Impeaching Trump didn't do a damn bit of good, did it? It'll make the history books more accurate about this period but it sure didn't slow him down. Even as his own Justice Department has been investigating his scheme to sell pardons since August, there are rumors that he's stealing the Resolute Desk and having it replaced with a copy.
Last week the American Prospect published a piece by Alexander Sammon, Prosecuting Trump Is the Only Way to Heal the Nation, that explains how letting him off the hook for multiple crimes, Biden's favorite option, would reinforce his contempt for the rule of law. It would also reinforce the potential for criminal conduct from future presidents, just as Nixon's non-prosecution encouraged Trump. "Going out as it came in," wrote Sammon, "the Trump campaign’s last days were ablaze with misconduct, corruption, and illegal activity with no regard for the law and no fear of consequence. According to the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, the final three weeks of the campaign produced a flurry of FEC filings with plainly illegal individual contributions far beyond the individual limit of $2,800. All told, the campaign took on $2.7 million in wrongful and excessive donations in the last 20 days. The Biden campaign’s FEC reports over the same period showed no similar pattern. That misconduct is barely a blip in the course of the Trump experience, where a brazen disregard for the law and the expectation of total impunity has been perhaps the most coherent and consistent direction of the president’s four years at the helm. Trump himself and his various appointees engaged in crimes far more grievous than campaign-finance violations. The stuff we know about—the violations of the Emoluments Clause, the solicitation of foreign interference in elections, the tax cheating, the use of the military on civilian protesters, the sexual assault allegations and the attempted use of the Justice Department to fight them, the obvious and repeated obstruction of justice, and on and on-- may be dwarfed by the crimes we haven’t yet been made aware of. Trump was impeached for a tiny percentage of this, and then he and his enablers in the attorney general’s office and the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security kept on unabated."
What exactly to do about Trump, Bill Barr, Mike Pompeo, and their epic corruption will be a defining question of the Joe Biden presidency. For many Democrats, the prospect of hauling a political rival before the courts is too messy and excessively political, the sort of thing done in banana republics and not in the high-minded and high-functioning political culture of American democracy. So appalled were Democrats by Trump’s calls to lock up Hillary Clinton, most are determined to overcorrect by proposing to give Trump’s crimes a pass.
...[C]onventional wisdom on the impropriety of prosecuting presidents is dangerously ill-conceived. A failure to bring Trump to account before the law would mark a profound politicization of the legal system, one that would call into question the legitimacy of our rule of law and notch a new low in its undermining. The defining feature of a sickly democracy or a plain autocracy is crimes committed by the powerful going unpunished. If the facts are there, the choice should be clear. Observation of laws is not voluntary, nor is enforcement of consequence predicated on who is breaking them. All the world’s bipartisan commissions would do less to heal the country than merely proving that the rich and powerful are bound by the same set of laws as everyone else.
...Early indications are not promising. Biden’s rumored appointees for his Justice Department are descendants of the lineage of people who thought it was inappropriate for the Obama administration to pursue criminal bankers, torturers, or presidents. The person with the strongest reputation for ass-kicking likely will be Sally Yates, whose rep doesn’t exactly match her record. In fact, Yates is currently a partner at King & Spalding, one of the three major firms that supplied lawyers for Trump’s election strategy. That’s hardly the profile of someone who’s going to charge headlong in the task of rounding up Trump’s abettors.
It’s likely, moreover, that Biden is simply hoping other jurisdictions will do his dirty work. Letitia James, the attorney general of New York, has made something of a reputation of going after Trump and his affiliate acts at the state level; ditto District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. in Manhattan. Accountability is not a legislative act, nor is it a political one, and it remains one of the few places where Biden can accomplish something that is good for the long-term health both of the country and of the party. If he wants to heal the nation-- he’s repeatedly sold himself as a the protector of America’s soul-- prosecuting Trump and affirming the rule of law is the best way to do it. Trump’s supporters will cry foul and lash out in extreme fashion. But they’re likely to do that in response to anything Biden does-- even something as apolitical as counting votes has merited an armed response from Trump’s most militant. If Biden’s only lasting legacy is to have brought about the end of the era of elite impunity, his presidency will have been well worth it.
It's not likely Biden will be as bad a president as Trump; that's almost inconceivable. It is likely however that Biden will be a terrible president and the idea of him bringing about the end of the era of elite impunity is barely conceivable. Anyone who is harboring any kind of illusion that Biden is "a good man," is going to be in for a horrible hangover. Having followed his career carefully since he was first elected to the Senate in 1972, I couldn't even pull myself to vote for him against Trump. At best, he'll be a mediocre president. But there's a great potential for him being much worse than merely mediocre. As for Trump... he's still doing everything he can to damage the country. Maybe if Biden were a little more assertive about prosecuting criminals, Trump would be thinking more carefully about how to spend his last weeks in the White House.
This morning, Wall Street Journal reporters Andrew Duellen and Andrew Restuccia wrote how Trump is still in the process of corrupting the system. His regime, they wrote "is rapidly moving forward with a last-minute push to ease hiring and firing standards for many senior federal workers, setting off a clash with Democrats in Congress over whether civil servants should maintain longstanding job protections. President Trump issued an executive order in October creating a new category of federal worker for career employees with influence over government policy. Employees in the new category, called Schedule F, would lose protections granted to many federal employees, allowing agencies to more easily fire the workers and hire new staffers outside the existing competitive civil-service process... Public-employee groups and some Democrats worry it could degrade the expertise and independence of the federal workforce. Democrats have proposed legislation canceling the order, requested documents about its use and pushed to include measures in year-end spending legislation blocking its implementation. The Government Accountability Office, the legislative branch’s nonpartisan watchdog, has begun reviewing the change, and the National Treasury Employees Union has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the order. Agencies have until Jan. 19, 2021, the day before President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated, to submit a preliminary list of employees to the Office of Personnel Management to be reclassified. The order gives agencies broad leeway to choose employees who fall under the new category, and Democrats worry that government scientists, economists and data analysts could all be recategorized."
From a flood of last minute executive orders and regulations affecting the environment, worker safety, food stamps, migrant workers, oil drilling in national parks, etc, to Mnuchin’s move to claw back hundreds of billions of dollars in unspent pandemic emergency funds to prevent the Biden administration from using them, to one last minute foreign-policy move after another meant to limit Biden’s room for maneuver, the criminal Trumpist regime has been undermining the country. This latest stunt with civil service employees would allow Trump to fire tens of thousands of employees on his last day in office, including, for example, Fauci. Employees who have been fired can’t necessarily be instantly rehired by Biden, nor can Trumpist saboteurs reclassified under the new job categories be peremptorily fired.
One of the new rules Trump is pushing through is to allow for execution by firing squad. Let's hope he's the first example of that policy in action-- followed by Don, Jr., Kushner, Barr, Giuliani, Mnuchin, Stephen Miller and the rest of the criminally corrupt crew.