Saturday, September 19, 2020

Smart When He Has To Be

With the extraordinarily untimely death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there will be encomiums to her personality and character, examination of the impact of her jurisprudence, and seemingly endless analysis of the political implications of her passing.

Those are critical considerations- but where can you go for a completely insignificant analogy between Justice Ginsburg's death and Andrew McCabe? Only here.

Three weeks ago, Linda Greenhouse wrote for The New York Times a piece recalling Bush v. Gore following the 2000 election and contemplating the scenarios in which the 2020 presidential election might end up in the courts. Among them is one in which the election must be decided by Congress, Speaker Pelosi and Mike Pence (as president of the Senate) bicker, violence in the streets ensues, the Presidential Succession Act seemingly makes Pelosi the President, and the Supreme Court must consider whether to act.

Or GOP-controlled state legislatures in tipping-point states, buoyed by Trump's claim of fraud, refuse to certify a Biden victory, might fight Democratic governors or secretaries of state who could try to block the other party's slate of electors.

A third possibility Greenhouse raises (as described by the Brennan Center) involves

a diverse collection of special statutory authorities that become available when the president or Congress declares a “national emergency.”

Presidential declarations of national emergency are governed by the National Emergencies Act, which went into effect in 1978. Under this law, the president has significant discretion to declare a national emergency; there are no statutory limitations, beyond the word “emergency” itself, on what type of event qualifies.

Although President Trump may be unaware of the details of these and other possible scenarios, he's not unaware that the federal courts may play a pivotal role in determining whom the next President will be. Therefore, whether Senate Majority Leader McConnell believes his goal of maintaining a Senate majority is enhanced by holding a vote for Ginsburg's replacement before or after the election, Donald Trump knows what he wants:

Without delay, says the man who understands the stakes in this election, the possibility of prosecution vs. further accumulation of wealth in the presidency and the likelihood he'd be able to structure a Putin-style autocracy and plutocracy.

That is several things, including evil, but it's not stupid. Similarly, on September 12 Mr. Trump tweeted

Was Andy McCabe ever forced to pay back the $700,000 illegally given to him and his wife, for his wife's political campaign, by Crooked Hillary Clinton while Hillary was under FBI investigation, and McCabe was the head of the FBI???"

As CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale noted at the time, this was truly impressive, albeit in a dishonest manner.  He explains:

McCabe himself did not receive any donations, and the donations were not illegal.... Clinton did not make any of the donations....

Andrew McCabe was not "head of the FBI" in 2015. Rather, he ran the bureau as acting director for nearly three months in 2017 -- long after the donations and his wife's defeat -- after Trump fired director James Comey.

As McCabe realized, these were four false claims in one sentence. That is hard to do unless  intentional.  It is truly impressive and, unless a claim is made to the contrary, appears to be the first time a powerful public figure has accomplished this.

President Trump is smart enough (also sufficiently self-centered and greedy) to know that he has to look out for No.1. And he can put together a marvelously inclusive string of self-serving lies in one sentence. He deserves some credit for that, even if there is no connection whatsoever between the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and national security professional Andrew McCabe.


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