Trumpconlaw is another podcast hosted by Roman Mars of 99% Invisible fame. When the show first started, I started tweeting out my own version of promos for each episode. The series of them can be found under the tag TrumpConLaw on this blog. This post should appear as the header for that series of tweets.
I am slowly working my way through the 99% Invisible archive. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever make it all the way through, but hope springs eternal. 99% Invisible is undoubtedly one of the best designed websites in existence. All Roman Mars podcasts and the podcasts that are presented through his distribution group, Radiotopia, are among the few podcasts out there that are easily shareable; easily shareable because the link to the hosting website is actually referenced in the feed address for the podcast you are listening to. I remain baffled as to why more podcasts do not design their feeds to be easily accessible in this way. In any case, give some of these podcasts a listen. It will take your mind off of the impending doom looming over the US today.
The order appointing me special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation, and we kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of the progress of our work. And as set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.
This was a not too subtle hint to the US Congress that the next action that needs to be taken is by them. Like it or not, they have to impeach Donald Trump or they will be abandoning the framework that this country was founded upon. It is one way or the other, and there is no way in between.
Trump is a criminal, many times over. This was true even before he became the president, as documented over and over on this blog, referencing dozens of news outlets. Now he has committed other crimes that Bobby three sticks cannot charge him for. Congress must take up this task, or admit that they have no power to curb a modern president. If they admit this, they admit that they are no longer a co-equal branch of government.
“I think what is crucially important to remember here is that you had Strzok and Page, who were in charge of launching this investigation, and they were saying things like, ‘We must stop this president.’ ‘We need an insurance policy against this president.’
“That, in my view, when you have people that are in the highest echelons of the law enforcement of this nation saying things like that, that sounds an awful lot like a coup. And it could well be treason.”
Peter Strzok, as I said previously, is a counter-intelligence hero. The Orange Hate-Monkey is something that smells foul spilled on the sidewalk in front of you that you carefully step around, by comparison. It is not even questionable, given Trump’s actual record in office, that we should have taken measures to insure that he could not be president. If we, as Americans, have any sense left, we will take measures to make sure he is punished for his crimes, and make sure that no one like him will ever attempt to hold office again.
Daughter of a guy who helped sell weapons to Saddam, who ignored repeated warnings from the intelligence community until America was attacked, who then started an illegal war based on false and manufactured information that got 4000 Americans killed — some by those same weapons — wants to talk about treason.
Then again, I guess Liz Cheney knows a traitor when she sees one about the same way Julie Nixon Eisenhower knows a crook.
“To my mind, this question at the top level is so obviously answered, you cannot have a president who’s a chronic liar. I don’t care what your passions around tax cuts or regulation or immigration. I respect difference there,”
“The President of the United States cannot be someone who lies constantly. I thought Republicans agreed with that. It’s one of the reasons I’m no longer a Republican. I hope the American people will realize we have to start at that values level no matter what our political background and answer that question first. And if that’s a close question in an election, then get to the important policy differences.”
During my recent convalescence, I watched a lot of television. A lot of television for me, considering I haven’t watched TV much since cutting the cable three years ago. I went through the several series on Netflix that I mentioned previously, but I also spent a lot of time watching several Ken Burns’ PBS series that I’ve had bookmarked for years.
The one that stuck in my mind was The Vietnam War, especially episode seven. You know the one. The one where we discover that Richard Nixon committed treason, and Lyndon Johnson caught him lying about it? For some reason, that series and that episode specifically reminds me of the political climate of today. More than one person has said to me,
You can’t say Donald Trump has committed treason because he hasn’t been conspiring with anyone we have declared war on.
…and I’ve found that non-denial denial quite revealing. Yes it is true that he hasn’t been shown to be conspiring with anyone we are currently at war with, but it is rather convenient that congress doesn’t declare war on enemies anymore. It’s also rather convenient that conventional war is limited to puppet governments and so-called third world regions, while information warfare is carefully treated as different from conventional war. As if destruction of a country’s political and social structure is somehow less damaging than the wholesale bombing campaigns of previous generations.
I mean, it is easier on the furniture and the infrastructure. It costs fewer lives, for the most part. But the uncertainty created by the mis- and dis-information campaigns currently being waged is psychologically as harmful as physical violence. You never know what is true and what is not true these days. All words are lies, especially words that come from government authorities. Sources that most people want to trust, demonstrably cannot be trusted. This has been true since Donald Trump took office proven time and again by investigative reporting.
Just like in Nixon’s time, White House sources deny that the reports are true, but their denials are clearly stamped as false, stamped as face-saving bullshit put out by the Bullshitter-in-Chief. Nixon conspired with Hanoi to prolong the Vietnam war in order to gain the White House. Donald Trump conspired with Vladimir Putin to gain the White House. No, we can’t prove it aside from the synchronicity of events that bear out coordination of efforts. But those events do occur in a properly causal relationship, and Trump did have business interests in Moscow that he still denies existed.
No, we aren’t at war with Russia, so that’s not treason per se. But if you think that just because we aren’t at war with another country, it’s OK to take their stolen information, their disinformation structures and use them against our own people? If you think that is OK, then I seriously have to question your sanity, your loyalty.
I just finished watching All the President’s Men. That line that Robard’s character utters near the end? That line keeps replaying in my head now. Those same pressures that were on the Washington Post back in 1974? Those pressures are on every single American today. There are no more gatekeepers. There is no barrier to information any longer. If we are misinformed, it is because we allow ourselves to be misinformed. Not allowing yourself to be comfortably deluded? That is what it means to be a good citizen. To know what the truth is, and to stick to it no matter the pressure to conform.
“We’re under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there,” Robards’ says. “Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, First Amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys fuck up again, I’m going to get mad. Good night.”
The charge of high crimes and misdemeanors covers allegations of misconduct by officials, such as perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets, failure to supervise, dereliction of duty, unbecoming conduct, refusal to obey a lawful order, chronic intoxication, and tax evasion. Offenses by officials also include ordinary crimes, but perhaps with different standards of proof and punishment than for nonofficials, on the grounds that more is expected of officials by their oaths of office.
The above came up in a Google search as an example of what the phrase High Crimes and Misdemeanors means, and it is a pretty common example of the kind of confusion that I see among the non-legally educated public. I’ve heard this dozens of times from a myriad of places; and the confusion over this phrase, like the confusion over the purpose of the Electoral College, is about to drive me nuts unless I take the time to explain it at least once.
If you were to speak to lawyers about the meanings of these terms, you would get a completely different answer than you would get out of the general public or from the mass media or social media. Specifically, High Crimes and Misdemeanors is a phrase in the U.S. Constitution. It is a term of art, not a type of crime that we must define through some mystic process in order for it to be understood. The definitions already exist.
A misdemeanor is a known quantity defined by law, just like a felony is defined by law.
Felonies and misdemeanors are two classifications of crimes used in most states, with petty offenses (infractions) being the third. Misdemeanors are punishable by substantial fines and sometimes jail time, usually less than one year. Felonies are the most serious type of crime and are often classified by degrees, with a first degree felony being the most serious. They include terrorism, treason, arson, murder, rape, robbery, burglary, and kidnapping, among others.
There are many possible misdemeanors that could be charged against the sitting president, if a president could be indicted in the fashion that a normal citizen could be charged. I would go so far as to argue that this president should be charged as if he was a normal citizen considering that he is well beneath the quality of human being that I would define as normal, but the niceties of tradition and political maneuvering hamstring most of the arguments that would allow for the direct prosecution of a sitting president for provable crimes in your average courtroom in Washington D.C. or elsewhere.
Lacking the ability to bring charges against a sitting president directly, we have, by definition, to be able to remove a president without having to meet the high standards that a criminal prosecution would require; in other words, the bar for impeachment of a official is lower than the bar for convicting an average citizen. This is because the standards of behavior are higher for political officeholders than the standards of behavior for your average fry cook.
That is why the term high crimes, is used in the U.S. Constitution, rather than the legal term felony,
high crime : a crime of infamous nature contrary to public morality but not technically constituting a felony
specifically : an offense that the U.S. Senate deems to constitute an adequate ground for removal of the president, vice president, or any civil officer as a person unfit to hold public office and deserving of impeachment
It is worth noting (h/t to Chris Hayes) that treason and bribery are listed crimes which can be brought against a sitting president for the purposes of impeachment, and that both treason and bribery can be proven from the behavior of Donald Trump without even breaking a sweat trying. This is above and beyond the phrase high crimes and misdemeanors which covers everything a president might do that was beneath treason and bribery but still not things a president should do.
…and that is why I have maintained that Donald Trump was a fool to even try to run for the office of the president for three years running. This is still my opinion, and the evidence for this opinion has only increased over his time in office. Impeachment is a pro forma operation when it comes to Trump, inc. His crimes are known. I, a layman, have detailed his crimes across the hundred-odd posts on this blog that I’ve written about this subject, and there are many more crimes that I’m sure I’ve missed in the last three years of the non-stop Trump media orgy we’ve all lived through. As to the specific criminal charges relating to the 2016 election that could be brought against him, those are icing on the cake. They aren’t needed, although everyone seems to think they are what will determine the future of the Trump presidency.
They won’t, because they aren’t the crimes that can be proven here and now. The Mueller report documents the crimes of obstruction that could be brought against Donald Trump, but he rightly or wrongly refused to bring those charges against him. In any case, the job of accusing and then convicting a sitting president and removing him from office falls to the Senate once articles of impeachment are passed by the House of Representatives. The crimes that can be proven right here and now without a protracted redaction fight in the courts are the financial crimes documented by his corporate accountants, and these crimes are a subpoena away from being proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
People who expect Trump to last another two years should probably hang onto their seats (yes, I’m looking at you) because it is liable to get really messy over the next 18 months. No one can tell you what will happen, because nothing like this has ever occurred in the history of the United States. We are in the moment of crisis when Rome became an empire and was no longer a Republic. We are in the twilight era when the USSR was ceasing to function, but continued to grind on for a decade and more through sheer inertia.
The impeachments should not be limited to Trump, either. The Attorney General, the Treasury Secretary, even the Vice President are all open targets based solely on their behavior within the Trump administration. The emoluments clause remains the albatross hanging around all of their necks, collectively. They have all conspired to allow Donald Trump to profit from the office of the president, allowed him to steal funds directly from all of us to further his own fortunes. This cannot be tolerated.
The Trump administration will end a longstanding requirement that certain nonprofit organizations disclose the names of large donors to the Internal Revenue Service, a move that will allow some political groups to shield their sources of funding from government scrutiny.
We The People not only expect but demand that we be told who buys whom and at what price, no matter how much power that person or group believes they have. This will be true for as long as as bribery, private financing for campaigns, is allowed. Mnuchin answers directly to Trump. He should be indicted along with Trump and the rest of his administration for high crimes and misdemeanors. This is no longer a request. #ImpeachTrump or join him on the dock to be charged with him. Pick one.
If you are afraid of where the truth might take you, if your loyalty is to a would be king and not the nation, then you are complicit. If you’re outraged at my words instead of at the thought of what that process might find, if you don’t want to know the truth, well, then you’re the problem.
From the ACLU: “Two nights ago, an armed civilian militia organization describing itself as the ‘United Constitutional Patriots’ arrested nearly 300 people seeking safety here, including young children, in New Mexico. Other videos appear to show even more recent arrests…”
That’s where I’m going. Right there.
This is the myth, the heroic white cowboy legend, that Trump’s generation sold itself, an America that never was, small, limited, SIMPLE, where problems are solved with a gun and rope and all a good woman needs is a rough man to defend her from the savages outside of town.
When those who call themselves conservatives today talk of conserving “our” history, well, that’s the history they mean and they would erase anyone who does not fit their myth from it — or relegate the rest of us to the help or comic relief.
If you look below the surface of the Western mythos you will find rare gems of television and Hollywood gold, like the 1950’s television series Maverick. I stumbled across this series a few years ago when James Garner died. I need to backtrack a little bit here.
I grew up watching detective stories at my dad’s feet. He had a weakness for cop dramas. If Hawaii 5-0 or Dragnet or any one of a dozen other shows I could name was on, he was watching it. I didn’t care much for most of the cop shows he watched, but the detective shows like the Rockford Files always intrigued me. Rockford, being an ex-felon, ex-cop, never carried a gun. In the world constructed around the character of James Rockford, it was a liability he didn’t want to have to answer for. If he needed a gun he seemed capable of taking one from whoever was threatening him.
It came as a surprise to me, learning more about him after his death, that the lack of a gun was a limitation that he demanded be written into the stories that he took part in. He felt that the gun was a crutch, it allowed the writers and the actors an easy way out of any situation. Just shoot your way out and you were the hero. Those weren’t the kinds of stories that James Garner wanted to be known for. This was true of Maverick as well as being true of Rockford Files. Guns were only carried by bad guys and lawmen, and the Mavericks had to learn how to turn a losing hand into a winning one by using their minds and the gullibility of the people around them. Rockford couldn’t carry a gun or he would go back to jail, so once again the stories had to be a little more clever in order for them to be interesting to the viewing audience.
Sure there were fistfights and concussions galore in both series, but this was the sixties and seventies. You had to have something to keep the audience watching back then. Dialog was simply not enough to keep them entertained. But the heroes of the series didn’t win because they were the fastest with a gun. They came out on top because they were smarter than their opponents were.
The more standard Westerns never kept my attention as a child. The closest I came to watching standard fare back then was watching The Big Valley or High Chaparral. I can watch Clint Eastwood in virtually any film his production company made and enjoy myself, but shows like Bonanza never held my attention. They were all too predictable.
Comparing what I call a Western with what the average Western looks like, is like saying that Lost in Space and Star Trek are equal because they are both science fiction television shows. I know, this insistence on distinction with a difference makes me an outlier, not the subject of the Stonekettle Facebook post I quoted at the beginning.
I get it.
…And yet there were five seasons of Maverick. There were six seasons of Rockford. A second Maverick series. A Maverick movie. Someone is watching Rockford right now somewhere out in TV land. There has to be a significant number of people like me out there. Like us out there. The question is, are there enough of us? Enough to change the myth? I still hope so.
This revised article was inspired by the March 21, 2019 NPR Politics Podcast where they once again repeated the myth that the EC was not designed to reflect the popular vote. That is simply not the truth of the matter. The story is far more complex than that.
The electoral college has a long and troubled history; in fact, the electoral college wasn’t even in the first draft of the Constitution. In the original document, penned by James Madison, congress was to select the president. This mechanism was deemed too prone to intrigue by the members of the constitutional convention, and was seen as crippling the independence of the executive branch by making it reliant on congress. At least two of the original attendees of the convention favored direct popular election of the executive, including the author of the document himself. This idea was sacrificed even before the writing of the first draft of the document in order to make inclusion of the slave states palatable to the Northern states.
There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.
The historical fact of American slavery is something that the defenders of the electoral college should take heed of. The numerous slaves in the Southern states, slaves that the Southern slave owners and state representatives wanted counted as people for the purpose of apportioning representation, would have skewed the college and congress towards the South, which the North objected to. The South wanted slaves counted as people, for the purpose of representation, but not counted as people, for the purpose of profiting off of their slave labor. The impasse over the problem of representation in the legislature and at the voting booth threatened the entire constitutional convention, much like the problem of slavery threatened the possibility of American independence.
It was the invention of the three-fifths rule, a rule that counted each slave as three-fifths of a person, that allowed for a compromise on representation; and through that, a compromise on the election of the office of president. Changes have been made to the electoral college along the way, but the essence of the college itself remains the same as it was back in 1787; that essence being a safeguard against factions having undue sway over the selection of the executive for the government.
Not the people but the factions, the parties, were to be guarded against. This was the paramount fear in the minds of the crafters of the Union. The electoral college was part of the whole package of division of powers, allowing for the will of the voting population of each state to be carried directly to the then new capitol. The preservation of state power was what the electoral college was designed to protect, enhancing the ability of sectionalism to thwart the corrupting influence of faction.
Faction almost immediately took hold, anyway.
Some states reasoned that the favorite presidential candidate among the people in their state would have a much better chance if all of the electors selected by their state were sure to vote the same way—a “general ticket” of electors pledged to a party candidate. So the slate of electors chosen by the state were no longer free agents, independent thinkers, or deliberative representatives. They became “voluntary party lackeys and intellectual non-entities.”Once one state took that strategy, the others felt compelled to follow suit in order to compete for the strongest influence on the election.
When James Madison and Hamilton, two of the most important architects of the Electoral College, saw this strategy being taken by some states, they protested strongly. Madison and Hamilton both made it clear this approach violated the spirit of the Constitution. According to Hamilton, the selection of the president should be “made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station [of president].” According to Hamilton, the electors were to analyze the list of potential presidents and select the best one. He also used the term “deliberate”.
The 1824 election, the first election in which the popular vote mattered, was the second time the electoral college failed to produce a president. Once again the House of Representatives was forced to debate and vote on presidential candidates, eventually electing John Quincy Adams, the son of John Adams, to the presidency. This so infuriated the winner of the popular vote in 1824, Andrew Jackson, that he broke with the party of Jefferson (Democratic-Republicans) to create the Democratic party, a version of which still exists today.
The formation of the other half of the two-party factional control of the United States government came about with the election of Abraham Lincoln. It was with the election of Lincoln that the regional Republican party graduated to the national stage. Lincoln is one of four presidents who won the office while not being on the ballots in every state, and the only president to win the office while not being on the ballot in more than 5 states (he was not on the ballot in ten of the eleven slave states) he did win the electoral college successfully, probably because the slave states of the deep South were already pulling their support from the union and actively engaging in dissipating federal power to the several states so as to strengthen their own hands in the coming war that they were actively conspiring to start.
The electoral college is the only one where they choose their own masters.
However, the electoral college was set up to reflect the population of the United States as a whole. It achieved this through tying a majority of the electors from each state to the number of representatives from each state in the House of Representatives. Each district of the House being determined through the arcane process of census and redistricting, the seats apportioned based on populations within geographical regions. One elector for every seat in the House of Representatives plus one for every Senator. Add in the three electors for Washington D.C. and you have the number of electors in the current version of the electoral college, 538. It is supposed to return results that roughly equates to the vote of the majority of the population of the United States, and has done its job pretty admirably right up until the twentieth century when Congress short-circuited the representation metric that the founders set up.
How did the House upset the metric? They crafted the last in several sequential measures that set the number of seats in the legislature. The membership of the House of Representatives has been kept artificially low for most of the modern age. the number of representatives was fixed at 435 in 1911 and has remained at 435 as the population of the United States has grown exponentially. This has lead to an ever-increasing number of people represented by a single seat in congress, a ridiculous number of people that the framers would never have envisioned as acceptable. The original minimum population per house seat was 30,000; but the current representatives for the House each represent about half a million people, at least, with the higher population districts containing about three-quarters of a million people.
This is important, because this is how you get to the point where a candidate can win by well over a million votes in the popular election, and yet lose the election by electoral count. The electoral college is rigged against the popular vote being reflected in the makeup of the college, because the electors are not properly apportioned to the populations of the various states. For that matter, the House of Representatives no longer serves its function as a direct representation of the people, because it too is not apportioned correctly even though it was set up specifically to serve this purpose.
If the House of Representatives was allowed to grow again, as it did throughout the history of the United States, we would end up with a House that was made up of several thousand people. This may sound like a radical change to you, increasing the size of the house, but we’ll get a better representational cross-section of America if we do this and thereby end a lot of the talk about disconnected Washington politics in the process. Will it be more difficult to get important work done? I doubt that it can get more difficult than it is already. I think we will have to find that out first hand. Keep this point in mind.
The 2016 election travesty is not even the first time since 2000 that a candidate for President received more popular votes and yet lost the election as it is calculated in the electoral college, and still I run across statements from apparently well educated people who insist that these kinds of outcomes are to be expected. If the system worked as it was intended, then as a general rule the electors would reflect almost perfectly the will of the people, provided that the will of the people is not being swayed by factions with too great a control over the system.
Factions with too great a control over the system.
Just read back over the posts on this blog. Authoritarianism vs. Humanism. The Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) The various MAGA posts (there are more of those still in the edit stages) The article On Presidential Tax Returns. The facts in that article alone being enough to exclude the OHM from the office of president if reasonable people had been in charge of the 2016 election. However, the Republican party has apparently gone over to the magical thinkers, and magic doesn’t exist. If the Republicans in 2020 nominated someone who accepted science, wasn’t knee-jerk opposed to immigration, accepted that women have a right to medical care including abortion services, if they nominated someone who didn’t espouse belief in Reaganomics, I might have to revise my opinion of them. Might have to allow for the corruption of our system represented in their factional control of parts of our government. Not even in my wildest dreams did I think they would be so stupid as to nominate a lunatic as their candidate in 2016, and they are liable to do it again in 2020 even if the OHM goes to jail before that election is held.
But they did nominate a lunatic in 2016, and they are one-half of the two-party factional control of our government that has been allowed to calcify in place over the last century. The entire legislative system is set up to cater to party authority and one of the parties is demonstrably insane, being led by someone who either does believe or pretends to believe insane things.
The electoral college has failed to do its one and only job in the one election in U.S. history that could possibly have proved its worth. It has failed to justify its inclusion in the fabric of American society, three-fifths compromise notwithstanding. With the 2016 travesty in the rear-view mirror it becomes painfully obvious that we must amend the constitution to remove the electoral college, legislatively render it toothless in every state legislature in the US or modify the structure that dictates its size and representation. One of these things must occur. Several states have already passed the legislation mandating the popular vote outcome.
If we cannot render the electoral college toothless, If we cannot amend it out of the constitution, replacing it with the direct election of the president by the population of the United States, then what we have to do is the easier thing that I alluded to earlier. We influence our representatives to do the one thing they can do for us and themselves, and it’s part of the job we send them to Washington D.C. to do in the first place. They should legislate an increase in the size of the House of Representatives, and through that increase negate the corrupting influences of faction and money.
What the study and report above shows is exactly what I said. The imposed limitation of 435 members placed on congress by congress itself is the limiting factor for gaining more influence over our representatives, for gaining an equitable voice in electing our president. This is one of the easiest things to fixed, and it would fix the electoral college at the same time. With one simple bill introduced in congress we could increase the size of the congress and reduce the numbers of us per representative. Make the representatives more focused on communicating with their much smaller groups of constituents, and be much more replaceable by those same groups.
A constituent base of 30,000 people means that my specific region of Austin would have their own representative in congress. A larger congress would be impossible to control externally by factional politics. It would lead to the formation of regional parties and a dilution of power in Washington D.C. We’d need to build facilities to house the additional several thousand representatives, which will be a windfall for the states and Washington itself. I don’t see how this works out as bad in any real way.
So rather than paying more money to influence my congressman I propose we pay the congressmen less money and multiply their number by about a magnitude. Require them to listen to us if they want to keep their jobs. As a bonus, the electoral college will increase in size and we won’t see a repeat of this last election again.