Monday, December 30, 2019

The Rule Of Law, Out The Window

I was wrong (sort of).  Following the presidential debate in Atlanta in late November, I scolded Rachel Maddow because

Instead of asking the candidates about their approach to impeachment in the Senate or on the campaign trail, the multi-million dollar host would have served the public well with a question such as "If elected President, would you seriously consider pardoning Donald Trump?"

Maddow had asked a similar question- of two candidates- when she stated

Vice President Biden, let me ask you to pick up on the issue that Senator Sanders just raised about no one being above the law. When President Ford pardoned President Nixon, he said it was to heal the country. Would you support a potential criminal investigation into President Trump after he leaves office, even if you thought it might further inflame the country's divisions?

The former vice-president replied

Look, I would not direct my Justice Department like this president does. I'd let them make their independent judgment. I would not dictate who should be prosecuted or who should be exonerated. That's not the role of the president of the United States. It's the attorney general of the United States, not the president's attorney, private attorney.

And so I would -- whatever was determined by the attorney general I supported, that I appointed, let them make an independent judgment. If that was the judgment that he violated the law and he should be, in fact, criminally prosecuted, then so be it. But I would not direct it.

And I don't think it's a good idea that we mock -- that we model ourselves after Trump and say lock him up. Look, we have to bring this country together. Let's start talking civilly to people and treating -- you know, the next president starts tweeting should -- anyway.

He could have made things a little clearer- even clearer- had he responded "no."  If we were unsure what he meant at the time, we pretty much know now that at an appearance Monday in New Hampshire

Biden discussed the possibility after a woman told the former vice president that if he is the nominee, he will "have to pull out all the stops."

"Our 21-year-old son said the other night, 'I wonder if Joe Biden would consider choosing a Republican as a running mate," the woman added.

"The answer is I would, but I can't think of one now," Biden replied. "Let me explain that. You know there's some really decent Republicans that are out there still, but here's the problem right now ... they've got to step up."

We don't know what he means by "step up" but a Republican saying "I wish the President would tweet a little less" might do it.

Asked at the November debate for his response to Biden, Senator Sanders said in part

I think Joe is right, that is the function of an independent Department of Justice. But my inclination is that the American people do believe that this president is in violation of the law.

It's unclear to what Sanders was referring, but it appears that he was thinking more in terms of impeachment than of any action by the Justice Department were he elected President.

Unfortunately, the question was not posed to any of the other Democrats and thus we don't know how any of them would have responded. However, after the debate Andrew Yang remarked "I'd actually go a step further and say not just, hey, it's up to my [Attorney General]. I would say that the country needs to start solving the problems on the ground and move forward."

So if you're keeping score: On "Day One"- presumably the day following the January 20, 2021 inauguration- Joe Biden probably will pardon Donald Trump.  Andrew Yang wouldn't wait till the inaugural balls are over. Luckily, Bernie Sanders probably would wait until February.

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