Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Submitting to Authoritarianism

On October 3, Politico Magazine published by Matthew Miller a brilliant, nearly unique diagnosis and prognosis. The former Director of the Office of Public Affairs at the State Department wrote

As the FBI prepares to conclude its review of the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, it seems clear that its investigation has been cursory at best. According to NBC News, more than 40 potential sources have yet to be contacted by the FBI, including Kavanaugh’s original accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. A number of people with information relevant to the investigation have complained that even after calling the bureau’s field offices or national tip line in good faith, the bureau has not followed up with them.

Miller explained that

the FBI possesses a number of tools to shape its outcome if it feels it is being unfairly restricted. For example, the bureau could formally notify the White House in writing that it believes further witness interviews are necessary to obtain a complete picture—an act of bureaucratic pressure that would be difficult to ignore, especially if Wray shared that conclusion with key senators. It could compile every allegation and lead it has obtained through its tip line and field offices in its final report, even those the bureau has been blocked from investigating. Finally, it could do what it does best when it feels unfairly jammed by other government agencies: leak aggressively to the media.

It was clear, as Miller wrote, that the FBI would be doing nothing of the sort but "Democrats have largely failed to criticize the FBI for its role in the investigation, and have at times gone out of their way to praise its professionalism."

Offering a few suggestions, Miller argues "It’s time for Democrats to realize that the rules have changed" and that Democrats need "to fight fire with fire.... putting federal law enforcement on notice that both parties are watching its decisions."

A State Department veteran, Miller is too diplomatic to state bluntly that the FBI director has been placed squarely in President Donald Trump's pocket.

And it may not be only the FBI.  All eight of Bart O'Kavanaugh's new colleagues were present when on Monday evening President Trump staged a magnificent photo-op, swearing-in to the Supreme Court a judge who already had been sworn in.

They heard the President lie: "And with that, I must state that you, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent. Thank you. You were.”  (No Trump appearance, planned or impromptu, is complete with at least one lie.)

Visually tossing aside the concept of separation of powers, Justices Steven Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor,  and leftist icon "RBG" all appeared at a political rally disguised as a legitimate observance. 

Surely understanding the difference between a trial and a congressional hearing, they heard the President state  “What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process. Our country, a man or woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

They surely recall that Donald Trump called for the execution of five teenagers upon their arrest in New York City in 1989- and that they eventually were determined to be innocent, prompting Trump to attack the judicial system. They understood the significance that the accused were all black or hispanic, and that- as subsequent years have confirmed- Trump did, too.

As Supreme Court Justices, the eight jurists are immune to condemnation, tweets, or threats from President Trump- or anyone. But for some reason they were there, adding legitimacy to Donald Trump's ongoing presidential campaign for 2020.

But they were there, however reluctantly, just as the FBI submitted to the political interests of President Trump, whether willingly or intimidated.

The co-opting of American institutions is dangerous enough in this term.  It suggests, moreover, that a defeat of Donald Trump in November, 2020 might not mean that he will not still be President Trump on January 21, 2021.

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