politics Trump

Donald Trump Is Above The Law. It’s Time America Just Admits It.

He's a third world strongman.

Mitt Romney and Susan Collins broke ranks. It didn’t matter.

The Republican-controlled Senate on Friday voted 51-49 against calling further witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, setting the stage for the president to be acquitted, as expected from the beginning.

This was always a foregone conclusion. Mitch McConnell has gone out of his way to emphasize as much since September, when it became apparent that Nancy Pelosi was likely to start formal impeachment proceedings.

Some Americans are furious with Lisa Murkowski Friday and even more so with Lamar Alexander who, while conceding that Trump did, in fact, leverage military aid to Ukraine to compel the fledgling Volodymyr Zelensky government to launch investigations into political rivals, contended the act isn’t impeachable conduct.

“The Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate”, Alexander said in a statement.

If you think that’s a sad comment on the state of the GOP, Marco Rubio’s statement was, for lack of a better word, bizarre.

Rubio, in a post on Medium, made it clear that he assumes at least some of the allegations against the president are true. And yet, he also says he can’t support removing Trump. “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office”, Rubio wrote.

As absurd as that most assuredly is, Marco wasn’t done. He went on to suggest that the main reason he can’t vote to remove Trump is that doing so might cause a civil war, a development he reckons would be welcome news at the Kremlin.

If you haven’t read Rubio’s statement, you doubtlessly think I’m joking. Unfortunately, I’m not. Here’s Marco to explain:

Can anyone doubt that at least half of the country would view his removal as illegitimate — as nothing short of a coup d’état? It is difficult to conceive of any scheme Putin could undertake that would undermine confidence in our democracy more than removal would.


I will not vote to remove the President because doing so would inflict extraordinary and potentially irreparable damage to our already divided nation. 

So, in essence, Marco Rubio has admitted that Trump’s threats (both implicit and explicit) of fomenting a civil war in the event he’s removed from office, now form at least part of the basis for voting to acquit him. That is quite something.

Friday’s vote on witnesses played out against yet another bombshell from The New York Times, which continues to document John Bolton’s account of his time as National Security Adviser as detailed in the unpublished manuscript of a book.

Read more: John Bolton Torpedoes Trump Impeachment Defense In Book Draft, NYT’s Haberman Says

“More than two months before he asked Ukraine’s president to investigate his political opponents, President Trump directed Bolton to help with his pressure campaign to extract damaging information on Democrats from Ukrainian officials”, Maggie Haberman wrote Friday, revealing still more damaging information from the manuscript.

According to Bolton, “Trump gave the instruction… during an Oval Office conversation in early May that included the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, [Rudy] Giuliani and the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone”.

Cipollone is, of course, leading the president’s impeachment defense.

The problem with this latest revelation is it’s just more evidence to support allegations that some Republican senators (like Marco Rubio) already accept as fact, even as they insist not only on acquitting Trump, but not hearing from Bolton, Mulvaney or any other witnesses, for that matter.

To quote Hillary Clinton: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

That’s essentially what Lisa Murkowski said in her own statement explaining her decision not to back witnesses. “Given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate”, she said, adding that, if you ask her, “the continuation of this process [won’t] change anything”.

That’s correct. Because when it gets to the point where people like Rubio are willing to admit, in a post on Medium, that Trump has committed impeachable conduct, but can’t be removed because he might marshal the support of angry biker gangs in the course of launching a counter-“coup”, hearing John Bolton retell the story that a dozen current and former officials (including Bolton’s right-hand, Fiona Hill) already told in October and November, is the very definition of pointless.

Here again, I would remind you that while I’m infusing snark and humor to soften the edges around an otherwise rough and sordid tale, I’m actually not joking. Trump, in comments to Breibart’s Matthew Boyle in March of last year, said this:

You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. Okay? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump–I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough—until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.

He’s a third world strongman. And it’s hilarious. And also very sad for America. But still undeniably hilarious.

“It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed”, Murkowski went on to lament.

The Senate recessed after the vote on witnesses and next steps are, at this point, unclear.

What’s crystal clear, though, is that the GOP is a personality cult, at best. At worst, lawmakers are terrified of Trump, mostly because of what he can do to recalcitrant Republicans’ political fortunes, but it’s starting to feel like at least some GOPers are just flat-out scared of him.

And who can blame them? After all, the Secretary of State and the Attorney General are quite obviously sycophants. (And to the extent you can use the word “sycophant” in a way that isn’t pejorative, that’s how I’m using it. That is, I’m just stating a fact.) Meanwhile, recent events suggest that Mark Esper may be unduly beholden too.

Obviously, the Secretary of State and the Defense Secretary should be subservient and loyal to the president, but that’s something different from entirely beholden.

“Only Donald Trump out of any defendant in America can insist on a trial without witnesses”, Adam Schiff said Friday. “The importance of a fair trial here is not less than in any courtroom in America. It is greater than in any courtroom in America, because we set the example for America”.

Schiff hasn’t resigned himself to the same reality that Marco Rubio and most other Republicans have. This isn’t a democracy. This is a burgeoning autocracy. Trump is effectively above the law, and by the time any second term ends, he will be virtually impossible to hold to account.

Yes, Trump’s legal woes will continue and it does seem likely that, if he ever leaves office, he will end up being indicted somewhere, by someone, for a hodgepodge of crimes.

But that’s just it – under what circumstances will Trump leave office? Without lapsing into bombast or hysterics, we would flatly note that in the absence of some kind of bombshell between now and the election, it seems highly unlikely that he will lose in 2020.

We wrote precisely those words last year, after William Barr cleared the president of obstruction in the Mueller probe.

Even if he were to lose in November, Trump would just claim massive voter fraud and move to nullify the results. After all, he claimed massive voter fraud even when he won, in 2016.

After that, he’ll look for an excuse to extend presidential term limits.

Again, none of that is an effort to resort to hysterics. Rather, it increasingly seems like the most plausible trajectory.

Having crumbled the country’s institutions and having essentially antiquated the whole idea of “checks and balances”, Trump now faces a new challenge: Shaping and defining autocracy in America.

Last year, while making the same point, we asked if Trump appreciated the gravity of that challenge. It now appears that he does.

And on that note, we’ll leave you with some excerpts from an article that ran in The Atlantic nearly three years ago called “How To Build An Autocracy“, in which the author imagined what America might look like in 2021. Parts of it are bone-chillingly accurate.

It’s 2021, and president Donald Trump will shortly be sworn in for his second term. The 45th president has visibly aged over the past four years. He rests heavily on his daughter Ivanka’s arm during his infrequent public appearances.

Fortunately for him, he did not need to campaign hard for reelection. His has been a popular presidency: Big tax cuts, big spending, and big deficits have worked their familiar expansive magic. Wages have grown strongly in the Trump years, especially for men without a college degree, even if rising inflation is beginning to bite into the gains. The president’s supporters credit his restrictive immigration policies and his TrumpWorks infrastructure program.

The president’s critics, meanwhile, have found little hearing for their protests and complaints. A Senate investigation of Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential campaign sputtered into inconclusive partisan wrangling. Concerns about Trump’s purported conflicts of interest excited debate in Washington but never drew much attention from the wider American public.

Most Americans intuit that their president and his relatives have become vastly wealthier over the past four years. But rumors of graft are easy to dismiss. Because Trump has never released his tax returns, no one really knows.

Anyway, doesn’t everybody do it?


The business community learned its lesson early. “You work for me, you don’t criticize me,” the president was reported to have told one major federal contractor, after knocking billions off his company’s stock-market valuation with an angry tweet. Wise business leaders take care to credit Trump’s personal leadership for any good news, and to avoid saying anything that might displease the president or his family.

Social media circulate ever-wilder rumors. Some people believe them; others don’t. It’s hard work to ascertain what is true.

Nobody’s repealed the First Amendment, of course, and Americans remain as free to speak their minds as ever—provided they can stomach seeing their timelines fill up with obscene abuse and angry threats from the pro-Trump troll armies that police Facebook and Twitter.

Rather than deal with digital thugs, young people increasingly drift to less political media like Snapchat and Instagram.


17 comments on “Donald Trump Is Above The Law. It’s Time America Just Admits It.

  1. chilling, indeed.

  2. H-Man, the vote today simply reinforces to Trump that he is the Teflon man and nothing will stick. That will embolden him to stretch the envelope and do whatever he has to do to become reelected. We are now dealing with a dog, that has never been released from the lead, who roams wherever the scent goes, wildly ambling with little care other than chasing the next scent and being free from the lead .Unfortunately, no one seems to have choke collar.

  3. That does give one a 1934 feeling.

  4. You said it well. So did Charles Blow in the NYTimes last weekend in his OpEd: “America, the Idea, is Lost”

  5. The spineless toadies in Congress have now proven we are a nation of men, not laws— a chilling reminder of what happened in Germany in the 1930s. Let us all say a belated prayer as we bury our Constitution. Let us hide our heads in the sand as we gradually shed our principles and lose our individual freedoms. Let us silence all rational discourse to celebrate the death of truth and the triumph of a ghoulish dictatorship. Trump, Putin and Xi are now our rulers who can do with us as they want because we and our representatives were frightened and had not the courage to say “enough!”

  6. Let’s all recognize that what has now definitively transpired is unprecedented in the history of the United States. Andrew Johnson may have brazenly acted to expand executive power, but he did not use that power to cheat in an election or extort a foreign nation in that effort. For a similar situation, one would need to find an international example. Brazil may be a close-enough recent analogue. Presumably so is Turkey.

    No election, however miraculous, can resolve the problem alone. Now that we’ve reached this point definitively, it appears that necessary reform will require (several) constitutional amendments. Can anyone imagine 2/3 of both houses of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures agreeing on anything anytime soon?

    There have been many horrific days in recent years, but historians will look back and mark this day, January 31, 2020 as the definitive end of democracy in the United States. Such things are not just “given” back benevolently by those who take them with impunity. The formal theatre of the Republic may survive, but its democratic substance has been demonstrably lost.

    France has had 5 Republics since the Revolution, and call them as such. Some historians say the US, over the same period, has really been 3 distinct Republics: the first ending in Civil War, the second beginning in Reconstruction and ending with the New Deal and the Second World War, and the third persisting until now, or perhaps until a few hours ago.

  7. All hail King Trump. Those who call themselves Republicans these days have shown that if you control the senate and Executive branch, you can soon control the Judiciary and that effectively ends the rule of law which brakes our constitutional democracy. Think I’m kidding, look what others have said; ‘we can’t impeach and remove or there will be a war’, or we can’t vote him out because he’ll change the rules and stay. If that’s true then we already have a monarchy/dictatorship. The Senate Republicans couldn’t convict because it would have brought down Pence, Pompeo, Mulvaney, Cipollone and maybe Barr. They had to go all in…and Mitch the ultimate Republican fixer delivered once again.

  8. The problem is ultimately with trump supporters. If his approval rating was 25% and the polls showed him down double digits to every Dem the Rs would have shown integrity and “courage”.

    Disagree, this will motivate Dems and with college educated suburban women (Ds have 30+ pt advantage) trump can’t win.

    That post ended any presidential aspirations for Rubio. He came off as a “slimy weasel”.

    The congress will have tremdous turnover in the R ranks over the next 6 years. This is a watershed moment.

  9. PaulMiller

    This theme that American Democracy is lost is just a bit over dramatic. No U.S. president has been successfully removed from office via impeachment. Straight party-line voting has been going on routinely since the Great Depression. So there’s no big pivot in U.S. history here.

    Now there is a valid concern that Trump-appointed conservative high-level judges will have a long-term effect. But we have had periods of both conservative and liberal courts, alternating for 200 plus years, and yet not lost our democracy. I vividly recall all of my elders in the 50’s and 60’s going apoplectic over the “ruination of America”, with communist civil-rights leaders, abortion on demand, MIranda-rights for the accused, disrespect for the flag, creeping socialism ala the War on Poverty, etc. These “greatest generation” folks genuinely feared for my future! Sound familiar?

    Things are never as bad, or as good, as they seem during times of stress.

  10. My main concern was that poor marginalized Ukrainian people suffered at Putin’s hands, while Trump delayed important protection. If this nation places value on human life, then playing games while others suffer avoidable consequences should be subject to punitive consequences. This is one of many ways that the infantile predisposition to look the other way is defacto cowardice. The name Khashoggi keeps coming to mind.

  11. Trump is a buffoon, it’s McConnel who’s the disease.

  12. I am very curious as to who is paying Dershowitz.

  13. monkfelonious

    The last time was the last time I’ll vote for Lisa Murkowski. Ohio Dan, the lickspittal, is a given but I thought Murkowski would do the right thing.

  14. Just like Brexit was confirmed by Johnson’s win, Trump’s presidency will be confirmed by an indisputable win. He will be re-elected by a sizable margin. I believe he has more converts than ever.

    Democrats are motivated and will turn out in large numbers but Trump supporters are even more motivated and will turn out with a religious furor not accessible to us love everybody types. Trump supporters will vote like they are fighting for their lives in war. They truly believe they are the persecuted ones.

    I desperately hope I am wrong.

    If as H says Trump does not leave office after loosing or after 2 terms, we will need to have a civil war. Not joking. Unfortunately, the Republicans are the ones who have been stockpiling the guns…

    • Low 40s approval rating, educated suburban women +30pts Ds. If Ds get the turnout trump can’t win. Not sure he has expanded the tent and surely has lost many women. I think WI turnout in Milwaukee and Madison was down by 80-100k in 2016 and trump won by 21k. He ain’t gonna win WI and I suspect MI and PA are similar. Don’t think he can win FL this time. A lot of people are just tired of him and just don’t like him. If job losses happen no strawman will save him. His base may be fervent but he needs more. I know many Rs that plan on voting D as a protest as the judges are now in place. Other than higher taxes, not much to lose.

  15. Think it’s a coincidence that DOJ admitted the existence of those emails last night after the vote? In your face, America.

  16. So its a choice for the people who cannot be trusted to think independently or liberally whether they know it or not, a march toward socialism or a pitfall into autocracy. Ninety percent of them do not fear autocracy because they do not know what it is. Socialism scares the hell out of them.

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