The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: richard nixon

Trump Faces Pardon Dilemma As He Maneuvers To Avoid Indictment




This article was produced by the
Independent Media Institute.

Donald Trump is becoming more fearful and anxious by the day. Above everything else, he desperately wants to save his own skin and avoid spending his remaining days outfitted in an orange prison jumpsuit. This is why, as the legal challenges to his humiliating defeat at the polls fail one by one, he will eventually shed his phony tough-guy facade and seek refuge in a presidential pardon for the myriad of federal felonies he may have committed.

The question is not whether Trump will pursue the pardon remedy, but precisely when and how he will do so. Even though a presidential pardon would apply only to federal offenses and leave him exposed to charges under New York law arising from the ongoing probe conducted by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, he has no other viable choice.

Read Now Show less

Like Nixon, Trump Evades Taxes — But The Striking Similarities Only Begin There

Donald Trump's tax returns are the talk of the town, and news outlets and the Twittersphere are humming with comparisons to another White House occupant plagued by tax scandals: Richard Nixon.

"'People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook,' Nixon said," tweeted Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell on Monday. "The comment wasn't about Watergate, but rather funny business in his tax returns."

Read Now Show less

‘Law And Order’ Is Trump’s Only Play

The Queen of Soul sang it clearly. The "Respect" Aretha Franklin was craving — yes, demanding — in that classic is still in short supply for black Americans. More protesters have been arrested than police officers involved in the death of George Floyd, the black Minneapolis man who died after now-former officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on the handcuffed man's neck for nearly nine minutes while three fellow officers stood by or assisted.

Would there have been protests across the country and the world if Chauvin and his fellow officers had been charged immediately? There is no way to know for sure. But it is clear that the anguished reaction has been about much more than the death of one man, and has been generations in the making.

Read Now Show less

Trump Can’t Win By Stoking White Fear Of Riots

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Nineteen-sixty-eight was one of the most tumultuous years in American history. Cities across the country burned after the assassination of Martin Luther King. Robert Kennedy was gunned down a few months later. There was a lot of crime, and widespread unrest in response to the seemingly endless war in Vietnam. A bloody police riot marred the Democratic National Convention.

Read Now Show less

Trump Says He ‘Learned From Nixon’ — But Did He?

Donald Trump on Friday morning defended his behavior and comments surrounding the Russia investigation, saying he "learned a lot from Richard Nixon" about how to handle probes into his administration.

"I learned a lot. I study history," Trump said in an interview with Fox & Friends — referring to what he learned from Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre," in which Nixon fired Department of Justice officials looking into his handling of the Watergate scandal.

Read Now Show less

Why Trump’s Racist Backlash Is Worse Than Jim-Crow Alabama

My daughter was born in December 2008, just weeks after the nation had elected Barack Obama its first black president. I was euphoric, overly confident in my country, giddily optimistic about the future. Addressing her in a diary, I wrote: “I’m thrilled you’re going to grow up in a nation that is a much better place for little black girls than it was just a few short years ago.”

If she were born today, my words would reflect my disappointment, my anger, my fears for her future. The election of President Donald J. Trump and the intervening years have shown me a country that I thought was long gone, a mean, narrow and racist place that I believed had been cast aside. Nothing I have known in all my years has prepared me for this place.

This is a territory that we will have to travel through no matter what happens in November 2020, no matter who occupies the Oval Office. This ugly backlash, this fierce resistance to progress, this mindless determination to return to a time that never existed will not be so easy to purge. We are a broken nation now.

Even my Alabama childhood spent in the shadow of Jim Crow was tempered by a cautious optimism that the nation was moving forward, embracing its principles of justice and equality for all, beginning to acknowledge a history of bigotry and oppression. After all, the presidential campaign of George Wallace, with all its contempt for black Americans, captivated only a small minority of voters. His overt racism was shunned by the political establishment, black, white and brown, old and young, Democrat and Republican.

That’s not to say that the political establishment shunned all racism. Richard Nixon beat Wallace with a Southern strategy that used coded language to signal his allegiance to white voters who were uncomfortable with the changes wrought by the civil rights movement. The Republican Party had a respect for decorum if no interest in fairness, a concern for civility if not equality.

That Republican Party is no more. Its dependence on whites who want no part of a richly diverse nation has only deepened, and its fealty to Trumpism is now total. When Trump attacked four congresswomen of color with clearly racist language, virtually no elected Republicans castigated him for his bigotry. They hemmed and hawed, they equivocated, they attacked the congresswomen themselves. They stood by Trump.

Was Trump’s language racist? Absolutely. It was as racist as his birther-ism, which insisted Obama was not born in the United States — a way of attempting to de-legitimize the first black president as a non-citizen, an African. His attacks on Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib  (D-MI), are meant to stigmatize them as something other than legitimate citizens, though three were born here and the other is naturalized. The president is clearly signaling that America is for white people.

As for Fox News commentator Brit Hume, who insisted Trump’s attack was merely “nativist” and “xenophobic,” he engaged in linguistic hair-splitting of the “what the definition of ‘is’ is” sort. Nativism, xenophobia, and racism are all children of an evil, lesser god.”

GOP standard-bearers have abandoned all pretense of decency for the prospect of victory, no matter the cost. As Trump now spews racism on the campaign trail — encouraging his supporters to yell, “Send her back!” about Somali-born Omar — Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), whom I had (wrongly) respected as an honorable man, joined the frightening bandwagon, telling a right-wing Alabama political website that he would pay the airfare for the four Democrats to go live in Venezuela “so they can enjoy their failed socialist paradise.” Byrne clearly believes that sort of demagoguery will aid his campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Trump, of course, has picked up not only Wallace’s coarse bigotry, but also his 1960s red-baiting rhetoric of “socialist!” and “communist!” to wield against his opponents. That was a well-honed tactic back during the days of the civil rights movement, when Martin Luther King Jr. and a host of other activists were smeared as a communist fifth column. The next year and a half promise to be the most hate-soaked period in American politics since Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door. And that wildfire of racism will be hard to contain.

IMAGE: George C. Wallace.

Why Trump Is Worse — Yes, Much Worse — Than Nixon

Historians of the modern presidency keep a special shelf for Richard Nixon — a noted place for a corrupt, power-mad and paranoid man who trampled constitutional ideals in his quest to hang onto his office. But Nixon must relinquish his title as modern history’s most corrupt president to a man who would leave him in the dust: President Donald J. Trump. Even Nixon would likely be alarmed by his behavior.

For all his conniving, all of his cover-ups, all of his lies, Nixon had an appropriate appreciation for foreign rivals, an understanding of the existential threats represented by our adversaries. Not so Trump. He would gladly hand over the keys to the kingdom to Russia — or North Korea, for that matter — as long as their strongmen showed him the deference which he craves.

In an alarming display of ignorance and arrogance, Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos last week that he would accept any incriminating information about his political opponents that Russia or any other foreign country might provide. Casually referring to such intrusions as “opposition research,” Trump said: “I think you might want to listen. There’s nothing wrong with listening … It’s not interference.”

The president said that while repeating, with a straight face, his frequent refrain that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which centered on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, was a “witch hunt.” (Trump has also told Stephanopoulos that he likes “the truth … I’m a very honest person” — a claim that is a funhouse mirror reflection of reality.)

Trump’s campaign marks the first time in American history that a foreign power is known to have intervened in a U.S. election, a stunning disruption of our revered political processes, a cunning use of soft power that would have left our intelligence services envious had it not happened to us. All of the years of the Central Intelligence Agency’s interference in lands from the Middle East to South America never yielded a result quite so neat and clean. We were successfully attacked by a foreign power without a shot fired or a body dropped. Russia’s assistance may well have been the boost that put Trump over the finish line.

And unlike Nixon, who at least had the good sense to be ashamed of his dirty tricks, Trump has just told a national audience that he would welcome Russian assistance should they offer it again. Reminded that his own FBI director, Christopher Wray, has said that any such intrusion should merit an immediate report to federal authorities, Trump angrily retorted, “The FBI director is wrong.” The president said he might not report any such contact by a foreign power.

Trump’s perfidies are so astonishing — so bold and bald-faced — that many Americans are left speechless, jaws dropped to the floor, unable to fully grasp the ramifications. Others, however, embrace Trump’s lawlessness, excuse his treachery, aid and abet his abuses. Here’s another distinction from the Nixon era: The U.S. attorney general, William Barr, has attacked those who point out Trump’s malfeasance. Barr, indeed, has launched a broadside against U.S. intelligence agencies for daring to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.

And there are still other differences more troubling, more profound. Nixon ultimately resigned rather than face impeachment; he was rapidly losing the support of leading Republican office-holders as well as the allegiance of regular GOP voters. His presidency was unsustainable.

Trump lacks the self-awareness or sense of shame to resign. Besides, he continues to enjoy the support of the vast majority of Republican politicians from the U.S. Senate down to small-town courthouses. GOP voters, too, have shown a loyalty that would have thrilled Jim Jones. As Trump infamously put it during his campaign, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

That suggests a rot that goes much deeper than one foolish narcissist and his chosen claque. A substantial minority of American voters are ready to throw out the U.S. Constitution, blow up cherished democratic traditions, and embrace a foreign dictator — so long as they can keep the man whose presidency is built on white nationalism. This is a putrefaction at the heart of the American system, a malignancy at the core.

The time for impeachment may have arrived, but it won’t cure what ails us.

Why Congress Should Commence An Impeachment Inquiry

Donald Trump is no longer just a persistent object of national shame and revulsion. He has become a threat to the Constitution and the rule of law. And the question before the House, quite literally, is what to do about him.

For understandable reasons, the Democratic leadership in Congress has been reluctant to answer Trump’s lawless conduct with impeachment, as the founders clearly prescribed. Speaker Nancy Pelosi warns that attempting to remove a duly elected president, even one who lost the popular vote, will be divisive and perhaps unpopular.  She worries that “overreaching” by Democrats will rebound on them politically, as the Clinton impeachment boomeranged on Republicans in the 1998 midterm election.

And Pelosi warns that the Senate, dominated by the president’s own party, almost certainly would refuse to convict Trump in an impeachment trial, no matter what damning evidence emerges against him. Unlike the Republicans of a bygone era, that party’s present leaders will do nothing to discipline a lawless president, so long as he advances their desire to maintain power. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), who may understand the alarming truth in the Mueller Report but won’t stand up to Trump, is a perfect example. Highlighting Romney’s spineless servility by contrast is Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a maverick conservative who has urged impeachment.

Neither Pelosi nor her concerns can be dismissed lightly. But the argument for opening an impeachment inquiry is more compelling every day, as Trump abrogates the constitutional order to conceal his crimes. A moment is rapidly coming when the failure to confront him will render Congress politically inert.

Trump’s strategy, carried out by political appointees in the White House Office of Legal Counsel and Justice Department, is to obstruct every Congressional inquiry by refusing to provide any information or testimony. According to him and his lawyers, the president is essentially beyond oversight and above the law. They disregard every subpoena with authoritarian bravado. Appealing to courts to uphold the Constitution will take time, which is on Trump’s side.

Yet by officially opening an impeachment inquiry, Congress transforms itself from Trump’s beggar into an institution with enhanced authority to demand documents and summon witnesses immediately. It is Trump’s dictatorial misconduct that will force reluctant Democrats like Pelosi to use that power. That is their only chance to uphold the rule of law and the constitutional order.

The political consequences of an impeachment inquiry — not a premature vote to remove Trump, but a public inquest into his alleged offenses — may not be so dire anyway.  In an “open memo” on impeachment published by JustSecurity.org, President Clinton’s former aide Sidney Blumenthal shows that the most apt comparison is not the botched impeachment of his old boss, but the process that brought down Richard Nixon.

With polling data from those periods, Blumenthal demonstrates his point: Before impeachment, Clinton’s approval rating stood at 66 percent; his public approval never wavered and still stood at 66 percent when the Senate acquitted him. Nixon’s approval rating, as a newly re-elected president who had won 49 states, stood at 68 percent before the Watergate scandal blew up. But his ratings fell as the facts about his crimes emerged in Congressional hearings, although he was still above water politically when that process began. Only after a year of devastating public exposure, in the spring and summer of 1974, did public support for impeaching Nixon rise to the current level of public support for the impeachment of Trump.

Remember, Donald Trump is consistently the most unpopular president since modern polling began. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows approval of his presidency at 38 percent — and disapproval at 57 percent. The most recent reliable poll on impeachment, compiled by Reuters/Ipsos, shows 45 percent believe that Trump should be impeached now, with 42 percent opposed. Other polls show that a majority believes Trump has committed serious crimes, an opinion recently ratified by 900 former federal prosecutors who signed a letter saying that if the president were an ordinary citizen, the Mueller Report would have led to his indictment for obstruction of justice.

If the Democrats stand for anything, they must stand up for democracy against a would-be tyrant and his henchmen. The cost of doing the right thing may not be as high as they fear — and the risk of failing to do the right thing is already far too high and rising.