Can Donald Trump Pardon Himself? Can He Be Indicted While Still In Office?

It has become so widely accepted that the investigations into Donald Trump’s business dealings are very likely to reveal criminal activities that subjects including whether Trump can pardon himself and whether he can be indicted while in office are now being discussed. While many disagree, Donald Trump claims he does have the power to pardon himself. The New York Times reports:

President Trump on Saturday asserted the “complete power to pardon” relatives, aides and possibly even himself in response to investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election, as he came to the defense of Attorney General Jeff Sessions just days after expressing regret about appointing him.

Mr. Trump suggested in a series of early morning messages on Twitter that he had no need to use the pardon power at this point but left the option open. Presidents have the authority to pardon others for federal crimes, but legal scholars debate whether a president can pardon himself. Mr. Trump’s use of the word “complete” seemed to suggest he did not see a limit to that authority.

“While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us,” he wrote on Twitter. “FAKE NEWS.”

The Washington Post reported in recent days that the president and his advisers had discussed pardons as a special counsel intensifies an investigation into whether associates of Mr. Trump and his campaign conspired with Russia to intervene in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Many Constitutional experts and lawyers disagree with Donald Trump. Laurence Tribe, Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, Richard Painter,  a law professor at the University of Minnesota and chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007, and Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and chief White House ethics lawyer for Barack Obama from 2009 to 2011, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post entitled, No, Trump can’t pardon himself. The Constitution tells us so:

Can a president pardon himself? Four days before Richard Nixon resigned, his own Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel opined no, citing “the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.” We agree.

The Justice Department was right that guidance could be found in the enduring principles that no one can be both the judge and the defendant in the same matter, and that no one is above the law.

The Constitution specifically bars the president from using the pardon power to prevent his own impeachment and removal. It adds that any official removed through impeachment remains fully subject to criminal prosecution. That provision would make no sense if the president could pardon himself…

The Constitution’s pardon clause has its origins in the royal pardon granted by a sovereign to one of his or her subjects. We are aware of no precedent for a sovereign pardoning himself, then abdicating or being deposed but being immune from criminal process. If that were the rule, many a deposed king would have been spared instead of going to the chopping block…

President Trump thinks he can do a lot of things just because he is president. He says that the president can act as if he has no conflicts of interest. He says that he can fire the FBI director for any reason he wants (and he admitted to the most outrageous of reasons in interviews and in discussion with the Russian ambassador). In one sense, Trump is right — he can do all of these things, although there will be legal repercussions if he does. Using official powers for corrupt purposes — such as impeding or obstructing an investigation — can constitute a crime.

But there is one thing we know that Trump cannot do — without being a first in all of human history. He cannot pardon himself.

While it is commonly believed that Donald Trump would not be indicted until out of office, The New York Times reports that the commonly held view that a president cannot be indicted while in office is wrong:

A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton sheds fresh light on a constitutional puzzle that is taking on mounting significance amid the Trump-Russia inquiry: Can a sitting president be indicted?

The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.

“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties,” the Starr office memo concludes. “In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.”

Bill Clinton was impeached, but was neither convicted in the Senate nor indicted while in office. While the investigations are at an early stage, it does appear likely that Donald Trump has committed acts far more significant than lying about an affair, and these considerations regarding indictment very well could wind up applying to him.

Democratic Congressman Files Article Of Impeachment Against Donald Trump

It was only a matter of when. A California Congressman has introduced an article of impeachment against Donald Trump. The Hill reports:

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) formally introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump on Wednesday that accuses the president of obstructing justice during the federal investigation of Russia’s 2016 election interference.

This is the first time a lawmaker has offered an impeachment article against Trump, and it comes as Democrats have debated whether it is politically wise to press the case for impeachment at this time…

In filing his impeachment article, Sherman argues that Trump’s abrupt firing of James Comey as FBI director in May amounts to obstructing justice and “high crimes and misdemeanors” amid the probes of whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government to swing the election…

He cites Comey’s allegations that Trump pressured him to drop the FBI’s investigation into ousted former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, as well as Trump’s shifting story on why he fired Comey.

“In all of this, Donald John Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Donald John Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office,” the article of impeachment states.

So far only one other member of Congress, Al Green of Texas, is supporting the action.

Of course it is rather early and the number of members supporting impeachment could increase after the current investigations, which are still in an early stage, are concluded. The firing of James Comey does certainly appear to have been done in order obstruct his investigation. At present there is far further evidence of a cover-up on the part of Trump and members of  his administration than of the actual crime. While it is possible that evidence of collusion with Russia to swing the election will be uncovered during the course of the investigation, there is not yet clear evidence that Donald Trump did collude with Russia.

I have suspected that, at least, Trump was acting to protect members of his administration, and that any crimes very likely involved their financial dealings. The recent revelation of Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with an attorney close to the Russian government, based upon an offer of information about Hillary Clinton, along with actions of Jared Kusnher, suggest that Donald Trump might have engaged in obstruction of justice to protect members of his family, along with members of his campaign staff and administration.

In order for impeachment to succeed it would require a simple majority vote in the House, but also require a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove the president. Therefore it would require bipartisan support to remove Trump regardless of how well the Democrats do in the 2018 election. So far only two presidents have ever been impeached, including Bill Clinton, and technically no presidents have ever been removed from office by this route. Richard Nixon was forced to resign when his impeachment and conviction appeared inevitable.

An alternative mechanism under the 25th Amendment could also be used to remove Trump if he could be declared unfit to perform the duties of the presidency. While a quicker mechanism, this would be even more difficult to achieve as it would have to be initiated by the vice president and requires the support of two-thirds of each House should the president contest the action.

Clinton Adviser Mark Penn Advises Democrats To Move Back To The Center

While some Democrats realize that the party has to change course, former Clinton pollster and adviser Mark Penn has some especially dumb advice in an op-ed entitled Back to the Center, Democrats. It is hard to determine exactly what he means considering that his candidate lost in 2008 (and again in 2016 without his help) for going to far to the center, if not actually the right. Besides losing in 2016, the Democrats also lost in 2010 and 2014 due to running as a Republican-lite party. For many Democrats, moving back to the center might make them more liberal than they are today.

The general strategy of Democrats has been to move to the right, but slightly less so than the Republicans, and then say everyone has to vote for them or else the right wing crazies in the Republican Party will take over. Since 2008 that strategy has been a failure. Perhaps such triangulation and moving to the right helped Bill Clinton, but I suspect he won more because of his personal charisma than his conservative policies.

While Penn believes that the Democrats have moved too far left on most issues, he does believe that the Democrats have the upper hand with Obamacare. While Obamacare was a huge improvement over what we had before, it did not go far enough, and a growing number of Democrats are realizing that Bernie Sanders was right in proposing a single payer plan–which Hillary Clinton campaigned against.

The Democratic Party remains divided over its direction. As I discussed yesterday, some establishment Democrats are seeing the need to look toward new leaders such as Bernie Sanders, while others want to cling to the past.

Maybe Mark Penn has done us a favor in writing this once again as even many more establishment Democrats realize that when Mark Penn recommends something, the wisest course is to do the opposite. Former Obama speech writer Jon Favreau tweeted, “Zero Democrats who matter care about what Mark Penn says or does, unless he decides to work for your opponent. Then, lucky you.”

Alex Pareene, politics editor at Fusion, responded with a post entitled, Mark Penn’s Bad Column Also Makes No Goddamn Sense. Sarah Jones wrote Don’t Listen to Mark Penn at The New Republic. Martin Longman wrote Mark Penn Has Some Really Bad Advice at Washington Monthly. Philip Bump debunked Penn’s article in writing Breaking: The Democratic Party is different now than it was in 1995.

Centrist Democrats Lose Again In Georgia Special Election

Yesterday’s loss by Jon Ossoff has Democrats now wondering if opposition to Donald Trump is enough to enable them to retake control of the House. It remains to be seen if special elections in traditionally safe Republican seats provide a meaningful indicator, but Democrats did more poorly than expected in the Georgia race. This is causing some to question the strategy and messaging utilized by the Democrats.

Molly Ball has a rather boring description of Ossoff and his campaign:

Just as Handel aspired to be as generic a Republican as possible, Ossoff hoped be, as much as possible, a blank slate, a nice young man in whom disgruntled voters of all stripes could see the alternative they wanted. His campaign slogan proclaimed him “Humble. Kind. Ready to Fight”—a positionless vessel of 2017’s cross-cutting political angst. It was a decision many would second-guess after the results were in. For this district, at least, Ossoff believed it was the only way he could possibly win.

David Adkins thinks Democrats are making a mistake in trying to attract Romney voters:

In July of 2016, Senator Chuck Schumer made a statement that will go down as one of the greatest political miscalculations in modern history: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.

This strategy undergirded every decision of the doomed Clinton campaign, from ignoring the white working class in her Rust Belt firewall, to chasing suburban Republican women in Missouri and the South. It is a strategy that establishment Democratic operatives continue to pursue to this day…

In GA-06, Jon Ossoff ran a deliberately anti-ideological campaign. Centrist think tank Third Way bragged that Ossoff used a “centrist message aimed at attracting disillusioned Republican voters.” South Carolina’s Parnell, despite his Goldman Sachs background, ran a much more hard-charging campaign of Democratic values

In the end, Steve Kornacki told the tale, referencing not only Parnell’s surprisingly strong showing, but also the strong performances of other populist Democrats around the country: In specials so far, Dems have seen double-digit improvement in HRC’s ’16 # in KS-4, MT and now SC-5. In GA-6, Ossoff may not improve at all.

The lesson of the special elections around the country is clear: Democratic House candidates can dramatically outperform Clinton in deep red rural areas by running ideological, populist campaigns rooted in progressive areas. Poorer working class voters who pulled the lever for Trump can be swayed back to the left in surprisingly large numbers—perhaps not enough to win in places like Kansas, Montana and South Carolina, but certainly in other more welcoming climes. Nor is there a need to subvert Democratic principles of social justice in order to accomplish this: none of the Democrats who overperformed Clinton’s numbers in these districts curried favor with bigots in order to accomplish it.

But candidates like Clinton and Ossoff who try to run inoffensive and anti-ideological campaigns in an attempt to win over supposedly sensible, wealthier, bourgeois suburban David-Brooks-reading Republican Romney voters will find that they lose by surprisingly wide margins. There is no Democrat so seemingly non-partisan that Romney Republicans will be tempted to cross the aisle in enough numbers to make a difference.

The way forward for Democrats lies to the left, and with the working classes. It lies with a firm ideological commitment to progressive values, and in winning back the Obama voters Democrats lost to Trump in 2016 without giving ground on commitments to social justice. It does not lie in the wealthy suburbs that voted for Romney over Obama in 2012, or in ideological self-effacement on core economic concerns.

I agree that centrism doesn’t work, but the need for a message extends beyond economics. Shaun King had a better analysis last week when looking at the Virginia primaries, and tying it to the presidential election:

The Democratic Party has shifted to the right. It’s not anti-war. It’s not strong on the environment. It’s not strong on civil and human rights. It’s not for universal health care. It’s not strong on cracking down on Wall Street and big banks or corporate fraud. Ralph Northam was and is weak on all of those core principles of the progressive left, but we’re expected to get behind him, and candidates like him, as if we’re just a few small details away from seeing eye to eye with him. We aren’t. He’s not a progressive. He’s not a liberal. He’s hardly even a Democrat.

Millions of us who ultimately voted for Hillary Clinton felt the very same way about her. On issues ranging from war, to corporate fraud, to campaign finance, to universal health care, and so much more, her positions were not discernibly different from the most basic Republican talking points.

Was she better than Trump? Of course she was. But I’d literally rather have a Kardashian sister or Curious George be President of the United States over Trump. Someone being better than Trump cannot be our key metric for choosing candidates.

I’m hearing more and more of my progressive friends talk seriously about the need for us to form our own political party. I get it. At the very best we are slightly tolerated guests in the Democratic Party. We are as different from establishment Democrats as those establishment Democrats are from everyday Republicans.

Being begrudgingly tolerated is a terrible feeling. We are an enthusiastic, organized bunch, but I certainly don’t feel welcomed.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid all but confirmed as much in a widely shared tweet earlier this week in which she said, “Bernie and his followers are like that college friend who stays at your place for weeks, pays $0, eats your food & trashes your aesthetic.”

That Reid, who makes a living as a political commentator, came to this conclusion about Bernie Sanders and his millions of followers was deeply disappointing, but revealing. Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America. He has done far more for the Democratic Party than it has for him.

When the new head of the Democratic Party, Tom Perez, went on a speaking tour recently with Bernie, the enthusiastic crowds of thousands didn’t show up at every single venue to hear Tom — they were there for Bernie. Tom didn’t do Bernie a favor, Bernie did Tom a favor. Bernie got behind Hillary Clinton and campaigned for her all over the country and asked his supporters to follow his lead.

I was one of those people who did just that. I’ve been a Democrat all of my life and have campaigned for and donated to so many Democratic candidates across the years. That the millions of us who support Bernie and his values have been reduced to bad guests who don’t pay our way, eat up all the food, and trash the place, is a terrible insult rooted in something other than reality.

Democrats lost the House, the Senate, the presidency, the Supreme Court, and the strong majority of state houses and governorships across the country. I agree that it sure does look like somebody trashed the place, but it damn sure wasn’t Bernie and his followers. Anybody saying that is delusional.

King accurately describes how many on the left feel about the Democratic Party–including both those who held their nose and voted for Clinton, along with others who would not do this out of principle. These days it seems like the major difference between the parties is that the Republicans pander to fear of Muslims while Democrats spread hysteria about Russia. The great paradox of American politics is that we have hyperpartisanship in Washington, yet both parties promote essentially the same policies. Both parties support similar economic policies and continuation of the warfare/surveillance state.

When Republicans lost in a landslide in 1964 under Barry Goldwater, conservatives did not give up. It takes time to spread a message and build a party around it. Democrats mistakenly thought they had a winning strategy when Bill Clinton won, but his success was probably more due to his personal charisma than overly conservative policies. They squandered what could have been an advantage with the unpopularity of George W. Bush by moving to the right and ultimately adopting much of his agenda.

T.A. Frank Wants Hillary Clinton To Go Quietly Into The Night

There is considerable political polarization in this country, but there is one thing which many on the left and right can agree on–it is time for the Clinton’s to go away. Since running one of the most mismanaged political campaigns in history, burdened by an extraordinarily terrible candidate (herself), and losing to a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has been spending her time an an excuse tour to blame everyone except herself for her loss.

Clinton’s apology tour is harmful for at least three reasons. It leaves Democratic partisans in denial as to why they really lost, preventing necessary reforms in the party, has Democrats defending many of Clinton’s disastrous policies out of party loyalty, and inflames anti-Russian hysteria.

T.A. Frank asks the key question: Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly Into The Night? Some excerpts:

There’s a fine line—or maybe not even so fine a line—between boosting morale and monopolizing the spotlight. One reason Bill Clinton was able to make a name for himself decades ago was that previous candidates had the grace to get out of the way. Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis weren’t trying to place themselves at center stage during the campaign of 1992. The Clintons, by contrast, kept sticking around. When it comes to power, and a few other things, they can’t control their urges. As a friend of mine recently wrote to me in an e-mail, “They both had to be president?”

Even the name of Clinton’s PAC has a presumptuous ring to it. When someone has driven a bus off the road and hurled passengers out of their seats, it’s a bad time for the driver to stagger back to the wheel and call out “Onward together!” Onward, fine. Together, maybe not.

All of this would be easier to take if Hillary were on a crusade for a distinctive cause, in the manner of Bernie Sanders or Pat Buchanan or Jesse Jackson or Ross Perot. But when she offers her take on the world, she speaks in clichés and vague generalities like “progress” versus “turning back the clock.” Such teleological smugness (to which Barack Obama was likewise prone) doesn’t just attract the ire of conservatives; liberals can get miffed, too. Is “progress” on the side of expanding NATO or the opposite? Is it on the side of greater National Security Agency surveillance or of less? Is it in favor of immigration amnesty or high-tech border security? We all want to move forward, but maybe we’re not all facing Hillary’s way.

Even without a clear cause to illuminate them, Hillary’s beliefs could have been sharpened a lot just by explaining what, in hindsight, she felt Bill got right or wrong in his presidency. But she never offered up such a critique, nor, oddly, did anyone really press her to do so. Throwing open our markets to China as much as we did—that looked wiser back then. So did deregulating the financial industry. So did pushing for three-strikes laws. So did the bailout of Mexico. So did focusing on deficit reduction. So did high levels of immigration. So did humanitarian interventions in the former Yugoslavia. So did welfare reform. Bill’s calls, like all big calls, were controversial, but they were far more justifiable in light of the data we had at the time. But what about with the data we have now?

Negotiating a different landscape requires the Democratic Party to return to some basic questions. Times have changed. America is no longer a lone hyperpower triumphing amid squabbles about same-sex marriage. We’re an overstretched empire fighting about fundamental questions of economy and national identity. The Clintons see that, sort of, but they’re stuck in time. Worse, their network, which is vast and powerful and heavily dependent on them, is stuck in time, too. Precisely when those on the left ought to be negotiating today’s fault lines and creating new coalitions, Democrats are getting dragged back into last year’s fights and letting personal loyalties drown out thoughts about core principles. The indefatigability of the Clintons isn’t just a nuisance but a hindrance.

We can’t expect them to accept this, of course. Psychologist Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, has famously observed that optimists tend to do better in life but exhibit more delusion. They tend to attribute failure to changing external factors rather than enduring internal qualities, blaming outside causes, not themselves. Hillary—who has been pinning her defeat on Comey and Vladimir Putin and the Democratic National Committee and Wikileaks and “a thousand Russian agents” and high expectations and the press and sexism and voter suppression and, for all I know, static cling—is a major optimist. That’s great for persistence and mental well-being. She’s ready to keep driving the bus. But it’s not so great for knowing when to quit. That’s where the passengers come in.

The Clintons were already too conservative for the era in which Bill was elected. By 2016, with the Republican Party being taken over by Trumpism, Hillary Clinton had become ideologically the conventional Republican candidate, supporting the neoconservative views of the Bush era. Hillary Clinton is totally out of place in the 21st century–too conservative for liberals who back principle over party but, having the Clinton name, will never be accepted by Republicans either.

Shattered Provides Insight Into How Clinton Doomed Her Campaign Over The Email Scandal

Chris Cillizza recently wrote about  a new study by a consortium of pollsters which showed how damaging the email scandal was to Hillary Clinton. While overall his article is worth reading, I am puzzled by the title and wonder if perhaps someone else had written it: Hillary Clinton’s ’email’ problem was bigger than anyone realized. Yes, the email problem was a major reason for Clinton’s defeat, although if this didn’t exist I suspect that many other things in Clinton’s history, and flaws in her character, would have served a similar role in destroying her campaign. However, contrary to the title, many realized how damaging this could be to Clinton from the start. For example, back in March of 2015 I had a post entitled Clinton’s Use Of Private Email Suggests Democrats Need To Consider A Plan B For 2016. Initially other liberal bloggers also expressed concern at the time, but unfortunately partisanship replaced reason for many over the subsequent months. Many partisan Democrats would argue with my posts, claiming that Clinton had done anything wrong and denying that it would have any effect on the election. In retrospect, it is clear that my many warnings as to how dangerous it would be to nominate Hillary Clinton turned out to be correct.

Clinton has blamed the press, along with others such as Russia and James Comey, for her loss. Cillizza countered the argument that the media was responsible for dwelling on the email scandal:

This study will be used by liberals as evidence that the media’s unnecessary focus on Clinton’s email server cost her the election.

I’d agree that Clinton’s email server played a decisive role in deciding the election. But I wouldn’t agree with the idea that the media is responsible for it.

After all, it was Clinton who never seemed to grasp the seriousness of the issue and how it eroded the public’s already shaky confidence in her. Her inability to do those things meant she was never able to put the story behind her. And then the Comey announcement came, which undoubtedly surged the issue back to the top of many voters’ minds.

Whatever the reasons, when people thought of Clinton in the final weeks of the race, they thought of her emails. And that was a very bad thing for her.

The roots of the problem can be seen in Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign. My most recent post on excerpts from the book showed how Clinton had devised the strategy of blaming others for her defeat within twenty-four hours of her election loss. Chapter 4 of the book dealt with the roots of the scandal and how Clinton was doomed by her own character flaws. This could be seen with her similar reaction to losing in 2008:

In the summer of 2008, years before her private e-mail server became a campaign issue, Hillary learned about the power of digital snooping. At the time, she was conducting an autopsy of her failed bid against Barack Obama, and she wanted an honest accounting of what had gone wrong. So she instructed a trusted aide to access the campaign’s server and download the messages sent and received by top staffers.

She believed her campaign had failed her—not the other way around—and she wanted “to see who was talking to who, who was leaking to who,” said a source familiar with the operation. Her political director, Guy Cecil, had talked with members of the media from his campaign account. Her chief strategist, Mark Penn, was a tyrant. And far too many of her minions had fought for turf and status rather than votes.

Prizing loyalty most among human traits, Hillary was unsettled by these acts of betrayal. So as she dragged staffers into meetings in Washington to assess what had gone wrong, disloyalty and dysfunction were seldom far from her mind. The men and women she met with, apparently unaware that she had access to their e-mails, were amazed that a woman who had been traveling the country in pursuit of the presidency had such a detailed grasp of the machinations at the campaign’s command center in the Washington suburbs.

Having used other’s email against them, Clinton did not want to risk that her own emails could be reviewed. While on one level this was understandable, it was also a clear violation of the rules for cabinet officials when Clinton became Secretary of State in 2009. When this scandal broke, she did not realize what a threat it would be to her candidacy. When it did become a problem, she once again placed the blame on others, as opposed to taking responsibility for her own actions:

While Hillary spent a lot of time calculating risks, she was often a terrible judge of how her actions could backfire and turn into full-blown scandals. When news of her private e-mail server first surfaced in the New York Times on March 2, 2015, she looked at it as the campaign’s first wave of “choppy waters” rather than the tsunami that it would become.

It’s not that she failed to understand that more negative press was on its way, or that she might have a legal problem on her hands. But her response, and that of her team, reflected an epic underestimation of an existential threat to her candidacy. At times, under the stress of an unrelenting feeding frenzy of reporters, Republican lawmakers, and federal investigators, Hillary and her advisers would lose faith in one another’s judgment and competence. The candidate would blame her staff for failing to contain the damage, and, privately, they would fault her for failing to take the steps necessary to do that…

Of course, Hillary should have been angry with herself. She’d taken actions that could have prevented her records from becoming public during a presidential run, and the maneuver had backfired badly. But Hillary instead turned her fury on her consultants and campaign aides, blaming them for a failure to focus the media on her platform. In her ear the whole time, spurring her on to cast blame on others and never admit to anything, was her husband. Neither Clinton could accept the simple fact that Hillary had hamstrung her own campaign and dealt the most serious blow to her own presidential aspirations.

That state of denial would become more obvious than ever to her top aides and consultants during a mid-August conference call. Benenson, Grunwald, Margolis, Anzalone, Podesta, Mook, Abedin, and Schwerin were among the small coterie who huddled in Abedin’s mostly bare corner office overlooking the East River at the campaign’s Brooklyn headquarters. Hillary and Bill, who rarely visited, joined them by phone.

Hillary’s severe, controlled voice crackled through the line first. It carried the sound of a disappointed teacher or mother delivering a lecture before a whipping. That back end was left to Bill, who lashed out with abandon. Eyes cast downward, stomachs turning—both from the scare tactics and from their own revulsion at being chastised for Hillary’s failures—Hillary’s talented and accomplished team of professionals and loyalists simply took it. There was no arguing with Bill Clinton.

You haven’t buried this thing, the ruddy-cheeked former president rasped. You haven’t figured out how to get Hillary’s core message to the voters. This has been dragging on for months, he thundered, and nothing you’ve done has made a damn bit of difference. Voters want to hear about Hillary’s plans for the economy, and you’re not making that happen. Now, do your damn jobs.

“We got an ass-chewing,” one of the participants recalled months later.

Hillary came back on the line to close the lecture. It was hard to tell what was worse—getting hollered at by Bill or getting scolded by the stern and self-righteous Hillary. Neither was pleasant. You heard him, she admonished. “Get it straight.”

It was an astonishing moment—and one that would stick in the minds of Hillary’s aides for the rest of the campaign—for two reasons. First, Hillary was already inaccessible to most of her own staff, preferring to communicate through Abedin. So, a phone call featuring both Hillary and Bill was a real rarity. But more important, the scapegoating tone and tenor revealed that the Clintons were either living on another planet or at least having emotional and intellectual difficulty coming to terms with the reality that only Hillary was culpable and only Hillary could turn things around.

Hillary’s aides didn’t need to wonder why her economic message wasn’t breaking through. It wasn’t rocket science. She hadn’t told the truth to the public about her e-mails, and she was under federal investigation.

On the ground in Iowa, the e-mail scandal was hurting her ability to build a volunteer organization. “We’re asking someone to give a bunch of their time. All they’re hearing is how untrustworthy she is,” said one campaign official. And it was death among actual caucus-goers. “We saw it in all the research. It was a slow burn. The caucus electorate, any primary electorate, is disproportionately watching cable news. And it was every day for six months.”

Beyond giving caucus-goers pause and hampering her volunteer-recruitment efforts, the scandal appeared to tamp down the willingness of Hillary supporters across the country to lobby friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter. “There’s a social cost to supporting Hillary,” one of her aides said. The e-mail issue “made it weird and costly for people to be for her.”

The problem for Clinton was that the scandal wasn’t viewed as an isolated event. It reinforced Clinton’s well-deserved reputation for dishonesty, and seeing herself as above the rules which others must adhere to:

That dynamic played right into the hands of Sanders, who held himself out as an honest change agent and tweaked Hillary here and there on her lack of transparency—a theme that hinted at the e-mail scandal, questions about the Clinton Foundation, and her refusal to release transcripts of the private paid speeches she’d given to Wall Street banks before the campaign. When Hillary had been advised by some allies not to speak to banks before the campaign, one confidant said, her response had been “They’ll hit us on something.”

The e-mail story and the Wall Street speeches illustrated the contrast Bernie was trying to draw with Hillary—he was honest and she was corrupt—and they were giving ever more oxygen to a once-quixotic Sanders campaign…

When voters were asked to describe her with a single word, “liar” was the one most frequently used. A lot of that came from Republicans, but it had a psychic effect on Democrats who had looked at her as the party’s likely nominee.

Over the course of the summer, the confidence of party insiders had been replaced by a degree of paranoia that nearly matched Hillary’s own outsize phobia. She was convinced that leaks of information had helped doom her 2008 campaign. In reality, the leaking and disloyalty were symptoms, not the cause, of the dysfunction in her first run for the White House. As long as she was seen as the prohibitive favorite to win the primary and the election, Democrats would fear being branded traitors or leakers. But if she wasn’t going to be in a position to reward or punish them, they had no reason to worry about whether they were rated as ones or sevens on her loyalty scale. After the 2008 campaign, two of her aides, Kris Balderston and Adrienne Elrod, had toiled to assign loyalty scores to members of Congress, ranging from one for the most loyal to seven for those who had committed the most egregious acts of treachery. Bill Clinton had campaigned against some of the sevens in subsequent primary elections, helping to knock them out of office. The fear of retribution was not lost on the remaining sevens, some of whom rushed to endorse Hillary early in the 2016 cycle.

This time, nothing was coming easy: her campaign was under fire every minute of every day. Worst of all, it was the candidate herself who was responsible for the initial e-mail blunder, and she and her husband were still intractable on the question of when she would apologize, if ever…Hillary had been prescient about external threats to her campaign…But when it came to her own behavior—to the threat she posed to herself—she’d been incapable of gauging its gravity and reluctant to avail herself of the only option for fixing it. Too little, too late, she’d now tried to address it.

Clinton told a long series of lies to try to cover up her violation of the rules and unethical behavior, but they did not save her. It is debatable whether a quick confession of guilt and apology would have changed anything, but by repeatedly lying and giving excuses for her behavior, Clinton helped keep the story alive until November.

This all culminated in James Comey’s letter shortly before the election. The impact of this is debatable as Clinton’s support started dropping before it was released, and if it did hurt Clinton she deserved the blame violating the rules and creating the need for the FBI investigation of her actions. At the time Barack Obama was publicly supporting her out of party loyalty, but privately he had a different attitude:

Obama had been briefed on the Comey statement, seemingly just the latest turn in an unfolding story he’d kept up with from the Oval Office. And, of course, he’d been asked about the e-mail issue more times than he would have liked. Publicly, he toed the company line and said he knew Hillary wouldn’t intentionally mishandle information—and he believed that. But inside the secluded confines of the West Wing, he confided his true feelings. He couldn’t understand what possessed Hillary to set up the private e-mail server, and her handling of the scandal—obfuscate, deny, and evade—amounted to political malpractice. He wanted his friend to win, and yet she was exhibiting, again, some of the very qualities that had helped him defeat her in 2008. It was a classic unforced Clinton error, and he couldn’t believe that she and the people around her had let it happen. When would they learn?

He said nothing of this to Hillary. When he scratched his head or rolled his eyes, he did it in the privacy of the West Wing.

I have previously posted excerpts from Shattered  here,  here,  here, here, and here and have discussed why Clinton lost in multiple additional posts. Also see the excerpt I have posted from Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus by Matt Taibbi on Hillary Clinton, which provides further insight into why Hillary Clinton should not have run for president in 2016 in light of the manner in which she used her political influence in an unethical manner to make money.

Democratic Party Stronger Without The Clintons

The 2016 election was unique in which, while their partisans might not realize it, each party would be better off if their candidate lost the presidential election. Both parties had horrible candidates, and each party would pay a price if their candidate was president. The damage to the Republican brand since Trump has been elected has been obvious. This distracts from noticing the benefits to Democrats from not being dragged further to the right by DLC Democrats such as the Clintons.

Democrats have misread recent politics in seeing Bill Clinton’s victory as evidence that the path of the Democratic Leadership Conference was the way to win. In reality, Bill Clinton won due to his own personal political skills, not by his desire to turn the Democratic Party into a Republican-Lite Party. The Clinton/DLC philosophy too conservative and out of date in the 1990’s, and it is even less relevant to the 21st century. Democrats lost off year elections in 2010 and 2014 by running as Republican-Lite and refusing to stand for anything. This culminated in nominating Hillary Clinton, who managed to lose to Donald Trump.

While Clinton partisans will never agree, polling data and the election results presents a pretty strong case that if the Democrats had nominate Bernie Sanders instead of Clinton they could have won the White House, and probably taken control of the Senate. The Democratic establishment has totally misread the mood of the country and were misled by an out-dated left/right linear political spectrum, failing to see that many independents would vote for Sanders, but not for Clinton.

While the Democratic establishment still desires to exclude Sanders, others are giving him credit for revitalizing the Democratic Party. Buzz Feed editor Ben Smith writes, While You Were Watching Trump, The Democratic Party Changed: Bernie Sanders lost the primary but reshaped his party.

“What happened in the presidential campaign is that Bernie ran explicitly in support of a Medicare-for-all approach” — a simple framework for single-payer — “and what the politicians saw is that voters were fine with that,” said Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, a longtime advocate of single payer.

“It’s inclusive and it doesn’t get us into the identity politics divisions that are problematic,” he said. “It gets us into inclusive politics.”

And if Sanders made single-payer safe for Democrats, Trump’s extremely unpopular foray into health care policy with the American Health Care Act has created a new landscape. Democrats’ blend of private-sector structures with government money and incentives, Obamacare, never became truly popular. A Republican version of that hybrid system, tilted toward the markets and away from guarantees, isn’t popular either.

“Then the default becomes, well the private market doesn’t work, the next thing is single-payer,” said an insurance industry executive close to the politics of the issue, who noted that the CEO of Aetna recently shocked the industry by calling for a serious debate about what single-payer would look like. (To the insurance industry, it could look like a new sluice of predictable revenue.)

“This is probably going to be like what happened with Republicans on immigration,” the insurance industry official said. “You may even have a bigger swath of Democrats who are not for single-payer but the single-payer group is becoming so outspoken that other voices are muted.”

It remains to be seen whether the Democratic Party will really change for the better, but there was little or no hope if a politician as conservative as Hillary Clinton had won and had the opportunity to shape the party. While she claims at times to be a progressive, she is a “progressive” who fights for conservative results. Clinton was hardly progressive when she supported making flag burning a felony, censoring video games, supported restricting freedom of speech to fight terrorism, defended the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas, supported parental notification laws, making abortion rare (a statement which stigmatizes women who have abortions and plays into GOP attempts to restrict abortions), leaving gay marriage up to the states (a position she finally changed but lagging behind the country tremendously), the Patriot Act, the discriminatory Workplace Religious Freedom Act, working with the Fellowship in the Senate to increase the role of religion in public policy and undermine the principle of separation of church and state, opposed single payer health care, opposed needle exchange programs, supported a hard line on the drug war, promoted increased government secrecy, supported going to war in Iraq war based upon false claims of a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda (without even bothering to read the intelligence material made available for members of the Senate), pushed for military intervention in Libya and Syria, and resuming the Cold War with Russia.

If Clinton was president, far too many Democrats would be rationalizing and defending Clinton’s views and actions. Instead, the defeat of Clinton opens the door for a more liberal Democratic Party. It also increases the chances of Democratic gains in 2018. If Clinton had been elected, we would probably see a continuation of Democratic loses in Congress and state governments. Instead there is talk of a possible Democratic wave in 2018. For many matters, the state government has more day to day impact on our lives than the federal government. For those of us who saw our state governments get taken over by Republicans since 2010, the defeat of Clinton gives hope of throwing the Republicans out.

With Trump in the White House, we have terrible policies, but also massive opposition to him. Plus with Trump in the White House, we have the added benefit of seeing the Republican president being the subject of scandals and possible impeachment, instead of the inevitable scandals to be seen under Hillary Clinton. The manner in which she spent the last couple of years repeatedly lying about the email and Foundations scandals should provide additional warnings about what could be expected with Clinton in the White House.

Donald Trump has been a terrible president, but it would have been a disaster regardless of who won. At least there is now  hope for a better future.

Democrats Risk Continued Failure In Denying Reasons For Clinton’s Loss

Aaron Blake shows how Democrats are burying their heads in the sand with their denial as to how terrible a candidate Hillary Clinton was, even when Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have pointed this out:

“I never thought she was a great candidate,” Biden said, according to reports. “I thought I was a great candidate.”

…Biden isn’t the first leading Democratic figure with possible designs on 2020 to apparently slight Clinton. Clinton’s 2016 primary foe, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has repeatedly offered some version of this quote: “It wasn’t that Donald Trump won the election; it was that the Democratic Party that lost the election.”

Those comments have definitely rubbed some Clinton supporters the wrong way, and Biden’s are likely to even more so, given how direct they were.

Of course, Biden isn’t saying anything that most every election analyst hasn’t. You can make a pretty objective case that Clinton wasn’t a great candidate, given she lost an election she was expected to win to an opponent who became the most unpopular president-elect in modern history.

…in most situations, a party that lost a presidential campaign wouldn’t so fiercely guard the good name of the candidate who lost — much less one who had just lost a second presidential campaign in eight years. Republicans, for instance, were only so happy to place the blame for their 2012 loss squarely on the shoulders of Mitt Romney and his failure to connect with people. The same goes for Democrats and John Kerry in 2004.

So why not Democrats in 2017? Part of the reason is that they simply don’t feel Clinton really lost. Russia’s hacking, FBI Director James Comey’s late announcement about her emails (and the media’s coverage of that issue) and her popular vote win have combined to create a genuine sense that she was robbed — almost literally so. And Clinton has only fed that beast with her repeated comments dissecting the unfair reasons why she lost.

It’s a delicate dance for the likes of Biden and Sanders right now. They want to emphasize that the party can do better, but in doing so, they risk alienating some very passionate and outspoken Clinton supporters with an almost religious sense of righteousness about 2016.

Perhaps it could be done more delicately, but to pretend Biden is wrong about Clinton not being a great candidate is to bury your head in the sand. And that’s a pretty dangerous thing for Democrats to do right now.

Of course Hillary Clinton was one of the worst candidates ever nominated by a major political party. She unethically used her political career to build a personal fortune and capitalize on the Clinton name after Bill left office, despite how this shaped her reputation. As Matt Taibbi has argued, once she made this decision, she should have left politics. She has spent her career undermining liberal values–a progressive who gets conservative results. Polls showed long before the nomination that she was untrusted by the voters. She polled poorly among independents, liberals, swing state voters, and in the rust belt. Nominating her in the midst of her major scandals would have been as if the Republicans had nominated Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal had become well known.

Donald Trump might have even bigger negatives than Clinton, but Clinton ran such a terrible campaign that she could not even beat him. Clinton’s own negatives were large enough to negate his. Democrats even allowed themselves to be outflanked on the left by the Republicans on economics and foreign policy with the nomination of Clinton (even if this was based upon incoherent positions held by Trump).

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign shows how Clinton latched onto the strategy of blaming other for her loss within twenty-four hours of her loss. Partisan Democrats who were foolish enough to nominate a candidate as unfit for public office as Hillary Clinton were also gullible to fall for this.

As I wrote in the previous post on her use of these excuses, The Wikileaks releases of hacked email hurt because it verified criticism that the DNC had violated its own rules in rigging the nomination for Clinton, and in showing Clinton’s dishonesty. There has been absolutely no evidence that anything released by Wikileaks was not accurate information. In blaming Russia, Clinton is admitting that the facts about her and the DNC were sufficient to sink her campaign.

Despite blaming the media, Clinton’s violation of the rules regarding her use of the private server was confirmed to be in violation of the rules in effect in 2009 by the Obama administration State Department Inspector General Report. Fact checkers repeatedly showed that Clinton was lying about the email and Foundation scandals. It was Clinton who grossly violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton, not the press, was responsible for this story.

In blaming James Comey, Clinton ignores the fact that James Comey would not have been investigating her in the first place if she had not grossly violated the rules regarding email and  hadn’t handled classified information in a careless manner. The investigation further hurt Clinton as Comey’s report demonstrated that she had repeatedly lied in her public statements about the matter. This gave further credence to her reputation of both seeing herself above the  law and of being dishonest. She further hurt herself when she repeatedly lied about what James Comey had reported.

Hillary Clinton brought this all on herself. Clinton lost due to both her own flaws, and the foolishness of those in the Democratic Party who supported her for the nomination, even to the point of violating their own party rules to rig the nomination for Clinton.

Democrats need to move on from both the disastrous nomination of Hillary Clinton and the entire DLC strategy of turning the Democrats into a Republican-lite party. Bill Clinton might have won on this strategy, but that was more because of his personal political skills than the wisdom of this conservative philosophy. Democrats have lost badly in 2010, 2014, and now 2016 by failing to stand for liberal principles. Instead of learning from their mistakes, the Democrats appear determined to repeat them. This includes recently excluding Bernie Sanders from the “Ideas Conference” held by the Center for American Progress.

The 2016 election might change politics for years to come. Donald Trump could damage the Republicans for many years, and Hillary Clinton could do the same to Democrats. It is not clear yet which party will be hurt the most by the awful choices they made in 2016. If we are lucky, the combination will end the two party duopoly and we will have real choices in the future.

Update: Clinton Now Adds DNC To Long List Of Those She Blames For Losing

Update II: Even Democrats Who Supported Clinton Want Her To Stop Her Blame Tour

Clinton’s Firing Of FBI Director Was Not Comparable To Trump Firing Comey

I have criticized much in Bill Clinton’s conservative record, and certainly am not defending Clinton out of any partisan loyalty, but the Republican defense of Trump’s firing of James Comey because Bill Clinton fired an FBI director does not hold up. Clinton acted in a bipartisan manner, basing his actions on an investigation which started under George H. W. Bush. He fired William Sessions over financial improprieties, not because the FBI director was investigating his administration. When the FBI director he appointed began to investigate him, perhaps Clinton wished he could fire him, but he did not.

It remains unprecedented for a president to fire an FBI director while his administration was under investigation, violating principles of justice and of the independence of the FBI.

Vox looks at Bill Clinton’s actions in far greater detail. I discussed the firing of James Comey, including several other opinions, here and here.

Jimmy Carter Reveals He Voted For Bernie Sanders In The Georgia Primary

During a discussion between Jimmy Carter and Bernie Sanders at the Carter Center in Atlanta Carter said, referring to Sanders,  “Can y’all see why I voted for him?”

While Carter didn’t make this pubic previously, it does not come as a surprise. As The Washington Post reports:

Jimmy Carter and the Clintons have long had a frosty relationship. In 1992, he declined to endorse Bill Clinton, saying “people are looking for somebody who is honest and tells the truth.”

Four years later — when he was the only living Democratic ex-president — he skipped the Democratic National Convention entirely. And when Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2008, Carter endorsed Barack Obama, saying at the time she needed to “give it up.”

Carter had predicted that Clinton would win the nomination in July 2015 saying, “There won’t be any problem with Hillary getting the nomination because money dominates, and she has an inside track to the massive amounts that are going to pour into the Democratic Party side.”

I wonder if this is why Carter didn’t make his support for Sanders public. It probably would not have changed the outcome, especially considering how heavily the nomination battle was rigged in Clinton’s favor, but it is possible such a high profile endorsement would have helped. The endorsement of Barack Obama by Ted and Caroline Kennedy, while again not the decisive factor, did help Obama defeat Clinton in 2008. In endorsing Obama, Ted Kennedy had criticized Clinton in saying, “With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion.”

Of course Clinton did win the nomination as Carter predicted, with Clinton’s character being one of the factors which led to her loss and the election of Donald Trump. Perhaps if more Democrats had spoken out against Clinton the Democrats might have wound up with a more suitable candidate and prevented the election of Trump.

Carter and Sanders spoke about the rise of authoritarianism at the event:

Asked by the moderator about the rise of authoritarian politics in the United States and elsewhere, both the Vermont senator and former president agreed on a single root cause: political and economic inequality.

“I think the root of it is something that I haven’t heard discussed much,” Carter replied. “I believe the root of the downturn in human rights preceded 2016, it began earlier than that, and I think the reason was disparity in income which has been translated into the average person, you know good, decent, hard-working middle class people feeling that they are getting cheated by the government and by society and they don’t get the same element of health care, they don’t get the same quality education, they don’t get the same political rights.”

“I agree with everything that President Carter said,” Sanders replied.

“Look, here is the situation. You got all over this country tens of millions of people who are extremely angry and they are disappointed. Now we all know as a result of technology workers are producing more today than they did 20 or 30 years ago. Yet despite that you’re seeing people work not 40 hours a week, they’re working 50 or 60 hours a week. Their wages are actually going down!”