Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Bloodletting


On Monday, President Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, as had been almost expected. So the most significant (and telling) news might have been that

Richard Pilger, director of the elections crimes branch in the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, told colleagues in an email that the attorney general was issuing "an important new policy abrogating the forty-year-old Non-Interference Policy for ballot fraud investigations in the period prior to elections becoming certified and uncontested." Pilger also forwarded the memo to colleagues in his resignation letter.

Pilger's resignation email didn't make clear whether he plans to stay in the department in another capacity.

Barr's densely worded memo had told prosecutors they could take investigative steps such as interviewing witnesses during a period that they would normally need permission from the elections crimes section.

But as of yesterday afternoon, that was the only the most recent ember because, as David Cay Johnston had noted Sunday, on Friday

Trump forced the resignation of Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, who since 2018 had run the National Nuclear Security Administration. Thet agency keeps high-grade radioactive elements, known as fissile material, out of the hands of terrorists and rogue states. Trump’s Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette wanted to cut the budget for this work while Gordon-Hagerty sought increased funding.

Senator James Inhofe, a far-right Republican from Oklahoma, criticized the Trump administration for going soft on keeping nuclear materials from rogue states and terrorist groups. “People who should be doing all they can to support the critical work of the NNSA are instead trying to undermine it,” Inhofe said in September.

After Gordon-Haggerty was ousted, Inhofe challenged the competency of the Energy secretary, a rare break with the obsequious deference to Team Trump by Republican lawmakers over the past four years. The firing, “demonstrates he [Brouillette] doesn’t know what he’s doing in national security matters,” Inhofe said.

Trump also fired Bonnie Glick, deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, in what appears to be a move to ensure that Islamophobes exercise greater power in the agency.

The third appointee, Neil Chatterjee,  was demoted from the chairmanship of the powerful Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to being just one of the five commissioners. Running diversity training, which Trump generally banned by executive order, was behind the demotion, Chatterjee told The Washington Post. “Guilty as charged,” he told EE News.

However, it wasn’t diversity, but Trump’s love of dirty coal that was behind Chatterjee’s demotion, both Green Tech Media and  The Wall Street Journal reported. Chatterjee had supported a tax on carbon, which economists across the spectrum have said for years would be the most efficient way to create incentives that speed the shift away from fossil fuels.

Friday was a particularly vindictive day for the President as he removed also Michael Kuperberg, executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which produces the National Climate Assessment. The action,CNN reported, has been interpreted by "critics" as "the latest sign that the Trump administration intends to use its remaining months in office to continue impeding climate science and policy."

These are only the six highest-profile individuals canned ("sacked," as the British would say) by the President whom we have been criticized as so unfairly and rashly accusing of being a fascist or would-be dictator.

There may have been others, and there will be others because that's what an arsonist does. This wouldn't be the first person who, asked to leave his home because of bad behavior, determines to burn the house (or apartment building) down. He's only by far the most important.

Much of what President Trump will be doing in his remaining months in office will be legal; some of it will not be. Some of what he did in the nearly four years before the recent election was legal; much of it was not. These actions, as well as the lies spewed at a record rate intended to overturn the election and upend confidence in democracy generally, must not be forgotten- or forgiven.

In his waning days in office, President Trump may pardon himself, resign and have a President Pence pardon him, or may do neither. The first is of dubious constitutionality and the second obviously enormously corrupt. Either one gives a President Biden and his Attorney General an opportunity for legal action, and the third an even greater opportunity.  In the absence of a finding that they are not sufficiently serious, crimes of the other 330,569,399 (as of this moment) Americans  are not (or should not be) ignored. Nor should they if committed by the  President of the United States of America.


 

 

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