Opinion | Why Prosecuting Trump Is a Very Bad Idea – By Eric Posner – The New York Times

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Mr. Posner, a law professor, is the author of “The Demagogue’s Playbook: The Battle for American Democracy From the Founders to Trump.”

Credit…Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images

“As the Biden administration slowly coalesces, there have been many calls for its Justice Department to prosecute Donald Trump for any crimes he may have committed while in office. The hope, proponents of this view argue, is to establish that the president is subject to the rule of law and to deter future presidents from breaking the law.

The problem with this agenda is that there is little evidence that Mr. Trump did commit crimes as president. A conviction, given what we know now, is all but impossible. The calls to investigate him echo the president’s own calls to investigate Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden based on mere speculation — calls that most people, especially liberals, rightly condemned.

The most plausible charge is that Mr. Trump obstructed justice by interfering with, and possibly lying to, Robert Mueller and his investigators. Critics also argue that Mr. Trump may have broken the law by threatening to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless the Ukrainian government announced the opening of an investigation into the Bidens. A third possible charge is that Mr. Trump corruptly mixed his financial affairs with government business.

All of these charges would face formidable difficulties in court. No former president has ever been prosecuted for crimes committed during his tenure. Courts tread cautiously when new legal ground is broken, worried about upsetting reasonable expectations about what the law is. And judges interpret criminal laws strictly because the defendant’s freedom is at stake.”

David Lindsay: Useful warnings– This was not a fun read. Here is my favorite comment so far:

Concerned citizen
Lake Frederick VA1h ago
Times Pick

Totally agree that a FEDERAL prosecution of Trump would only keep him in the spotlight. The healthiest thing for our country is for him to fade into obscurity. The media can help by not amplifying his every crazy tweet. However, if the state and local authorities in New York can prove a crime, and he is found guilty of a felony on that level, then he is prohibited from mounting another reelection campaign in 2024. I hope they will go for it.

18 Replies631 Recommended

Opinion | Thank You, Justice Gorsuch – By Bret Stephens – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“It may take a terrorist attack, a war or some other national emergency, but America will one day thank Justice Neil Gorsuch for his stirring words last week in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo. “Government,” he wrote in a concurrence to the 5-4 majority opinion, “is not free to disregard the First Amendment in times of crisis.”

The case arises from restrictions Andrew Cuomo imposed by executive order in October that sharply limit attendance at houses of worship in zones designated by the New York governor as pandemic hot spots. In so-called orange zones, attendance is capped at 25 people; in red zones, at 10. That goes for churches and synagogues that can seat hundreds and that were already limiting attendance, barring singing, practicing social distancing and taking other precautions.

The Catholic diocese, along with Agudath Israel of America and affiliated entities, sued, arguing the restrictions amounted to religious discrimination. The crux of the matter was that businesses in orange and red zones, ranging from liquor stores to bike shops to acupuncturists, were subject to no such restrictions because the governor had deemed them “essential.”

“So, at least according to the governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians,” Gorsuch wrote. “Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience?” “

Opinion | 1918 Germany Has a Warning for America – By Jochen Bittner – The New York Times

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Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Getty Images

“HAMBURG, Germany — It may well be that Germans have a special inclination to panic at specters from the past, and I admit that this alarmism annoys me at times. Yet watching President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign since Election Day, I can’t help but see a parallel to one of the most dreadful episodes from Germany’s history.

One hundred years ago, amid the implosions of Imperial Germany, powerful conservatives who led the country into war refused to accept that they had lost. Their denial gave birth to arguably the most potent and disastrous political lie of the 20th century — the Dolchstosslegende, or stab-in-the-back myth.

Its core claim was that Imperial Germany never lost World War I. Defeat, its proponents said, was declared but not warranted. It was a conspiracy, a con, a capitulation — a grave betrayal that forever stained the nation. That the claim was palpably false didn’t matter. Among a sizable number of Germans, it stirred resentment, humiliation and anger. And the one figure who knew best how to exploit their frustration was Adolf Hitler.

Don’t get me wrong: This is not about comparing Mr. Trump to Hitler, which would be absurd. But the Dolchstosslegende provides a warning. It’s tempting to dismiss Mr. Trump’s irrational claim that the election was “rigged” as a laughable last convulsion of his reign or a cynical bid to heighten the market value for the TV personality he might once again intend to become, especially as he appears to be giving up on his effort to overturn the election result.”

David Lindsay:
What do Jochen Bittner and my sister Elly Lindsay have in common. It is at least an interest in history. I graduated from high school in three years complicated by anti Vietnam war activities and drugs. My parents supported me in a gap year, where I lived in Cambridge MA with my sister Elly. I worked as a volunteer stage carpenter and electrician at the Harvard Loeb Drama Center, while Elly finished her senior year at Radcliff College at Harvard. Elly was the president of the Harvard Dramat at the Loeb Theater, and acting in shows, while studying history and literature. She was particularly proud of one of her major papers for the history department, where she examined how Germany fell into fascism, and she wrote in her conclusions, that Americans would not have been immune to the forces at work in Germany. We could in similar circumstances, be just as horrible as the Germans were in World War II.
Bret Stephens wrote about Dolchstosslegende in a piece I posted last week. This piece adds a great deal to the discussion, or better put, to the warning. Trump insisting that the election was stolen, is dangerous. Republicans of any patriotic worth, should quickly disavow it.

Opinion | Happy Thanksgiving to All Those Who Told the Truth in This Election – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“With so many families gathering, in person or virtually, for this most unusual Thanksgiving after this most unusual election, if you’re looking for a special way to say grace this year, I recommend the West Point Cadet Prayer. It calls upon each of these future military leaders to always choose “the harder right instead of the easier wrong” and to know “no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”

Because we should be truly thankful this Thanksgiving that — after Donald Trump spent the last three weeks refusing to acknowledge that he’d lost re-election and enlisted much of his party in a naked power play to ignore the vote counts and reinstall him in office — we had a critical mass of civil servants, elected officials and judges who did their jobs, always opting for the “harder right” that justice demanded, not the “easier wrong” that Trump and his allies were pressing for.

It was their collective integrity, their willingness to stand with “Team America,” not either party, that protected our democracy when it was facing one of its greatest threats — from within. History will remember them fondly.

Who am I talking about? I am talking about F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee, who in September openly contradicted the president and declared that historically we have not seen “any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election” involving mail-in voting.

I am talking about Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — a conservative Republican — who oversaw the Georgia count and recount and insisted that Joe Biden had won fair and square and that his state’s two G.O.P. senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, did not garner enough votes to avoid election runoffs. Perdue and Loeffler dishonorably opted for the easier wrong and brazenly demanded Raffensperger resign for not declaring them winners.

I am talking about Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, who not only refused to back up Trump’s claims of election fraud, but whose agency issued a statement calling the 2020 election “the most secure in American history,” adding in bold type, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.”

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Krebs did the hard right thing, and Trump fired him by tweet for it. Mitch McConnell, doing the easy wrong thing, did not utter a peep of protest.

I am talking about the Republican-led Board of Supervisors in Maricopa County, Ariz., which, according to The Washington Post, “voted unanimously Friday to certify the county’s election results, with the board chairman declaring there was no evidence of fraud or misconduct ‘and that is with a big zero.’”

I am talking about Mitt Romney, the first (and still virtually only) Republican senator to truly call out Trump’s postelection actions for what they really were: “overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election.”

Opinion | Trump Contrives His Stab-in-the-Back Myth – By Bret Stephens – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

“The word Dolchstosslegende is hard to pronounce but important to understand. It translates as “stab-in-the-back myth” and was a key element in the revival of German militarism in the Weimar years. Even modestly educated Germans know exactly what it denotes and the evil it entails.

Donald Trump and his legal team are now contriving their own Dolchstosslegende.

That’s true even as Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the election seems to descend from fantasy to farce. The main point of the exercise is no longer (if it ever seriously was) to find a judge, governor or other pliable instrument to deny Joe Biden the presidency. It is to deny the legitimacy of the Biden presidency, of the electoral system that gave him the office and of the federal and judicial systems that turned Trump’s legal challenges aside.

The point of the farce is farce. It is to make an obscene joke of the Biden administration and our constitutional system of government.

This was also the point of the Dolchstosslegende, which claimed that the German Army, though in retreat in the fall of 1918, could have kept up the fight had it not been betrayed by defeatist and scheming politicians who agreed to an armistice that November.”

What The ‘Strongmen’ Of History Reveal About Modern Politics – Ruth Ben-Ghiat – On Point – NPR CT

Play

47:1312 hours ago

What The ‘Strongmen’ Of History Reveal About Modern Politics

Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat studies authoritarian regimes, like Italy under Mussolini. Can a democracy pry itself out of a strongman’s grip?

Source: On Point

David Lindsay: I just heard part of this radio interview of Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat. She points out that Trump is not weak, but very good, at undermining our democracy. He was never trying to be a good democratic leader. All of his nonsense have been out of the playbooks of strong men, who took over their Democracies, and sometimes ended them. All his lies and chaos have left him with 70 million fanatic, almost cult followers. He will be a great danger to our democracy in the next 70 days, and if we do not take steps to contain him, he will run again in 4 years.

Trump’s Post-Election Tactics Put Him In Unsavory Company – By Andrew Higgins – The New York Times

“MOSCOW — When the strongman ruler of Belarus declared an implausible landslide victory in an election in August, and had himself sworn in for a sixth term as president, the United States and other Western nations denounced what they said was brazen defiance of the voters’ will.

President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko’s victory, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month, was “fraud.” Mr. Pompeo added: “We’ve opposed the fact that he’s now inaugurated himself. We know what the people of Belarus want. They want something different.”

Just a month on, Mr. Pompeo’s boss, President Trump, is now borrowing from Mr. Lukashenko’s playbook, joining a club of truculent leaders who, regardless of what voters decide, declare themselves the winners of elections.

That club counts as its members far more dictators, tyrants and potentates than leaders of what used to be known as the “free world” — countries that, led by Washington, have for decades lectured others on the need to hold elections and respect the result.”

Opinion | Trump, in Attacking the Election, Is Attacking Democracy – By Jesse Wegman – The New York Times

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Mr. Wegman is a member of the editorial board.

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“It turns out there was a coordinated attack on the 2020 election after all. It began several years ago and accelerated in the last several months. Now that Election Day has passed, it has launched into overdrive.

Its weapons are baseless insinuation and evidence-free charges, deployed solely to sow chaos and undermine the results of a free and fair election — one that produced a clear winner and an even clearer loser.

But the most dangerous attackers of American democracy aren’t the Russians or the Chinese. They are the leaders of the Republican Party.

In the face of a commanding national triumph by President-elect Joe Biden — not just an Electoral College victory but a popular-vote margin that is approaching five million — President Trump and top Republicans are behaving like spoiled children refusing to let go of their toys.

Opinion | How to Protect America From the Next Donald Trump – By Bryan Garsten – The New York Times

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Dr. Garsten is a political scientist. (DL: at Yale)

Credit…Illustration by Mark Harris; Photographs by by Doug Mills/The New York Times, and Don Farrall and Sarah Holmstrom, via Getty Images

“Voting Donald Trump out of office was crucial, but it will not be enough to save the American experiment.

Many critics have used the words “authoritarian” or “fascist” to describe the president’s mode of politics, as if he were an invader from outside our democratic way of life. In fact, Mr. Trump is a creature native to our own style of government and therefore much more difficult to protect ourselves against: He is a demagogue, a popular leader who feeds on the hatred of elites that grows naturally in democratic soil. We have almost forgotten how common such creatures are in democracies because we have relied on a technology designed to restrain them: the Constitution. It has worked by setting up rules for us to follow, but also on a deeper level by shaping our sense of what we are proud of and what we are ashamed of in our common life. Today this constitutional culture has all but collapsed, and with it, our protection against demagogues.

For most of the history of Western political thought, writers focused on demagogy only in the context of arguing that democracy was a poor form of government. Aristocratic critics such as Thucydides and Plato blamed popular leaders for dismissing experts, exploiting the poor and soaking the rich, sparking factional violence, and starting foreign wars to distract the populace from their tyrannical tendencies. Since these writers thought it obvious that democracies were natural breeding grounds for demagogues, their strategy for eliminating demagogy was to support alternatives to democratic government: If you don’t like wolves, don’t create a wolf habitat.

The framers of our Constitution were not satisfied with that anti-democratic view, but they were persuaded that a democracy would not work well unless it found ways to defang demagogues. They thought of their constitution-making as an experiment to see whether they could “refine and enlarge” the democratic will, in Madison’s words, civilizing the inevitable conflict between popular leaders and elites and channeling it into a sustainable form of politics. Right now, the experiment is not succeeding.”

Opinion | How to Fix the Supreme Court – by Emily Bazelon et al – The New York Times

How We Got Here

In the 1803 case Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court took for itself the power to determine the meaning of the Constitution. Ever since, the federal courts have used judicial review, selectively, as a counterweight to majority rule.

The court has hit historic high points by siding with minorities that lack political power, especially to expand civil rights. The signature example is the unanimous 1954 ruling that called for an end to legally mandated school desegregation in Brown v. Board of Education — a ruling embraced by every recent nominee to the court, across the ideological spectrum.

But the court has also gone historically off course in making major counter-majoritarian moves — and been smacked down for it by the elected branches. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Congress passed a law requiring the Southern states, in order to re-enter the Union, to allow Black people, as well as white, to vote to ratify the 14th Amendment, which promised equal rights.

When this pillar of Reconstruction was challenged in the case Ex Parte McCardle, Congress worried that the Supreme Court would strike it down. So it stripped the court’s jurisdiction over Reconstruction and raised the number of justices to nine. (It was the third time Congress had changed the number of justices during the 1860s.)