Ex parte Trump

Author: Gary Hart

The investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller is over…but it is not finished.  What Mr. Mueller struggled to keep nonpolitical is now ultra-political.  By leaving the many issues related to obstruction of justice as a jump ball, he all but guaranteed a long twilight partisan struggle among the two Parties, the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.  And that does even include the courts where all this will inevitably land.

Do not expect the fallout from this report to be concluded before the 2020 elections.

Mr. Mueller does not seem to be a man who punts.  But that is the result of his amorphous conclusion on obstruction.  The phrase “does not exonerate” will rattle through the halls of politics and law for decades to come.  Donald Trump can claim whatever he likes.  But he was not exonerated.

This loose ball now bounces around the Department of Justice whose Attorney General gratuitously joined the “witch hunt” brigade months ago, thereby insuring consideration for the position he now holds.  Why it will take weeks for him to confirm a decision he made months ago is yet another mystery.  Appearances of fairness and justice must be upheld.

The points of obstruction have been well documented in the press: the firing of FBI Director James Comey for refusing to turn a blind eye to short-term National Security Adviser Flynn; the possibility of pardons trolled across the paths of several White House staff and personal servants; false statements about ties with Russians; rants against then Attorney General Sessions for recusing himself and failing to shut Mueller down as the President demanded; and on and on.

If all this is simply a President carrying out his executive duties, as Mr. Barr argued months ago, these are duties no other President in American history has undertaken.

There is the increasingly distinct possibility that this President is fundamentally altering the highest office in the land for as far into the future as can be imagined.  For every misdeed and ethical departure expect future unmoored and unscrupulous Presidents to claim “I’m just doing what Trump did (and got away with).”

Let’s hope not.  It is still too soon to determine whether Article II authorizing a chief executive will, post Trump, resume its original and intended form or become the template for future executive mischief and mayhem.  But, in the immediate moment, it seems it will never end.

Already, Constitutional scholars are concluding that Mr. Mueller’s ambiguity has greatly widened Presidential authority and not to the good.  As Mr. Trump is fond of saying, let’s wait and see.

One thing, however, is clear: the unresolved issues at stake are larger than this President and this Administration.  Those include: the breadth of Presidential authority; the role of Congressional oversight; the rule of law itself.

There is every evidence that Mr. Trump does not understand what the rule of law means, and even if he does, he doesn’t care.

8 Responses to “Ex parte Trump”

  1. Edward Goldstick Says:

    Senator Hart,

    That’s as concise a summary of this moment as it concerns Trump as I have seen…

    … but I am obliged, as is my habit, to reflexively see other equally damaged trees in the forest of our political and social institutions, so just to name the three most obvious:

    a) The GOP: Is it reparable? Do “we” have a responsibility to assist in it’s “rehabilitation”, and if not possible, what next? (… or do we bear a responsibility for it’s decadent decline?)

    b) The “Information” Media: Can the dual if relatively orthogonal incentives of partisan reinforcement and commercial entertainment be tamed?

    c) The Electorate (and the larger citizenry…): What came/comes first? “a)” or “b)”, and how is “c)” a symptom or a cause with what implications?

    The discussion that you animate in this venue continually revives these basic questions, so might I interject a core question that goes to the primacy of leadership in organizational versus competitive terms:

    1) Is it really just a matter of the rich and powerful pulling strings behind the scenes? (… and if so, is the GOP advantage just too great?)

    2) Are there structural and/or procedural flaws or weaknesses in our most basic constitutional foundations that are not bearing the load of a fundamentally changed (and ever changing) socio-political environment independent of the tension inherent in the progressive-v-conservative dialectic?

    3) Is there an objectively inherent advantage to the Right’s message that “government should do as little as possible” versus the Left’s message that “government should do as much as is possible”?

    So many questions… and so little time to find effective answers that translate into durable solutions…

  2. JD Kinnick Says:

    No Russian collusion. Despite two years of endless media spinning of the grand “Russian conspiracy” it didn’t exist. Bottom line – Hillary was a flawed candidate who lost to Trump. President Trump is certainly no “choir boy” when it comes to ethics and behavior but the media has taken their marching orders straight from the DNC with the Russian collusion nonsense. I’m a registered GOPer and no great fan of President Trump but our current president is headed for a successful re-election. I don’t see a valid GOP primary challenger emerging and the Democratic field is far left & weak. With that said I’m impressed that Beto raised over $6M on day one of his campaign and wonder if he adopted the “new generation” theme from Sen. Hart/Pat Caddell from 1984 if that might resonate today. After all Sanders is 77 and Biden is 76 – not exactly a youth movement. There are many GOPers like myself who will quietly vote for President Trump’s re-election as there is not a good alternative as the DNC has moved hard left. If Howard Schultz gets in and draws 5% or more it could be interesting.

  3. Edward Goldstick Says:

    I strongly disagree with the presumption that there was no collusion:

    My hat is tipped to Norm Ornstein who followed the lead of others:


    Chairman Schiff just slammed Republicans hard. To their faces.
    Schiff stared them down, and listed off all the indisputable
    evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
    Watch it, then watch it again.

    9:48 AM – 28 Mar 2019

    As James Fallows and others have reminded us, Richard Nixon did not resign until one entire year after the testimony by John Dean. This process is far from done…

    All that said, I would agree that Hillary Clinton was flawed, but then so was Trump undeniably so to a much more visible degree. I probably would have voted for Hillary with almost any other imaginable Republican as her opponent, so I can understand how a ardent Republican could have voted for Trump in the first place and could actually feel that some “good” has come from it all…

    … but there is a fundamental difference between a rotten apple and a poisoned one.

  4. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    >>>>>>It is still too soon to determine whether Article II authorizing a chief executive will, post Trump, resume its original and intended form or become the template for future executive mischief and mayhem.

    I think that will depend on what a very large minority of Americans want to see in a president.

    Every time I happen to see clips of a Trump rally I am reminded that the problem that preceded Trump goes far beyond Trump.

    The question is how to go about dealing with that and there may not be much time to figure that out. If Democrats in 2020 can’t do it, may that have been the last chance?

  5. Michael Says:

    Let’s not forget that the entire Republican Party have been Trump’s collaborators.

  6. Neil McCarthy Says:

    I agree with Mr. Goldstick and Ms. Miller and disagree with Mr. Kinnick.

    In my view, Mr. Kinnick’s view accepts the notion that Hillary Clinton was either too far to the left, or herself too corrupt, to be accepted, and that, as a consequence, voters chose the lesser of two evils (Trump), while recognizing he was “no choir boy”. Building on that, the view then claims those same voters will have np choice but to re-elect Trump because the Democrats have gone too far left.

    What is “too far left” to these voters? Neither the (Bill) Clinton nor the Obama administrations were left wing in any historically accurate sense of that term. With the exception of Sanders and Warren, neither are the current crop of Democrats who are now running.

    And as to corruption, there was none in the Obama administration. In fact, it was the first of the last four where there wasn’t a major “corruption” scandal of any sort (with Iran/contra plaguing Reagan and Bush I, impeachment plaguing Clinton, and the Scooter Libby stuff with Bush II).

    So, I think the views expressed by Mr. Kinnick cannot be defended. He is making excuses for the inexcusable — Trump’s constant lies (pretty much about everything but with consequence on critical issues like immigration, climate change and a free press, the last of which has almost licensed a kind of crypto-fascism at his rallies where reporters are attacked, and all of which have made his base almost impervious to factual realities that are contrary to their prejudices), his contemptuous insults that reduce all political discourse to the level of third grade school yard rank outs, his defense and embrace of autocrats, his undermining of effective alliances like NATO that have kept the peace for over 70 years, etc. If all of that is not enough to get a Republican or conservative to vote for a Democratic centrist, and instead forces that voter to simply (falsely) call any centrist a leftist, we are beyond the point of dialogue with that particular voter.

    As to Trump, Russia and Mueller, Mr. Kinnick’s view overstates what we know as of today.

    What we know is that Mueller concluded that he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump conspired with the Russians in connection with the Russian Internet Research Agency’s social media disinformation camapaign or with Russia’s compuer hacking operations. In other words, Mueller concluded that these specific crimes could not be proven. Whether he made the additional conclusion that, in fact, there was no evidence at all of any collusion between Trump or his campaign and the Russians, will become known (I hope) when we see the Mueller report. And for any who are interested in why I think this is all we know at this point, those views are available in my own recent blogpost entitled “Release Me”, at https://neils3ds.blogspot.com.

  7. Eric C. Jacobson Says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eqn3iI_h1vg&feature=push-sd&attr_tag=VMgg_CcOqvHV1Oil%3A6 (“The Day Collusion Died”, a tough-love take-off on Don McLean’s “American Pie”)

    As a semi-regular commenter in this space who has long been a Russiagate skeptic/dissenter, I agree with almost everything Don Caron says in his witty (so-called) “parody” song linked above.

    I will only add that the Democratic Party made a grave error in the wake of its historic 2016 presidential election defeat in asserting a Hillary Clinton-campaign-scripted conspiracy theory instead of ruthlessly exposing the president’s record of fake-populism. The latter began in earnest with the appointment of what Sen. Schumer memorably called a “swamp Cabinet” and was followed by the bait-and-switch on “repeal and replace of Obamacare” which became “repeal without replace.” The latter is what elicited Sen. John McCain’s famous nationally-televised thumbs-down on the Senate floor, one of John’s finest hours. (And this turned out to be “a gift that keeps on giving” insofar as the president habitually embarrasses himself by obtusely deriding the late Senator without any remote justification.)

    In January of 2018 – after any and all doubts that Trump was a fake-populist had been dispelled by his obscene tax cut bill (which didn’t even remove the carried interest tax loophole candidate Trump had feigned opposition to) – I spelled out this case against the Trump-GOP and their miscreant alt-right polemicists here: https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/01/12/hello-i-must-be-going-is-michael-wolffs-book-fake-populist-trumps-exit-strategy/ .

    I never heard a peep in response, and the line of argument (which I take no special pride of authorship in) was not picked up by “anyone who is anyone” in the Democratic Party.

    Plainly, Democratic elites promoted (essentially mythical) “Russia-Trump collusion” because they wanted no part of a line of political attack upon the Trump-GOP that would oblige them to advocate real populist/public interest policies. Mustn’t discomfort the donor class! And therein lies the problem for 2020 and beyond, the only realistic solution to which is a Bernie Sanders’ nomination and 2-term presidency. With coattails!

    In this way we can at least start to create the “Wonderful World” Don Caron describes in his restatement of the classic Simon and Garfunkle song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5i4Niz53MLE .

  8. Paul G Says:


    “The case against Trump is not that he’s a Russian spy or a proto-fascist or any of that; it’s what Nancy Pelosi’s been trying to do. He’s a conventional Republican masquerading as a populist with all the same Republican policies. That is the more powerful case.”

    – Rich Lowry, NR

    “A fascinating way to put it; I’m going to pause it there because that’s a dangerous place for Trump because he ran as something not as that.”

    – Chuck Todd, MTP


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