Archive for the 'Trump' Category

A new Declaration of Independence

In the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers enumerated 27 abuses by King George III against the people of the colonies. It is interesting how many of those very same transgressions can be laid at the feet of the current administration in the White House and of the Republican Party in general. The text in italics is directly from the transcript of Declaration of Independence at the web site of the National Archives.

 

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

In fairness, Trump has not yet vetoed wholesome and necessary laws, but only because the Republican Congress has not enacted any.

 

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

Republican-led grid lock is widespread in those state legislatures not under GOP control.

 

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

The GOP has been adamant that undocumented immigrants be denied any representation in local governments.

 

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

Keeping Congress in Washington during the heat and humidity of August can only be described as cruel.

 

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

Although this is not directly applicable to the current situation, the failure of the Trump administration to fill hundreds of key government positions clearly is an abuse.

 

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

Trump’s animus toward immigrants is well known.

 

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

Neil Gorsuch.

 

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

Neil Gorsuch.

 

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

Commission on Electoral Integrity, aka the Kobach Commission.

 

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

American police today dress and act like an occupying military force.

 

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

Secretary of Defense General James N. Mattis, Secretary of Homeland Security General John F. Kelly, White House Chief of Staff General H. R. McMaster.

 

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

Police routinely get away with murdering civilians, mostly in Republican-led states.

 

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

Trump opposes NAFTA, TPP, and international trade in general except, of course, when it benefits him or his family.

 

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

The perfect description of a Trump rally.

 

Maybe it is time for the citizens of these United States to declare our independence of Republican abuse of our rights and institutions for these are surely “times that try men’s souls.”

The great American reset

It now appears all but certain that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and may well have even altered vote counts to put Donald Trump in the White House. Perhaps even more alarming is the emerging evidence that Russian intelligence had been grooming Trump to become president since at least 2015 and quite likely some years earlier, a possibility I discussed in a post last February, Agent Trump. There is no question that Trump was aided immeasurably through the primaries and the general election by a well-fed right-wing propaganda machine. Still, for a political novice to win the nomination over a field that included three sitting Governors, six former Governors, four sitting Senators, and one former Senator is unprecedented. And for a candidate to win the election against an opponent who on the eve of the election led in national polls by three percentage point and who was judged to have an 84% chance of winning is mind-boggling. The fact that Mr. Trump won by small margins in a relatively small number of precincts he was not expected to win fuels speculation of vote-tampering. So too does the confirmed Russian hacking of election systems in 39 states. The oft-expressed claim by the GOP that those hacks only targeted voter registration records is simply ludicrous. The outlines of an illegitimate election are clear.

The wheels of American justice turn slowly, especially when the Party that controls both Houses of Congress has a vested interest in gumming up the works. And while there are mechanisms for dealing with violations of election laws and a process for removing a President guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, whatever those might be, there is no Constitutional provision for dealing with a fraudulent election. Some might suggest that the 25th Amendment could be invoked but if the election was tainted, so too is the entire chain of succession provided for in that Amendment. Rather, I propose the following:

The Democratic National Committee and other interested parties bring suit against the Federal Election Commission challenging the legitimacy of the election. The matter would go to the Supreme Court which could, if the evidence were compelling, order the results of the election voided and the Trump administration, in its entirely, removed from office. At this point, the House of Representatives could elect an interim president to serve until a new election is held. It is worth nothing that nothing in the Constitution requires a popular vote for the President. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution provides that each state choose Electors by whatever means its legislature directs. For that matter, nothing in the Constitution requires that the Electors from each state vote unanimously or that their votes reflect the results of the election. Assuming that having the interim President serve until 2021 is not desirable, that leaves several possibilities.

1)     The Electoral College empaneled in 2016 could be reconvened to elect a new president and vice president to serve out the term. This has the advantage of being quick. However, the legitimacy of Electors chosen in a fraudulent election could be in doubt.

2)     The states could be directed to appoint a new College of Electors to elect a new president and vice president to serve out the term. Again, this could be done fairly quickly. However, the direct selection of the Electoral College by the state legislatures, while Constitutional, would be unprecedented and almost certainly controversial.  

3)      A new presidential election could be scheduled for 2018. This is the option I call The Great American Reset. Henceforth presidential elections would be held on even-numbered years not divisible by four.

After that, when the disaster of the Trump election is behind us, perhaps the Congress will see fit to propose a Constitutional Amendment reforming our badly flawed system for electing presidents, a system that is far too easy for a hostile foreign power to subvert. Naturally, I have an opinion of how that system should function, but that is a different post.

Trump’s coup d’etat

Much of what the Trump administration has done to date makes very little sense when judged against the normal transition from government by one party to that of the other. Unlike previous newcomers to power, they have run roughshod over outgoing political appointees as well as Civil Service professionals. They have reversed Obama initiatives no matter how insignificant and benign. Their legislative agenda are incoherent except in their zeal to roll back anything enacted under the previous administration. Accompanying this mean-spirited and childish behavior is the vicious outbreak of taunting and hate from Trump’s white, lower-class, poorly educated supporters. It is as if an alien power has taken over our country.

Aside from the reality of Russian interference in our election and apparent leverage over the Trump White House there is a more fundamental character to what is happening. The fact is that Trump and his followers do not see the last election as a peaceful Constitutional transfer of power but as a coup d’etat in which white Christian Americans have retaken their country from the clutches of a black Muslim interloper from Kenya, or Hawaii, or some such foreign place. They believe that they have saved the country from a murderous woman hell-bent on killing any who stand in her way. They gloat at having vanquished the hated “libtard snowflakes” and their fake news. The Confederacy has finally triumphed over the “librul” North.

Of course, the only coup was that of the very wealthy over ordinary Americans. The only walls that will be built will be those around Trump golf courses. The only jobs that will become available will be those of poorly paid illegal immigrants whose families are rent asunder; jobs that no American is willing to do. The hated Obamacare will be replaced by nothing but a multi-billion-dollar tax cut for the wealthy and corporations. Far from becoming “great again,” American’s slide from world preeminence, begun under Reagan, will be accelerated as the United States becomes irrelevant on the world stage. Already Trump has alienated our allies and made us the laughing stock of the world. His policies have emboldened North Korea and will almost certainly lead to Iran developing nuclear arms.

I don’t know what will happen. I may well not live to see the US recover from this debacle. I live in fear of a real coup by a military increasingly controlled by dominionist, evangelical officers. While I doubt that the US would even resort to gas ovens, I think that the prospect of concentration camps for enemies of the state is very real. But most of all, I worry about the economic collapse that Trump is so clearly driving the country toward. I fear that the American century is over and the powers of evil have overthrown our democracy. I mourn for the country whose uniform I once wore.

Trump on tap

It has become abundantly clear that Donald Trump’s response to critical news reports is to deflect and lie. The latest flap over his and his campaign’s contacts with Russian officials is a case in point. When the press reported that Trump surrogate and current attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had met at least twice with the Russian ambassador to the US during the campaign, the Donald responded with angry tweets accusing then-President Obama of illegally tapping the phones at Trump Tower. Mr. Obama has denied ordering any such wiretap and both the Director of National Intelligence and of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have said categorically that there was no bugging of Candidate Trump or of his campaign. It is worth parsing these statements carefully to try to determine the truth.

First, though, let us consider the process through which such surveillance might be implemented. Before anything happened, someone at the FBI would have to suspect that some law was being broken. That suspicion could have arisen from any of a number of sources. Perhaps NSA intercepted unusual funds transfers between Russian banks and entities associated with the Trump organization or campaign. Persons with security clearances, including, one presumes, Senator Sessions, are required to file reports of contacts with certain foreign officials. Maybe one or more of those reports raised a red flag. It is no secret that the FBI monitors the activities of some, if not all, foreign diplomats in the US. Maybe they saw something that appeared questionable. And then there is always the possibility that someone within the Trump campaign blew the whistle on a perceived impropriety. In any case, if the FBI became suspicious, they might well seek a warrant for a wiretap. That warrant could be issued by a Federal Court in the District of Columbia or, if there were a national security issue at hand, by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court. In an extreme case where human lives or critical national security interests were at stake, the FBI could initiate the wiretap before obtaining the warrant but that seems unlikely in this case. With the warrant in hand, the FBI, quite possibly with assistance from NSA, would establish electronic surveillance of communications to and from the Trump offices. Most likely NSA would mount a parallel effort against the backchannels from the Russian embassy for which they would need no warrant. The information generated by the intercepts would be processed and analyzed by the intelligence and law enforcement communities then presented to the appropriate prosecuting authorities.

But this case is a bit different because of the political sensitivity associated with surveilling a nation campaign, especially against the candidate of the opposition party. Against the backdrop of the Watergate scandal everyone involved surely exercised the utmost discretion. Here is how I believe events unfolded:

Sometime in the earlier days of the Trump campaign, the FBI became aware of questionable contacts between members of that campaign and the Russians. Paul Manafort, in particular, clearly engaged in dubious activities. I would not be at all surprised if money were being channeled to the Trump campaign from Russian interests as well—a clear violation of US election laws. Being aware of the political ramifications, the FBI most likely took the matter to the Attorney General who consulted President Obama who told them to stand down until after the election. I suspect that Director Comey’s ill-timed and unethical comments about Clinton emails, that may well have cost her the election, could have been a misguided attempt on his part to be even-handed. In any case, on November 9 or shortly thereafter, I imagine that the FBI took the matter to the FISA court and obtained a warrant to monitor communications between the Trump transition team and the Russian government. After the inauguration, as Trump appointees filtered down into the Federal bureaucracy, someone learned of the top-secret wiretap and informed Trump who responded with a typical tweet storm. Go back and read the statements from Obama, the FBI, and the DNI. They are all consistent with this scenario.

And this, I believe, is the history of the matter heretofore. What emerges in the next weeks and months promises to be interesting at the least and frightening at worst. The evidence of Russian interference in our election and influence over the Trump administration is becoming difficult to ignore or to dismiss as “fake news.” There is a lot of smoke coming from Trump Tower these days and it is hard to believe that there is no fire there.