Like A Mob Boss

"Gangsta President" by Nancy Ohanian

In a Washington Post piece on Sunday, A President Without Limits, Dan Balz asserted that "there is no doubt that [Trump] will use all of his remaining time in office to inflict as much damage as he can on democracy-- with members of a now-divided Republican Party acting as enablers. That there are no limits to the lengths to which he will go in this ruinous effort was made clear from a phone call he made Saturday to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger... Here was a desperate president alternately begging, pleading, cajoling and, yes, seeming to threaten a state official-- and fellow Republican-- by asking for a change in the outcome of an election that already had been recounted and then certified... Trump had nothing of substance to offer, just bluster and the baseless claims that he has made nonstop since he lost. He was trolling with rumor, innuendo (and the muscle that comes with calling from the White House), attempting one more time to bully and intimidate Raffensperger."

One is forced to wonder-- by a letter released by all 10 living ex-secretaries of Defense, including Trump's own appointees-- if Trump has been making calls like this to generals. The open letter, signed by Dick Cheney, James Mattis, Mark Esper, Leon Panetta, Donald Rumsfeld, William Cohen, Chuck Hagel, Robert Gates, William Perry and Ashton Carter, amounts to a unified "show of force against Trump's subversion efforts" just days before most congressional Republicans attempt to wreck American democracy on Trump's behalf. The letter, which was Cheney's idea, "made it clear that any effort to involve U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take the country 'into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory.' They wrote, 'Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic... Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates-- political appointees, officers and civil servants-- are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly. They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team. We call upon them, in the strongest terms, to do as so many generations of Americans have done before them. This final action is in keeping with the highest traditions and professionalism of the U.S. armed forces, and the history of democratic transition in our great country.'"

Would these men be making this public if they didn't think there was a good reason to?

Today Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), every bit the quintessential Wall Street conservative, issued a statement about Trump's monkey business with the Georgia election results: "President Trump’s call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger represents a new low in this whole futile and sorry episode. I commend Republican election officials across the country who have discharged their duties with integrity over the past two months while weathering relentless pressure, disinformation, and attacks from the president and his campaign." I wonder if Toomey understands that "relentless pressure, disinformation, and attacks from the president" isn't just unethical, it's absolutely illegal.

Balz warned that "Trump will never let this go, not between now and the day he is forced to give up the office and Biden is sworn in, not in the days and weeks and months after that. That he is on a mission is evident, but to what end, other than to avoid the ignominious label of 'loser' after a single term in the White House? That, at least, is consistent with the behavior he has exhibited throughout the four years of his presidency. He cares nothing about collateral damage to democracy." And most Republicans in Congress are every bit as bad as he is. He continues, wrote Balz, "to gather support from members of a party he has remade in his own image. On Wednesday, members of the House and the Senate will meet to approve the results from the electoral college. Those results show that Biden won 306 votes to Trump’s 232. Vice President Pence will be in the chair, ultimately to read out that he and Trump have lost the election, as a few other vice presidents have done in the past. But there will be objections in both chambers, debates and votes, prolonging what is normally a pro forma process and a brief way station to the transfer of power. Trump’s many allies in the House have made it clear that they will object to the results from a handful of states... The Republicans who will object are acting on the basis either of fear of the president or sheer political opportunism, or both. Some are weighing a 2024 presidential campaign and know that being on the wrong side of Trump could mean certain defeat... The party is now fracturing over the efforts to disrupt Wednesday’s procedure."

Trump is calling for violent neo-fascists to descend on Washington on inauguration day-- January 20-- while he himself is said to be making plans to flee the country the day before. Atlantic staff writer David Graham noted today that Trump's out of control behavior is the cost of the Senate's failure to take impeachment seriously. Think it would be any different if they tried it again?

Referencing the now infamous phone call, Graham wrote that "Trump speaks like a mob boss, making his desire clear but never saying explicitly what he wants, so as to maintain deniability. What he says is, 'So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.' What he means is, Find some way to throw out valid votes so that I can win. (Never mind that the state’s results have been certified and its electors seated; Raffensperger’s role has concluded.) Some of the early reaction to the coup call has focused on whether Trump could be held criminally liable. 'I understand that the Fulton County district attorney wants to look at it,' Raffensperger himself said on Good Morning America today. 'Maybe that’s the appropriate venue for it to go.' Legal experts agree that it is deeply inappropriate, but are mixed on whether Trump could be charged with a crime. Possible or not, that’s highly unlikely. The president seems to be careful on the call about how he speaks (legally, at least-- he’s incoherent in most respects), and anyway, importuning fraud requires one to realize that what one is asking for is wrong, and Trump may very well be deluded enough to believe that he actually won Georgia. He has shown little ability to sort fact from fiction, especially when fiction favors him."

This morning Ted Lieu asked the FBI to open a formal investigation. Pelosi-patsy Hakeem Jeffries gave the lame old chestnut about looking forward not backward. It's because of gutless wonders like Jeffries that we even have to contend with Trump's behavior.

Graham, concluding: "The moral hazard of the Republican stance on the Ukraine plot was clear. If Trump got away with extorting Ukraine and trying to rig the election process in his favor, he’d take the lesson that he could continue his brazen interference in elections without consequence. The only remaining check on him would be the voters—and he was looking for ways to juke them, too. Reaching this conclusion didn’t require clairvoyance, because Trump was open about it even amid impeachment. As he stood accused of privately pressuring Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden, he publicly asked China to do so. He continued his pressure play on Ukraine, too, though it never came to anything. Trump quickly proved me right. He began pushing out officials who had testified in the impeachment inquiry. In May, he tried to extort election-procedure changes from Democratic-led states. The post-election moves, and especially the coup call, are the most brazen and direct echo of the Ukraine plot, and they show why acquittal was so dangerous to the republic. Trump is probably not going to 'get away' with the coup attempt, insofar as it is highly unlikely that he can do anything to prevent Biden from becoming president on January 20. But he will get away with it insofar as he probably won’t face any criminal consequences for his attempted power grab. The corrosive effects on democracy of what Trump is doing right now will continue for years or decades. Future politicians will take the lesson to heart and use the same tactics to try to overturn elections. Meanwhile, the false claims that Trump and his Republican enablers have spread will do lasting damage to faith in elections, which could harm the United States. All of this could have been prevented."

And if he's right and Trump gets away with all this, will the Republican Party and its elected officials continuing to enable him?