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Why the Presidency Can’t Just Go Back to 'Normal' After Trump

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https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/02/15/why-presidency-cant-go-back-normal-trump-115362

The “norms and traditions” that Trump has incinerated aren’t timeless features of American democracy; they’re actually quite new—and brittle.

President Donald Trump has spent three years incinerating a group of practices commonly lumped together under the nebulous category of “norms and traditions,” causing the chattering class to worry that he’ll “destroy the presidency”; “undermine American democracy”; “erode” our very institutions with each break with precedent or decorum. There are also those, including presidential candidate Joe Biden, who insist that things can go back to normal when Trump is gone. Either in January 2021 or January 2025, these optimists hope, America will experience a restoration of these timeless customs.

Here’s the problem: Many of these “presidential norms and traditions” that Trump has left by the wayside aren’t timeless at all; they’re actually quite new. They grew up alongside and in reaction to the expansion of both the federal state and the presidency—a process that began in the early 20th century but gained steam from the 1930s onward. With the growth of what Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called the “imperial presidency,” each occupant of the Oval Office has left his imprimatur on the development of what we think of as normative presidential conduct.

Which means that whatever impact Trump has might not be so easy to undo.

Take, for example, three cherished institutions—White House press briefings, independent courts, respect for nonpartisan law enforcement agencies and a nonpartisan civil service. Their foundations are more young and shaky than you might think, and once altered, they may not be easily restored. Future presidents may regard newer precedents as more binding. A once-sturdy nonpartisan civil service and equally assured nonpartisan courts may be too weakened to enforce a return to prior norms. A public once conditioned to expect certain things of its presidents may have lost a critical amount of muscle memory. In short, anyone who expects a restoration of the status quo ante 2017 may be in for a rude awakening.

***

Though at critical junctures—the Civil War, the Progressive era, World War I—it swelled temporarily in size and importance, the presidency for almost the first century and a half of its existence remained a limited office with a small staff and constrained purview over national affairs. That changed between the 1930s and 1950s, as first the New Deal, then World War II and, finally, the Cold War necessitated a vast expansion of permanent federal authority and, with it, an increasingly powerful and autonomous executive branch.

Recognizing the growing importance of the office, in 1939 Congress passed, and Franklin Roosevelt signed, the Reorganization Act, which enabled the creation of the Executive Office of the president, an administrative umbrella that included the Bureau of Budget, National Security Council, Council of Economic Advisers and Office of Emergency Planning, with 1,350 staffers by the 1960s, as well as an enlarged White House staff numbering roughly 250 political, policy and clerical workers. In addition, the growth of the welfare and warfare states gave rise to myriad cabinet departments (the Defense Department in 1947; Health, Education and Welfare, 1953; Housing and Urban Development, 1965; Transportation, 1966—and so on) and affiliate agencies whose combined workforce numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

While these departments and agencies have been led by political appointees since their inception, much of the outrage at the Trump administration’s politicization of the bureaucracy—particularly, intelligence and law enforcement agencies that are supposed to eschew partisanship—stems from a tacit belief that civil servants have always operated free of political influence. In fact, in the early decades of the “imperial presidency,” nothing could have been further from the truth. It wasn’t until several decades after the emergence of the modern state and modern presidency these norms emerged.

From the 1940s through the 1970s, intelligence agencies including the FBI and CIA (founded in 1947), as well as other branches of the federal government, functioned in large part as political arms of the presidency. Under John Kennedy, the Department of Justice approved wiretaps on Martin Luther King Jr. and ordered the Internal Revenue Service to audit Richard Nixon, JFK’s once and presumed future opponent. Under Lyndon Johnson’s watch, the FBI illegally bugged King’s hotel rooms, attempted to blackmail him into suicide and famously infiltrated and attempted to sabotage the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. Under LBJ, the CIA also ran extensive, extralegal sabotage of domestic political organizations, while the FBI placed violent saboteurs in the ranks of peaceful anti-war demonstrators.

Richard Nixon, whose abuses of office are well-documented, built on this sordid tradition when he instructed the IRS to audit wealthy Jewish Democrats, whom he privately denounced as “cocksuckers.” At Bob Haldeman’s request, the agency subjected Edward Bennett Williams, the Washington Post’s attorney in the Pentagon Papers case, to three consecutive audits. (“I wouldn’t want to be in Edward Bennett Williams’ … position after this election,” Nixon told his staff members. “I think we’re going to fix the son-of-a-bitch. Believe me. We’re going to. We’ve got to, because he’s a bad man.”) On the advice of Pat Buchanan, a conservative White House speechwriter, Nixon ordered the IRS to investigate the finances of liberal organizations like the Ford Foundation and Brookings Institution; the agency complied, compiling data on over 1,000 institutions and 4,000 individual citizens.

It wasn’t just the IRS. When news of the highly secret bombing campaign in Cambodia broke on the pages of the New York Times in late 1969, Henry Kissinger ordered secret FBI wiretaps on 13 of his own aides and four journalists. When even the FBI balked at tapping the phone of Joseph Kraft, a highly respected syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s chief domestic policy adviser, hired a private detective to do the job without the cloak of legal authority. Nixon even ordered FBI taps on his younger brother, Donald, whom he suspected of trading on his name for business purposes. The Supreme Court later ruled that all unwarranted taps against American citizens were unconstitutional, even when purportedly undertaken in the interest of national security.

Nixon also ordered the FBI, CIA and NSA to surveil New Left organizations and instructed the Justice Department to arrest several thousand anti-war protesters who marched on Washington, D.C., in May 1971. The federal courts overturned many of the convictions. But the judges did not know the half of it. Coordinating the arrests from the Oval Office, Nixon heartily approved of plans by Charles Colson, a top political aide, to have rank-and-file teamsters rough up the protesters before their detention. “They’ve got guys who’ll go in and knock their heads off,” the president beamed. Nixon’s chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, confirmed this point. “Murderers. Guys that really, you know, that’s what they really do … they’re gonna beat the s*** out of some of these people.”

In the wake of Nixon’s disgrace, Congress undertook a sweeping investigation of these abuses, leading to new congressional oversight mechanisms and restrictions on FBI and CIA political activity.

All of which is to say, the idea of independent agencies staffed by nonpartisan career public servants, free of political interference, is a very recent development. Once unraveled, it is not certain to be reassembled.

***

Critics are also wringing their hands over the Trump administration’s phaseout of the White House press briefing. It’s been almost a year since the White House press secretary has taken to the podium to answer reporters’ questions, pausing a cherished—or at least familiar—institutional norm.

At least since 1896, when Grover Cleveland’s staff designated a fixed work space for reporters assigned to the White House, presidents have acknowledged the importance of accommodating the journalists who cover their administrations. William McKinley made a habit of traveling with a press pool and, on one occasion, declined to visit the Vanderbilt family’s Biltmore Estate unless reporters were permitted to accompany him. Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to meet regularly with trusted journalists.

But it was Woodrow Wilson who initiated the practice of staging regular presidential press conferences. In his two terms as president, he held 159 formal press conferences. His successors took to the practice: Calvin Coolidge spoke to the White House press corps 521 times; Herbert Hoover, 268 times; Franklin Roosevelt, over 1,000 times in his 12 years as president.

Wilson’s private secretary, Joseph Tumulty, also initiated the practice of briefing reporters regularly, a tradition that was later formalized by presidential press secretaries Steve Early (FDR) and Jim Haggerty (Dwight Eisenhower). With the advent of television news in the 1960s, John F. Kennedy and his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, made on-camera press conferences and briefings a new staple of political life. And so a relatively new tradition entered the canon.

Understandably, people are upset that the administration has ended this custom. People assume naturally that if in their lifetime or memory the presidential press corps enjoyed certain prerogatives, those prerogatives must be deeply woven into our political fabric. Not entirely the case.

Presidents from Teddy Roosevelt through Franklin Roosevelt enforced a strict off-the-record rule when they addressed reporters. In effect, their press conferences weren’t press conferences in the way we think of such affairs today. Staff briefings were also generally conducted on background, without attribution, excepting cases when Tumulty or Early might authorize publication of a canned statement. Only with the advent of television did briefings and presidential press “avails” become what we know them as today. In effect, the institution is scarcely 50 years old.

Neither should we romanticize the relationship between presidents and their press secretaries, and the Fourth Estate that covered them. TR and Wilson cultivated reporters because they saw political value in it—not out of a heightened sense of obligation. “I feel that a large part of the success of public affairs is the newspaper men,” Wilson remarked shortly after taking office in 1913. “Unless you get the right setting to affairs—disperse the right impression—things go wrong.” Though he had worked since his days as governor of New York at providing reporters with a veneer of access, FDR happily disintermediated the press by speaking directly to citizens by radio, much as Trump has proven a master practitioner of social media.

Two of Lyndon Johnson’s press secretaries, George Reedy and Bill Moyers, struggled to retain their credibility with an increasingly hostile press corp. By late 1966, some members of the press spoke openly of the “Moyers Gap”—that yawning gap between truth and dissemblance, particularly on the administration’s Vietnam policy.

Under Richard Nixon, the relationship turned positively toxic. Ronald Ziegler, a former barker at Disneyland who transitioned at age 29 from mid-level account executive at the J. Walter Thompson company to presidential press secretary could scarcely conceal his contempt for reporters. Reporters, in turn, found him utterly hapless and tongue-tied. “This is getting to a point beyond which I am not going to discuss beyond what I have said,” he once told the press room. “I am completed on what I had to say,” he informed them on another occasion. Nevertheless, it was the Nixon administration that constructed the press briefing room over what had once been the White House swimming pool—the same room that is collecting cobwebs today.

In the aftermath of Watergate, a succession of presidents—some media-savvy (Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama) and others less so (Ford, Carter, George H.W. Bush)—attempted to create a more courteous relationship with White House reporters. It’s that pattern we remember today. But it’s a recent innovation.

***

While many observers have taken umbrage at the seemingly too-close relationship between Trump’s federal judicial nominees (including and especially his Supreme Court picks) and partisan conservative organizations, in reality, it is a fairly recent development that members of the federal bench are expected to be clean of politics.

As late as 1954, the Supreme Court that unanimously decided Brown v. Board of Education included three former United States senators (Hugo Black, Harold Burton and Sherman Minton), a former governor of California (Earl Warren), and a former law professor, William O. Douglas, who was a perennial and often active candidate for the presidency or vice presidency while on the bench. Indeed, as late as 2006 the court included one justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, who had served four years as a state senator in Arizona.

As late as 1968, Lyndon Johnson frequently sought the political counsel of Justice Abe Fortas, just as FDR had done with Felix Frankfurter 30 years earlier. Aides viewed the relationship as unusual, but not so much so that they advised Johnson or Fortas to scale back their relationship. Fortas was compelled several years later to leave the Court over a string of financial and ethical improprieties. It was one of several scandals, including Watergate, that forced a wholesale reimagination of government ethics, including a more scrupulous insistence on judicial independence and ethics. Going forward, justices would keep a marked distance from the presidents who appointed them and keep their noses out of politics.

The takeaway is not that certain traditions lack value. On the contrary, it’s pretty reasonable to expect that presidents not misdirect law enforcement and civilian officials to do their political bidding, that presidents be transparent with the press, and that courts remain free of political influence. The point, rather, is that these norms were not timeless features of our system. They emerged over 50 or so years in response to excesses that accompanied the growth of the federal state, and in response to a popular sense that citizens required greater visibility into, and accountability from, federal officeholders whose purview grew enormously in the modern era.

Practices that young may prove fragile constructs. The protections that emerged in the 1970s haven’t planted deep enough roots to survive every storm. Who’s to say that the next president, if he or she is a Democrat, will immediately resurrect and submit to an unwritten code that’s been left in tatters? Already, some presidential candidates have pledged to instruct the Department of Justice to investigate specific political opponents and business leaders—the same kind of targeted use of law enforcement that caused so much hand ringing in 2017 and 2018. Or, if the next president is a Republican, who’s to say that he or she won’t decide that eight years of precedent has created a new set of norms and traditions? Already, there seems to be consensus among some senators that it’s really not that big of a deal to invite foreign interference in an election. Take that norm to its logical conclusion

Much like an unwritten constitution, political culture evolves contingently, and presidents—especially in recent decades—enjoy sweeping ability to leave a lasting imprint on that culture. They also have broad authority to smash old ways of doing things. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, who did his share of norm bending: Broken eggs can’t be mended.

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Doubt a new president will have any trouble restarting press briefings. Perhaps the press will act professionally and respectfully and won't have to be reminded why they went away. Even so Trump still gives great access to press, just under different controls.

I wouldn't worry about the courts. Sorry we got two conservatives seated but they have ruled against the conservative side several times. As far as conservative organizations and contacts with them, let me know when Sotomeyer drops her La Raza membership.

We all trusted the FBI and Justice department until they conspired to prevent Trumps inauguration, overturn the election, or get him impeached with lies and false evidence to FISA courts. Nonpartisan might not be an accurate description for them. Throw in the big three intel agencies also and you have it. Seems to me they need to prove they are nonpartisan and earn my trust back.

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"Elections have consequences." Wait, that wasn't Trump was it?  What a pathetic post! Everything was perfect before Trump and now things are irreversibly broken. The sky is falling!!!! Again.

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On 2/15/2020 at 4:36 PM, jj3jordan said:

Doubt a new president will have any trouble restarting press briefings. Perhaps the press will act professionally and respectfully and won't have to be reminded why they went away. Even so Trump still gives great access to press, just under different controls.

I wouldn't worry about the courts. Sorry we got two conservatives seated but they have ruled against the conservative side several times. As far as conservative organizations and contacts with them, let me know when Sotomeyer drops her La Raza membership.

We all trusted the FBI and Justice department until they conspired to prevent Trumps inauguration, overturn the election, or get him impeached with lies and false evidence to FISA courts. Nonpartisan might not be an accurate description for them. Throw in the big three intel agencies also and you have it. Seems to me they need to prove they are nonpartisan and earn my trust back.

👍

23 hours ago, Grumps said:

"Elections have consequences." Wait, that wasn't Trump was it?  What a pathetic post! Everything was perfect before Trump and now things are irreversibly broken. The sky is falling!!!! Again.

👍

Image result for chicken little

1 hour ago, homersapien said:

Sadly, there are some people in this country who neither respect or deserve their freedom. 

Image result for look in the mirror meme

Edited by DKW 86
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You are not making any sense David. Did you even read the article?

Do you have any comments on it or are you just content with attacking me for posting it?

Is there any reason why the next POTUS won't just pick up and continue the trends Trump has started?  What's to prevent him/her from doing so?

Do you think this is a valid statement?

"Here’s the problem: Many of these “presidential norms and traditions” that Trump has left by the wayside aren’t timeless at all; they’re actually quite new. They grew up alongside and in reaction to the expansion of both the federal state and the presidency—a process that began in the early 20th century but gained steam from the 1930s onward. With the growth of what Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called the “imperial presidency,” each occupant of the Oval Office has left his imprimatur on the development of what we think of as normative presidential conduct.

Which means that whatever impact Trump has might not be so easy to undo."

 

You like to say you don't like Trump and hope he is defeated in the next election.  Why?

If you are so indifferent to the harm Trump is doing to our democratic norms (as evidenced by your post), what is it exactly you don't like about him?

Do you simply dismiss his actions because you think they don't matter?  If so, does that not suggest you are cavalier about your freedoms?

Edited by homersapien

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Over 1,100 former DOJ officials say Attorney General Bill Barr must resign

The officials argue Barr is setting a dangerous precedent in allowing the Department of Justice to become politicized.

Over 1,100 former US Department of Justice officials have signed an open letter calling for Attorney General Bill Barr to resign after senior department officials intervened to reduce a sentencing recommendation for Donald Trump’s friend Roger Stone.

“Each of us strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice,” the former Justice Department officials wrote in an open letter published Sunday, calling Barr’s actions “a grave threat to the fair administration of justice.”

On Monday, federal prosecutors recommended that Stone — a longtime GOP operative who was convicted in November of making false statements to Congress, obstructing an official proceeding, and witness tampering — receive a seven- to nine-year prison sentence for these crimes.

Trump was outraged by the recommendation, something he made clear through a series of late night tweets, in which he slammed the sentence as “very unfair.”

The next day, it was reported the DOJ planned to amend the sentencing recommendation, leading the entire Stone prosecutorial team to withdraw from the case — and one to resign from the DOJ completely.

A new prosecutor on the case, John Crabb, then submitted a filing to the court saying that the previous sentencing memo “does not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position” and recommending a much shorter prison sentence. On Wednesday, Trump praised Barr for “taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought.”

Read the rest at:  https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/2/16/21139870/doj-officials-letter-attorney-general-bill-barr-resign-stone

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1 hour ago, homersapien said:

Over 1,100 former DOJ officials say Attorney General Bill Barr must resign

The officials argue Barr is setting a dangerous precedent in allowing the Department of Justice to become politicized.

Over 1,100 former US Department of Justice officials have signed an open letter calling for Attorney General Bill Barr to resign after senior department officials intervened to reduce a sentencing recommendation for Donald Trump’s friend Roger Stone.

“Each of us strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice,” the former Justice Department officials wrote in an open letter published Sunday, calling Barr’s actions “a grave threat to the fair administration of justice.”

On Monday, federal prosecutors recommended that Stone — a longtime GOP operative who was convicted in November of making false statements to Congress, obstructing an official proceeding, and witness tampering — receive a seven- to nine-year prison sentence for these crimes.

Trump was outraged by the recommendation, something he made clear through a series of late night tweets, in which he slammed the sentence as “very unfair.”

The next day, it was reported the DOJ planned to amend the sentencing recommendation, leading the entire Stone prosecutorial team to withdraw from the case — and one to resign from the DOJ completely.

A new prosecutor on the case, John Crabb, then submitted a filing to the court saying that the previous sentencing memo “does not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position” and recommending a much shorter prison sentence. On Wednesday, Trump praised Barr for “taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought.”

Read the rest at:  https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/2/16/21139870/doj-officials-letter-attorney-general-bill-barr-resign-stone

Does this mean 14000 did not sign it and thus disagree?

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1 hour ago, homersapien said:

You are not making any sense David. Did you even read the article?

Do you have any comments on it or are you just content with attacking me for posting it?

Is there any reason why the next POTUS won't just pick up and continue the trends Trump has started?  What's to prevent him/her from doing so?

Do you think this is a valid statement?

"Here’s the problem: Many of these “presidential norms and traditions” that Trump has left by the wayside aren’t timeless at all; they’re actually quite new. They grew up alongside and in reaction to the expansion of both the federal state and the presidency—a process that began in the early 20th century but gained steam from the 1930s onward. With the growth of what Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called the “imperial presidency,” each occupant of the Oval Office has left his imprimatur on the development of what we think of as normative presidential conduct.

Which means that whatever impact Trump has might not be so easy to undo."

 

You like to say you don't like Trump and hope he is defeated in the next election.  Why?

If you are so indifferent to the harm Trump is doing to our democratic norms (as evidenced by your post), what is it exactly you don't like about him?

Do you simply dismiss his actions because you think they don't matter?  If so, does that not suggest you are cavalier about your freedoms?

Homer my anxious friend, you are fretting over a problem that doesn’t exist. The next president will do his own thing. Crazy Bernie will need people for the politburo.  Sounds like since Russia fizzled, The Comey coup failed, and impeachment disintegrated in a bathtub of pencilneck lies, you need another existential threat to blame on Trump.

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Another Chicken Little post. 
 

Trump is as bad as all that, but we are going to survive it. The sun is going to come up again. As one pastor said, even in the worst of times Jesus is still Lord and God is still on the Throne. 

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On 2/15/2020 at 5:36 PM, jj3jordan said:

Doubt a new president will have any trouble restarting press briefings. Perhaps the press will act professionally and respectfully and won't have to be reminded why they went away. Even so Trump still gives great access to press, just under different controls.

I wouldn't worry about the courts. Sorry we got two conservatives seated but they have ruled against the conservative side several times. As far as conservative organizations and contacts with them, let me know when Sotomeyer drops her La Raza membership.

We all trusted the FBI and Justice department until they conspired to prevent Trumps inauguration, overturn the election, or get him impeached with lies and false evidence to FISA courts. Nonpartisan might not be an accurate description for them. Throw in the big three intel agencies also and you have it. Seems to me they need to prove they are nonpartisan and earn my trust back.

Conspired to prevent Trump's inauguration?  That is a heck of a stretch.  You seem very eager to parody any information you are told by Fox or talk radio.  Some of it may have roots, but most of it is simply purposeful exaggeration and insinuation meant to churn the crowd.  You can't take Hannity as gospel and claim to only care about truth.

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33 minutes ago, AU9377 said:

Conspired to prevent Trump's inauguration?  That is a heck of a stretch.  You seem very eager to parody any information you are told by Fox or talk radio.  Some of it may have roots, but most of it is simply purposeful exaggeration and insinuation meant to churn the crowd.  You can't take Hannity as gospel and claim to only care about truth.

None of the things I have mentioned is even debatable. Text messages, ambush interviews, back up plans, FISA fraud, russia russia russia blah blah blah. They thought they could get rid of Tump before during and after. Thats not Hannity talking that's any sane person who can look at events and piece a couple together.

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22 hours ago, DKW 86 said:

Another Chicken Little post. 
 

Trump is as bad as all that, but we are going to survive it. The sun is going to come up again. As one pastor said, even in the worst of times Jesus is still Lord and God is still on the Throne. 

Not a surprise, but I noticed you didn't bother to answer any of the questions I posed.

The sun may come up again, but the country will be changed.  Jesus won't have anything to do with it.

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9 hours ago, homersapien said:

Not a surprise, but I noticed you didn't bother to answer any of the questions I posed.

The sun may come up again, but the country will be changed.  Jesus won't have anything to do with it.

Image result for chicken little

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12 hours ago, DKW 86 said:

Image result for chicken little

That's such a typical rebuttal from a loud-mouthed lightweight. :no:  Stick to the trash talk thread, it's a far better match for your intellectual bandwith.

We'll survive Trump's second term also.  But the country - or at least the presidency - will be changed.  Possibly forever.

Edited by homersapien

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Post-impeachment, Trump declares himself the ‘chief law enforcement officer’ of America

Feb. 19, 2020 at 7:41 a.m. EST

During his Senate impeachment trial, Democrats repeatedly asserted that President Trump is “not above the law.” But since his acquittal two weeks ago, analysts say, the president has taken a series of steps aimed at showing that, essentially, he is the law.

On Tuesday, Trump granted clemency to a clutch of political allies, circumventing the usual Justice Department process. The pardons and commutations followed Trump’s moves to punish witnesses in his impeachment trial, publicly intervene in a pending legal case to urge leniency for a friend, attack a federal judge, accuse a juror of bias and threaten to sue his own government for investigating him.

Trump defended his actions, saying he has the right to shape the country’s legal systems as he sees fit.

“I’m allowed to be totally involved,” he told reporters as he left Washington on Tuesday for a trip to California, Nevada and Arizona. “I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country. But I’ve chosen not to be involved.”

The president’s post-impeachment behavior has alarmed Attorney General William P. Barr, who has told people close to the president that he is willing to quit unless Trump stops publicly commenting on ongoing criminal matters, according to two administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. It also has appalled several legal experts and former officials, who have said his direct intervention in legal matters risks further politicizing law enforcement at a time of fraying confidence in the Justice Department.

More than 2,000 former Justice Department employees signed a public letter this week objecting to Trump’s public intervention in the case of his longtime friend Roger Stone, and urging Barr to resign. The head of the Federal Judges Association has called an emergency meeting to address growing concerns about political interference in the Stone case. And four prosecutors resigned from the case last week after Trump publicly decried their recommended prison sentence of seven to nine years for Stone and the Justice Department reversed course to lobby for a lower sentence.

A jury convicted Stone last year of lying to Congress and obstruction in a case that Trump has repeatedly condemned as unfair while leaving open the prospect of issuing a pardon for his friend and political ally.

Carmen Ortiz, the former U.S. attorney for Massachusetts under President Barack Obama, was among the signatories on the letter condemning Trump’s political interference in legal matters.

“I’ve worked under both Republican and Democratic administrations,” she said, “and I’ve just never seen behavior like what were seeing right now.”

Trump added to the sense of legal disarray Tuesday by granting executive clemency to a group of 11 people that included several political allies and others convicted of corruption, lying and fraud. Among the recipients of Trump’s largesse was Rod R. Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor who was convicted on corruption charges in 2011 related to trying to sell Obama’s vacated Senate seat. His sentence was commuted. Financier Michael Milken, who was charged with insider trading in the 1980s, and Bernie Kerik, the former New York police commissioner jailed on eight felony charges, including tax fraud, were pardoned.

Trump said the pardons and commutations were based on “the recommendations of people that know them,” including Blagojevich’s wife, Patricia, who made a direct appeal to the president on Fox News.

Legal experts said that by relying on his personal connections rather than the Justice Department’s established review process for finding convicts deserving of clemency, Trump risked politicizing his pardon power.

“It’s a clemency process for the well-connected, and that’s it,” said Rachel Barkow, a professor and clemency expert at the New York University School of Law. “Trump is wielding the power the way you would expect the leader of a banana republic who wants to reward his friends and cronies.”

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump’s comments about the Stone case have caused the most concern. Trump has singled out the judge in the case, Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court in Washington, for personal attacks, accusing her of bias and spreading a falsehood about her record. He has amplified Stone’s request for a new trial, accusing a member of the jury of being politically biased against him.

Though Barr has warned that the president’s unbridled commentary about ongoing criminal cases was making it “impossible for me to do my job,” Trump continued to express his views about legal matters Tuesday.

Trump told reporters that he partially agreed with Barr, acknowledging that his tweets do make the attorney general’s job more difficult. But he said he would continue tweeting nonetheless.

“Social media, for me, has been very important because it gives me a voice,” Trump said.

And he has made a direct connection between his own legal travails and those of Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress about his attempts to get details from Hillary Clinton’s private emails from the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign.

Trump’s increasingly provocative comments raised the prospect that he might issue pardons for Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Since his impeachment acquittal, Trump has tried to portray the prosecutions of his allies as the illegitimate product of an illegitimate investigation by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 race.

prosecutions stemming from the Mueller investigation are “badly tainted,” Trump tweeted Tuesday, and “should be thrown out.”

“If I wasn’t President, I’d be suing everyone all over the place,” Trump wrote. “BUT MAYBE I STILL WILL. WITCH HUNT!”

After learning that federal judges would be holding an emergency discussion about his intervention in legal cases, Trump tweeted that they should instead discuss the alleged shortcomings of the Mueller probe.

Trump’s constant commentary and increasing willingness to flout traditional legal processes signal that the president feels emboldened and unrestrained after Republicans voted almost unanimously to acquit him on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, said Chris Whipple, author of “The Gatekeepers,” a history of White House chiefs of staff.

“It shows that Susan Collins was right — Trump has learned a lesson,” Whipple said, referring to a prediction by the Republican senator from Maine that Trump would be more cautious after impeachment. “The lesson he learned is that he’s unaccountable. He can do whatever he wants now with impunity.”

While some Republicans spoke out against Trump’s commutation for Blagojevich, the reaction from GOP lawmakers Tuesday was mostly muted. And there’s little to indicate that pardons for Stone or Flynn would lead to a significant Republican backlash.

Whipple said the president’s decision to pardon several of his political allies just before Stone is scheduled to be sentenced set the stage for an increasingly “dangerous” phase of Trump’s presidency.

“This is a president who thinks the law exists to be circumvented,” he said.

The next test of Trump’s willingness to intervene in the legal process could come as soon as Thursday, when Stone is set to be sentenced by Jackson. Asked Tuesday if he would issue a pardon for Stone, Trump demurred.

“I haven’t given it any thought. In the meantime, he’s going through a process,” Trump said. “But I think he’s been treated very unfairly.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/post-impeachment-trump-declares-himself-the-chief-law-enforcement-officer-of-america/2020/02/18/b8ff49c0-5290-11ea-b119-4faabac6674f_story.html

 

MAKE AMERICA A BANANA REPUBLIC!!

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11 hours ago, homersapien said:

That's such a typical rebuttal from a loud-mouthed lightweight. :no:  Stick to the trash talk thread, it's a far better match for your intellectual bandwith.

We'll survive Trump's second term also.  But the country - or at least the presidency - will be changed.  Possibly forever.

Well, let's hope so.

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13 hours ago, jj3jordan said:

Well, let's hope so.

Having a "Dear Leader" makes folks like you very happy. 

Authoritarian governments are great! 

 

Edited by homersapien

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America, the banana republic

I covered South America for The Post from 1988 to 1992, a time when nations such as Argentina, Brazil and Peru were struggling to reestablish democratic norms after the long, dark night of military dictatorship. One of the biggest challenges was implanting something we take for granted in this country: public confidence that justice, for the most part, is blind and engages in an honest search for truth.

I never thought I’d be living in a country like that again. But thanks to President Trump and the inexcusable damage he is doing to our justice system, South America’s past has become America’s present.

There has been considerable hyperventilation, some perhaps by me, about the grave harm Trump is doing to our democratic institutions. I am not hyperventilating now. Public faith in justice is a delicate, precious thing. Once squandered, it is incredibly hard to regain.

That’s the kind of damage Trump is threatening with his outrageous and un-American attacks on the Justice Department and the federal judiciary for finding his cronies — including longtime political adviser Roger Stone, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort — guilty of crimes and deserving of punishment. I know what the impact of this behavior is, because I’ve seen how it plays out before.

I lived in Argentina, where the president for much of my time there, Carlos Menem, was a populist norm-breaker who nepotistically involved his family in running the government and was widely viewed as corrupt. In 1991, Menem’s sister-in-law and appointments secretary, Amira Yoma, was indicted on money-laundering charges that involved suitcases full of cash allegedly being smuggled in and out of the country. Yoma’s ex-husband was head of the customs service at Ezeiza International Airport outside Buenos Aires, where he allegedly facilitated the cash-smuggling.

Menem was accused of secretly meeting with the prosecuting judge in charge of the Yoma case. The president initially denied having had such a meeting but ultimately admitted it, claiming it was about some unrelated matter. The judge’s secretary alleged that the judge had gone to the presidential residence, where she showed Menem secret prosecution documents about the Yoma case.

That judge was suddenly taken off the case, which was assigned to a different judge, and Yoma was eventually cleared of all charges. It is safe to say that few Argentines were surprised.

There simply was very little confidence in the ability of the justice system to discern truth from falsehood or to punish the powerful and well-connected. There was an understanding, moreover, that prosecutors and the court system could and sometimes would be used as political tools.

Years after leaving office, Menem was convicted on unrelated charges involving weapons smuggling and embezzlement. He maintained his innocence, claiming he was being persecuted by his political enemies.

In those fragile democracies I covered years ago, seeing justice be warped by politics had a corrosive effect on the larger society. A lack of confidence that court proceedings could — or even were intended to — arrive at truth encouraged the propagation and spread of conspiracy theories. Argentina still struggles to escape the widespread belief that unseen forces control events from deep in the shadows.

This is not the sort of path I ever thought the United States could take. Our justice system obviously has flaws, starting with the way it disproportionately punishes people of color. But it has not been naive, at least in my lifetime, to believe that federal prosecutors and judges tried their very best not to let politics influence their decisions — and that they generally succeeded because they took their responsibilities seriously.

When four assistant U.S. attorneys asked to be taken off the Stone case, they were sounding an alarm. We must all pay attention.

Their recommendation that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison for his crimes was tough, but federal prosecutors tend to be tough. Stone was duly convicted in a court of law, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will decide his punishment. But when higher-ups in Attorney General William P. Barr’s Justice Department overrule the prosecutors who handled the case on Stone’s recommended sentence; when Trump tries to delegitimize those prosecutors as “Angry Democrats” because they worked for former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III; and when Trump goes so far as to try to intimidate Jackson, a highly respected veteran federal judge — when such things happen, I have to wonder whether I’m back in Carlos Menem’s Argentina.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/america-the-banana-republic/2020/02/13/c58c7324-4ea9-11ea-9b5c-eac5b16dafaa_story.html

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On 2/20/2020 at 11:45 AM, homersapien said:

America, the banana republic

I covered South America for The Post from 1988 to 1992, a time when nations such as Argentina, Brazil and Peru were struggling to reestablish democratic norms after the long, dark night of military dictatorship. One of the biggest challenges was implanting something we take for granted in this country: public confidence that justice, for the most part, is blind and engages in an honest search for truth.

I never thought I’d be living in a country like that again. But thanks to President Trump and the inexcusable damage he is doing to our justice system, South America’s past has become America’s present.

There has been considerable hyperventilation, some perhaps by me, about the grave harm Trump is doing to our democratic institutions. I am not hyperventilating now. Public faith in justice is a delicate, precious thing. Once squandered, it is incredibly hard to regain.

That’s the kind of damage Trump is threatening with his outrageous and un-American attacks on the Justice Department and the federal judiciary for finding his cronies — including longtime political adviser Roger Stone, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort — guilty of crimes and deserving of punishment. I know what the impact of this behavior is, because I’ve seen how it plays out before.

I lived in Argentina, where the president for much of my time there, Carlos Menem, was a populist norm-breaker who nepotistically involved his family in running the government and was widely viewed as corrupt. In 1991, Menem’s sister-in-law and appointments secretary, Amira Yoma, was indicted on money-laundering charges that involved suitcases full of cash allegedly being smuggled in and out of the country. Yoma’s ex-husband was head of the customs service at Ezeiza International Airport outside Buenos Aires, where he allegedly facilitated the cash-smuggling.

Menem was accused of secretly meeting with the prosecuting judge in charge of the Yoma case. The president initially denied having had such a meeting but ultimately admitted it, claiming it was about some unrelated matter. The judge’s secretary alleged that the judge had gone to the presidential residence, where she showed Menem secret prosecution documents about the Yoma case.

That judge was suddenly taken off the case, which was assigned to a different judge, and Yoma was eventually cleared of all charges. It is safe to say that few Argentines were surprised.

There simply was very little confidence in the ability of the justice system to discern truth from falsehood or to punish the powerful and well-connected. There was an understanding, moreover, that prosecutors and the court system could and sometimes would be used as political tools.

Years after leaving office, Menem was convicted on unrelated charges involving weapons smuggling and embezzlement. He maintained his innocence, claiming he was being persecuted by his political enemies.

In those fragile democracies I covered years ago, seeing justice be warped by politics had a corrosive effect on the larger society. A lack of confidence that court proceedings could — or even were intended to — arrive at truth encouraged the propagation and spread of conspiracy theories. Argentina still struggles to escape the widespread belief that unseen forces control events from deep in the shadows.

This is not the sort of path I ever thought the United States could take. Our justice system obviously has flaws, starting with the way it disproportionately punishes people of color. But it has not been naive, at least in my lifetime, to believe that federal prosecutors and judges tried their very best not to let politics influence their decisions — and that they generally succeeded because they took their responsibilities seriously.

When four assistant U.S. attorneys asked to be taken off the Stone case, they were sounding an alarm. We must all pay attention.

Their recommendation that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison for his crimes was tough, but federal prosecutors tend to be tough. Stone was duly convicted in a court of law, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will decide his punishment. But when higher-ups in Attorney General William P. Barr’s Justice Department overrule the prosecutors who handled the case on Stone’s recommended sentence; when Trump tries to delegitimize those prosecutors as “Angry Democrats” because they worked for former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III; and when Trump goes so far as to try to intimidate Jackson, a highly respected veteran federal judge — when such things happen, I have to wonder whether I’m back in Carlos Menem’s Argentina.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/america-the-banana-republic/2020/02/13/c58c7324-4ea9-11ea-9b5c-eac5b16dafaa_story.html

it sure did decline into a banana republic during the obama travesty..

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12 hours ago, keoson7 said:

it sure did decline into a banana republic during the obama travesty..

How so?

(Please be as specific as you can. <_<)

Edited by homersapien

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Guys, with all due respect, America is not a Banana Republic. 
Obama didnt make it one. 
DJT Wont make it one.

We actually have a healthy debate going on over the direction of the nation, two, or more correctly 4, voices now vocal in America show we have a dynamic discussion going on in the real world. Where we have real issues is on 4Chan, Reddit, and mainly the cable propaganda networks. MSNBC and Fox are just unwatchable these days, and Woke/Cancel Culture. The Alt Right and Guano Wingers are the new issues in America.

I watched 10 minutes of Maddow the other nite and came to the conclusion that she is in a death spiral. She spent 10 minutes talking about Russians and HRC. Who the frick cares??? She is marginalizing herself more and more everyday. She came from Air-America and just about everyone else has crashed and burned. Francken being MAYBE the exception. 

Fox...If it werent for the Stepford Wife Bimbos I dont know who would watch. Gutfeld has some humor, but he is blind to the plight of the Average Americans. When most of America watches, I wonder if many get past Guilfoyle's legs in her stillettos positioned perfectly for the camera. The rest? Maybe Wallace and Baier? I dont know because I honestly do not watch at all and mock anyone that would. They are just too busy kissing RNC @$$. 

We have the RNC and the DNC at not too varying degrees sold out to Wall Street. I dont think anyone in either party is 10% different on anything more than rhetoric. Governing in the real world...I bet most take the same money from the same folks and special interests. 

That leaves us. The totally forgotten voters.

Obama came in saying all the right things...and then he and Holder took the $$$...and turned a blind eye to the abuses of Wall Street.
Warren put forth some great ideas in the Senate...but she is a miserable campaigner. She cant seem to stay on topic and tends to wonk way too much. Warren...the female Gore?
Biden...40 years in DC and he is as lost as they come. He reminds me of Reagan in the later years. 
Klobuchar: just not well known enough, and way behind in momentum. Klomentum? If you have to make puns to support a candidate, just quit.
Buttigieg: Too green and after the Crystal Wine Caves...just too easily bought?
Steyer: an also ran.
Bloomie: I watched more of the Nevada Debate. Warren scorched him so bad...wow. He had no answers for the NDAs, etc. He may poll well but he is RNC-DNC and has made statements in the past that he will be explaining for forever.

Bernie: Hate him or Love him, he is the only one comfortable in his own skin. He knows what he wants and is clear about it. Half of those running ape HIS IDEAS or versions of his ideas. 

DJT: With Morals, Integrity, Character, Ethics, Accomplishments, etc he is in way over his head. It is nothing short of a miracle that he hasnt failed cosmically. His few lucid moments he supports policies that are so 90s and 00s. He is a doofus, a fraud, a phony. But he did manage to diagnose an electorate that is 100% fed up with the Status Quo and have the good fortune to run against the one person in America so tone deaf that they have managed to blow close to $2.2BN on two elections and lose them both.   
image.jpeg

America will go on. We are a tough but fair people. We are by and large leading the world in most areas. We are farther along than most want you to believe. We have issues but I think we are starting to confront them. Wall Street and the DC Elite would love it if we all just shut up and went back to being drones placated with Reality TV and porn. I dont think we will. The Millenials, for all their faults have great vision on just how much their world sucks. Buried in debt and nowhere to go. They get so-so jobs and cant move out. I think they are getting ready to transform the world. Big banking, Big Pharma, Big Energy may have to get used to a revolution at some point. 

Edited by DKW 86

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