None of this is surprising. An odd lesson of the Trump years – of which, believe it or not, there have barely been more than three so far – is that one can be shocked, alarmed, disgusted, and disturbed all at once without being even a little bit surprised. He is what he is, what he’s always been. He does what he does, what he’s always done. Mitch McConnell, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham et al wrote him a blank cheque last week (it was only last week!) and now, gee no fooling, Donald has written in his own figure and means to cash it.
Those who testified to the truth under oath before Congress have thus got to go, if they haven’t removed themselves already. So long, erstwhile EU ambassador Sondland – too bad about the million bucks you threw at Donny to buy the post, but you shot your damned mouth off, and this is what you get, buddy. So long, Lt. Colonel Vindman, who was frog-marched out the door along with his brother, who didn’t testify and had nothing to do with Trump’s impeachment, but hey, he was the guy’s brother, so if he’s fireable he gets fired too. Others, like Fiona Hill and Bill Taylor, are already gone, but who’s to say that’s the end of it? Maybe they’ve got skeletons in their closets that could turn up somehow. If they don’t, maybe some could turn up anyway, you follow? That’s what Bill Barr is for. Bill will look into it.
So now it’s time to even some scores and settle some debts. This Vindman character – was firing him enough? Surely, Donald suggests, his military superiors should be looking into further discipline? And what about Mitt Romney, the only Senator to vote in favour of removing Trump from office – is he really as lily-white as he lets on? Donald is now floating dark suggestions that Mitt is actually tied up in the same alleged Ukranian mess as the Bidens, which is a filthy lie piled atop a ludicrous conspiracy theory straight from the annals of QAnon, but what the hell, when something works, run with it.
That’s what Bill Barr is for, right? That’s his function. The sword and the shield of the Trump State. Yesterday, Barr announced that he’d established an “intake process”, whatever that means, to gather in the dirt on the Bidens that faithful knave Rudy Giuliani is supposed to have unearthed during his adventures in Europe, meaning that if the limp noodles in Ukraine won’t investigate Joe and son Hunter, the Justice Department will. Why even bother, you ask, now that poor Joe seems to be close to obliteration in the Democratic primaries and isn’t the existential threat he once seemed to be? For the same reason Barr is spearheading an inquiry into the FBI’s handling of Russian interference in Trump’s election, having tasked US Attorney John Durham to investigate the investigators: Trump craves not just victory, and not just revenge, but sweet vindication. Just as he once redrew a weather map with his Sharpie to prove the veracity of a tweet, thereby demonstrating – see? see? – that Hurricane Dorian really did threaten Alabama, Trump will now re-write the narrative on Russian meddling, the Ukraine, and the Bidens.
Impeachment dispensed with: check. Enemies persecuted: check. History re-written: ongoing, but check. Now, on to the pressing matter of all the President’s men, and the prison perils they now face for their past efforts to rig things just so for Donny. Jessie Liu, the US Attorney in the District of Columbia where both Michael Flynn’s and Roger Stone’s cases are being handled, was causing problems; she wanted Stone to be sentenced to nine years! Unfair, Trump tweeted, so Barr duly removed Liu and installed one of his cronies, Timothy Shea, and whattyaknow, Justice is now seeking a greatly reduced sentence for Stone. All four Justice Department prosecutors on the case have withdrawn in protest, one of them even resigning from Justice altogether, but so what? Good riddance. Plenty of toadies can fill those slots, can’t they? Thus Flynn, sensing a sea change, has withdrawn his plea and awaits good news. Things are looking up in Trumpistan, eh Mikey? Maybe later Trump will pardon Stone, and Flynn and Manafort too, but for now, it’s great good fun to pull the levers at Justice and show who’s in charge. Like the investigations into the FBI, the firings, and the harassment of whistleblowers, it has a pleasing chilling effect. Take note, rogue operators in the Southern District of New York: Barr can shit-can your asses too. Yeah, yeah, it’s not supposed to work that way, but Barr knows what Trump proved long ago, even before he was elected President: it’s easy and painless to shatter norms and taboos, if you just have the guts to try.
Oh yeah, also, don’t anybody run off on their own and start looking into what the Russians are doing about the 2020 election. Barr just issued an edict that all investigations into election campaigns are forbidden unless personally endorsed by him. So OK, Vlad, the coast is clear, let the buggery begin!!
The destruction of the Republic is now almost complete. Free and transparent elections have morphed into murky affairs influenced by disguised foreign propaganda and domestic dirty tricks, making anything achieved by the rat-fuckers of Watergate seem like amateurish small potatoes. The Congressional “power of the purse” has been taken away, with Pentagon appropriations being diverted to Donald’s wall, and Congressionally-mandated foreign aid being unlawfully withheld, the better to extort the recipients into doing Trump’s political bidding, all without consequence. Oversight? Stonewalled, with lawful subpoenas and unambiguous statutory imperatives simply ignored, to the point that Trump might as well put a billboard on the South Lawn that reads Hey Congress: Make Me. Impeachment? It is to laugh. With the Senate in his pocket, that inconvenient possibility has essentially been struck out of the Constitution, with it now being enshrined as constitutional dogma that if the President does it, it can’t be impeachable. Meanwhile, with the Justice Department now serving as Donald’s personal in-house fixer, and Bill Barr playing Roy Cohn on steroids with the full power of the state behind him, the rule of law isn’t just imperilled, it’s all but dead, at least at the federal level. If you’re waiting for the Courts to object, good luck, because Donny and Mitch have stacked them with ideologues, servile lackeys, and just about anybody on the Federalist Society’s list who can fog up a mirror.
I’ve heard it debated whether all of this actually amounts to a bona fide “constitutional crisis”. This is a lawyer’s argument; it can’t, technically, be a crisis if the constitution has mechanisms in place to deal with it, so they say. It’s only a crisis if the constitution doesn’t contemplate the situation and has no built-in remedy. Uh-huh. Horseshit. Trust me, when those who would pull the constitutional levers are too corrupted to do their duty, that’s a crisis, and America is in the middle of one now. Almost all the legs have been cut out from under the stool.
There’s just one left: the free press. Watch for Donald to do something soon to curb the “enemies of the people”, in response to which, I’m assuming, you won’t be surprised.