Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Long Scandal Ahead

Before you get too hooked on all this, be warned: this could be a long term commitment.

The gathering scandals around the current regime look more and more like Watergate, at least in these respects: they involve electoral politics to win the US presidency, the coverups may lead to the crimes (one of which may be treason) and crucially, that how all of it is adjudicated will test the basic strength of the Constitution and the American system of government.

And like Watergate, it may soon absorb the attention of the American people beyond anything else.  There is news on this daily, that involves possible crimes in potentially various jurisdictions by a growing number of people. In Washington there is a Federal Bureau of Investigation investigation that could include recommendations for criminal charges, as well as hearings by (at the moment) the intelligence committees of the House and Senate.  The Washington news includes a half dozen high ranking campaign, transition and White House officials.

Expect the list of all of these to grow.  These scandals seem to have the momentum to explode but more likely to unwind or snowball gradually over time.  The regime is doing its best to thwart investigations and prosecutions (as targeting certain banks in New York with relationships to both Russians with direct ties to the Russian government and to the Trump family and their enterprises, which was being led by a federal prosecutor that our apprentice dictator fired.)  But it is likely to only delay them.

One element that's different from Watergate is Congress. First, Democrats were the majority party in both houses.  Second, there were Republicans in party leadership positions as well as in the rank and file who put country (and the integrity of its federal institutions) above party and ideology.  That's much less true today.

So the chances of the parties coming together to create select committees or to back an "independent counsel" (which in Watergatese was special prosecutor) are slim, at least for the near future.

  But it's likely that there will be plenty going on, some of it in the courts, which will (for one thing) addict a new generation to televised hearings, and of course all the shows analyzing all the dirty doings and investigations.  People in Watergate days were obsessed, and that's long before social media.

My main points here are: it's not going away, and it's all probably going to take a long time.  It seems likely to last for the almost two years to the next congressional elections. Some believe that the congressional Rs are already so disenchanted with Homegrown Hitler that they'll impeach him themselves because they fear losing their elections in 2018, but this seems unlikely.

What happens after the 2018 elections will depend to some extent on the outcome of those elections, and whether Democrats become the majority in one or both houses. If Democrats win both houses, and things unwind as they seem they will, articles of impeachment will be offered in the House.  There will be more than one such article, and they will include using government positions for private financial gain.

The House will appoint a committee, it will have hearings, it will winnow down the articles of impeachment to the strongest few.  When this happened v. Nixon, and it became clear that there were overwhelming votes in the House to impeach and in the Senate to convict, Nixon abruptly resigned.

So expect to stay tuned...until say late 2019.

That of course is something of a best case scenario.  We may not have the same federal system of government by then.

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