The next time Donald Trump and the House Republicans tell us that they stand for law and order and national security, just laugh. Rather, in the span of a day, from New York to Washington, D.C., the president and his minions demonstrated that their legal ideal is that might makes right, if they can get away with it.
Appearing before the Second Circuit in a battle with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office over the president’s tax returns, Trump’s legal team told the court that a sitting president enjoys absolute immunity from criminal investigation, not just while still in office in office. Pressed by the court on whether a president could be criminally targeted if he shot someone, the president’s lawyers responded in the negative.
For good measure, Trump’s counsel also advised the bench that they were there representing Trump both as an individual and as “sovereign.” Wow.
Back in the day, we were taught that it was “We the people” who were sovereign, that no one was above the law, and that even presidents could be compelled to testify and produce evidence.
At least that was the lesson of Watergate, Richard Nixon, Monica Lewinsky, and Bill Clinton. Now it’s l’état, c’est moi.
In the game Dungeons and Dragons, each character has an alignment, representing its ethical and moral perspectives. The GOP, following Trump's lead, has gone full chaotic evil.
And not just in the Second Circuit. Taking a page out of Roger Stone’s Florida 2000 recount playbook, a group of Republican congressmen, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida—a favorite of the president—together with staff stormed the secure hearing room, the SCIF, where Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia was slated to give testimony in connection with the House’s impeachment inquiry. As the day wore on, word seeped out that Trump had been given foreknowledge of Gaetz’s gambit.
Sure, grand juries meet in secret, but apparently that was irrelevant. Yes, Republican members of the Intelligence Committee and their staff are given free rein in questioning. But that’s all beside the point. Rather, it was about grievance and theatrics.
The GOP no longer controls the House, Devin Nunes is no longer a committee chairman. Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff, instead, call the shots, and somehow that taints the process in Republican eyes. The silver lining is that no one pulled a Preston Brooks and whacked a member on the head with a cane.
For added measure, Gaetz’s goons also brought their cellphones to the SCIF in violation of the rules. National security was just another inconvenience to be disregarded when Trump’s future is on the line, as if we didn’t already know that.
Looking back, Trump calling out to Russia, Trump operatives meeting with Julian Assange, Javanka intimating that they were above it all, are all part of the same piece of cloth: the law is what they say it is. Humpty Dumpty and Lewis Carroll must be smiling.
End of a chapter but far from the end of the day. Back in New York, Rudy Giuliani’s clients, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, entered pleas of not guilty minutes after Trump’s lawyers had finished telling the appellate court “don’t touch this.” So far nothing that unusual, except that Parnas’ counsel advised the trial judge that executive privilege stood to be implicated as the result of subpoenas issued to 50, that’s 5-0, bank accounts.
How executive privilege could be implicated is unclear. But no matter, it spells more drama to come. Fittingly, Giuliani loves the opera and the operatic. As for Giuliani, late Wednesday another court ordered the State Department to hand over its records pertaining to Ukraine, including the ex-mayor’s communications with Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state.
And then there was Matthew Whitaker, the former acting attorney general, telling Laura Ingraham and Fox Nation that “abuse of power is not a crime” Except of course when it is.
Mind you, this is the same Matt Whitaker who was forced to correct his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee to avoid being slapped with a perjury rap. Regardless, Whitaker’s wisdom has apparently been embraced as the GOP’s rule to live by now that congressional Republicans are a minority.
And last, there’s the First Slumlord, Jared Kushner. With Team Trump getting thuggish, and the president calling never-Trump Republicans “human scum” and “in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats,” Jared also came in for some unwanted attention.
Brian Frosh, the Maryland attorney general, filed suit against Westminster Management, a company owned by Kushner, alleging that Westminster “victimized consumers, many of whom are financially vulnerable” and committed “hundreds of thousands of violations” of consumer protection laws. Frosh also took note of “rodent infested units.”
But it was Alabama’s Mo Brooks who won Best in Show today with a red-in-the-face speech and this tweet: “I & dozens of GOP colleagues held a joint news conference attacking the Socialist Democrats’ secret, closed-door, Capitol basement impeachment proceedings that shut out the public & congressmen from impeachment testimony, evidence, & developments.” The only thing missing from Brooks’ rant were references to the Civil War and the Illuminati.
Bottom line, it’s never illegal when Trump does it. At worse, it’s only an abuse of power and so why should anyone care?