Groundhog Day ReadsPosted: February 2, 2018
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
Another day! Another Constitutional Crisis! It’s Groundhog Day KKKrelim Caligula Style!
Ezra Klein of VOX has written an extensive article based on How Democracies Die. His basis is the book and an interview with the authors available in podcast.
Where Levitsky and Ziblatt make their mark is in weaving together political science and historical analysis of both domestic and international democratic crises; in doing so, they expand the conversation beyond Trump and before him, to other countries and to the deep structure of American democracy and politics.
They also offer a lesson that should ring in our minds as we watch congressional Republicans agitate to release a memo designed to smear the FBI — setting up a confrontation between a president with authoritarian impulses and the FBI that’s investigating him — and cheer lustily as Trump delivers his State of the Union address.
Demagogues and authoritarians do not destroy democracies. It’s established political parties, and the choices they make when faced with demagogues and authoritarians, that decide whether democracies survive.
“2017 was the best year for conservatives in the 30 years that I’ve been here,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week. “The best year on all fronts. And a lot of people were shocked because we didn’t know what we were getting with Donald Trump.”
The best year on all fronts. Think about that for a moment. If you want to know why congressional Republicans are opening an assault on the FBI in order to protect Trump, it can be found in that comment. This was a year in which Trump undermined the press, fired the director of the FBI, cozied up to Russia, baselessly alleged he was wiretapped, threatened to jail his political opponents, publicly humiliated his attorney general for recusing himself from an investigation, repeatedly claimed massive voter fraud against him, appointed a raft of unqualified and occasionally ridiculous candidates to key positions, mishandled the aftermath of the Puerto Rico hurricane, and threatened to use antitrust and libel laws against his enemies.
And yet McConnell surveyed the tax cuts he passed and the regulations he repealed and called this not a mixed year for his political movement, not a good year for his political movement, but the best year he’d ever seen.
Speaking of Republicans who have completely sold out our country, you may read Rep. Devin Nunes (R- RUSSIA) at this link at WAPO.
The Nunes memo is a document created by the staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) that alleges the FBI abused its surveillance authority, particularly when it sought a secret court order to monitor a former Trump campaign adviser. The FBI and the Justice Department had lobbied strenuously against its release. On Wednesday, the FBI had said it was “gravely concerned” that key facts were missing from the memo. President approves release of GOP memo criticizing FBI surveillance
The White House released the memo with no redactions but a lot of stern tweet lying and shaming.
The White House transmitted the president’s opinion to the committee in a letter this morning, the official said.
As ABC News has previously reported, the memo is critical of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for his role in renewing a surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page after Trump took office.
Trump’s Republican allies have suggested that Rosenstein — who is also overseeing the Mueller investigation — is guilty of political bias toward the president because he supported surveillance on Page based in part on information from a Democrat-funded dossier.
“Does it make you more likely to fire Rosenstein? Do you still have confidence in him after reading the memo?” a reporter asked the president in the Oval Office.
“You figure that one out,” Trump responded.
Here’s some VOX analysis of why the Republicans (RUSSIA) think the memo will destroy the credibility of Mueller and his team.9
1) A FISA court judge reviewed evidence and approved a warrant to wiretap a Trump associate
In fall 2016, FBI investigators applied for a warrant with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump adviser. They presented evidence that Page may be acting as a Russian agent and the judge approved the warrant.
There isn’t much disagreement up to this point.
2) The core of the Nunes argument
But the Nunes memo implies the case was primarily built on the Steele dossier — and points out that it was funded partially by a law firm on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
And here’s the important part: Nunes says investigators misled the judge by not saying they were relying on the Steele dossier.
3) Rod Rosenstein is dragged into this as well
The Nunes memo points out that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approved the application for a renewal of the warrant knowing they were relying heavily on the DNC-funded Steele dossier.
This part is crucial because it is saying Rosenstein knew about the warrant and approved of it. And since Nunes believes the warrant application was mostly from a DNC- and Clinton-funded report, he is trying to imply Rosenstein has an anti-Trump bias.
This is clearly a move to remove Rosenstein and replace him with some one that will fire Mueller. It’s also beyond Nixonian.
It’s always been held–but not determined by the Supreme Court–that a sitting President cannot be indicted. This is being challenged by two lawyers with connections to lawyers familiar with the investigation.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has gathered enough steam that some lawyers representing key Donald Trump associates are considering the possibility of a historic first: an indictment against a sitting president.
While many legal experts contend that Mueller lacks the standing to bring criminal charges against Trump, at least two attorneys working with clients swept up in the Russia probe told POLITICO they consider it possible that Mueller could indict the president for obstruction of justice.
Neither attorney claimed to have specific knowledge of Mueller’s plans. Both based their opinions on their understanding of the law; one also cited his interactions with the special counsel’s team, whose interviews have recently examined whether Trump tried to derail the probe into his campaign’s Russia ties.
“If I were a betting man, I’d bet against the president,” said one of the lawyers.
The second attorney, who represents a senior Trump official, speculated that Mueller could try to bring an indictment against Trump even if he expects the move to draw fierce procedural challenges from the president’s lawyers – if only to demonstrate the gravity of his findings.
“It’s entirely possible that Mueller may go that route on the theory that, as an open question, it should be for the courts to decide,” the attorney said. “Even if the indictment is dismissed, it puts maximum pressure on Congress to treat this with the independence and intellectual honesty that it will never, ever get.”
I’m sure will hear all about this on news today. Meanwhile, share what you think and what you’re hearing!