Only Tyrants Get to Break Laws, Appoint Supreme Court Justices

The Republican Party is about to enshrine minority rule for a generation thanks to a man who cheated to win the presidency.

The president of the United States was implicated yesterday in federal crimes committed for the purpose of influencing the outcome of the 2016 election. He broke the law to win, even as he vowed to “bring back law and order,” accused Hillary Clinton of treason, and as loyalists—to this day—feverishly chant “lock her up!”

But there’s more at stake than the president’s hypocrisy, venality and lifelong habit of surrounding himself with grifters, frauds, and incompetents—not to mention five former aides now convicted of felonies. While Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges against him Tuesday, Senate Republicans were paving the way for Donald Trump’s pick for a lifetime appointment to the United States Supreme Court.

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Let’s be clear.

If Trump were anyone but president of the United States, he would be in custody right now facing federal charges of conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud.

Cohen was explicit. He said he paid hush money to two women—Stephanie Clifford and Karen McDougal—to prevent their sexual relations with Trump from coming to light in the closing days of the campaign. Cohen said he did so “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” meaning you-know-who.

Again, let’s be clear. After ordering Cohen to do it, Trump repaid Cohen, fully aware of what the money had been used for. This is what prosecutors look for: “corrupt intent.” Trump not only broke the law. He intended to break the law. It’s no stretch to guess why: he probably believed that headlines about his philandering and lechery would lead to defeat. The president of the United States broke the law to win.

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We can’t know if such revelations really would have cost Trump the election. (Given the loyalty of so-called evangelical Christians, I tend to doubt it.) But that does not matter. What matters are the choices Trump made, and why he made them. A president who cheats to win, even if he didn’t need to cheat to win, is not a president deserving of the public trust. Without public trust, there can be no legitimacy. Without legitimacy to govern in our name, tyranny rules.

You’d think the Republican Party would have something to say about trust, legitimacy, and tyranny. This is the party whose leadership not long ago accused former President Obama of being the most “lawless president” in American history, a disloyal chief executive, they alleged, who refused to honor and prosecute the laws of the land.

Obama decided children brought to the United States illegally by their parents should be a low priority for immigration authorities. He decided possession of marijuana with respect to drug law enforcement was a low priority. Worst of all for Republicans, Obama incentivized (or, as they said, “forced”) states to expand health care coverage.

In each case, leaders of the Republican Party did not see in Obama’s choices the legitimate use of a president’s “prosecutorial discretion” or the legitimate expansion of health care in accordance with our federalist system. No, no. The Republicans saw “lawlessness,” and for most of Obama’s eight years, they accused him of tyranny.

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Now? Not so much. According to the Associated Press, the Republicans are treating news of Trump being an unindicted co-conspirator as more of the same. Some, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, have strong words. Otherwise, the GOP is all shrugs. The Republicans stood for principle during the Obama years. Now we know their principles were a con. Tyranny is fine as long as the tyrant is a Republican.

“Tyranny” may sound outlandish. But it’s not going to feel outlandish once Senate Republicans, seeing their best and only chance to turn the Supreme Court irreversibly rightward, confirm by a one-vote margin the president’s high-court nominee.

Appellate Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh is as conservative as, or more conservative than, outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy. Yes, he told Maine Senator Susan Collins Tuesday that Roe v. Wade was “settled law,” but that’s what every Republican nominee says. It is not an overstatement to say that within a week or so of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, states with Republican majorities will outlaw abortion overnight and that those laws will be upheld by the high court’s conservative majority.

The GOP is about to enshrine minority rule for a generation.

All thanks to a president who cheated to win.


Appendix

Michael Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, told MSNBC last night that his client was willing to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller that “Trump knew of an infamous 2016 meeting at Trump Tower and the Russian hacking of Democratic institutions before they took place,” according to the New York Post. Davis added:

“Not just about the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American democracy system in the 2016 election, which the Trump Tower meeting was all about, but also knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.”

We know Trump cheated to win. We don’t know the full magnitude of the crime. But I think we’re going to find this president is illegitimate in more ways than one.

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