Republicans plan to capitalize on Trump’s criminality for decades

Republicans plan to capitalize on Trump’s criminality for decades

It stands to reason that once the Republicans succeeded in corrupting the Supreme Court confirmation process to pack it with far right justices they would turn their attention to the Justice Department. What good is having a partisan High Court, after all, if the Justice Department (DOJ) is going to refuse to do the bidding of whatever Republican is in the White House? If you want to truly corrupt a democracy you need to do it holistically to ensure that all the levers of power are working together.

It’s been a long time coming but it looks like Republicans believe they’ve finally found their moment. They’re now openly announcing their intention to discard all the rules and norms that have governed the arms-length relationship between the president and the DOJ for the past 50 years. Donald Trump made that clear in his speech at his Bedminster Golf Club on Tuesday night:

Donald Trump has always said he intended to do this sort of thing, of course. He cried throughout his presidency, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” the execrable lawyer who mentored the young Donald Trump (when he wasn’t serving every nefarious character in American life from Joseph McCarthy to Richard Nixon to John Gotti.) When he ran in 2016, Trump told Hillary Clinton to her face in a national debate that he planned to put her in jail and constantly demanded that the Justice Department prosecute his enemies.

They’ve chafed under the rules and regulations that preclude them from behaving like crooks and liars such as Richard Nixon and Donald Trump for the last 50 years.

His Attorney Generals knew what the boss wanted. The White House counsels all knew what he wanted. In fact, everyone in America knew what he wanted because he openly demanded it in speeches, on television and on social media. The DOJ didn’t entirely follow through but they made a stab at it. As I wrote the other day, Trump was plotting behind the scenes against the advice of White House lawyers to make it happen and eventually former Attorney General Bill Barr did relent and assigned a US Attorney to review all the Clinton investigations. (He eventually announced that found nothing new.) And in an unprecedented move, Barr also stepped in to save two of Trump’s top cronies, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Roger Stone. He then named John Durham as Special Counsel to investigate the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But Trump was held back from doing his worst at various choke points in the system, particularly the rules and norms that have governed the relationship between the president and the Justice Department after the revelations that came out of the Watergate scandal. For 50 years, the DOJ has operated as a quasi-independent agency in which it was understood that the president would make general policy but would not be involved in individual cases. Now the Republican Party has decided it’s time to change all that.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the new MAGA establishment, led by coup conspirator Jeffrey Clark and Russell Vought, Trump administration director of Office of Management and Budget (and Freedom Caucus guru) has some big plans:

Mr. Clark and Mr. Vought are promoting a legal rationale that would fundamentally change the way presidents interact with the Justice Department. They argue that U.S. presidents should not keep federal law enforcement at arm’s length but instead should treat the Justice Department no differently than any other cabinet agency.

They are condemning Mr. Biden and Democrats for what they claim is the politicization of the justice system, but at the same time pushing an intellectual framework that a future Republican president might use to justify directing individual law enforcement investigations.

Republicans enamored with the “Unitary Executive” theory, such as Bill Barr, have always believed that those post-Watergate reforms were foolishly restrictive and unrealistic but they worried that the silly voters would react badly to blatantly hackish partisanship so they always kept up the pretense of an independent Justice Department. Both parties have complained about politicized DOJs over the years but it’s only the Republicans who’ve made it clear that they don’t even believe in the concept — at least when Republicans are in power, anyway.

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Ironically, by engaging in blatant corruption and open criminal behavior as both a president and presidential candidate, Donald Trump has given them the opportunity they’ve been waiting for. The fact that he doesn’t try to hide his depraved indifference to rules, norms and laws means that the Justice Department under a Democratic administration was left with no choice but to completely abandon the rule of law or enforce it knowing that the Republicans will cynically stage a monumental tantrum that they can use as an excuse to do what they want to do anyway. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.

This goes way beyond Trump. In fact, I suspect they will be happy if Trump is convicted and they can wave the bloody shirt to justify removing any barriers to total control of federal law enforcement. Certainly, the next generation of MAGA leaders are all in on this idea. Take Florida Gov. Ron Desantis who has backed this vacuous claim of a “weaponized” Department of Justice and promised to follow the same program only on steroids:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been working for months on plans to tear down and rebuild both the Department of Justice and the FBI, consulting with experts and members of Congress to develop a “Day One” strategy to end what conservatives see as the weaponization of the justice system. The governor has privately told advisors that he will hire and fire plenty of federal personnel, reorganize entire agencies, and execute a “disciplined” and “relentless” strategy to restore the Justice Department to a mission more in line with what the “Founding Fathers envisioned.”

The plan is massively ambitious and apparently he believes he can do it all unilaterally:

This kind of innovation suits DeSantis, who takes a broader view of executive authority than is typical of constitutional conservatives and who has told advisors he “doesn’t buy” the idea that presidents can’t fire anyone on the federal payroll.

With a mind-boggling lack of self-awareness, the governor who is banning books, abridging the speech of educators, firing elected prosecutors, creating his own police forces, attacking private businesses and much much more said, “You can’t have one faction of society weaponizing the power of the state against factions that it doesn’t like.”

The fact is that the Republican Party’s alleged hostility to the “Deep State” is nothing more than a set-up to co-opt state power for themselves. They’ve chafed under the rules and regulations that preclude them from behaving like crooks and liars such as Richard Nixon and Donald Trump for the last 50 years. They don’t want to get rid of the “Deep State,” they just want to get rid of all the impediments to using it the way they believe it’s meant to be used: against their political enemies. Trump’s flagrant criminality has perversely given them exactly the excuse they need to do it.

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