier in that assessment.) Even more concerning, the war on drugs wound up being disproportionately waged against black and brown people. Escalating the possible sentence for drug crimes to death would just escalate the many injustices already present in a broken system. (This is also the argument that many civil liberties advocates make against charging drug dealers with murder.)

Trump doesn’t recognize any of this, of course. His pronouncements about drug policy come in two flavors, both of which suggest smugly unplumbed depths of ignorance: vague promises to keep drugs “out” of our country by building “the wall,” and sternly huffing about the need to “teach young people not to take drugs.” He doesn’t recognize that most of our opioid deaths are the result of drugs that are made in the United States or shipped in from China. He doesn’t recognize that “just saying no” has been proved ineffective by study after study.

None of that is true, but he means every word — and that’s exactly the problem.

 

Ana Marie Cox -Washington Post

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The name of the game is winning, and rigging the system the better to ensure perpetual winning.

WORSE AND WORSE: Republican Rule, Week 55: There Is No Bottom to This Bottom

Under Trump, the GOP has decided not to govern, but to rule.

Democracy? That’s for losers. For the Republicans, the name of the game is winning—and rigging the system the better to ensure perpetual winning.

One year and a month into the Donald Trump presidency, it’s increasingly clear that the Republican Party, drunk on the power of unified government under a man it once despised, has given up on the idea of democracy and decided instead to stand firmly at his side, and to maintain control by any means necessary. They have decided to not to govern, but to rule.

Democracy works only if all of the parties to it agree to its ground rules. We now have entered an era when only one party does so, often to its detriment, while the other continually blows through the guard rails of democratic normalcy in pursuit of perpetual power and monetary gain. The result: the most ostentatiously corrupt administration since Richard Nixon’s is completely off its tether, while his political party’s soul vanishes a little more each day.

The tax cut rammed through the Senate on a party-line basis, which promises to suck $1.5 trillion out of the treasury and which could yet set up draconian cuts to social services for the poor, children and the elderly was but one example of the rot. Holding hostage a Supreme Court seat, which Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell made clear he would allow to be filled only by a Republican president, was another. There are the serial attacks on voting rights in state after state under GOP control that, combined with likely continued Russian meddling, threaten the very democratic character of our elections. And the current determination of House Republicans to burn it all—including the intelligence community and the FBI—to protect Trump, and by extension the Kremlin, is the most outrageous of all.

Trump’s elevation to the White House, thanks to the anachronistic Electoral College, combined with the gerrymandered control of state and federal legislatures made possible by the Obama backlash and the short-sightedness of Democratic voters in 2010, gave Republicans a rare gift. The party has controlled all three branches of the federal government only three times since its founding as the anti-slavery party in 1854.

Since rebranding itself as the party of big business during the Gilded Age and losing losingTeddy Roosevelt in the process, the Grand Old Party controlled the presidency and Congress four times: during the presidencies of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover from 1925 to 1933, to disastrous results for the global economy; then again under Dwight Eisenhower, due to the deaths of nine Democratic senators and the resignation of another; and finally during parts of George W. Bush’s tenure. (It’s worth noting that Eisenhower, who presided over a period of rare economic stability under a Republican, was so non-ideological, he was offered the Democratic nomination by party bosses in 1948. With Bush, the GOP returned to deficit-busting, tax-cutting, recession-inducing form.)

Even without the White House, Republican control of the federal legislature has been disastrous for anyone but the super rich.

After the “Republican revolution” of 1994, Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole and Trent Lott used their power to force through a wholesale rewrite of welfare and criminal justice law; changes that resulted in the mass incarceration of millions of people, disproportionately black or Latino. During the Obama years, Republican control of Congress resulted in a veritable halt to legislative activity, as Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, followed by Paul Ryan, effected a virtual congressional work stoppage to thwart the Democratic president.

Now, with unified control of government again in their hands, including a Republican majority on the Supreme Court, plus control of 67 state legislative chambers to Democrats’ 32 (with Virginia up in the air), and 34 governor’s mansions to Democrats’ 15 (plus total control in 26 states), Republicans are galloping through their agenda of returning America to the 1920s.

Anywhere Republicans wield control, a familiar pattern emerges: aggressive deregulation and tax cuts for big business, attacks on unionized work, Medicaid, and public education, and the savaging of voting rights for people of color and any other group suspected of potential alignment with Democrats. On a federal level, throw in a wholesale handover of pristine lands, from Alaska to Bears Ears in Utah to the extractive industries, coupled with relaxed rules on how much those oil, gas, and coal companies can pollute the air and water with impunity.

Donald Trump supports this agenda, but he isn’t implementing it on his own. He has an entire party apparatus behind him, which is why Mitch McConnell declared 2017 to be, in his view, the greatest single year in the history of the Republican Party.

Apparently the feeling is so good to Republicans both in Washington and in the states, they have decided that they will never relinquish this unprecedented power.

In Wisconsin, the Republican governor, Scott Walker, has for nearly a full year refused to call special elections, leaving legislative seats vacant rather than risk their being filled by Democrats. This after his administration pulled off the most widespread voter disenfranchisement in the country in 2016 and dismantled his state’s Government Accountability Board, which was supposed to insure fair and ethical elections. That’s banana republic dictator behavior.

In Pennsylvania, having lost appeals going all the way up to the Republican majority Supreme Court, Republicans are now threatening to impeach state Supreme Court justices who ruled against them in a gerrymandering case that could finally break their stranglehold over state and federal legislative seats.

And of course there is the autocrat in training in Washington, who this week declared that not standing and applauding his speeches is tantamount to treason, and who with his party having emptied the coffers on their billionaire tax cuts, has ordered the Pentagon to throw him a grand military parade to “showcase America’s might,” in the style of Kim Jong Un. One shudders at the thought of tanks and troops filing down Pennsylvania Avenue, while the man who ducked out of Vietnam and has denigrated the service of braver men and Gold Star families does his best Mussolini pucker as he and his kleptocratic clan preen in the reviewing stand.

And rather than use the power the Constitution grants the Congress to rein in the would-be American Louis XVI, the speaker of the House, the Senate majority leader, and a cadre of lickspittle Republican marionettes have put the United States Congress wholly in the president’s service. Ryan is too busy urging the peasants to dance in the streets for the dollar-fifty he and his fellow top hatters flung from the Bastille in Washington while handing Exxon Mobil billions, the Koch brothers millions to care. McConnell can only rouse himself to threaten Democrats and take children’s health care and military payrolls hostage while allowing community health center funding benefitting 26 million Americans to languish for months while dawdling on immigration reform (which Ryan insists will only proceed in the House on the Dear Leader’s terms). In short, we now have zero checks on the executive branch in Washington, and an almost frenzied money grab by the wealthiest Americans under the benighted gaze of the once revered Grand Old Party. Abe Lincoln must be spinning in his grave.

Ryan and McConnell are destined to go down in history as twin handmaidens of America’s surprisingly swift descent toward authoritarianism, along with present-day Joe McCarthy Devin Nunes. Their morally decrepit political party has turned its back on every principle of democracy in favor of the naked pursuit of profit and power. Trump will be remembered as a wanna-be autocrat surrounded by beaters, cheaters, grifters, miscreants, and incompetents, and depending on what Mueller finds, maybe a criminal, too.

And he can be assured no one will ever throw him a memorial parade.

Joy-Ann Reid in the Daily Beast

 

The US tried to recover stolen U.S. documents from Russia and was offered a cache of Trump materials

The United States intelligence community has been conducting a top-secret operation to recover stolen classified U.S. government documents from Russian operatives, according to sources familiar with the matter. The operation has also inadvertently yielded a cache of documents purporting to relate to Donald Trump and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Over the past year, American intelligence officials have opened a secret communications channel with the Russian operatives, who have been seeking to sell both Trump-related materials and documents stolen from the National Security Agency and obtained by Russian intelligence, according to people involved with the matter and other documentary evidence. The channel started developing in early 2017, when American and Russian intermediaries began meeting in Germany. Eventually, a Russian intermediary, apparently representing some elements of the Russian intelligence community, agreed to a deal to sell stolen NSA documents back to the U.S. while also seeking to include Trump-related materials in the package.

The CIA declined to comment on the operation. The NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The secret U.S. intelligence channel with the Russians is separate from efforts by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to obtain information about Trump and his ties with Russia. Steele worked with Fusion GPS, an American private investigations firm that was first hired by Republican and later Democratic opponents of Trump to dig up information on him during the 2016 campaign.

By contrast, the more recent secret negotiations began after Trump’s election and have been conducted by U.S. intelligence officials working with intermediaries who mainly operate in Europe. When American intelligence officials initiated efforts to broker a communications channel in 2017, however, their primary objective was to recover stolen NSA documents, not to obtain material about Trump.

At the time, the NSA was desperate to recover documents that intelligence officials believed Russia had obtained through a mysterious group known as the Shadow Brokers. The group stole highly secret NSA hacking tools and began releasing them on the internet in the summer of 2016. The Shadow Brokers theft of the hacking tools devastated morale at the NSA, putting its custom-built offensive cyber weapons out in the open. It was as if a bioweapons laboratory had lost some of its most deadly and dangerous viruses. U.S. officials wanted to identify which NSA documents the Shadow Brokers had stolen, so they could determine how badly the agency had been damaged by the theft.

But once the communications channel opened, the Russians on the other side offered to sell documents related to Trump along with the stolen NSA documents.

A Russian who has been acting as a go-between for other Russians with access to Russian government materials has sought payment for the materials he is offering. In an extensive interview with The Intercept in Germany, the Russian intermediary provided detailed information about the channel. When contacted by The Intercept for this story, the American intermediary declined to comment.

Even many involved in the secret communications channel between U.S. intelligence and the Russians are said to be uncertain about what is really going on with the operation. Recently, the Russians have been seeking to provide documents said to be related to Trump officials and Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, including some purloined FBI reports and banking records. It is not clear whether those documents are in possession of American officials. It is also unclear whether the secret channel has helped the U.S. recover significant amounts of data from the NSA documents believed to have been stolen by the Shadow Brokers.

Further, it is not known whether the Russians involved in the channel are acting on their own or have been authorized by the Russian government to try to sell the materials to the United States. As a result, the Americans are uncertain whether the Russians involved are part of a disinformation campaign orchestrated by Moscow, either to discredit Trump or to discredit efforts by American officials investigating Trump’s possible ties to Russia, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

UNITED STATES – JUNE 7: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats arrives in the Hart Senate Office Building to testify during the Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats arrives in the Hart Senate Office Building to testify during the Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

THE EXISTENCE OF the off-the-books communications channel, which has been a closely guarded secret within the U.S. intelligence community, has been highly controversial among those officials who know about it, and has begun to cause rifts between officials at the CIA and the NSA who have been involved with it at various times over the past year.

The CIA, which is now headed by a Trump loyalist, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, has at times been reluctant to stay involved in the operation, apparently for fear of obtaining the Trump-related material offered by the Russians, according to sources close to the negotiations. In the period in which the communications channel has been open, CIA officials are said to have repeatedly changed their views about it. They have sometimes expressed interest, only to later back away from any involvement with the channel and the intermediaries. At some points, the CIA has been serious enough about buying materials through the channel that agency officials said they had transported cash to the CIA’s station in Berlin to complete the transaction. But at other points, agency officials backed off and shut down their communications. Some people involved with the channel believe that the CIA has grown so heavily politicized under Pompeo that officials there have become fearful of taking possession of any materials that might be considered damaging to Trump.

The CIA’s wariness shows that the reality within the U.S. intelligence community is a far cry from the right-wing conspiracy theory that a “deep state” is working against Trump. Instead, the agency’s behavior seems to indicate that U.S. intelligence officials are torn about whether to conduct any operations at all that might aid Mueller’s ongoing investigation into whether Trump or his aides colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election.

Many intelligence officials are reluctant to get involved with anything related to the Trump-Russia case for fear of blowback from Trump himself, who might seek revenge by firing senior officials and wreaking havoc on their agencies. For example, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence and thus the man supposedly in charge of the entire U.S. intelligence community, has said he does not see it as his role to push for an aggressive Trump-Russia investigation, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Because of the CIA’s reluctance to take an aggressive role, officials at the NSA have taken the lead on the communications channel, with a primary focus on recovering their own stolen documents. They have viewed the Trump-related material as an annoying sidelight, even as they understand that it is potentially the most explosive material to have come through the channel.

The channel has been operating in the shadows even as Mueller’s investigation has been basking in the spotlight. Last year, three former Trump campaign officials faced charges as part of Mueller’s investigation, and the special counsel continues to investigate both possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and evidence of efforts by Trump or others close to him to obstruct justice in the Mueller probe.

OVER THE PAST year, those involved with the secret communications channel have experienced a series of dramatic highs and lows. Until recently, it wasn’t clear whether the conversations would produce any materials about Trump or lead to the recovery of any NSA documents.

It took months of meetings and negotiations between American and Russian intermediaries to try to determine what documents might be available from the Russians – and at what price. Inconsistent interest in the channel by U.S. intelligence officials, particularly at the CIA, complicated the negotiations.

According to documents obtained by The Intercept that summarize much of the channel’s history, a key American intermediary with the Russians was first approached by U.S. intelligence officials in late December 2016. The officials asked him to help them recover NSA documents believed to have been stolen by the Shadow Brokers.

The American was able to identify a hacker in Germany who claimed to have access to some of the stolen data believed to be held by the Shadow Brokers, and who accurately provided advance notice of several Shadow Broker data releases. The hacker’s cooperation with the U.S. intelligence community broke down over his demands for full immunity from U.S. prosecution for his hacking activities — negotiations that failed largely because the hacker refused to provide his full personal identification to the Americans.

Eventually, the relationship with the hacker in Germany led the Americans to begin talks with a Russian who became a key intermediary in the channel. The Russian is believed to have ties to officials in Russian intelligence.

In March 2017, the Russian met with the American intermediary and a U.S. official in Berlin and agreed to provide the stolen NSA data from the Shadow Brokers in exchange for payment. The U.S. government used “certain messaging techniques” that the Russian accepted as proof that the U.S. government was behind the negotiations and the proposed deal, according to the documents obtained by The Intercept.

Officials gave the Russians advance knowledge that on June 20, 2017, at 12:30 p.m., the official NSA Twitter account would tweet: “Samuel Morse patented the telegraph 177 years ago. Did you know you can still send telegrams? Faster than post & pay only if it’s delivered.”

That tweet, in exactly those words, was issued at that time.

The NSA used that messaging technique repeatedly over the following months, each time officials wanted to communicate with the Russians or reassure them that the U.S. was still supporting the channel. Each time, the Russians were told the text of the tweets in advance and the exact time they would be released. Each tweet looked completely benign but was in fact a message to the Russians.

On August 17, 2017, officials communicated with the Russians by having the NSA account issue a tweet saying:“The 1st telegraph communications exchange occurred between Queen Victoria and President Buchanan in 1858.”

In October, 2017, officials communicated again with the Russians when the NSA tweeted:“This week in history, Robert Lamphere began working on the Verona program in 1948.”

That same month, officials gave the Russians early notice that the NSA account would tweet:“Can you help Kandice the Kangaroo save her baby Jory in this month’s #PuzzlePeriodical?”

In early November, three NSA tweets were part of the communications channel. One said:“#NSA inducts 5 #CryptologicPioneers into the Cryptologic Hall of Honor. Learn more about their distinguished service.” Another stated: “People are our greatest assets. The #NSA workforce makes 65 years of service possible #NSA65.” And a third:“23,725 days, 31,164,000 min. 2,049,840,000 sec and counting…At #NSA the mission never sleeps. #NSA65.”

Later that month, a message was sent to the Russians when the NSA account tweeted:“The ADONIS cipher machine replaced WWI-era SIGABA machine. It was one of the first machines to print on-the-fly.”

And in December, the NSA gave advance warning to the Russians that its official account would tweet:“Section 702 is a law that can also be a lifesaver. Take a look at how #Section 702 protects troops and helps the nation.”

But the channel broke down several times, often over disagreements between the U.S. and the Russians about how money would be exchanged and what data was to be received. In May 2017, U.S. officials were upset that the first tranche of data they received contained files already known to have been stolen because they had already been released by the Shadow Brokers. But the Russian intermediary continued to insist that he could provide data held by the Shadow Brokers, as well as materials related to Trump officials and Russian activity in the 2016 campaign. Throughout 2017, the U.S. officials sought to limit the scope of their investigation to data stolen by the Shadow Brokers, leaving aside the materials related to Trump. U.S. officials also began to wonder whether the Russian intermediary was part of a so-called dangle operation involving Russian disinformation.

But by last fall, the Russian began passing information to the American intermediary that was unrelated to the Shadow Brokers, including the names of specific individuals and corporate entities allegedly tied to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. The American intermediary turned the information over to U.S. intelligence for the purpose of determining the Russian’s credibility. U.S. intelligence officials continued to stress that they were only interested in recovering stolen U.S. data. Still, it was understood that if the Russian provided material related to Trump, the American intermediary would debrief U.S. officials on its content.

In December 2017, the Russian turned over documents and files, some of them in Russian. The documents appeared to include FBI investigative reports, financial records, and other materials related to Trump officials and the 2016 campaign.

“The information was vetted and ultimately determined that while a significant part of it was accurate and verifiable, other parts of the data were impossible to verify and could be controversial,” the documents obtained by The Intercept state. It is not clear who vetted the material.

At a meeting last month in Spain, the Russian told the American intermediary of his desire to move forward with the delivery of the Shadow Brokers data, as well as material related to the 2016 election. The American questioned him on the credibility of his data and told him the data he was providing on Trump officials and election activities was “unsolicited.” The Russian also expressed interest in giving the material to media outlets, which the American told the Russian he found “disconcerting.”

The Russian told the American that he had first become aware of Russian efforts targeting U.S. political activities in late 2014 or early 2015, according to the documents reviewed by The Intercept. The Russian stated that he had no knowledge of a “master plan” to cause major disruption to U.S. election activities, but the effort was generally understood as a “green light” from Russian security officials to enlist cyber-related groups in probing and harassing activities directed at U.S. targets.

From Ryan Grim at the Intercept

 

Trump’s plan is a “strongman military parade” and an addition to “Trump’s wannabe despot checklist.”

Will Dictator Trump have our military goose-stepping for him?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has them. So does North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Now, President Trump wants his own military parade in Washington, with soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the boulevards. Officials told The Washington Post on Tuesday that they have begun planning a grand military parade later this year showcasing the might of America’s armed forces.

“The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” a military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Post, which noted that shows of military strength are not typical in the United States. The last of its kind took place in June 1991, when 8,800 U.S. troops and the weapons that helped the United States win the Persian Gulf War against Saddam Hussein were celebrated in Washington.

But in Europe, defense scholars immediately raised questions about whether Trump’s desired military parade would really fall into the same category as France’s Bastille Day parade, which is held annually and is deeply rooted in the country’s history and values. Although Trump’s parade, like the French one, would feature the nation’s military might, it might send a very different message, some European defense analysts and columnists said.

“For the record: France’s Bastille Day military parade is an old tradition, going back to 1880. Its longevity and popularity have many historical reasons. Probably different from Trump’s motivations,” wrote Sylvie Kauffmann, an editorial director and columnist with the French newspaper Le Monde and a contributing writer to the New York Times, summarizing a widely shared sentiment in Europe on Wednesday.

Whereas France’s Bastille Day — founded to celebrate the turning point of the French Revolution — has been associated with an annual military parade for more than a century, efforts to combine a similarly patriotic holiday with a military parade in Washington might strike many foreign observers as odd timing. Why now?

A military parade in Washington would likely be perceived as a more timely political message from a single individual to the nation and, indeed, to the world, along the lines of: Look at how strong I am!

In Europe where Trump has never had many supporters, defense analysts worried on Wednesday whether the president’s possible misunderstanding of military traditions was a sign of a broader problem. “At what point does healthy appreciation for the military turn into unhealthy obsession?” asked German defense expert Marcel Dirsus. Brian Klaas, a fellow at the London School of Economics, referred to Trump’s plan as a “strongman military parade” and  an addition to “Trump’s wannabe despot checklist.”

Those concerns echoed similar European responses that have emerged throughout Trump’s first year in office. When Trump warned North Korea of “fire and fury” last summer, analysts wondered whether he was aware of the catastrophe that would result from an attack with  nuclear weapons.

After Trump emphasized the size of his “nuclear button” in January, observers from the United States and elsewhere criticized the remarks as “infantile” and ill-advised.

“Trump plays with the subject so carelessly and recklessly as if it were some kind of video game,” Aaron David Miller, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars who has advised several secretaries of state, said on Twitter. “My head’s exploding.”

The way Trump discusses nuclear weapons echoes a pattern observed among military officials in the past, researchers have noted. They were referring to a 1985 study by Carol Cohn, who analyzed military remarks that compared nuclear war with “an act of boyish mischief.”

Cohn said that those kinds of remarks were an expression of a “competition for manhood” and “a way of minimizing the seriousness of militarist endeavors, of denying their deadly consequences.” She concluded that they posed a “tremendous danger” in real life.

Size appears to have mattered in Trump’s desire to organize a military parade in Washington, too.

“It was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” Trump told reporters last year, referring to the Bastille Day celebrations. “It was two hours on the button, and it was military might, and I think a tremendous thing for France and for the spirit of France.”

He added: “We’re going to have to try to top it.”

Edited From Washington Post

The march toward full Republican acceptance of a Trump Dictatorship 

52 percent said that they would support postponing the 2020 election, and 56 percent said they would do so if both Trump and Republicans in Congress were behind this.

Moreover, nearly half of Republicans (47 percent) believe that Trump won the popular vote, which is similar to this finding. Larger fractions believe that millions of illegal immigrants voted (68 percent) and that voter fraud happens somewhat or very often (73 percent). Again, this is similar to previous polls.

Not surprisingly, beliefs about the 2016 election and voter fraud were correlated with support for postponement. People who believed that Trump won the popular vote, that there were millions of illegal votes in 2016, or that voter fraud is not rare were more likely to support postponing the election. This support was also more prevalent among Republicans who were younger, were less educated, had less factual knowledge of politics and strongly identified with the party.

Of course, our survey is only measuring reactions to a hypothetical situation. Were Trump to seriously propose postponing the election, there would be a torrent of opposition, which would most likely include prominent Republicans. Financial markets would presumably react negatively to the potential for political instability. And this is to say nothing of the various legal and constitutional complications that would immediately become clear. Citizens would almost certainly form their opinions amid such tumult, which does not at all resemble the context in which our survey was conducted.

Washington Post

Trump’s “get out of jail free card” may not work

 

Can President Trump pardon himself? Can he pardon his close associates and family members?

These questions have begun to simmer as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III ramps up his investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in its interference with the 2016 presidential election. Mueller is also, undoubtedly, looking into whether the president obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James B. Comey. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, is reportedly under investigation as well.

So it’s a live question: Infuriated by these investigations, will the president try to short-circuit them by pardoning himself and others caught up in the Mueller investigations? And, if he did, would those pardons be valid?

The Constitution’s pardon provision gives the president the power “to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” Some argue that because the language is broad and there is no explicit prohibition, presidents may pardon themselves.

But this is simplistic and specious. Presidential self-pardoning would violate the basic structure of our Constitution, and the whole history of the pardon power strongly weighs against the concept.

Presidential power to pardon, including the impeachment exception, is directly modeled on the pardon power of the British monarch. Royal self-pardoning was inconceivable under the British system. Because British monarchs could commit no crime, they had no need to pardon themselves. Self-pardoning, therefore, was never part of the British pardon power — and was not incorporated into the U.S. version. There is no evidence the Constitution’s framers ever contemplated or supported a presidential self-pardoning power, as the debates during the Constitutional Convention make clear.

When presidential pardoning power was proposed at the convention, an amendment was offered to prevent a president from granting pardons in cases of treason. Supporters thought that would discourage presidents from committing treason. Opponents argued that was an unnecessary precaution because if a president were “guilty” of treason, he could be “impeached and prosecuted.” The Constitution specifically provides for “indictment, trial . . . and punishment” of a president under the criminal laws, in addition to impeachment.

Implicit in the opponents’ argument was the view that a president could not have any power to pardon himself. Otherwise, he could commit treason (or any other crime), pardon himself and then, except for being removed from office through impeachment, go scot-free. The power to self-pardon would thwart any criminal prosecution of the president and stymie full accountability.

At the constitutional convention, opponents of the amendment won. Their view that the president must be subject to prosecution rules out any presidential power of self-pardon. Because it prevailed then, that view must shape our interpretation of the Constitution today.

A presidential self-pardoning power would seriously undermine the rule of law. If presidents could self-pardon, they could engage in monstrously wrongful and criminal conduct with impunity. That would utterly violate the framers’ belief in a limited presidency and in the idea that no president is above the law.

James Madison said, “No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause.” Self-pardoning presidents would be acting as their own judge and jury, which no one is permitted to do in our constitutional scheme. It would stand in jarring contrast to the rest of the Constitution.

Then there’s the matter of actual precedent. No president has ever decided to pardon himself, including Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who all faced special prosecutors investigating their conduct. Self-pardoning would have been seen as a clear-cut admission of guilt, not to mention an outrage against the constitutional order. Further, if the pardons were challenged and invalidated, presidents would have the worst of both worlds — they would be open to prosecution, and their guilt would be widely believed.

So, if Trump pardoned himself, the pardon could be challenged in a prosecution brought against him, and a court could, and likely would invalidate it.

Although presidents may not pardon themselves, they may pardon their confederates in crime. But if these pardons are intended to shield a president from prosecution or otherwise facilitate committing a crime, the president could be impeached or prosecuted for granting such pardons. Remember, the Watergate burglars were offered presidential pardons for their silence. This formed one of the many charges against Nixon in the articles of impeachment voted by the House Judiciary Committee.

The Constitution treats the pardon power as it has generally been seen throughout history — as a way of injecting mercy into the justice system. It was never viewed as a vehicle for presidential abuse of power, which is what giving the president the power of self-pardon would be.

Washington Post – Elizabeth Holtzman, a Democrat from New York, served in the House of Representatives from 1973 to 1981, including on the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate investigation.

 

Trump and the NRA incite the fringe right—Happy July 4th!?

 

Dana Loesch an American conservative talk radio host and television host at TheBlaze stars in controversial new NRA commercial that many believe is a call to action for the heavily armed fringe right.

The NRA ad is aligned with Donald Trump’s “American Carnage” inauguration speech — uncompromising, outraged and gloomy.

The ad begins with Loesch’s voice painting a dire picture of the U.S. political climate and culture.

“They use their media to assassinate real news,” Loesch says scornfully. “They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again.”

The video has generated more than 6 million views, thousands of comments and shares — and lots of controversy.

One Facebook user commented under the post.

“I’m an old white guy and a life member, but this BS is disgusting,” “When you spew crap like this, you don’t speak for me anymore. I try to avoid doing things on the spur of the moment, but I’ll be thinking about canceling my membership.”

“Jeeeeesus … it almost looks like you’re encouraging violence against demonstrators,” another person wrote. “Just let the police do their jobs when or if protests get out of hand.”

Critics released a petition calling for Facebook to remove the video, which the petition refers to as “inflammatory.” “All we have to do is look at the increase in violence since the election to see how unchecked violent rhetoric has real life consequences,” the petition states. “Letting this disturbing video stay on Facebook would be extremely irresponsible and could very well lead to disastrous repercussions.”

“The video tries to create an ‘us-vs-them’ narrative and pit Americans against one another,” the petition adds. “It paints liberals as liars and as violent, unruly protesters who law-abiding gun owners need protection from.”

In the ad, Loesch accuses “their” ex-president of endorsing “the resistance,” a movement of demonstrators who “smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports — bully and terrorize the law-abiding.”

“The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country, and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched fist of truth,” Loesch concludes. “I’m the National Rifle Association of America, and I’m freedom’s safest place.”

And then there’s Trump’s not so subtle call for physical attacks

CNN contributor Ana Navarro warned Sunday that Trump’s tweet was an incitement to violence, and she worried that the president’s supporters would eventually act on his encouragement.

“This is just going way too far,” the conservative commentator said. “The president of the United States is inciting violence against the free press. In America, we cannot stand for it.”

The reporter who revealed the “obviously racist” and antisemitic Reddit user who created the animated image of President Donald Trump body-slamming CNN has been deluged with death threats.

Jared Yates Sexton, a journalist who teaches writing and linguistics at Georgia Southern University, reported Sunday that the president had shared an internet meme created by a Reddit user called “HanAssholeSolo.”

That person made frequent racist and threatening posts on Reddit, including one earlier this month identifying Jewish employees of CNN.

Sexton tweeted Monday that he had gotten numerous threats — often accompanied by antisemitic and Nazi themes — since revealing the meme’s creator.

Jared Yates Sexton  ✔ @JYSexton

Yesterday I broke the news that the guy who made Trump’s CNN gif also created an antisemitic meme and was obviously racist. 2/

Jared Yates Sexton ✔ @JYSexton

In the wake of that, I received numerous threats. I was told people wanted to shoot, strangle me, hang me, throw me out of a helicopter 3/

“Now articles are showing up on Neo-Nazi websites, there are videos spliced with Goebbels telling me not to test his patience,” Sexton tweeted. “That one also has footage from Natural Born Killers of a journalist being executed by a shotgun. On forums, under my tweets, there’s a list of excerpts from newspaper articles about journalists being slaughtered, the details gory.”

Sexton said some people had accused him of making up the threats, followed by a threat of their own.

“This environment is the creation of the man in the White House,” Sexton said. “There are valid criticisms of the media, many on point, this isn’t that. When you start calling a group of people enemies of the country, this is what happens. When you call them scum, this happens.”

He laid some of the blame at the feet of InfoWars’ radio host Alex Jones, who tells his listeners the mainstream media are pedophiles and Satan worshippers.

“Everyone keeps bringing up the shooting in Virginia,” Sexton said. “In a way, they’re right. That’s what happens in this environment. This shouldn’t be a country where these violent instincts are cultivated and encouraged. We’re at a real tipping point right now.”

Jared Yates Sexton  ✔ @JYSexton

This shouldn’t be a country where these violent instincts are cultivated and encouraged. We’re at a real tipping point right now.

Jared Yates Sexton ✔ @JYSexton

But make no mistake, there’s something growing in this country, and it is very, very ugly.

A history of incitement

Last year on the campaign trail, Trump regularly encouraged violence at his rallies.

Documented instances of such incitement and outbreaks of violence throughout the campaign cycle including:

And that’s just a taste of what happened throughout 2016 at Trump rallies. As the year progressed, Trump’s encouragement to his violent supporters crossed several lines including:

 

The Guardian summed up Trump’s time on the campaign trail succinctly:

You can trace back the decline in our politics to a single campaign and a single candidate, who riled up his crowds to turn on the press and hurl abuse in their direction.

That’s the same candidate who longed for the days when he could punch protesters in the face. Sure enough, his supporters ended up punching people in the face.

Fortunately, the rule of law still endures in the courts, where a Kentucky judge recently denied the candidate’s claims that he was just exercising his rights to free speech and couldn’t be sued for inciting violence.

The candidate is of course now president of the United States, who calls the media “the enemy of the American people.”