These Charges Will Be Forever Attached To Donald J. Trump
A few hours after the indictment was unsealed yesterday, UCLA law professor Richard Hasen of ElectionLawBlog explained why U.S. v Trump would be the most important case in our nation’s history— in other words, right up there with Marbury v. Madison (1803), Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Roe v. Wade (1973), Miranda v. Arizona (1966), Loving v. Virginia (1967) and U.S. v. Nixon (1974), the most related, having led to Nixon’s resignation after the Supreme Court ruled that he had to hand over the Watergate tapes, establishing that executive privilege is not absolute. It’s certainly more important than any of the other cases Trump is facing but Hasen modified his title slightly, explaining it would be the “most important indictment ever handed down to safeguard American democracy and the rule of law in any U.S. court against anyone” and then asserting that “It is hard to overstate the stakes riding on this indictment and prosecution… It’s not hyperbole to say that the conduct of this prosecution will greatly influence whether the U.S. remains a thriving democracy after 2024.”
Peter Baker made a similar case about the implications for American democracy, noting the “not since the framers merged from Independence Hall on that clear, cool day in Philadelphia 236 years ago has any president who was voted out of office been accused of plotting to hold onto power in an elaborate scheme of deception and intimidation that would lead to violence in the halls of Congress.”
Presidents denied second terms: John Adams, who was defeated by Thomas Jefferson; John Quincy Adams, who was defeated by Andrew Jackson; Martin Van Buren, who was defeated by William Henry Harrison; Millard Fillmore, who was denied renomination; Franklin Pierce, who was denied renomination; James Buchanan (who some historians argue was nearly as failed a president as Trump), who was denied renomination; Andrew Johnson, who was denied renomination; Chester Arthur, who was denied renomination; Grover Cleveland, who was defeated by Benjamin Harrison after one term and then defeated Harrison after his one term; William Taft, who was defeated by Woodrow Wilson; Herbert Hoover, who was defeated by FDR; Jerry Ford, who was defeated by Jimmy Carter; Jimmy Carter who was defeated by Ronald Reagan; George H.W. Bush, who was defeated by Bill Clinton; and now Señor Trumpanzee who was defeated by Joe Biden.
Baker insists, as Hasen did, that the Trump case “will define the future of American democracy… the viability of the system constructed during that summer in Philadelphia. Can a sitting president spread lies about an election and try to employ the authority of the government to overturn the will of the voters without consequence? The question would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, but the Trump case raises the kind of specter more familiar in countries with histories of coups and juntas and dictators. In effect, Jack Smith, the special counsel who brought the case, charged Trump with one of the most sensational frauds in the history of the United States, one ‘fueled by lies’ and animated by the basest of motives, the thirst for power. In a 45-page, four-count indictment, Smith dispensed with the notion that Trump believed his claims of election fraud. ‘The defendant knew that they were false,’ it said, and made them anyway to ‘create an intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger and erode public faith in the administration of the election.’”
The framers considered the peaceful transfer of power fundamental to the new form of government they were devising. It was a fairly radical innovation in its day, an era when kings and emperors generally gave up power only upon natural death or at the point of a weapon. In the newborn republic, by contrast, the framers set limits on power through four-year presidential terms renewable only by the voters through the Electoral College.
George Washington established the precedent of voluntarily stepping down after two of those terms, a restraint later incorporated into the Constitution through the 22nd Amendment. John Adams established the precedent of peacefully surrendering power after losing an election. Ever since, every defeated president accepted the verdict of the voters and stepped down. As Ronald Reagan once put it, what “we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.”
Until Trump came along. [The best investment the Russian government ever made in the area of foreign affairs.]
For all the many, many allegations made against him on all sorts of subjects during his time on the public stage, everything else feels small by comparison. Unlike the indictment by New York State for allegedly covering up a payment to a porn actress and Smith’s previous indictment for allegedly jeopardizing national secrets after leaving the White House, the new charges are the first to deal with actions taken by a president while in office.
While he failed to keep his grip on power, Trump has undermined the credibility of elections in the United States by persuading three in 10 Americans that the 2020 election was somehow stolen from him, even though it was not and many of his own advisers and family members know it was not.
Bringing the case to court, of course, may not restore that public faith in the system. Millions of Trump’s supporters and many Republican leaders have embraced his narrative of victimization, dismissing the prosecution without waiting to read the indictment as merely part of a far-reaching, multi-jurisdictional and sometimes even bipartisan “witch hunt” against him.
…Now the justice system and the electoral system will engage in a 15-month race to see which will decide his fate first— and the country’s. The real verdict on the Trump presidency is still to come.
Tom Nichols was on the same page this morning: This is the case. “Trump stands indicted for attempting to thwart the peaceful transfer of power and subvert the rights of American citizens. This is the moment that will decide our future as a democracy… Senator J. D. Vance of Ohio once referred to Trump as ‘cultural heroin.’ but that was before he decided to seek power in the Republican Party… Trump’s record of “lawlessness and depravity” means nothing to Republicans. But other Republicans now, more than ever, face a moment of truth. They must decide if they are partisans or patriots. They can no longer claim to be both. The rest of us, as a nation but also as individuals, can no longer indulge the pretense that Trump is just another Republican candidate, that supporting Donald Trump is just another political choice, and that agreeing with Trump’s attacks on our democracy is just a difference of opinion… In the 1982 film The Verdict, Paul Newman plays Frank Galvin, an ambulance-chasing attorney with an alcohol addiction who takes on what he thinks will be a routine malpractice suit and soon finds himself fighting for justice against powerful institutions determined to stop him. On the eve of the trial, all seems lost. His mentor and former partner tries to comfort him. ‘There’ll be other cases,’ his friend says. Galvin knows better. ‘There are no other cases,’ he says quietly, with his eyes closed. ‘This is the case.’ He repeats this truth, whispering to himself, over and over: ‘There are no other cases. This is the case.’ Jack Smith has indicted Donald Trump for trying to overthrow our system of government. There are no other cases. This is the case.”
Meanwhile, Trump's allies and puppets in Congress are reacting as expected. Marjorie Traitor Greene, aside from having a general social media breakdown, is screaming about defunding the special counsel, while Speaker McCarthy is insisting the whole thing is nothing more than a distraction from Hunter Biden’s earth shattering dick pics. And I guess this is the official reaction off the House Republican Conference:
This morning, Juan Cole revisited an old column of his own from 2017, just before Obama left the White House. “We are now,” he wrote presciently, “on the brink of a new form of government, undreamed of by Aristotle, who spoke of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. We are headed to a psychopathocracy, which has something in common with the degraded form of classical regime types that Aristotle warned against (he thought monarchy can deteriorate into despotism, aristocracy into oligarchy, and democracy into demagoguery). Psychopathocracy is the rule of persons who lack a basic ability to empathize with others, to feel their pain or to feel guilty about harming them. Psychopathocracy is different from mere bad policy. We can all disagree about the direction of government or particular initiatives. Often people backing a policy that harms others do not understand the harm, or think it is averting a greater harm. It isn’t true that all high politicians are psychopaths who don’t care about injury being done to people. And high politicians have put in programs like social security that have lifted millions of elders out of poverty over decades. They did it because they cared about people.”
Trump’s psychopathy is evident in his exaggerated estimation of himself, his need constantly to troll the public for stimulation, his superficial charm, his need to lie, his inability to feel remorse or guilt, his emotional shallowness, his promiscuity and lack of impulse control and serial sexual assault, his use of bankruptcy to avoid paying his creditors and his attraction to a business like casinos which preys on people (many games in casinos are skewed for the House at rates of 11% and on up even to 20%). Trump is more disciplined and single-minded about his career than most psychopaths manage, but otherwise he seems a classic case. He also suffers from a distinct but related condition, of narcissistic personality disorder.
“Many of the people around Trump, who speak for him on television, who are tapped to advise him on national security, on the environment, on issues like net neutrality, also exhibit clear signs of psychopathy. Since only about 3 million Americans are born psychopaths, the idea that a whole group of them is moving into power in Washington together is pretty scary. And remember that some 38 million Americans are so ethically and emotionally fragile that they will easily fall under the spell of the psychopaths. That is, if directed to beat up members of minorities, they will gladly do so.
“Since about a third of psychopaths can now be diagnosed with an MRI for brain abnormalities, maybe it is desirable that candidates for high office in business and government be scanned: Psychcentral writes, a “study found that [cold-blooded psychopathic] offenders displayed significantly reduced grey matter volumes in the anterior rostral prefrontal cortex and temporal poles compared to [impulsive psychopathic] offenders and healthy non-offenders.”
“Until such scanning can be carried out, the safest thing is to assume that someone who talks and acts like a psychopath is one.
“You cannot reason with a psychopath, you cannot shame such a person or appeal to their better instincts. There is no point in writing open letters to them. The usual way of dealing with politicians who develop some wild ideas in the course of their search for voters and campaign funds will not work.
“The only thing you can do is recognize their damaged character and try to protect yourself and others from it. When they encourage minorities to be beaten up, we have to stop that. When they encourage universities to put professors on trial, we have to reject that. When they begin beating drums for war, we have to try to avert it. Pressuring the normal people in Congress can be done (they responded quickly to angry telephone calls about plans to weaken ethics requirements for people in Congress).