Monday, June 04, 2018

Not Before November



President Trump:


"Do it," Preet Bharara, former US attorney for the Southern District of New York, dares.

The day before, on Sunday, Rudy Giuliani was asked by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" whether "the president has the power to pardon himself." After stating that Trump "has no intention of pardoning himself" and being asked a follow-up question, Giuliani responded "It would be an open question. I think it would probably get answered by gosh, that’s what the constitution says and if you want to change it, change it. But yes."

"No intention" is politician-speak for "at this time, I must say no." This was Rudy Giuliani speaking, and he was representing the most deceitful human being on the planet. But even assuming he was telling the truth, Giuliani was speaking only in the present tense- "has no intention."

Discussions surrounding the self-pardon controversy have been interesting, and even informative. But they are missing an important point. Shortly before Giuliani's pardon warning on Sunday, Will Bunch, in an important piece, argued

Hour by hour, lie by lie, dictate by dictate, Donald Trump is becoming an American dictator. And recent days have proved what many of us have long feared: That no one knows how to stop this. Not the Republicans or Democrats on Capitol Hill who, for different reasons, are too cowed politically to take substantive action. And not a news media that doesn’t have the mechanisms for informing the public when a president is a compulsive liar. Maybe things will change after the November midterm election — but there’s no guarantee, and that feels like a long time away.

Bharara, by contrast, stated on CNN's "State of the Union" a few hours later

And I think it's a sad commentary on the power, which, by the way, can be taken away by the American people in the future -- and if you abuse the pardon power in a particular way, there comes a point where Congress can take action as well. 





This Congress will- as Bunch realizes- do nothing. But it will do nothing because it is under GOP control.  Republican members of Congress believe if they undercut the President, one of their own, he will tweet, and possible even campaign, against them. Moreover, they recognize it would prove divisive within their party and cause discord, which would be unhappily received by the voting public.

So they're all in. But the power can be taken away- in November, or rather in January when Congress is reconstituted. If voters put the House of Representatives into Democratic control, they will not only give Democrats the power to determine whether impeachment hearings would be held.  This would- to an incomplete but significant extent- break the Republican fever. 

The elections in November will undoubtedly be nationalized, become something of a referendum on President Trump, and will be interpreted in that manner. If Republicans relinquish control of the House of Representatives, things start to happen.  And the President surely realizes that were he to pardon himself before November 6, he would lose his House (and possibly Senate) majority.

If they do not, and the GOP remains in control, the election will be perceived as vindicating Donald Trump's authoritative leadership. President Trump will do as he wishes, whether it is is firing Mueller/Rosenstein/Sessions or pardoning himself and/or others. The President will be emboldened, and Republicans in Congress will no longer even have to pretend that they are uncomfortable with the king. 




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