Monday, October 10, 2016

Donald Trump's presidential-debate promise to, if elected, have Hillary Clinton prosecuted and thrown in prison suggests he is a fascist in the making

Donald Trump, in his "stalking" pose, with Hillary Clinton
Many Americans probably tuned into last night's presidential debate expecting Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to engage in a spirited discussion of Trump's crude comments about women, from a videotape unearthed last week. They did, in fact, discuss the topic early in the debate, with Trump dismissing it as "locker room talk." (Note: I've been in a bunch of locker rooms in my day, and I've never heard talk like that.) But Trump's tales of grabbing p---y and striving to f--k a married woman hardly were the most newsworthy moment in the debate.

That came when Trump informed Clinton that, if elected, he would seek to have her prosecuted and thrown in the slammer. Why? That wasn't real clear, at least to me, but it apparently was over the Clinton e-mail controversy. In essence, Trump said he intended to turn the United States into a banana republic, with him playing the role of Idi Amin, or some other unsavory character with dictatorish tendencies.

This should have been a horrifying moment for all Americans; Trump already has admitted to engaging in federal bribery, and now he was announcing plans to practice political prosecutions. But it should have been especially terrifying in Alabama, where we have experienced our fill of dubious prosecutions during the George W. Bush era, including perhaps the most notorious political prosecution in American history -- the one involving former Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.

How big a moment was this in last night's debate. Consider these Twitter words from Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman:

Let's be clear: a candidate for president promised to put his opponent in jail if he wins. Everything else is secondary.

Author Greg Mitchell added this perspective at his blog:

I flipped continually between CNN and MSNBC and it was astounding how little attention was paid, for many minutes, to Trump's jaw-dropping promise to prosecute and jail Hillary (in a Nixon-like abuse of power) as they continued to give him high marks in the debate. I was watching what seemed to be turning points at both cable channels when Van Jones and James Carville finally went ballistic on this. Almost in shame, some of the others starting talking about it. Or perhaps they had checked their Twitter feeds and saw what so many others were saying about this. . . . This morning the Trump display of fascism made the top of newspaper front pages all over Europe. Yet most of our own TV commentators shrugged it off for too long.

Why was this likely the most stunning statement ever made in a U.S. presidential debate? It's not that it was news; Trump has made similar statements dating at least to February 2016. But to hear a candidate say he has zero respect for the rule of law, and zero understanding of presidential powers . . . well, it makes you wonder how he got this far -- and it sure makes you hope he does not get any farther.

As CNN commentator Paul Begala tried to explain, the president appoints an attorney general, as the leader of the U.S. Department of Justice. But the AG, in our democracy, does not "serve at the president's pleasure." Rather, there is an "arm's length" relationship with the White House. The AG does not take instructions from the president on what cases to pursue or not pursue. He is, as many have said before me, "the people's lawyer," who could be subject to investigating and prosecuting the president himself.  It's kind of a "separation of powers" thing, which appears to be way beyond Trump's understanding. Consider this from Zack Beauchamp at Vox:

There is no way to sugarcoat this: At Sunday night’s presidential debate, Donald Trump threatened to throw Hillary Clinton in jail if he wins the presidency. This — threatening to jail one’s political opponents — is how democratic norms die.

The exchange happened during a discussion of the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Trump began by decrying Clinton’s conduct — which, according to the FBI, was quite bad but not illegal. He then proposed appointing a special prosecutor to investigate her, and warned Clinton that, if he were president now, “you’d be in jail. . . . ”

In democracies, we respect people’s rights to disagree with each other. When one candidate wins a presidential election, the loser returns to private life or another government position. In some cases, former rivals become close friends. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who defeated Bush in the 1992 election, travel together and have spent decades jointly raising money to aid the victims of natural disasters.

They don’t get sent to jail, because we believe that political disagreement should be legal.

Donald Trump doesn’t seem to care about all that.

Here is more perspective from Ari Melber, of NBC News, showing that Trump truly is Nixonian:

Donald Trump's pledge Sunday night that he would order his attorney general to investigate Hillary Clinton, and his quip that she should "be in jail," is a direct breach of the tradition of nonpartisan rule of law. . . .

A president is not typically authorized to order specific criminal investigations of individuals, let alone a public pledge to investigate a political opponent. Former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted that President Richard Nixon's attorney general "courageously resigned" after being asked to fire a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

When Attorney General Elliot Richardson refused, Nixon went on to fire several members of his cabinet in what became known as the "Saturday Night Massacre. . . . "

The FBI and Department of Justice have formally closed the inquiry into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state. So the notion of a new president seeking to force the re-opening of the case, because a new party is in office, is essentially unprecedented.

Trump is not the first person of "presidential timber" to run afoul of this notion. Barack Obama also screwed it up, although with a different twist. He made it clear that the DOJ, ironically under Eric Holder, was NOT to pursue apparent crimes of the George W. Bush administration. Krugman, appropriately, took Obama to task in a January 2009 article titled "Forgive and Forget." From that piece:

Now, it’s true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we’ll guarantee that they will happen again.

Meanwhile, about Mr. Obama: while it’s probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he’s going to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That’s not a conditional oath to be honored only when it’s convenient.

And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make.

Krugman nailed it back then: Obama had no authority to block an investigation, and a President Trump would have no authority to order an investigation.

So, where does that leave us now? Trump's statements about women were nauseating, and they should have disqualified him as a presidential candidate among those who have not let race- and class-based fears cloud their better judgment. But his words on the stage last night in St. Louis were much worse than his videotaped statements from roughly a decade ago. Anyone who would consider voting for this "fascist of the future" should remove himself from the voters' rolls. Hillary Clinton is not the perfect presidential candidate, but she is not likely to turn the United States into a country we do not recognize. Donald Trump has made it clear he intends to do exactly that.

We had better be paying attention.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a solid take, LS. Still can't believe Trump said what he said.

legalschnauzer said...

The New York Daily News had a good headline, saying "debate devolves." That nails it.

Anonymous said...

Thank God for Van Jones and Paul Begala on those CNN debate panels.

Ziggy said...

And Trump claims HRC has poor judgment? Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

Sure was a good-looking pussybow blouse Melania was wearing.

Unknown said...

Trump is not stupid. He knows how to play the game under the Big Top! Moreover, he knows he's in the game to make sure Mrs. Clinton gets elected. He could be eliminated at the proverbial, "drop of a hat". He's damaged good! The whole election process is a masquerade. The President is selected before he/she is elected? An African American has already served, now it's time for a woman.

Anonymous said...

Many, after having read a story supposedly posted from yesterday, or early this a.m. regarding Montgomery Advertiser Newspaper journalist, Josh Moon, having his column taken away from him; while too at the same time suggesting in the aftermath that two others, both currently writing for, formerly "The Birmingham News" appears to be further efforts to control Alabama's mainstream media.

Gathering additional attentions references made to Donald Watkins and Roger Shuler being only two remaining having the courage to report to the public uninfluenced news, etc. etc. on these points. NOW, anyone having just reasonable cognizance of recent years history involving Roger Shuler and wife Carol's torments for doing exactly just same needs no expanding on; months in jail, lost of home to exercise their rights and freedoms speaks volumes. BUT, no applicably so when involving Watkins, yes, while true, claiming to be a champion of and for the people, and having done so in his own style and design has still fallen so way short of Shuler's, therefore disqualifying him as one of two remaining journalist of unabated, altered, or amended truths and facts. BECAUSE, when, after Watkins having been given exclusive fact based stories of such seriousness which would make the governor's "tit and tail" stories sound as if were middle-school boy's jokes and because of the probably of revealing old law school ties associated with same and refusing interest justifies concern..................... that maybe Watkins is in fact a "One Eyed Jack". Whomever wrote the story didn't know these things, or if did overqualified Watkins credits when comparing his to Roger Shuler's and wife Carol's. Watkins' political correctness is destined to undermine the public's perception of him being one who is their journalism's legal advocate.

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed HRC kept her cool while trying to "debate" such a fruitcake. That might have been Trump's goal, and his only hope of "winning" the debate, was to cause her to blow a fuse. Thankfully, she didn't.

legalschnauzer said...

@1:54 -- You're saying Watkins is holding back on what he knows about Bentley/Mason story over concerns about upsetting the lawyer lobby? I don't have that impression, and I hope it isn't true. The lawyer lobby however, is a powerful force, although I would think Watkins has the power to tell them to go to hell.

legalschnauzer said...

You probably nailed it, @2:34. And yes, HRC certainly kept her cool under difficult circumstance. It's hard to debate, or reason, with a lunatic -- or someone who simply refuses to acknowledge the facts and rules. I know a lot about that last part.

Anonymous said...

LS @ 2:45 PM --- No, not by any means the stories Watkins has selectively chosen to go public with, to our knowledge, none are at issue; it is his cherry-picking refusals of sensitive stories after having been provided with fact based and verifiable documentations for authentication that he chooses rather political correctness rather than coming forth publicly with the same journalism interest and aggressiveness to expose the story having been witnessed his efforts beforehand; when apparently unknown to public his avoiding opportunities to present much more informative by comparisons "need to know" stories being more sound and qualified which gives reason and cause to be suspect of why?

legalschnauzer said...

Watkins doesn't need defending from me, but I will defend him anyway. All of us who write one-man blogs, have to "cherry pick" what we choose to report. We only have so much time, and so many resources. I get all kinds of tips, and some come to fruition as stories, but many do not -- for a whole host of reasons. In some instances, wrongdoing is not apparent or it cannot be confirmed. Some just don't fit the mission of this blog. Some are so drawn out or complex that I, as a one-man shop, just cannot pull them together. Mr. Watkins' No. 1 role, as I understand it, is to run a company that has been valued at more than $1 billion. He probably has limited time for blogging. Plus, reporters need to be careful. I've been the target of two defamation lawsuits in 35-plus years as a professional journalist -- and my reporting on both stories has been proven, as a matter of law, to be neither false nor defamatory. But it's best to cover your bases and not invite lawsuits by publishing stories that you cannot nail down.

Anonymous said...

Aboard the Eliza Battle, Zola and Ms Chapelle were discussing the news coverage of the war. Ms Chapelle explained that Moon was suspended for conduct unbecoming of a investigative reporter. He had a conspiracy under his nose with the Bingo Trial transcripts and never saw it. With the conspiracy about to be made public, his editor will not let him report on it. Zola remarked that he could not pin down watkin's agenda. The stranger in the shadows replied," Nothing to pin down. He is a confederate of the Hibernia. The Hibernia was eavesdropping on Shuler and the intercepted signals allowed Watkins to gain legitimacy by breaking the Bentley affair just before Shuler.
The Hibernia wants to keep the information war asymmetric."

S C said...

@6:56 PM, I followed the first half of your comment, but got a bit lost towards the end.

Any way to clarify what you mean?

Anonymous said...

To 6:56

Get your own blog.

Write up all these super duper scoops of yours, and post them on your blog for the world to see.

P.S. Pro style tip: Try using fewer sentences, periods are way overrated, as are paragraphs, most blog posts can be all one huge run-on sentence, make the whole fucking blog one sentence, rig up a roll of paper in your printer and become the next jack kerowhack!

Anonymous said...

Roger, primarily the story at issue rises out of Watkins refusal to take advantage of an opportunity given him to report and further expand on a fact based story exposing one of the very same attorneys who had been engaged in unlawful/illegal government activities; before having come to be involved whether in part/whole your originating litigating nightmares.

Choice made between two different styles of friendships, cloaked; thus qualifies Watkins as a "One Eyed Jack".

legalschnauzer said...

@3:48 -- If someone wants to send me the information that was sent to Watkins, I would be glad to take a look at it. My e-mail is

e.a.f. said...

Of course Clinton kept her cool. Prior to her husband becoming president, she was one of the top 10 litigators in America. Its one of the reasons Clinton will make a good President. She doesn't loose her cool in these situations.

Telling your competition in an election, that if you get elected, you'll put them in jail, smacks of something Putin says. Of course Trump being an admirer of his, it seems appropriate. In a democracy, not so much. Trump is a very vindictive person and this demonstrates that. Now do Americans want some one like him to be President? Could you actually see a person like him meeting with the other G-20 heads of government?

Watching Trump "stalk" Clinton during the debate, made for interesting viewing. Usually when you're having an argument with some one and they start that pacing its a good time to back up or find your baseball bat to defend yourself.

We shall see what happens at the next debate, but if he lights his hair on fire or punches Clinton, not many in Canada will be surprised.

Trump's comments regarding Canadian health care was incredibly inaccurate. Yes, we have wait lists for some surgeries, but they usually are for things like hip, knee replacements and such. Of course once its your turn you get the operation and its FREE and yes some people can wait 9 months to a year. No cost. Need a heart transplant. If you qualify, because they don't do them on seniors and people with substance abuse issues, its done and again, No CHARGE!

Lots of us in Canada complain about our health care system but it works and we all do get treatment. Not many in this country die because they could afford the surgery or treatment. Yes, our health care for First Nations is disgusting but our current P.M. Justin Trudeau is trying to address those issues.

In most provinces there are no premiums. Alberta and Ontario have a premium scale based on your income and its part of your income tax. B.C. a couple pay $135 per month and it covers scans, blood test, etc. operation, hospital stays, etc. It covers prescriptions once you have spent $800 per year. Those ip pens which cost $600 in the U.S.A. don't in Canada. We have restrictions on how much companies can charge.

Now compared to being a billionaire and getting whatever you want from the health care system in the U.S.A. yes, perhaps our Canadian system doesn't look so great. However, if you are one of those people who aren't a billionaire our system is wonderful. No bill for every band aid, pint of blood, test, etc. The American medical system can bankrupt a millionaire, here we all get covered.

Your kid gets cancer in Canada, all the treatments are part of the medical plan. How many Americans can say that?