Tag: trump conviction
GOP 'Weaponization' Of Justice Department Began Years Ago -- And Continues

GOP 'Weaponization' Of Justice Department Began Years Ago -- And Continues

Donald Trump is trying to use the Department of Justice as a weapon, claiming that, because of his conviction on 34 felony counts, he has “every right” to go after political opponents should he be elected in November.

This isn’t new for Trump. In 2017, he pushed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute Hillary Clinton. Later, he drove Attorney General William Barr to investigate ludicrous claims against President Joe Biden, resulting in a series of embarrassing international trips to support a baseless conspiracy theory.

Trump’s four years in office were all about politicizing the DOJ by breaking down the barriers intended to keep the department from being used as a cudgel by the White House.

His desire to hurt his opponents isn’t new, but the threat he represents is infinitely greater than it was four years ago.

The only thing that stood in Trump’s way during his four years in the White House was a kind of institutional momentum. Enough career officials remained in place that Trump faced strong pushback. Even Sessions, Barr, and acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen had limits on where they would go for Trump.

But that won’t be a problem if he returns to Washington.

Trump has already made it clear that he intends to purge the federal government of impartial career officials and replace them with Trump loyalists. Project 2025 is centered around destroying the DOJ's impartiality and turning it into an attack dog for Trump.

Even before Trump went to trial in New York, Republicans were lamenting the weaponization of the justice system. Those complaints were supercharged after Trump was convicted. As always seems to be the case, the GOP is accusing Democrats of something that it’s already doing. In this case, it’s not just deflection; It’s an excuse to vastly increase the level of politicization in the justice system.

As The Washington Postreports, Republicans aren’t just crossing their fingers and hoping that Trump gets his hands on the DOJ a second time. They’re moving forward with an aggressive plan to blunt the effectiveness of the DOJ and target Trump’s enemies ahead of the election.

House Speaker Mike Johnson introduced a “three-pronged approach” on Tuesday, describing how House Republicans can target the DOJ, the state of New York, and any other jurisdiction that is investigating Trump. Those plans call for launching investigations into state and local prosecutors in New York and cutting funds for special counsel Jack Smith and any state that doesn’t investigate Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Punishing entire states for refusing to let Trump escape prosecution has become a popular theme among Republicans. It’s unclear how such a plan would work, but Republicans are expected to attach defunding federal investigations into Trump to upcoming must-pass legislation.

Republicans are also expected to pass along more criminal referrals, like the ones targeting Hunter and James Biden on Wednesday, which allow Republicans to pretend they’ve found crimes by political opponents, then attack the DOJ for failing to follow up on their make-believe evidence.

As The New York Times reports, Trump doesn’t have to make it back to Washington, D.C., to cause lasting damage to the rule of law. The independence of the DOJ isn’t baked into the Constitution; It’s something that has only existed because presidents understood that distancing themselves from the DOJ was required for the department’s legal work to have legitimacy and not be seen as a political weapon.

Trump doesn’t care. His promises to seek “retribution” blow up the idea of DOJ independence.

The lingering shreds of the barrier between the White House and the department—along with Trump’s own inexperience—reduced the damage four years ago. Given another go in a federal government reshaped into an army of Trump supporters, no one will be left to check Trump’s power.

It’s hard to comprehend how bad this might be. An America where the president’s personal desires lead directly to FBI agents pounding on a door seems fundamentally un-American, but it could be where we’re heading.

The media seems to forget that Trump already tried to weaponize the DOJ. This isn’t something he might do. It’s something he’s already done.

Reprinted with permission fromDaily Kos

Mike Johnson

Johnson Threatens To 'Defund' Justice Department Over Trump Conviction

The embattled Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson is vowing to use the arsenal of tools at his disposal, including defunding, to target the U.S. Dept. of Justice after ex-president Donald Trump was convicted in a New York State prosecution on 34 felony charges last week.

In a Tuesday meeting behind closed doors with his House Republican conference members, Johnson said “he will do everything he can to go after the Department of Justice,” CNN reported, “and said the verdict has ignited support for the former president, two sources familiar with the comments told CNN.”

The Speaker “presented a three-pronged approach of oversight, funding and legislation,” and “specifically walked through the funding cuts that House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan has proposed to the Appropriations Committee, the sources added.”

Just as Rep. Matt Gaetz did Tuesday morning in a House Judiciary Committee hearing with Attorney General Merrick Garland, Speaker Johnson conflated the State of New York’s prosecution with the federal cases against Donald Trump. Federal and state prosecutions are separate.

In remarks to the press Speaker Johnson echoed those he made earlier Tuesday, while adding some false claims about the state of the 2024 presidential race between President Joe Biden and ex-president and now convicted felon Donald Trump.

Johnson, under fire for what some experts see as a possible admission he has been talking to Supreme Court justices about the Trump prosecutions, “briefed former President Trump on the plan before announcing it Tuesday morning,” Fox News reported, citing an unnamed lawmaker.

He also called the prosecutions of the ex-president “a new low” and “dangerous.”

The Speaker claimed “people realize that we have reached a new low and when you have activist prosecutors and the Democratic Party who are so desperate because of the presidential campaign and the way it’s going, they understand that Donald Trump, all the polling shows is crushing Joe Biden.”

That’s false.

The right-leaningReal Clear Politics polling average currently has Donald Trump up over President Biden by just 0.7%. Out of the last ten polls RCP lists, Trump won five, Biden won three, and two were tied. Seven of the eight that were not tied showed either Biden or Trump up by just one or two points.

“They’re in, they’re in panic mode on the Democratic side,” Johnson continued, “and they are so desperate to stop Donald Trump. He’s winning in the swing states. He’s winning among the people. He’s winning among new demographics that have never voted Republican before. They see this happening. And they’re so desperate to stop him that they are willing to use the judicial system to do so.”

Donald Trump was indicted by grand juries on a total of 91 felonies in cases at the state and federal level. Three of the charges were later dropped.

Two months ago Johnson had also threatened to defund DOJ and other agencies.

“We also advanced cuts … to some of the agencies that we believe are really overreaching, and have been turned in some ways against the American people. We are going to cut 3% from DOJ, 7% from the ATF, 6% from the FBI, and 10% from the EPA,” he told reporters.

Watch Johnson’s remarks from Tuesday below or at this link.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

No Donald, You're Not A 'Political Prisoner' -- Just A Cowardly Criminal

No Donald, You're Not A 'Political Prisoner' -- Just A Cowardly Criminal

"I am a political prisoner," declared former President Donald Trump the day after his 34-count felony conviction.

If we were to take that remark seriously, it would quickly become obvious that Trump is not, in fact, a political prisoner but merely a remorseless criminal. Unlike actual political prisoners, who never hesitate to take the witness stand in their own defense, Trump made the cowardly decision to avoid testifying, despite his blustering promises to do so.

"Yeah, I would testify, absolutely," he said just before the trial began in New York's Supreme Court. "I'm testifying. I tell the truth, I mean, all I can do is tell the truth."

That claim of candor evaporated post-verdict, when Trump tried to explain why he had chickened out. He vaguely blamed "rulings" by Judge Juan Merchan. He said the prosecution could bring up "anything" from his "great past." He said there was no reason to testify because "they had no case." He said to testify would risk a perjury indictment, an excuse that sounds odd from a man who insists he can only tell the truth.

If Trump were any kind of political prisoner, he would have leapt at the opportunity to speak on his own behalf and to advocate his cause, in the fearless tradition followed by history's legendary political defendants.

When John Brown was on trial for his life after the 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, he served not only as a witness but as his own counsel. The militant abolitionist repeatedly spoke in court, at great length, to excoriate slavery, explain the violence he had perpetrated and denounce the "mockery of a trial" that concluded with his death sentence. Nobody can say he didn't make his point.

Nearly a century later, Fidel Castro, also appearing as his own counsel, delivered a four-hour defense summation in court which was sufficiently compelling to be published as a book titled History Will Absolve Me. Although history will condemn the late Castro for turning away from agrarian reform and democracy to Communist oppression, at least he had the guts to address the court that sent him to prison. (He had led a raid on an army fort to seize weapons, rather than paying off an adult film star for a sexual encounter, so his argument possessed a certain dignity that Trump's lacks.)

Then in 1963, when South Africa's apartheid government put Nelson Mandela and several of his comrades on trial for their lives, the great democratic revolutionary delivered an eloquent address in the dock that held his listeners spellbound for four hours. Titled "I Am Prepared to Die," as he declared to the court, it laid out in irrefutable detail Mandela's contention that the South African justice system and the country's entire governmental structure were illegitimate — and his promise to replace it with equal representation for all, a crusade in which he was ready to sacrifice his life.

By contrast, whenever Trump squawks about being a "political prisoner" and decries the authority of a duly constituted court, he sounds like the self-aggrandizing buffoon that he always has been. He had the best counsel that his dumb donors could buy, and those lawyers evidently persuaded him that his long trail of lies, both under oath and in public, would prove ruinous if he dared to take the stand.

Rather than an authoritarian tribunal, Trump faced a jury of his peers, all chosen with the consent of his attorneys, a dozen New Yorkers who faced down his daily abuse as well as the threats of his MAGA goons. The jurors' courage and Trump's bullying call to mind the kind of defendant he truly resembles, a mob boss like Al Capone or John Gotti.

The convicted Trump will have every opportunity to appeal, perhaps all the way to the Supreme Court, where he expects the justices he appointed to rule in his favor, and where two disreputable jurists who should recuse will nevertheless hear his case. But whatever they do, the stain is indelible.

Let us hope that come Election Day, Americans will follow Trump's advice in 2016 concerning presidential candidates under indictment. Back then, he believed Hillary Clinton would soon face trial on bogus charges of mishandling classified documents (the same offense for which he should now be on trial, except for the intervention of another unscrupulous judge).

"She shouldn't be allowed to run," Trump said of Hillary. "If she wins, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis. In that situation, we could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and, ultimately, a criminal trial. It would grind government to a halt."

How much more true for a would-be president already stamped "guilty" 34 times.

Reprinted with permission from Creators Syndicate

Joe Conason is founder and editor-in-chief of The National Memo.He is also editor-at-large of Type Investigations, a nonprofit investigative reporting newsroom formerly known as The Investigative Fund, and a senior fellow at Type Media Center. His forthcoming book, The Longest Con: How Grifters, Swindlers and Frauds Hijacked American Conservatism, will be published by St. Martin's Press in July.

Felon: Will Trump's Conviction Break The Authoritarian Spell?

Felon: Will Trump's Conviction Break The Authoritarian Spell?

It only took a jury a day and a half to decide that Donald Trump, former President of the United States, was guilty on all counts. He will wear the convicted felon label on his back forever, no matter what happens in November. A jury of seven men and five women voted guilty on all 34 counts against him. He will be sentenced July 11. The penalty includes prison time. He likely won’t go, and in the unlikely event that he does, Never Trump conservative lawyer George Conway told me the Constitution would likely be read to require that any state holding him open the cell door if he is elected in November.

But the verdict is another historic landmark in the long list of awful firsts that the MAGA cult leader has inflicted on our country since he rode down the golden elevator in the summer of 2015, enthralling first the media and then a swath of America.

The first of those horrors is the separation of millions of Americans from faith in the law and process of democracy. In the hour after the verdict, on Xitter, on Fox, on rightwing platforms and channels, MAGAs were blind with rage, spitting accusations. It’s a measure of the success of this one man’s assault on American institutions - “fake news"!” “Deep State!” “Rigged against me!” - that untold millions will refuse to accept the fairness of the trial. His people are so unplugged from our commonweal that they are willing to believe the Manhattan DA works for a Hungarian billionaire whose name the rabid right made synonymous with their own invisible donor-monster the Koch family. They are willing to believe that a sitting judge who spends his days in a cold, smelly courtroom at 100 Centre Street, and the men and women of the jury who did their civic duty in the same room and listened to all the evidence, were just pawns of Joe Biden and the Democrats.

Utter lunacy. Sadly, we’re used to it.

One of the rabble outside the courtroom was caught on camera threatening to go inside the courtroom and trash the place. AR 15 memes flooded the platforms. The sophisticates on social media flung profanity, the Overton window of civil political discourse long ago smashed by their Dear Leader.

“Bullshit!” Donny Jr. tweeted. “This Trump show trial is Bullsh!t,” wrote the soigné former Nixon aide, Monica Crowley.

Brother Eric, who squirmed in the courtroom through Stormy Daniels’ description of his father’s seduction technique, fumed at the outrage that a man could become a felon for just “a 130k NDA”!

Trained lawyer and TV personality Megyn Kelly, personally and obscenely trashed by Trump for asking him hard questions during a 2016 debate "(“she’s got blood coming out of her wherever!”) whined to her three million followers that “The country is disgraced” (yes, the rest of us noticed that, but back in November 2016).

Like so many Trumpers, Kelly also issued an implied warning, “They will rue the day they unleashed this lawfare to corrupt a presidential election.”

Rue the day. We’ll get you back. You’ll regret it. Threats, promises of violence, pictures of automatic weapons, bloodlust vengeance. All of it projected from their own Dear Leader and back out onto regular Americans just trying to make sense of it all.

Many MAGAs are now using the banana word. David Sacks, a grotesquely pro-Trump Silicon Valley billionaire, wrote, “There is now only one issue in this election: whether the American people will stand for the USA becoming a banana republic.”

The charitable view here is that Sacks is mainlining K with Elon and failed to notice that America went full banana republic on a summer night in 2016 when Gen. Michael Flynn led thousands of Republican delegates at the nominating convention in Cleveland in a chant of “Lock Her Up.” That Gen. Flynn ultimately got convicted himself (alas, not locked up) only proves the point, especially as he roams free today, another Trump pardonee like Steve Bannon, despoiling the political landscape and spewing conspiracy theories to low-information Q-Anon zombies.

Flynn’s rant and the crowd’s chant were unprecedented in American politics back then. It was shocking to witness the beginning of the idea of using the law for vengeance against one’s political opponents. In office, Trump tried to get his DOJ to manifest the authoritarian dream. But the “adults in the room” still clung to the mores of another era, and resisted, or quit.

The next administration will be vetted for people who won’t have those reservations. There may be none of them left.

Let’s be clear: the 91 criminal indictments against Trump are not “politically motivated.” Dozens of his minions in Arizona, Michigan and Georgia in the fake elector and January 6 conspiracy schemes have been turning like pancakes, or going bankrupt fighting a losing fight. He is recorded bragging about purloined classified national secrets.

Trump only still skates, he only still walks free right now because, contrary to the persecuted image he wants to project of “fighting The Man,” like the angry little guys who think he speaks for them, he is, in fact, The Man.

The New York judge and prosecutors bent over backwards allowing Defendant Trump to behave in ways that would have had any other accused individual locked up pre trial. Trump walks free with money in the bank even though he has already been convicted in a massive civil fraud trial, and of sexual abuse and forcible touching and then lying about it, in another civil case. Prosecutors have reams of evidence against him in the three criminal cases in two other states, cases that only thanks to the delay machinations of his lawyers and the horrifying ineptitude and bias of one of the judges, will not be decided before November 5.

Judging from the outpouring of anger at the conviction, his felonious status will not move his true fans. As historian Ruth Ben Ghiat wrote in her excellent book about modern dictators, from Putin to Xi, to Orban and Trump today and Mussolini and Hitler before them, the criminality of an authoritarian leader can be an essential element in his (always his, by the way, women need not apply) appeal.

“The strongman’s rogue nature also draws people to him. He proclaims law and order rule, yet enables lawlessness. This paradox becomes official policy, as government evolves into a criminal enterprise, Hitler’s Germany being one example and Putin’s Russia another. Millions around the world have found it intoxicating to be able to commit criminal acts with impunity… the thrill of transgression mixed with the comfort of submitting to his power turns the everyday into the exceptional, endowing life with energy, purpose, and drama.”

Trump was right about one thing in his surly first words to the public as a convicted felon, outside the courtroom, with his chagrined loser lawyer standing by (surely Todd Blanche was expecting to hear the L word from his belligerent client in the black SUV in short order).

The real verdict, the convicted defendant said, will be rendered on November 5. Right.

Will a majority of voters cling to the felonious leader’s fantasy that every institution and civil servant in America is utterly corrupted by “the left” and “Soros” and out to get him? Will they show up to vote having lost every iota of faith they ever had in the commonweal, in the possibility that their fellow Americans do the right thing in courtrooms and on juries and in the news media, believing that every non MAGA election worker, Capitol police officer, prosecutor, or New York state judge is engaged in a systematic conspiracy against Donald Trump?

The great question after today is whether the red F now stamped on Trump’s back, not unlike the Nixon tattoo on his fellow convicted felon Roger Stone’s back, will dampen the enthusiasm of any on-the-fence, decent, right-leaning voters still cued in to the possibility of the decency of our institutions after eight years of being persistently propagandized to abandon that faith.

Are there any left? Helloooo! Are you out there? Paying attention?

If so, you don’t have to vote for Biden. We will forgive you if you just stay home on Election Day and leave the man to his ignominious fate.

Reprinted with permission from American Political Freakshow

Nina Burleigh is a a journalist, author, and documentary producer. She is the author of seven books including most recently Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic and an adjunct professor at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

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