Here's the thing everyone should take into consideration: with the current dictator apprentice in the White House and his regime, there are no rules. There is no conventional wisdom that applies. At least, not so far.
By conventional wisdom, this crew wouldn't have made it past the first Republican primaries. By conventional wisdom, they didn't have a chance to seize the White House. By conventional wisdom, they couldn't...they wouldn't...etc. etc.
Maybe the realities reflected in precedents will finally catch up with them. But...
In this fast moving situation, which is no longer coalescing around matters of competence and judgment but of obstruction of justice, corruption and treason, a number of stories came out today about how investigations won't stop. Prominent stories in the Washington Post and the New York Times in particular quoted angry FBI agents who swore they will keep investigating, and that the White House regime had made enemies of them.
No doubt the blood was up today, and no one can underestimate the effects of institutional resistance. But all it may really take is for the Justice Department to direct the FBI to stop the investigations, and cut off the money to support them--with the help of an acting or interim or newly installed director like the interim one now who is a Homemade Hitler loyalist--and they will stop. Only impeachment would change that, and only a change in the majority party in especially the House would make that a possibility.
Obstruction of justice is now obvious. As stories made clear today, Comey was fired because he was investigating the Russian connections--political and financial--and secondarily because he wasn't concentrating on investigating leaks to reporters that cast the regime in a bad light. (One of the first of these stories was here in Politico... With sources evidently inside the White House.)
Moreover, this wasn't the first time. A Newsweek story quotes Senator Schumer:
Schumer noted “they fired Sally Yates,” whose “urgent” warnings to the White House about Flynn’s dealings with the Russians went unheeded for three weeks. “They fired Preet Bharara,” the federal prosecutor who was looking into Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s trading in medical and pharmaceutical stocks, Schumer said. “And now they’ve fired Director Comey, the very man leading the investigation” into Trump and his associates’ dealings with Russia. “This does not seem to be a coincidence,” the four-term New Yorker said.
But accountability rests with Congress and the voters. In two excellent pieces in the New Yorker, Evan Osnos describes the precedents and the politics that operated in critical situations in the past. The first was a longer piece on the alternatives for getting Homemade Hitler out of office, published before the Comey termination. The second was more specifically about what happens as a result of the Comey termination.
Briefly, Osnos writes that the most important factor is public support. With our apprentice dictator's poll numbers historically low and trending lower, congressional members of his own party have less reason to risk their own political futures by defending him. When support is so low, the chances of the opposition party winning lots of seats in the non-presidential year elections have been very good, and in this case it would mean the Republicans losing their majority.
If the Democrats win a majority in either house, they would control the investigating committees with the power to subpoena. If they took the House, they could initiate impeachment. But even fearing this possibility could motivate Republicans to abandon their albatross, Osnos writes.
This may already have started, Osnos suggests. At least one conservative R House member supports an independent commission, and only a few Rs in the Senate would be needed to join Ds in voting for something similar, within the Senate at least.
Update: However, there is a difference from the past that could prove fateful: polarization. The rabid right has taken over the R party, and this regime has captured even more. As the Washington Post points out, R voters are remaining loyal, supporting the regime by 84%.
There are other possibilities for legal actions, in state courts for example and even perhaps in the courts of other nations, regarding the underlying activities that involve international financial malfeasance and the security of western allies.
But will these precedents actually operate? They may have operated within the context of an America and a power structure that no longer exists. It's best to be on guard for the unprecedented, at least so far in American history. Other parts of the world have experienced the jolting takeover by a totalitarian despot. In some such cases their conventional politicians and press and people didn't recognize--didn't believe--what was happening. Until it had happened.
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