The prosecutor who quit over the Roger Stone sentencing is sending a powerful message about political weaponization.
The resignation of a Justice Department prosecutor over the sentencing of Roger Stone is a major event. The prosecutor, Jonathan Kravis, apparently concluded that he could not, in good conscience, remain in his post if the department leadership appeared to buckle under White House pressure to abandon a sentencing recommendation in the case of Mr. Stone, the associate of President Trump who was convicted of obstructing a congressional inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Three of his colleagues quit the Stone case but remain with the department: Mr. Kravis left altogether. Even though the president for years has derided federal law enforcement officials, accusing them variously of conflicts of interest and criminality and weakness in not pursuing prosecution of his political opposition, Mr. Kravis’s is the first resignation in the face of these assaults.
Dramatically forceful responses to Mr. Trump’s assaults on rule-of-law norms have been all too rare. A resignation can set off an alarm bell for an institution whose failings an official might be unable to bring to light in no other way, or as effectively. It upholds rule of law norms in the very act of signaling that they are failing. It makes its point with power and transparency, and stands a chance of rallying support from those who remain in place and compelling other institutions like the press and Congress to take close notice.
The government official who resigns for these reasons is, paradoxically, doing his or her job by leaving it.
Why did the Stone matter so clearly warrant resignation? The president has used Twitter to denounce and pressure department officials, senior administration lawyers and the Mueller team. When he did that to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, and the special counsel Robert Mueller, they stuck it out. They must have thought that the best way to serve the rule of law was to hold off or humor the president, maintaining regular order as much as possible even as Mr. Trump raged that he could not fully control his department.
And there is a case to make for their choice. Mr. Sessions stood up to the president and adhered to his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Mueller was not fired and completed his investigation in the Russia matter.
But this time, the president got what he wanted. Mr. Trump attacked the department sentencing recommendation as an unacceptable “miscarriage of justice” that was “horrible and unfair.” And then the department did switch positions on the sentencing, criticizing its own prosecutors for failing to be “reasonable” in their recommendation to the court.
This, then, could be seen as the extreme case, whereas normally a lawyer might decide that “working from the inside” is the best, most responsible answer to the president’s behavior.
Still, if resignation had been seen earlier as viable, even necessary option, it’s possible that we would not have arrived at this point. Mr. Sessions could have resigned over the president’s public calls for him to ignore his recusal requirements or prosecute Hillary Clinton. If Mr. Mueller had resigned over the president’s attacks on him and refusal to sit for an interview, he might not have completed his report but he would have rendered a devastating and unequivocal judgment. And, without a report he felt compelled to rely on, Mr. Mueller might have felt himself more at liberty to testify in detail to Congress.
Resignation, while an act of professional conscience, can be effective in pushing back against violations of norms of impartial, professional law enforcement insulated from political pressure. According to the Mueller report, having been finally pushed too far, the White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign in June 2017 over Mr. Trump’s directive to fire Mr. Mueller. What did the president do? He backed down.
That was then. Mr. Trump has established a new normal at the senior legal leadership of his administration. The rhetoric of Mr. Sessions’s successor, William Barr, suggests that he accepts, to a disturbing degree, the president’s desire for a politically responsive Justice Department. Mr. McGahn’s successor, Pat Cipollone, defended the president in the impeachment proceeding with arguments of the kind, in tone and variance from the factual record, you would expect to hear from Trump surrogates on Fox News.
We can’t know if a wave of resignations early in this administration would have made a difference in preventing or tempering the unfortunate appearance, and perhaps increasing reality, that the administration of justice is being politicized. During the Watergate scandal, the Saturday Night Massacre resignations by Justice Department leaders certainly made an impression on President Richard Nixon, who then appointed an effective independent prosecutor, Leon Jaworski.
Resignations can be a shock to the system, just what is needed to clarify the issues, force Congress to pay attention and alter a president’s behavior.
What government lawyers are prepared to accept, the conditions under which they are willing to work, still matters. Institutions can be severely damaged in one huge blow or whittled away.
Of course, resignation as an act of protest is not a choice to be lightly made by those who join an administration and find themselves in disagreement with the president. It is not justified by policy decisions that a subordinate official would have made differently.
But the president should not be able to command this loyalty when the conflict concerns something as fundamental as the professionalism and independence of the Justice Department — and involves a case in which the president has a direct personal interest and the defendant is a political associate.
For senior administration lawyers to just manage these kinds of conflict — ignoring Mr. Trump’s tweets and disregarding his inappropriate if not unlawful presidential orders — allows the abnormal to become normal and professional standards to crumble.
The prosecutor who resigns rather than remain in a decaying institution is upholding crucial norms. To his credit, at least one lawyer has chosen to do this, even if it is the rare case and it may have come too late to protect the Department of Justice from Mr. Trump’s demands and Attorney General Barr’s apparent willingness to accommodate them.
ultimate question and one of the maybe
before answering and I’ll be brief I
invite people and this is may be
responsible y’all should just say to ask
yourself what are you trying to
accomplish here if what you’re trying to
accomplish is how do we strengthen the
left that’s one answer and you’re saying
how do we try to strengthen democratic
norms that’s quite a different answer
and there’s been a tendency to blur them
the way I’m not on the person with the
left at all so I’ll just give you four
Myositis me you wanna strengthen life
the way you do it is by ramping up is by
building a coalition of minorities
that’s that’s the best democratic
mobilization build-up racial antagonism
black lives matter those because of the
the big the reason that Hillary which
the reason the 2016 election was
abnormal was by the normal political
science indicators Hillary Clinton
should have won fifty three percent of
the vote the fact that she got forty
eight is abnormal she lost five points
in a very common friendly
environment why failure de mobilized
black voters partly because of voter
suppression partly because she wasn’t
offering them much of anything Medicare
for all that that’s how you build the
left but what you will discover when you
do that is the candidates who leave that
will be Trump’s of the left not as gross
for example like Bernie Sanders who was
good at his job
yeah they won’t they they will be norm
travelers they will do things like
Obama’s executive actions to in his
second term that’s what you’ll get that
is a way to a more social democratic
United States it’ll be an ethnically
driven way if what you want to do if
it’s it but if your question is how do
we build democratic norms that’s a
different question and then and and then
you have to say this is not about party
advantage and that means that some of
the people you have to address the
things that are driving the corrosion of
democratic norms what do you think was
you would you be a butter he said why
did you why did you vote for trouble and
by the voter said well you know I’m just
really disappointed and what is happened
to my personal living standard I’ve been
at a way wage increase in twenty years
saying you are so greedy and
materialistic don’t you understand that
money is the root of all evil hi Colin I
caught you like order you delay aside
these crass okay but that is the sermon
that they get if they say I’m happy that
my sis my neighborhood which used to be
a hundred sailors percent
english-speaking now has 30 percent
English second language learners in my
children’s school and that will happen I
went to a school in North Carolina what
does research in Oakland 20 in 2007
where family reported the change from no
foreign language speakers to 30 percent
over the course of their through
children’s time in that one school
district if what finally what is
bothering and do something about and
take them and take the grievances
seriously I’m the trumpeter Jose
trumpeter is deeply at a stop but I had
a big impact on me the job that seems to
me that Democratic systems get into
trouble in two ways
one is when you put populist muses the
people identify the problems and the
people offer the solutions
bad lead ISM is the the people identify
problems the elites tell them they’re
wrong about them and offer other
problems and other stages also bad
listen to the problems then then use
partisan competition to compete to offer
responsible solutions but do not read
the problems on court any anyone else
want to pick up any of that well there’s
several questions that are basically
about the connections between populism
and presidential ism to what extent are
they some kind of you know symbiotic to
mutually encouraging or one one
producing the other or yeah I’m going to
be very brief this time but I’m gonna
make myself even more unpopular um if
there’s one thing but all of political
scientists seem to agree on over the
last thirty years so that it’s all about
institutions right and and it’s not
clear to me in the case of populism but
it is now obviously the particular way
in which populism plays out in different
countries is shaped by institutions but
when you look around these different
contexts what is striking is that
populism has found a way of expressing
itself here for a presidential election
there threw a party was very strong in
Parliament there through you know a
popular referendum across all it is very
very different institutional context so
while I think was obviously things to be
said about hyper partisanship about
anger about the fact that the political
system is blocked because of all the
veto powers and all of those things the
United States what’s striking to me when
you look at international perspective is
how little of the experience and the
variation of populism can be explained
just add you know Viktor Orban era Diwan
came to power as Prime Minister you know
you go down the list and so to me what
this suggests is that old debate juan
linz his question actually in some ways
it was answered I think by Adams
students a chaemoo I don’t know if you
stood but he answered it about a decade
ago you know that it’s not presidential
ism or parliamentarism per se there’s
selection issues which create the
outcomes we see and to me that suggests
a much more micro focus in terms of our
research agenda can I pop in I wrote a
book about mandates and presidential
mandate claiming and my argument in the
u.s. context is that populism is a
rhetorical strategy for presidents to
deal with the legitimacy challenges to
an incredibly powerful and problematic
institution and the conditions of
partisanship so I think this there’s
something separate there about populism
as as a rhetorical strategy
well so here’s one that this says it has
david firm’s name at the top but that
may be a rhetorical sleight making
America great again would require
strengthening the welfare state which
many voters interpret us giving handouts
to blacks and Latinos these voters are
also the most vulnerable to
anti-immigrant and xenophobic appeals
would your concessions work question
mark did at one point endorse the
lowering of the age would qualification
for Medicare I think to 55 I forget that
was one of her 972 policy proposals and
one of the things I has always been a
theory of mind about campaigns as if you
have 1972 policy proposals you don’t
have any if you have four you don’t have
any if you have two you’re testing
people’s memory so if you yeah I think I
think generally I think you see
throughout the that the United States
needs a thicker Social Insurance network
Europe needs a thinner one we need ways
of financing it that are not too
provocative and you need you need an
offer but the offer the offer works
because it’s an offer to the politic if
if the offer is to the planet then the
offer is going to break down to the tone
of its own way so I think actually the
two thing when you talk about it is not
that this there in this it is not a
contradiction that you have a policy of
thicker social insurance and higher
borders those two go hand-in-hand and
that’s one of things by the way that
people want to break the welfare state
they understand that very well that’s
that’s why you find libertarians are
very committed to open borders because
they know with
orders your welfare system your social
service system cannot work and that’s
why they’re favored so a question for
for Emily and perhaps also Yasha there’s
a deals party with social media
how can journalists deal with the
particular challenges of covering the
Trump presidency a that so much is
happening such that many important
stories get neglected and be that Trump
manages so often to dominate the news
cycle with tweets that derail attention
from substantive and timely issues
sometimes this seems to me like Trump’s
main talent is that he has taken his
reality television show and turned it
into the news that we consume all the
time that is an inescapable and there’s
a kind of fire hose and in fact there
are all kinds of teasers you know you’ll
we’ll see soon he’s sort of using all
those strategies that served him in this
different role to great effect and it is
a huge challenge for the media you know
we cover everything it’s just that
people can’t really keep up and it
becomes harder and harder to know what’s
important the 972 points
kind of hold in that era as well you
know one part of the media that I
probably should have mentioned and
didn’t it’s obvious is that um you know
the right-wing media has become has
taken on such a role in fueling social
media in covering the president in a
different way and I think that again
that puts pressure on the mainstream
media to become kind of a different
animal and responds in a way that were
not particularly well suited for um I do
think one thing the mainstream media has
doing been doing better at is covering
fake news as fake news as opposed to
ignoring it even last year you see a
fake news story you just sort of like
act as if that’s you’re not gonna touch
that as opposed to trying is realizing
that it’s out there being consumed and
needs to be debunked and it’s always
tricky debunking also you know spreads
misinformation too but I think we’re at
given how people are consuming news how
difficult it is to tell on Facebook
whether the source you’re looking at is
credible or not that the mainstream
media has a responsibility to be
engaging in these stories that we used
to see as beneath us yeah so I mean
i-i’ve been thinking through sort of the
different notions of truth and lies we
have right so those this pair of
concepts that were very popular a few
years ago so Stephen Colbert’s
truthiness and when Harry Frankfurt on
which is basically saying the
problem isn’t isn’t any more of a sort
of straightforward lies for problem now
that people are sort of indifferent to
the truth and we don’t quite know how to
deal with that and that’s different from
the straightforward lie because at least
there’s a how Frankfurt ones at least
Valaya pays it kind of tribute to the
truth right I actually think that that
in retrospect is really naive that
compared to what we have now
that sort of child’s play but what you
see and I think the first place where I
observed it actually was Italy and a
silhou Bella’s kony but I think Donald
Trump is completely following that part
of Paris Coney’s example it’s it’s it’s
over frating the public of so many false
claims and with just so much spectacle
and with so many things going on that it
becomes impossible for people to
ascertain what’s true or not because if
you have a normal sort of attention span
to politics which is to say a fraction
of that of what most people in this room
whose life it is to study politics half
you just cannot no longer it’s the
opposite of what David was saying what a
policy promise it’s not one lie that is
defining of your presidency you do 10
lies a day and so nobody in the you know
in 98 percent of population don’t have a
patience to try and figure out with
details on each of those claims and so
all you can do is to trust the people
whom you trust and if you’re on the
right that’ll mean you know Fox News or
to the right lad and if it’s on the left
it means you know the kinds of things we
must be probably consumed right and I
think there’s a difference between those
two I’m not saying but we’re the same
but but but I at this point don’t have
the time and the patience to go through
every claim and
make my own assessment as to whether
Donald Trump is actually true in bout
racist things he claims a happening I
simply assume that they’re false because
he has managed to over freight the
system so much but there’s no other way
of dealing with that I’m a diving is a
fundamental attack on the very
possibility of having a truth based
discourse or a political discourse in
which truth sort of negotiates how we
should act though we haven’t quite faced
up to conceptually much less in terms of
our response to it can I say something
very brief about this very brief yeah
it’s a question actually you know Trump
has a big Twitter following but you know
when you tweet something it might get
retweeted I don’t know ten twenty thirty
thousand times it’s nothing like Kim
Kardashian right so my question is why
is it that every tweet is news why is
the mega the megaphone is actually the
New York Times printing you know
treating his tweet as news and I wonder
how you guys think about that so it does
seem that the subject no I’m sorry
oh you want an answer to that well
you’re gonna get the penultimate worries
well and also this is just like
everything turns into my trying to
answer for the New York Times right I
don’t even work on the news desk but
look the president is making statements
right I mean I don’t know if you all
notice the Twitter account that turns
every tweet into an official statement
but ridiculous as it is that is what
they are and so then you have to make
judgments as the news desk every day
that covers the president well which of
these really matter and that is hard to
do there is no question that there’s all
kinds of chaff with the weed but that is
a tough decision for a journalist to
make something the president says
something provocative isn’t newsworthy
the problem with the refusal to stay
away is we have things like you know the
four days during Puerto Rico where
Puerto Rico is a nun television because
there’s no electricity there and it’s
very hard to get images and instead
we’re having some made-up fight about
you know Colin Kaepernick and Steph
Curry and the and black athletes which
is simply divisive it’s that is tough
for journalists to push back on
and one sentence I know this is will be
to your question the fact that the
statements don’t matter is why they
matter so when the President of the
United States the commander-in-chief of
the Armed Forces says with an eight and
a half minute gap in between to give the
Russians lots of time to get off a
nuclear missile response I am about to
announce a total and complete ban on dot
transgender soldiers in the military and
then the military says thank you for
your helpful comment we certainly will
take it into consideration
and give it to and the military’s
actually no we thought it over we’re
sticking to our original policy because
it’s tweetIn that’s astonishing that’s
an amazing thing and the fact we have
this decision of government where the
president proposes ideas from time to
time and the Secretary of Defense
determines whether they’ll become
government policy we we are out of time
I would just say that I think it’s
fitting since we are a university that
the subject of truth is where we’ve
we’ve ended up we are after all our
basic mission is the creation and
dissemination of knowledge and you know
some might might go so far as to say
that the the movements within
universities to question whether it’s
possible to actually generate nevermind
disseminate knowledge have have created
part of the intellectual and ideological
terrain that makes what we’ve been
talking about for the last five minutes
possible and perhaps in addition to
being public intellectuals are coming
out of our our ivory towers and speaking
in the public sphere we might want to
pay some attention to the the recreation
of norms of truth-telling and truth
seeking within our own institutions but
I want to thank everybody for
participating and particularly the
people have done all a tremendous amount
of work to come here
thank you all very much indeed
Uphold the rules with Chuck Todd.
Republican leaders need to mount an intervention.
Up to now I have not favored removing President Trump from office. I felt strongly that it would be best for the country that he leave the way he came in, through the ballot box. But last week was a watershed moment for me, and I think for many Americans, including some Republicans.
It was the moment when you had to ask whether we really can survive two more years of Trump as president, whether this man and his demented behavior — which will get only worse as the Mueller investigation concludes — are going to destabilize our country, our markets, our key institutions and, by extension, the world. And therefore his removal from office now has to be on the table.
I believe that the only responsible choice for the Republican Party today is an intervention with the president that makes clear that if there is not a radical change in how he conducts himself — and I think that is unlikely — the party’s leadership will have no choice but to press for his resignation or join calls for his impeachment.
It has to start with Republicans, given both the numbers needed in the Senate and political reality. Removing this president has to be an act of national unity as much as possible — otherwise it will tear the country apart even more. I know that such an action is very difficult for today’s G.O.P., but the time is long past for it to rise to confront this crisis of American leadership.
Trump’s behavior has become so erratic, his lying so persistent, his willingness to fulfill the basic functions of the presidency — like
- reading briefing books,
- consulting government experts before making major changes and
- appointing a competent staff — so absent,
his readiness to accommodate Russia and spurn allies so disturbing and his obsession with himself and his ego over all other considerations so consistent, two more years of him in office could pose a real threat to our nation. Vice President Mike Pence could not possibly be worse.
The damage an out-of-control Trump can do goes well beyond our borders. America is the keystone of global stability. Our world is the way it is today — a place that, despite all its problems, still enjoys more peace and prosperity than at any time in history — because America is the way it is (or at least was). And that is a nation that at its best has always stood up for the universal values of freedom and human rights, has always paid extra to stabilize the global system from which we were the biggest beneficiary and has always nurtured and protected alliances with like-minded nations.
Donald Trump has proved time and again that he knows nothing of the history or importance of this America. That was made starkly clear in Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s resignation letter.
Trump is in the grip of a mad notion that the entire web of global institutions and alliances built after World War II — which, with all their imperfections, have provided the connective tissues that have created this unprecedented era of peace and prosperity — threatens American sovereignty and prosperity and that we are better off without them.
So Trump gloats at the troubles facing the European Union, urges Britain to exit and leaks that he’d consider quitting NATO. These are institutions that all need to be improved, but not scrapped. If America becomes a predator on all the treaties, multilateral institutions and alliances holding the world together; if America goes from being the world’s anchor of stability to an engine of instability; if America goes from a democracy built on the twin pillars of truth and trust to a country where it is acceptable for the president to attack truth and trust on a daily basis, watch out: Your kids won’t just grow up in a different America. They will grow up in a different world.
The last time America disengaged from the world remotely in this manner was in the 1930s, and you remember what followed: World War II.
You have no idea how quickly institutions like NATO and the E.U. and the World Trade Organization and just basic global norms — like thou shalt not kill and dismember a journalist in your own consulate — can unravel when America goes AWOL or haywire under a shameless isolated president.
But this is not just about the world, it’s about the minimum decorum and stability we expect from our president. If the C.E.O. of any public company in America behaved like Trump has over the past two years —
- constantly lying,
- tossing out aides like they were Kleenex,
- tweeting endlessly like a teenager,
- ignoring the advice of experts —
he or she would have been fired by the board of directors long ago. Should we expect less for our president?
That’s what the financial markets are now asking. For the first two years of the Trump presidency the markets treated his dishonesty and craziness as background noise to all the soaring corporate profits and stocks. But that is no longer the case. Trump has markets worried.
.. The instability Trump is generating — including his attacks on the chairman of the Federal Reserve — is causing investors to wonder where the economic and geopolitical management will come from as the economy slows down.
- What if we’re plunged into an economic crisis and we have a president whose first instinct is always to blame others and
- who’s already purged from his side the most sober adults willing to tell him that his vaunted “gut instincts” have no grounding in economics or in law or in common sense. Mattis was the last one.
We are now left with the B team — all the people who were ready to take the jobs that Trump’s first team either resigned from — because they could not countenance his lying, chaos and ignorance — or were fired from for the same reasons.
I seriously doubt that any of these B-players would have been hired by any other administration. Not only do they not inspire confidence in a crisis, but they are all walking around knowing that Trump would stab every one of them in the back with his Twitter knife, at any moment, if it served him. This makes them even less effective.
Indeed, Trump’s biggest disruption has been to undermine the norms and values we associate with a U.S. president and U.S. leadership. And now that Trump has freed himself of all restraints from within his White House staff, his cabinet and his party — so that “Trump can be Trump,” we are told — he is freer than ever to remake America in his image.
And what is that image? According to The Washington Post’s latest tally, Trump has made 7,546 false or misleading claims, an average of five a day, through Dec. 20, the 700th day of his term in office. And all that was supposedly before “we let Trump be Trump.”
If America starts to behave as a selfish, shameless, lying grifter like Trump, you simply cannot imagine how unstable — how disruptive —world markets and geopolitics may become.
We cannot afford to find out.
In Michigan and Wisconsin, lame duck Republican-majority legislatures are enacting laws to limit the powers of incoming Democratic governors. Two years ago in North Carolina, the same happened. These moves are particularly striking examples of recent aggressive Republican procedural hardball. Whatever the right rules are for the separation of powers, they should apply to both parties and not be changed opportunistically.
.. Should they go tit-for-tat and escalate procedural shenanigans, rules-stretching and rules-breaking? Or should they strive, leading by good example, to maintain a system of norms that have provided political stability in the hopes that a more moderate, reasonable Republican Party will re-emerge?
.. Retaliating in kind could aggravate already deep polarization and wreck what’s left of our political norms. Restraint, on the other hand, would establish new norms that establish electoral disadvantages for Democrats and embolden Republicans.
.. There is a better option, and it also happens to be the best option. Democrats can use the Republican hardball against them by weaving together the Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina cases into a larger story to take to voters in 2020: the indictment of Republican attacks on democracy accompanied by an aggressive reform agenda for strengthening constitutional norms and democratic procedures.
.. But a very clear narrative or popular revulsion — or both — can change that. Examples are found in the Progressive Era around the turn of the 20th century and again in the immediate aftermath of Watergate, when procedural reform gained traction, for better or for worse, and both term limits and campaign finance reform had moments of widespread popular enthusiasm. There’s good reason to think that the next two years offer the opportunity to create such a corruption narrative and to take advantage of what’s likely to be growing revulsion.
.. President Trump’s administration has made this job easier: The midterm election results showed that its scandals and disgrace have already focused voters’ attention. That’s not the time for retaliation and escalation. It’s the time offer prescriptions for rebuilding the rules that accompany a diagnosis that helps voters make sense of how badly wrong things have gone. Democrats can try to punish Republicans at the ballot box by trying to strengthen rather than weaken democratic norms.
The obvious place to begin is with the White House itself. Proposals to
- require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns,
- give teeth to the Emoluments Clause,
- strengthen anti-nepotism rules that should keep unqualified family members out of sensitive offices,
- extend conflict-of-interest rules to include the president, and
- turn blind trust norms into binding rules
won’t be hard to understand under Mr. Trump. They will reinforce voters’ distrust of the president while also offering ways to prevent his abuses from becoming standard practice.
.. Republican procedural abuses at the state level precede the Trump administration, but they can fairly be connected to it. Most important is disenfranchisement. Democrats should emphasize the sustained nationwide Republican effort to limit access to the ballot and offer proposals to
- restore the Voting Rights Act,
- end felon disenfranchisement,
- undo restrictive voter identification rules,
- ease registration,
- protect early voting and
- ensure that voting places are more widely and evenly distributed.
Not only has Mr. Trump been on the wrong side of those issues, encouraging state crackdowns on imagined millions of noncitizen voters; but voting restrictions in narrowly won Midwestern states got him closer to the White House in the first place... Other proposals, from statehood for the District of Columbia to gerrymandering reform, then make sense as part of the same effort to strengthen representation and fair democratic practice.
.. This is also the best approach for Democrats in the short term because they’re not in a strong position to retaliate even if an angry activist base wants them to. Despite some losses last month, Republicans remain in control of more governor’s seats and more state legislatures. More important, making things worse right now really is the wrong thing to do. If Democrats follow a course of unrestrained but legal tactics, we could find ourselves embroiled in even more severe dysfunction and a constitutional crisis. Tit for tat is sometimes necessary to enforce norms, but escalation in an already seriously polarized environment is dangerous.
.. If Democrats can offer a unifying indictment tying Republican attacks on democratic norms to Trump administration abuses, along with a coherent package of serious proposals to restore procedural fairness, voters will have a way of making sense of new examples of Republican sharp dealing.
.. Proposals to shorten lame duck legislative sessions and to constrain their authority, for example, would reinforce the idea that Republicans have been the party of procedural abuses and unfairness while still setting forth a good neutral rule.
.. This is the alternative to doing nothing or making things worse: seek to punish Republicans in 2020 by offering a vision of how to make things better.
This Code of Conduct helps us build a community that is rooted in kindness, collaboration, and mutual respect.
It is a stunning turnabout. A party that once spoke with urgency and apparent conviction about the importance of ethical leadership — fidelity, honesty, honor, decency, good manners, setting a good example — has hitched its wagon to the most thoroughly and comprehensively corrupt individual who has ever been elected president. Some of the men who have been elected president have been unscrupulous in certain areas — infidelity, lying, dirty tricks, financial misdeeds — but we’ve never before had the full-spectrum corruption we see in the life of Donald Trump.
.. And the moral indictment against Mr. Trump is obvious and overwhelming. Corruption has been evident in Mr. Trump’s private and public life,
- in how he has treated his wives,
- in his business dealings and scams,
- in his pathological lying and cruelty,
- in his bullying and shamelessness,
- in his conspiracy-mongering and appeals to the darkest impulses of Americans. (Senator Bob Corker, a Republican, refers to the president’s race-based comments as a “base stimulator.”)
Mr. Trump’s corruptions are ingrained, the result of a lifetime of habits. It was delusional to think he would change for the better once he became president.
.. Some of us who have been lifelong Republicans and previously served in Republican administrations held out a faint hope that our party would at some point say “Enough!”; that there would be some line Mr. Trump would cross, some boundary he would transgress, some norm he would shatter, some civic guardrail he would uproot, some action he would take, some scheme or scandal he would be involved in that would cause large numbers of Republicans to break with the president. No such luck. Mr. Trump’s corruptions have therefore become theirs. So far there’s been no bottom, and there may never be.
.. the Republican Party’s as-yet unbreakable attachment to Mr. Trump is coming at quite a cost. There is the rank hypocrisy, the squandered ability to venerate public character or criticize Democrats who lack it, and the damage to the white Evangelical movement, which has for the most part enthusiastically rallied to Mr. Trump and as a result has been largely discredited.
.. Mr. Trump and the Republican Party are right now the chief emblem of corruption and cynicism in American political life, of an ethic of might makes right. Dehumanizing others is fashionable and truth is relative. (“Truth isn’t truth,” in the infamous words of Mr. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.) They are stripping politics of its high purpose and nobility.
.. A warning to my Republican friends: The worst is yet to come. Thanks to the work of Robert Mueller — a distinguished public servant, not the leader of a “group of Angry Democrat Thugs” — we are going to discover deeper and deeper layers to Mr. Trump’s corruption. When we do, I expect Mr. Trump will unravel further as he feels more cornered, more desperate, more enraged; his behavior will become ever more erratic, disordered and crazed.
Most Republicans, having thrown their MAGA hats over the Trump wall, will stay with him until the end. Was a tax cut, deregulation and court appointments really worth all this?