Trump Support Falls With Increased Speculation That Trump Will Be Impeached Or Resign To Avoid Prison

Donald Trump’s unwillingness to consistently take a stand against white supremacists might have been the last straw placed upon an administration which is both failing to have its agenda passed and which is under investigation. He is losing support from members of his own party. There is increased talk about the possibility of impeachment or even his resignation.

First Read summarized the position which Trump is in:

The president’s job approval rating hovers between 35 percent and 40 percent. Key American corporations have withdrawn from his business-advisory councils after the response to Charlottesville. He’s regularly lashing out at members of his own party. His top advisers are calling up liberal publications — and letting loose. Forty percent of Americans want him impeached, according to a new poll.

And we’re on the 210th day of his time in office (without a major legislative accomplishment under his belt, and with a special counsel already investigating him and his team).

Here’s the thing: We have no idea how this all plays out for President Trump and his administration. We’ve seen Trump survive past controversies (Khizr Khan, Access Hollywood), but he no longer has an opponent/foil like Hillary Clinton.

We’ve seen past presidents (LBJ, Nixon, Clinton) endure their share of turbulent times, but it’s never come this early in a presidency. And we’ve never seen so many members of the president’s own political party openly criticize him, but still vote for his agenda most of the time.

Using the words “uncharted waters” has become a bit cliché during the Trump Era — everything has been so different. But there also are no better words to use right now. And the turmoil comes at a pressing time: escalating tensions with North Korea, a debt ceiling that needs to be raised, and midterm elections that are right around the corner.

The Fix reports on how Republicans are unwilling to appear on not only NBC but Fox to defend Trump:

Congress is in recess, but Republicans are in hiding, apparently unsure how to answer questions about President Trump’s response to last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville — and unwilling to try.

“We invited every single Republican senator on this program tonight — all 52,” Chuck Todd said on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily” on Wednesday. “We asked roughly a dozen House Republicans, including a bunch of committee chairs, and we asked roughly a half dozen former Republican elected officials, and none of them agreed to discuss this issue with us today.”

That’s about 70 rejections altogether, and other news anchors had the same experience on Wednesday — even on Fox News.

“Our booking team — and they’re good — reached out to Republicans of all stripes across the country today,” Shepard Smith told his viewers. “Let’s be honest: Republicans often don’t really mind coming on Fox News Channel. We couldn’t get anyone to come and defend him here. Because we thought, in balance, someone should do that. We worked very hard at it throughout the day, and we were unsuccessful.”

With support so low, a story from the Brookings Institute (and reprinted by Newsweek) speculates that, Trump Is Just Six Senate Votes From Impeachment.

At some point in 2019 (if not sooner) a Republican Senator may walk into the Oval Office and say to President Trump: “Mr. President, we don’t have the votes,” at which point the Trump presidency will end in a resignation or a conviction in the Senate.

This scenario actually occurred forty-three years ago this summer when Republican Senator Barry Goldwater walked into the Oval Office and told Republican President Richard Nixon that they didn’t have the votes in the Senate to save his presidency.

Following impeachment in the House, a trial takes place in the Senate. Conviction requires two-thirds of the Senate and by my count there are already twelve senators who have shown a willingness to take on the president when they believe he is in the wrong.

If you add that to the forty-eight Democrats in the Senate (who have shown no inclination to work with this President), Donald Trump could be six votes away from conviction in the Senate…

The article goes on to list Republican Senators who have been critical of Trump. Of course being unwilling to publicly defend Trump, or even to criticize him, does not necessarily mean they would vote to remove him from office. Even if these Republicans would support removing Trump from office, this would also require a majority in the Republican controlled House, and winning over six additional Republican Senators. This could be complicated by many Republican voters still sticking with Trump.

Tony Schwartz, who c0-wrote The Art Of The Deal with Trump, is repeating his earlier predictions that Trump will resign, possibly by this fall. I have a tough time seeing Trump resigning, but Schwartz does know Trump about as well as anyone outside his inner circle. It is conceivable that he could resign, as Schwartz predicts, as part of a deal to avoid going to prison as the investigations against him proceed. Schwartz also Tweeted, “Trump’s presidency is effectively over.”

Late Night Comics Speculate On An Early End For The Trump Presidency

I’m picturing Mike Pence sitting in his office trying to decide when Trump has acted just crazy enough that he can invoke the 25th Amendment and be seen as a hero. There are certainly plenty of psychiatrists who would argue Trump is unfit to fulfill the duties of the presidency. I’m not sure what the odds are of Trump being removed, either under the 25th Amendment or impeachment, but humor writers have seen this as likely.

Earlier in the year I noted a sequence on The Last Man On Earth in which a plague killed off politicians going through the lines of succession. They started with President Pence, implying that one way or another Donald Trump was already gone. (The video at the link concludes with the death of President Betsy DeVos.)

Late night comedians have had several similar jokes this week:

Vice President Mike Pence denies he’s planning to run for president in 2020. He said, “I’m pretty sure I’ll be president way before then.” –Conan O’Brien

Mike Pence is denying speculation that he wants to be elected president in 2020. Pence was like, “I think you mean re-elected president in 2020.” –Jimmy Fallon

According to The New York Times, Vice President Mike Pence is planning on running for president if Trump doesn’t run for a second term. But he issued a statement strongly denying the article, saying it was disgraceful, offensive to me, my family and our entire team. He said to suggest he is running for president in 2020 is laughable and absurd. Right, why would Mike Pence want to be president in 2020? He’s going to be president much, much sooner than that. –Jimmy Kimmel

Vice President Mike Pence is adamantly denying a New York Times article claiming that he has begun a secret campaign for a presidential run in 2020. He says he has even less interest in being president than Trump does, which is saying something. Pence is like, “This is ridiculous. I’m not focused on being president in 2020, I’m focused on being president after Trump is impeached sometime this year.” –James Corden

Meanwhile in today’s news, Congressional investigators now want to question Donald Trump’s personal secretary, Rhona Graff, in the Russia investigation. If either were still alive, Richard Nixon and Rosemary Woods might tell Donald Trump that bad things can happen after a president’s personal secretary is questioned by such a Congressional probe, even if the specifics were different.

Of course we would have a new set of problems if Mike Pence were to replace Donald Trup. Pence could not honestly say, as Gerald Ford once did, “our long national nightmare is over” should he become president. Hopefully, should Donald Trump be removed from office the Republican brand will be so damaged that Pence won’t be able to do much harm. We can also hope that whatever brings down Trump also brings down Pence. However, unless they are separate events and another Vice President is chosen, Paul Ryan would be next in line.

Mueller Convenes Grand Jury Indicating Escalation Of Trump Investigation

Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury, giving him the opportunity to increase the intensity of his investigations. This includes the ability to subpoena documents, obtain testimony under oath, and potentially seek indictments. It is also a clear sign that, as most believed, we have only been in an early stage of investigations which are likely to continue for some time. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase, according to people familiar with the matter.

The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, signals that Mr. Mueller’s inquirywill likely continue for months. Mr. Mueller is investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign or associates colluded with the Kremlin as part of that effort.

A spokesman for Mr. Mueller, Joshua Stueve, declined to comment. Moscow has denied seeking to influence the election, and Mr. Trump has vigorously disputed allegations of collusion. The president has called Mr. Mueller’s inquiry a “witch hunt.”

…Grand juries are investigative tools that allow prosecutors to subpoena documents, put witnesses under oath and seek indictments, if there is evidence of a crime. Legal experts said Mr. Mueller’s decision suggests he believes he will need to subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses…

“This is yet a further sign that there is a long-term, large-scale series of prosecutions being contemplated and being pursued by the special counsel,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. “If there was already a grand jury in Alexandria looking at Flynn, there would be no need to reinvent the wheel for the same guy. This suggests that the investigation is bigger and wider than Flynn, perhaps substantially so.”

Thomas Zeno, a federal prosecutor for 29 years before becoming a lawyer at the Squire Patton Boggs law firm, said the grand jury was “confirmation that this is a very vigorous investigation going on.”

“This doesn’t mean he is going to bring charges,” Mr. Zeno cautioned. “But it shows he is very serious. He wouldn’t do this if it were winding down.”

Another sign the investigation is ramping up: Greg Andres, a top partner in a powerhouse New York law firm, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, has joined Mr. Mueller’s team.

Mr. Andres, a former top Justice Department official who also oversaw the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, wouldn’t leave his private-sector job for a low-level investigation, Mr. Zeno said. “People like Greg Andres don’t leave private practice willy-nilly “The fact he is being added after a couple of months shows how serious this is and that it could last a long time,” Mr. Zeno said.

Reuters adds, “Grand jury subpoenas have been issued in connection with the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., a Russian lawyer and others, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.”

While the news media has concentrated on the Russia aspect of the investigation, Mueller is also reporting the Trump family’s financial ties are under investigation. CNN reports:

Federal investigators exploring whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian spies have seized on Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The web of financial ties could offer a more concrete path toward potential prosecution than the broader and murkier questions of collusion in the 2016 campaign, these sources said…

The increased financial focus hasn’t gone unnoticed by Trump, who warned Mueller, via an interview with The New York Times, that his financial dealings were a red line that investigators shouldn’t cross. But the order establishing the special counsel makes clear Mueller is authorized to investigate any matters that “arose or may arise directly from the investigation.

…The possible financial ties between Trump and Russia were part of the concerns for US intelligence and law enforcement officials from the beginning, according to one current law enforcement official and one former US intelligence official.

Over the decades, the Trump real estate business and its financial dealings have come under scrutiny by the FBI and the Justice Department multiple times.

In some cases, the FBI was pursuing others who did business with the Trump organization, including alleged mobsters who controlled key contractors used by many real estate developers in New York during the 1980s. The flow of Russian money in real estate — and concerns that some buyers were making the purchases to illegally launder money — had also drawn some attention by US authorities to the Trump business.

The international real estate business is a part of the global economy where foreigners can still use cash with fewer questions asked about the sources of money. Terrorism financing concerns long ago put more stringent rules on banking and other businesses. But the rules are looser in the business of buying and selling high-end real estate, US officials say.

Investigators are looking both at whether financial laws were broken and whether there are any dealings that could put the President or his associates in a compromising position.

There has been concern that Donald Trump might launch is own version of the Saturday Night Massacre in which Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigation. A bipartisan bill is being written in the Senate which would limit a president’s ability to fire a special counsel. AP reports:

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware plan to introduce the legislation Thursday. The bill would allow any special counsel for the Department of Justice to challenge his or her removal in court, with a review by a three-judge panel within 14 days of the challenge.

The bill would be retroactive to May 17, 2017 – the day Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to Donald Trump’s campaign.

“It is critical that special counsels have the independence and resources they need to lead investigations,” Tillis said in a statement. “A back-end judicial review process to prevent unmerited removals of special counsels not only helps to ensure their investigatory independence, but also reaffirms our nation’s system of check and balances.”

White House Plans Announcement On Whether Comey Tapes Really Exist

Donald Trump and James Comey have given a different account of what happened when the two met. Trump has suggested that he has tapes to verify his side of the story while Comey has said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes” when the topic came up during his Congressional testimony.

This is just one aspect of the Russia investigations which have raised comparisons to Watergate.

The White House has been vague as to whether such tapes actually exist, but I noted this item from the Associated Press earlier today:

The White House says President Donald Trump is expected to make an announcement this week on whether any recordings exist of his private conversations with former FBI Director James Comey.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer says he expects an announcement “this week” on the possibility of tapes. Trump fired Comey in May and has suggested — but refused to confirm — that he may have tapes of his discussions with Comey. The FBI was investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible contacts with Trump campaign associates.

The House Intelligence Committee has asked White House counsel Don McGahn to provide an answer to the ongoing question about tapes by Friday.

It is hard to believe that the White House would actually release any tapes if incriminating, and risk suffering the same fate as Richard Nixon. In the unlikely event that there are tapes showing that it is Comey who was lying, I would expect Trump to be rushing to release them. At this time there is no evidence of collision between Trump and Russia to affect the election but there is considerable suggestion of obstruction of justice on his part. Tapes which were to show that Trump was telling the truth would take a lot of wind out of the investigations, but it is rather doubtful that this will be the case.

Trump Can No Longer Claim He Is Not Under Investigation

Donald Trump has now been forced to stop repeating his claim that “I’m not under investigation” and instead complain about being the subject of a “witch hunt.” The status changed with the report from The Washington Post yesterday that  Robert Mueller is now investigating Trump for obstruction of justice:

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said…

The obstruction-of-justice investigation of the president began days after Comey was fired on May 9, according to people familiar with the matter. Mueller’s office has taken up that work, and the preliminary interviews scheduled with intelligence officials indicate that his team is actively pursuing potential witnesses inside and outside the government…

Accounts by Comey and other officials of their conversations with the president could become central pieces of evidence if Mueller decides to pursue an obstruction case.

Investigators will also look for any statements the president may have made publicly and privately to people outside the government about his reasons for firing Comey and his concerns about the Russia probe and other related investigations, people familiar with the matter said.

Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week that he was certain his firing was due to the president’s concerns about the Russia probe, rather than over his handling of a now-closed FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, as the White House had initially asserted. “It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said. “I was fired, in some way, to change — or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”

There is significant cause to investigate Trump for obstruction of justice, but it remains unclear as to the actual crimes committed. There has not been any evidence presented of actual collusion between Trump and Russia to meddle in the election results. While I am waiting to see the results of the ongoing investigations, I have suspected that such claims might not hold up. This has often been raised by supporters of Hillary Clinton who do not accept her role in her failed campaign, with Shattered revealing that Clinton devised the strategy of blaming her loss on Russia and others within twenty-four hours of her loss.

My suspicion has been that any obstruction of justice involves a combination of covering for members of campaign and financial dealings with Russia. Along these lines,  The New York Times does report:

A former senior official said Mr. Mueller’s investigation was looking at money laundering by Trump associates. The suspicion is that any cooperation with Russian officials would most likely have been in exchange for some kind of financial payoff, and that there would have been an effort to hide the payments, probably by routing them through offshore banking centers.

Regardless of the specifics of the investigation, the news that Mueller is investigating Trump makes it much riskier for Trump to fire Mueller. There were reports earlier this week that Trump was contemplating this, replicating the infamous Saturday Night Massacre when Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigations. Such a move would increase the chances that even Republicans might consider impeachment to replace Trump with Mike Pence. Pence, incidentally, has now hired outside counsel himself to handle Russia probe inquires.

Donald Trump Planning To Live Tweet While James Comey Testifies

Twitter might turn out to be as damaging to Donald Trump as the White House tapes were to Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Washington Post reporter Robert Costa has said in an interview on MSNBC that Donald Trump will live tweet when James Comey testifies before Congress on Thursday.

“I was just talking to some White House officials this morning and their view is that the president himself wants to be the messenger, his own warrior, his own lawyer, his own spokesman,” Costa explained. “Some outside people, some surrogates will be available.”

“But the president is expected to be tweeting on Thursday in response to Comey, not to stay quiet during the testimony,” he added. “Because he himself wants to be the one driving the process.”

It will pretty much be Donald Trump mishandling his own defense. It is easy to imagine Trump sending out tweets which will undermine any defense he should launch in the future. Because of the difficulties presented by Trump’s bizarre behavior, at least four top law firms have turned down requests to represent Trump. They were afraid Trump would not follow their advice–which undoubtedly would be for him not to say or tweet anything related to Comey’s testimony without first consulting with them.

Initially there were plans to set up a “war room” to handle matters related to Comey and to the Russia investigation. Mike Allen has described the plans, and how the plans were never completed. Ultimately the problem, like most problems in the Trump White House, exists because Trump shows no ability to actually run the White House. As Ezra Klein has discussed, Trump has no idea how to lead the Executive Branch:

Trump ran for office posing as a savvy corporate executive who would manage the government like a business. But since winning the presidency, he has proven alienated and confused by the government he runs. He criticizes it in public in ways that make clear he doesn’t understand how to manage it in private. Harry Truman famously had a sign on his desk saying, “The buck stops here.” Trump isn’t sure where the buck stops, or how to find it, or even whom to ask about it. He doesn’t run the government so much as fight with it.

“Trump sees ‘the Trump administration’ as himself, his Twitter account, Jared and Ivanka, and a few close staffers at the White House,” says Ron Klain, who served as chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore. “He will always think of everyone else as ‘the government’: some nameless force that does not answer to him, and that he does not manage in a conventional sense.”

This was predictable. Trump was never the omnicompetent CEO he played on television. His core business was licensing his name out to other people who actually ran businesses. He’s a genius marketer, not a genius manager. The “Trump” brand appeared on steaks, on vodka, on eyeglasses, on lamps, and on fragrances, to name just a few. But he didn’t run those companies or manage the people who did. He didn’t take responsibility for those products or those teams.

Sometimes the results were comical, as with Trump’s steak company. Sometimes the results were disastrous, as with Trump University, or those Florida condos. Sometimes he just made a quick buck, as with his line of neckwear. Trump was so successful as a marketer in part because he was unusually disinterested in the companies he endorsed…

Criticism of Trump is not limited to liberals like Klein. The normally Republican-friendly Wall Street Journal has an editorial which is highly critical of Trump. Some excepts, which deal with Trump tweets attacking London Mayor Sadiq Khan and then his travel ban:

Some people with a propensity for self-destructive behavior can’t seem to help themselves, President Trump apparently among them. Over the weekend and into Monday he indulged in another cycle of Twitter outbursts and pointless personal feuding that may damage his agenda and the powers of the Presidency…

Mr. Trump’s more consequential eruption was against Mr. Trump’s Justice Department. He was evidently responding to a segment on MSNBC’s “ Morning Joe ” about his executive order temporarily suspending immigration entry from six countries with a history of terrorism.

“People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want,” Mr. Trump wrote. “I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” Mr. Trump added that “The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.”

These comments are reckless on multiple levels. The original blunderbuss order was rolled out on the Friday night of Mr. Trump’s first week as President with zero public explanation and little internal vetting. White House staffers from the Steve Bannon wing preferred the stun-grenade approach, but Mr. Trump’s legal team convinced him to sign a legally bulletproof revision in March because they preferred to win in court…

In other words, in 140-character increments, Mr. Trump diminished his own standing by causing a minor international incident, demonstrated that the loyalty he demands of the people who work for him isn’t reciprocal, set back his policy goals and wasted time that he could have devoted to health care, tax reform or “infrastructure week.” Mark it all down as further evidence that the most effective opponent of the Trump Presidency is Donald J. Trump.

Most likely, tweeting about Comey’s testimony will similarly diminish his standing and undermine his case.

Donald Trump Mocked For Claiming He Is Subject Of Greatest Witch Hunt In American History

Donald Trump, objecting to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate his administration, tweeted: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” The claim came after Robert Mueller was appointed to be special counsel after Trump fired James Comey. Comey is also saying that Trump was trying to influence his judgment about the Russia probe.

This resulted in responses from some of the late night comedians:

President Trump is having one heck of a week. The Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate ties between his campaign and Russia, which he did not like at all. But sources inside the White House say when he found out about it, he didn’t yell or scream. He told his staff, “We have nothing to hide.” He was calm. He punched Sean Spicer in the stomach a few times. Then this morning at 7:52 a.m. he got on Twitter and wrote: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.” Even his witch hunts are the greatest in American history. –Jimmy Kimmel

It’s been a wild week for President Donald Trump. On Wednesday, the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate Trump’s connections to Russia. Robert Mueller will be the special counsel. And today, Trump reacted by saying, “No fair, why does that guy get to be called special?” I’m kidding; Trump reacted by tweeting, of course. This morning, Donald Trump tweeted that he is the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.” The single greatest — even when he’s whining, Trump still has to be the greatest.–James Corden

Meanwhile, Trump started tweeting again. Today he criticized the Russia investigation, saying, “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.” Then one guy was like, “Do you still want to see my birth certificate?” –Jimmy Fallon

President Trump today called the appointment of a special counsel to investigate his campaign’s ties to Russia “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.” Though it didn’t help his case much when he flew away on a broom. –Seth Meyers

But the best response came from The Washington Post, which reprinted this story:

Nixon, Aides Believe Hearing Is Witchhunt

By Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writers
July 21, 1973

President Nixon and his top aides believe that the Senate Watergate hearings are unfair and constitute a “political witchhunt,” according to White House sources.

Despite apparent bipartisan and public support for the hearings and the manner in which they are being conducted, the sources said that the President in the last weeks has expressed bitterness and deep hostility toward the two-month-old proceedings.

“The President,” one source said, “sees the hearings as an attempt to get Richard Nixon and do it just damn unfairly.” According to four separate sources, the hostility toward the hearings is also pervasive in the White House staff, especially among former assistants to H.R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman, the deposed former top presidential aides…

We know how that “witchhunt” turned out.

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

Donald Trump’s Ominous Parallels To The Rise Of Authoritarianism

The firing of James Comey by Donald Trump is yet another example of Donald Trump varying from Democratic norms. It is a disturbing case of a president working to destroy our system of checks and balances, demanding a pledge of loyalty from someone in a position designed to be independent of such political pressure.  I posted several opinions on this act yesterday, often from the perspective of comparing Trump’s actions to Richard Nixon’s acts to obstruct justice during the Watergate investigation.

There are even more ominous parallels which can be drawn. Donald Trump has already expressed a disturbing degree of admiration for dictators.  Vox looked at the firing of James Comey from the perspective of people who have studies the rise of authoritarian leaders. Some excerpts:

“Trump has talked like a would-be authoritarian since day one. … This is the first clear warning sign that he’s attempting to [act like one].”

Those are the words not of a Democratic political operative or a fringe liberal Trump critic, but of Yascha Mounk, a respected scholar of democracy at Harvard, reacting to Preisdent Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey…

To people who study the rise of authoritarian leaders, just those facts alone are terrifying.

“This is very common — in semi-authoritarian and authoritarian regimes,” Erica Chenoweth, a professor at the University of Denver, tells me. “Purges, summary firings, imprisonment: These are all things that authoritarian leaders do when they attempt to rid themselves of rivals within government.”

Comey’s firing, these political scientists say, fits a pattern that’s very common in democracies that collapse into authoritarianism in the modern era. It’s not that the elected leaders in these countries set out to become an authoritarian, per se. It’s that they care about their own power and security above all else, and do things to protect their own position that have the effect of removing democratic constraints on their power.

One of the first steps in this pattern is weakening independent sources of power that can check the executive’s actions. Like, say, the director of your domestic security service who just happens to be investigating your administration’s foreign ties.

Trump “has what you might think of as autocratic tendencies, which were probably perfectly normal in the business world but are very problematic in the political world,” says Sheri Berman, a professor at Barnard College. “What he would like to do is eliminate all sources of opposition to him — indeed, even sources of criticism of him — and he’s willing to do pretty much anything to do that.”

When most people think about the collapse of democracy, they think about the Nazis, or maybe a military coup. In both cases, a leader comes to power with the explicit goal of taking a democratic system and replacing it with an authoritarian one. They then immediately pass laws banning dissent and use force to shut down all sources of political opposition.

That actually doesn’t happen very much anymore. Outright fascist movements were mostly discredited after World War II, and data on military coups shows a clear decline in their frequency since a peak in the 1960s.

But in the past 20 years or so, we’ve started to see a new kind of creeping authoritarianism emerge in places around the world — something that, in the wake of Trump’s recent actions, now has ominous parallels to the United States.

Leaders in these kinds of countries — Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, and both Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela — don’t come into power and immediately dissolve the legislature and get rid of elections. What they do is corrupt those institutions, slowly and over time, rendering legislatures powerless and elections not truly competitive.

“It looks the same from the outside — there’s elections, there’s a judiciary, there’s a bureaucracy,” Berman says. “But the sort of power centers within those things, the people who populate them, have changed dramatically, so that … the substance of true democratic competition, true power competition, no longer exists.”

The vital first step toward this kind of “soft authoritarianism” is unified control over every key part of government. That starts with personnel: You can’t corrupt a judiciary staffed with impartial judges, or suborn election officials who are truly committed to running free and fair contests.

Instead, you need to fire people at key pressure points and replace them with cronies, or weaken the institution’s formal abilities to the point where it can’t really provide effective oversight…

There’s a reason FBI directors don’t get fired. The bureau handles, among many other things, criminal investigations involving the executive branch, so its leader needs to be as nonpartisan and clear of influence as possible. That’s why FBI directors have 10-year terms and are generally asked to stay on by new administrations, even if the director was appointed under a president of the opposing party…

“I don’t think we’ve crossed any bright lines distinguishing authoritarian systems from democratic ones,” Jay Ulfelder, a political scientist who studies the rise and fall of democracies, tells me.

The issue, instead, is the precedent that this sets for the Trump administration. If Trump’s firing of the man who’s investigating him successfully neuters the FBI and slows down its investigation of the Trump-Russia ties, that’s one less check on his power going forward. If he gets a clear message that the checks on him when he grabs for power are pliable, how far will he end up pushing the envelope?

The article also points out that Democratic institutions in this country are much stronger than in other countries mentioned which have fallen into authoritarianism, although it is of concern that many Republicans in Congress appear willing to go a long with Trump for partisan gain. The degree of protest over Trump’s actions around the country since his inauguration is also a hopeful sign.

Brian Beutler also addressed this topic:

The firing of James Comey has restarted a conversation about the vulnerability of public institutions in America that had gone largely dormant.

Before Tuesday, one of the most remarkable things about Donald Trump’s presidency was how sturdy it had shown competitor institutions, and the larger system of checks and balances, to be. Courts have beat back his power grabs; media, for all its flaws, has been more skeptical of the claims and actions of the Trump administration than of any administration in recent history. Civil society organizations have flourished, and a vital protest movement has both slowed the GOP legislative agenda, and forced some Republicans in Congress to expect a measure of accountability from the White House.

For those who were relieved by this, Comey’s firing should be a frightful awakening from complacency.

The immediate threat of the Trump presidency wasn’t that he would sap the public of its civic-mindedness, or intimidate judges and reporters into submission with his tweets. It was to the institutions under his control—the ones within the executive branch—and particularly those with meaningful independence from political actors in the White House. Because the path to neutralizing or coopting external institutions runs through corrupting internal ones…

If Trump gets away with firing Comey—if Republicans let him nominate any director he wants; if they resist the pressure to insist on appointing a special prosecutor, or to convene an investigative body; if they squash inquiries into the firing itself—he will read it as permission to run amok. As The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein wrote, Trump’s “appetite for shattering democratic constraints is only likely to grow.”

Absent consequences, Trump will rightly feel liberated to appoint whomever he wants to run the IRS when the current commissioner’s term expires later this year. More alarmingly, he will know that he can get away with ordering a crackdown on voting rights or investigations of his political enemies. And, perversely, these are the reasons he is more likely to prevail. How many Republicans who entered the devil’s bargain with Trump for policy victories wouldn’t expand the terms to encompass electoral ones? Friends of Trump win elections and everyone else is at his mercy. Trump was reportedly upset that Comey did not pledge loyalty to him, and was charging ahead with an investigation that Trump finds threatening. When loyalty and corruption become job qualifications for political appointees, the president will have the power he needs to stifle protest leaders, judges, the free press, and political rivals. He won’t even have to make threats.

In Abusing Executive Powers By Firing Comey, Donald Trump Has Created A Cancer On His Presidency

Donald Trump, in abusing executive powers with the firing of James Comey, has created a cancer on the presidency the likes of which has not been seen since Watergate. While the president can legally fire the FBI Director, firing James Comey in this manner is unprecedented, violating the intent of the law to have an independent director for the FBI. Such independence does not fit in with Donald Trump’s personality. Few, if anyone believe his claim that firing Comey had anything to do with how he handled the investigation of Hillary Clinton. Trump is believed to have been waiting for a reason to fire Comey, between Comey contradicting Trump’s claim that Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap on him, and his investigation of the relationship between members of his staff and Russia.

Partisan differences should be put aside in defending the principle of an independent Director of the FBI. It would have been an abuse of powers if Hillary Clinton had been elected and fired Comey, and it is an abuse of powers that Donald Trump has now done so. The obvious comparisons to Richard Nixon firing Archibald Cox , which were previously raised when Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for defying him on his unconstitutional immigration ban, have been raised again.

Dan Rather, who is very familiar with the abuses of power during Watergate, wrote this about Trump firing James Comey:

Future generations may mark today as one of the truly dark days in American history, a history that may soon take an even more ominous turn.

President Trump’s sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey is a matter that should deeply concern every American, regardless of party, partisan politics or ideological leanings.

The independence of our law enforcement is at the bedrock of our democracy. That independance, already grievously shaken under the brief tenure of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is now shattered by uncertainty.

The firing of an FBI Director is always a very serious matter in normal times. But these times aren’t normal. Far from it. The Bureau is engaged in one of the most important and perilous investigations of this or any other presidency—the investigation of connections between the Trump election campaign and the Russian government.

The questions mount and the shadow grows darker. What were those connections? What did Mr. Trump know about them and when did he know it? How can the President explain the serious allegations against his former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn? And what is President Trump hiding in this regard? It’s imperative that the nation—We The People—get answers to those questions. It will take time, but the process must start now.

A politicized FBI is the last thing we need as we struggle through the maze of lies, concealment and ever-deepening mysteries. The last time a President fired prosecutors who were investigating him was Richard Nixon during the widespread criminal conspiracy known for short as “Watergate.” We all know how that turned out. In real ways, this potential scandal and coverup are much graver. We are talking about the very security of the United States and the sanctity of our republic.

Thomas Paine famously wrote in 1776: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. ”

I see this as having the potential for a similar reflection point in our American story. If there is a cover up, if our nation is at the risk that has certainly been more than suggested, it is incumbent upon everyone who claims to love this nation to demand answers.

We need a special prosecutor. We need an independent investigation. There is, obviously, much we don’t know about what has just happened, why it happened and why now. Just as obviously there is much more, so much more that we need know. We need to damn the lies and expose the truth.

I, and many others, felt a special prosecutor was necessary even before yesterday, not trusting the independence of any investigation from the Trump Justice Department. James Comey, regardless of what one thinks of  him, was independent and nonpartisan, and may have been our last shot of a fair investigation. Of course Congress should also continue their investigations, but in a situation such as this we cannot risk political distractions in Congress, and the subpoena power of a Special Prosecutor is necessary.

Others have presented arguments similar to that of Dan Rather. John Cassidy also compared this to Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre:

It amounts to a premeditated and terrifying attack on the American system of government. Quite possibly, it will usher in a constitutional crisis. Even if it doesn’t, it represents the most unnerving turn yet in what is a uniquely unnerving Presidency.

Things like this are not supposed to happen in a liberal democracy, especially in one that takes pride, as the United States does, in safeguards put in place against the arbitrary exercise of power. The F.B.I. is meant to be an independent agency, above and beyond partisan politics and personal grudges. (That is why its directors are appointed for ten-year terms.) The President is supposed to respect this independence, especially when it comes to matters in which he has, or could have, a personal interest.

There is little in American history that compares to, or justifies, what Trump has now done. In recent times, the only possible precedent is the Saturday Night Massacre, of October 20, 1973, when Richard Nixon fired the special prosecutor investigating Watergate, Archibald Cox. Arguably, Trump’s Tuesday Afternoon Massacre was even more disturbing. In 1973, the two top law-enforcement officials in the land—the Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, refused to carry out Nixon’s dictatorial order to terminate Cox. It was left to the wretched Robert Bork, who was then the Solicitor General, to do the deed.

Jonathan Chait described this as a progression of what we have already seen from Trump:

Trump has demonstrated his inability to tolerate any authority that lies beyond his control. He disputes the right of courts to review and overturn his actions; he regards his power as a vehicle for enriching himself and his family, and recognizes no public right to know even the contours of his self-interest. It is fitting that Trump sent his personal bodyguard to hand-deliver Comey’s letter of termination. He sees the federal government as a whole as personally subordinate to himself, exactly like his business. He would no more tolerate independent legal enforcement investigating his potential misdeeds than he would allow his own private security detail to dig up dirt on him.

There is no longer any serious possibility that he will respect the norms of conduct governing his office. The only questions are how far his fellow Republicans, who control all the power in Washington, will let him go before they stop him, or whether the midterm elections will give Democrats the chance.

We do no know the degree to which firing Comey was motivated solely by intolerance of any review of his actions, as opposed to a desire to cover up the actions of himself or associates. Firing Comey when he was not only leading the Russia inquiry involving members of the Trump administration but requesting increased funding does create a strong presumption of guilt. While there is currently no evidence of any collusion between Donald Trump himself and Russians who allegedly tampered with the presidential election, the behavior of members of  his staff do suggest that they, if not Trump himself, do have something to hide.

Trump’s decision to fire Comey is very likely to backfire against him, increasing questions regarding what Trump knew about the actions of his staffers. The immediate effect on the investigation is unknown, even to those within the FBI, but this is not likely to go away. As John Harwood wrote, Trump’s firing of Comey endangers his entire presidency. Such an abuse of power could ultimately lead to impeachment if Trump is found to have been acting to obstruct justice by firing James Comey.

Update: Donald Trump’s Ominous Parallels To The Rise Of Authoritarianism