Sunday, October 13, 2019

Trump v. Every Law Ever Made

           Chief Justice Roberts: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me. I, Donald John Trump.

            Donald Trump: I, Donald John Trump.

            Roberts: Do solemnly swear.

            Trump: Do smirkingly swear.

            Roberts: That I will faithfully execute.

            Trump:  What is this "faithful" garbage?

            Roberts: The office of the president of the United States.

            Trump: The operations of the Trump Organization.

            Roberts: And will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend . . .

            Trump: Wait. What? I have a draft deferment.

            Roberts: The Constitution of the United States.

            Trump: Oh -- that legal BS. Whew. Saw myself in uniform for a moment there.

            Roberts: So help me God.

            Trump: So help myself.

            We cannot go verbatim here, not without an actual thought-stream transcript. However, I dare anyone of any stripe to counter this depiction.

            Because from the very moment he strode into the light as the 45th U.S. president, Donald Trump has performed according to this script.

            He is the president to whom no laws would apply, no moral standards would affix; no shame would ever tarnish his gold leaf.

            Impeachment is in his future, written into that Constitution for when a president does unconscionable things. No problem. Trump says impeachment is unconstitutional.

            He's going to resist it – the Constitution -- every step of the way, though obstructing Congress would be an article of impeachment in and of itself. It was for Richard Nixon.

            As with the scores of actions he's taken that have defied the law, he trusts that he can hide behind the black curtain he and Mitch McConnell built – the robes of a GOP-stacked Supreme Court majority.

            We shall see.

            It's just one of many Supreme favors he'll seek to cash in for his patronage now that one court orders his financial records surrendered to Congress, another says he can't defy Congress on funding his "beautiful wall," and one says he can't make refugee status contingent on one's bank balance.

            As it is, Trump will continue to misappropriate Article II of the Constitution to assert that he can do anything he wants.

            Judges who owe him nothing are having none of that.

            In ruling that Manhattan prosecutors could proceed with their request for eight years of Trump's personal and corporate tax returns, federal Judge Victor Marrero called Trump's assertion that he is immune from prosecutorial review "repugnant to our nation's government structure."

            "Consider the reach of the president's argument," wrote Marrero. Trump's claim of immunity "would stretch to cover every phase of criminal proceedings."

            The Trump Standard, he wrote, "would encompass any conduct, at any time, in any forum whether federal or state."

            Well, yes, say Trump and his enablers. And they'll go looking for any court that'll say so.

            We stand on the precipice of a Supreme Court ruling that would affirm – or unimaginably cast away – the 1974 ruling under which Nixon was ordered to hand over the White House tapes.

            Brett Kavanaugh didn't know he was auditioning for elevation to the nation's highest court in a 1999 roundtable discussion when he said:

            "Should U.S. v. Nixon be overruled on the ground that the case was nonjusticiable intrabranch dispute? Maybe so."

            We can assume that right after their handshake, Trump's first question to Kavanaugh was, "Now, explain that word 'nonjusticiable.' I like that word."

            Or maybe, "Any dirt on Joe Biden? OK. Hillary?"

            His defenders say the Democrats want to relitigate the 2016 election. But listen to Trump's rallies. The man our Electoral College chose has yet to turn the calendar from that Election Night.

            These concerns all depict and summarize Donald Trump's chief priority in office: occupation.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Team Trump and 'consciousness of guilt'

            Doris Kearns Goodwin's 2005 book about how Abe Lincoln chose a Cabinet of intellect, integrity and independence is titled "Team of Rivals."

            A good title should she ever depict the Cabinet of Donald Trump would be "Gang of Weasels."

            Before getting to Individual 1 and the latest activities that have delivered him to impeachment's door, some questions about that coterie of con men:

            First, has William Barr contacted you?

            He went to Australia seeking political dirt. He went to London. He went to Italy.

            Where in the world is Bill Barr now? Is he at your house? Please advise. I have a "no soliciting" placard and dogs. Will either deter him?

            Mike Pompeo: Our secretary of state feigned ignorance about the phone-call transcript that had Washington convulsing. Then after a press report, he admitted that -- come to think of it -- he was on the call.

            Mike Pence: For a while, he kept silent on the extorting of Ukraine with tax dollars. True to his short-legged mammal nature, he hugged the ground and sought shelter in the wind storm.

            Finally exiting his burrow, Pence said the issue is not an illegal shakedown of a foreign government. The issue is the character of Joe Biden. Or so says the GOP talking-points memo.

            And wouldn't you know? The departing Rick Perry, the least consequential energy secretary since the invention of kerosene, now flees the flames just as Trump intimates that the call to the Ukrainian president was Perry's idea.

            Anyone looking out for the nation's best interests, guys? Not a chance.

            Does our secretary of state have time to attend to, um, matters of state when serving as a tag-team intimidator of Ukraine's new president?

            (For a moment the image of Trump and Pompeo in red Spandex WWF tights visits me; I shake it off.)

            Let us now return to the focus of all of this, and it's not Joe Biden.

            Donald Trump is in deep. He has committed what one observer called the "mother of all campaign finance violations," leaning on the Ukraine for a political favor with $400 million in taxpayer dollars dangled on a string.

            Oh, yes, that's a quid pro quo. Texts provided by former Ukrainian envoy Kurt Volker confirm that Trump wanted a probe of Biden as a condition of a meeting with the Ukrainian president.

            For police, the term "consciousness of guilt" kicks in when a suspect keeps changing his alibi or attempts to take a demonstrable narrative to the off-ramp and into the ditch.

            As this scandal blew up in his face, Trump said the freezing of aid to Ukraine wasn't about attempted extortion but about being tight-fisted on aid to Europe. Sure it was.

            What other nations had their funds frozen? None? Curious.

            Readers should know, however, the real reason Trump was so furious last week.

            It's not just because he's about to be impeached. It's because Team Trump planned to unveil this Biden red herring months down the road. A "vicious" whistleblower ruined it.

            Yes, the October Surprise – "Ukraine fingers Biden" – that Trump wished to spring on voters at just the right time must be sprung one October too early, thanks to "spies" he has hinted at executing.

            This means Team Trump had to speed up the slime and pump out the cash: a hastily concocted, $2 million, totally fallacious anti-Biden ad campaign. CNN rejected one ad based on its utter bogus-ness. Watch for it, however, on Fox News. It's already circulating online.

            Did Putin give Trump an advance on his advertising allowance?

            New polls show a firm plurality of Americans supports Trump's impeachment.

            What? Don't they care about corruption in the Ukraine?

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Look who's 'trying to destroy the Republican Party'

            When the end comes, whether next year or next month, Donald Trump will wish he had Benito Mussolini's travel agent.

            That's a joke. When Mussolini met his end, he had nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. At least his earthly departure was mercifully quick -- at the carbine end of fellow partisans.

            Sounds gruesome, but "quick" can be preferable to "extenuated" in such reckonings. To an out-of-office Trump, a chain-link enclosure at the border might sound like an inviting refuge.

            For when all this ends, Donald's partisan friends will want to kill him.

            Ah, blame. So much to share.

            "The Democrats are trying to destroy the Republican Party and all it stands for."

            Trump all-capped that tweet after the Ukraine bombshell — that the president of the United States asked the leader of Ukraine to find dirt on a political opponent — left his party searching for words among the shrapnel.

            The only words Republican leaders could find include weak mutterings about second-hand information. You see, the whistleblower didn't hear the transaction himself. He just heard it from people in the White House who were disturbed about the president pushing a foreign leader to do something to benefit himself, apparently using taxpayer money as leverage.

            Trump's apologists have found no words yet about the startling content of the transcript of the conversation.

            Trump, meanwhile, just blames the Democrats.

            He blamed Democrats for the labors of Robert Mueller, a lifelong Republican appointed by a Republican, in cataloging all the inexcusable things Team Trump did regarding Russia's aiding in Trump's election.

            Now he blames Democrats for the Ukraine thing. But then, we might know nothing if some Republicans in the White House – we are to assume Trump still hires only those – gave a whistleblower much to incriminate the boss.

            Trump blames the media, too. But we wouldn't know nearly as much as we do through media reports if Republicans in the White House didn't share what incriminating things they know.

            The latest: The Washington Post reports Trump told a delegation from Moscow he had no problem with Russia's role in 2016. And why should he? His adopted sugar daddy, Vlad Putin, helped him win.

            Trump blames the Democrats for creating this mess? He and fellow Republicans have done a good job of that all by themselves.

            No question: Things look bad for the Republican Party. However, Russia and Ukraine and hush money payments and Trump tax dodges are entirely secondary.

            Trump's party has managed to so alienate so many.

            People of color: The GOP has done an amazing job of alienating whole swaths of Americans.

            However, we aren't just talking about a president making racist comments and coddling white supremacists. The party's ardent efforts to tramp down voter turnout are aimed at minority participation. People of color are watching.

            The Republicans similarly have alienated young voters, brushing off all the biggest issues bothering them – climate change, gun violence, health coverage, college debt, affordable housing.

            The Republicans think that a tax cut as long-lasting as an Alka Seltzer tablet will make everything better. Ask a 30-something about that.

            Trump's lock-step alliance with the religious right has turned off young voters who support LGBTQ rights and reproductive rights.

            The same voters don't see birth control as a battlefield, as do Republicans who have waged war on Planned Parenthood. Many young Americans see the GOP's offensive as a war against low-income women.

            It's worth pointing out at this moment that Trump a few years ago was a pro-choice Democrat. However, when beset with the urge to infect the nation with his brand of leadership, some strategist convinced him that the best way to achieve his end was to do as the mullahs of the religious right, Big Energy and the gun lobby said.

            And he did, and now?

            Stephen Colbert had this to say about Trump's tweet the other night in another devastating monologue:

            Yes, Mr. President, the Democrats were trying to destroy the Republican Party, "but you beat them to it."

            Colbert is right. But let's acknowledge that among Republicans the destruction has been a collaborative effort.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.