It’s hard to believe, isn’t it, that the Russians will really muck around in the 2020 presidential elections to the same extent and effect as they did in 2016. I don’t really believe it myself, deep down. You can’t pull a stunt like that twice. We’re on to it!
Except we’re not on to it, not really. The barn door is still swinging open, and another horse can easily get out.
Both Trump and Mitch McConnell, who might just as well be referred to as the Axis of Evil, are doing their damndest to leave America wide open to Russian election interference. Mitch is doing his part by sitting on bills designed to secure the electronic integrity and security of election machinery – this would involve sending money to the individual States, since America, screwed up as always, runs its Federal elections at the State level – as well as draft legislation that would make fake news cesspools like Facebook more accountable for who’s buying space on their sites. Several such bills have been passed through the Democratic House, but of course Mitch won’t even let them come to a vote. Of course he won’t. Something like 150-160 bills have been passed through the House since the mid-terms, and Mitch is stifling almost all of them.
Just as an aside, you might have thought, as I once did, that if a bill was passed in the lower chamber, the Senate would eventually have to vote on it. Not so. Under present rules, the Senate Majority Leader can simply decide to let them sit there, unattended, to die. Making sure that the legislative and constitutional machinery is all gummed up is, of course, a McConnell specialty, as when he refused to allow Obama to appoint Merrick Garland to SCOTUS. As far as Mitch is concerned, so long as the Dems are the ones sending the legislation upstairs, there will be no legislation, none at all. The Senate can serve purely as a device to confirm Federal judicial appointees and stack the courts, filling the hundred or so vacancies that were created before Trump’s election, when Mitch refused to let Obama appoint anybody. Otherwise, the Republican agenda, now that they got their tax cut and their stacked Supreme Court, is best served by doing nothing, almost literally nothing at all. And that’s just what Mitch is going to do.
Question: all commentary and reporting I’ve seen assumes that if the House votes to impeach Trump, a trial must be held in the Senate, and this would force the Republicans to publicly declare their fealty to their criminal President. Are we sure, though, that’s the case? Could Mitch simply refuse to hold the trial? Here’s what the Constitution says, in Article I Section 3:
The Senate shall have sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
The Senate shall have the sole power to try impeachments. Various rules apply when the trial is held. Is that the same thing as saying the Senate must hold a trial if the House impeaches? Sure, that’s the only reasonable inference, but then, the only reasonable inference of the provisions related to Supreme Court appointments was that the Senate had to hold hearings and either confirm or reject Presidential appointments. Yet it doesn’t really say that, it just gives the Senate the right to advise and consent, and Mitch twisted this to mean he could also refuse to advise or consent. It was scandalous and unprecedented, but Mitch went ahead and did it without even breaking a sweat, on the bogus pretext that the President was a sort of lame duck on such matters when an election was only a year or so away, a position he just abandoned with his patented breathtaking hypocrisy.
Watch for it. If the House ever votes to impeach, Mitch might just decide to do nothing about it. The Constitution gives him the sole power to conduct a trial, and has rules for “when” the trial is conducted – and that’s the same thing as saying “if” it’s conducted, right? You think he’s not that brazen? You think there’d be rioting in the streets? I wonder. Nothing in our recent experience suggests that Mitch is afraid to try anything, or will suffer any consequences if he does.
Anyway, Mitch has his end handled. Prior to 2020, there will be no legislative effort to thwart foreign attacks on the American democracy.
Then there’s Donald. All along he’s denied that the Russians ever interfered at all, and has continued, even after the unequivocal, detailed conclusions of the Mueller Report were released, to refer to the “Russia hoax”. Of course Donald has also been studious in avoiding any executive action to thwart or deter the Russians, and the extent to which his intelligence agencies can act on their own, absent executive direction, remains unclear.
Yesterday, though, came the real kicker. There was Donald, big, fat, dumb and happy, ensconced behind the Resolute Desk, being interviewed in the Oval by George Stephanopoulos. Asked whether this time around, it might not be better to report foreign offers of election assistance to the FBI, Trump basically responded with Hell no. Report that stuff to the FBI? Why? There’s nothing wrong with listening to whatever the foreigners might have to offer about a political opponent. If some random country, say Norway, calls you up and says “hey, have we ever got the shit on Joe Biden, wanna hear it?”, you’d listen, right? Of course you would. It’s called “oppo research”. Everybody does it. No, damned right he’d take it. Call the FBI. Listen, George, you poor misguided slob, that’s not how the world works, OK? Who calls the FBI?
But FBI Director Chris Wray has testified to Congress that in such circumstances, you should call the FBI, says George. Well, responds Trump, visibly bristling, Chris Wray is wrong.
Now, accepting foreign electoral assistance, whether in money or kind, is illegal, a snare Donald Junior only evaded because this is one of those strange offences that can be avoided if the lawbreaking wasn’t “willful”, that is, if you didn’t know you were breaking the law. Why in God’s name they drafted it that way is beyond me, but in any case, after all the fuss, and Mueller’s pained analysis and exposition on the matter, surely no one in Trump’s position could claim going forward that he didn’t know it was a breach of election laws to consort with, say, Norway, and take their help to win the election. Or France, say. You get the feeling Donald doesn’t understand that, and that he wouldn’t care if he did.
Look how bold he is! In essence, what Trump just did was send another open letter to Putin, saying “Russia, if you’re listening, and you’ve got the shit, I still want it”. This amounts to a declaration, made on television, that he intends to break the law to win in 2020, should the opportunity arise.
Now, Nancy? Now is it time to impeach? Sigh. I remain of the view that yes, now’s the time, that Trump must be impeached immediately, but if you step back you can see the bind she’s in. Especially if, shrewd, experienced, and battle-hardened as she is, she’s thinking that Mitch will pull a fast one and simply do nothing, avoiding even the stink of voting to acquit. My advice, which Ms. Pelosi is no doubt keen to receive, is when in doubt, just do the right thing. But it’s easy for me to be so sure, and the stakes are huge, maybe as huge as anything since the Civil War. I don’t think the Republic, as presently constituted, survives a second term of this vile Presidency. I expect Nancy feels the same. Think of bearing that weight.
I try to stay hopeful. I really do. But this moronic, bloviating huckster, too stupid to run a car wash, somehow keeps walking all over everything and everybody that ought to be restraining him. He’s mopping the floor with the institutions meant to supply checks and balances. He figures, post-Mueller, that he’s gotten away with it. He figures that to the base, he’s been exonerated. He figures that Mitch will make sure Congress is impotent. He knows that the Justice Department has neutered itself with its insane policy against indicting a sitting President, and that his pet AG, Bill Barr, isn’t about to change that. He reckons that his stonewalling of the Dems in the House won’t work its way through the courts until the third year of his second term, when anyway it lands on the desks of his buddies in SCOTUS. He thinks he can operate with complete impunity. He’s probably talking to Mitch and the Koch brothers about a Constitutional amendment to allow him to serve more than two terms.
Oh well. I predicted Trump would be gone by the end of this year, and it’s not like I’m ever wrong, so take heart.