The Election 2024 Chronicles, Volume 12; The Trump Chronicles, Volume 163: April Update

It’s obvious that I haven’t been attending to this blog. I haven’t posted since January. It’s not for lack of thinking; it’s just that the news these days is hard to read. As I write this Joe Biden and Donald Trump are the presumptive nominees and one of them will be elected President in November. Virtually every election is known as “the most important of your generation/lifetime/country’s history” but this one may well be.

There’s a lot I don’t need to write about (e.g. Trump’s dozens of indictments) but my fears boil down to this: whichever way the election goes the Trump camp will do their best to end our democracy and usher in a new era of fascism.

I’ve been suggesting that as the legal nooses continue to constrict around his neck Trump will not face justice. He will instead flee to Russia and ask Putin for asylum. This would explain Trump’s continuing craving of Putin’s approval. Unfortunately Trump has been successful in delaying justice through a long, strange series of inane legal arguments. I fear that none of his trials will conclude before the election.

So here’s my fear:

Scenario 1: Trump wins the election. This may sound crazy but he did win in 2016 after I had spent months saying this was impossible. We’re too far away from the election to be able to make a prediction. If he returns to office he has already promised to use the Justice Department to seek revenge against his enemies. See this article in the Texas Tribune. Ironically this is what he charges the Biden administration of doing: weaponizing the Justice Department against him. He also spends a great deal of time talking about the border with Mexico. He clearly can’t close the border as Mexico is much to important a trading partner. But this threats of mass deportation and increased enforcement will discourage some of this and will be bad for the economy. Most importantly he promises to dismantle the executive branch so that loyalty isn’t to the American people but to him. He perpetuates the lie of the existence of a “deep state” of government employees who wish to take down the government by liberal policies; ironically he will attempt to take down the government through his fascist policies. Trump recognized that many of his goals weren’t achieved because he chose people served the American people over him. He won’t make that mistake again.

Scenario 2: Trump loses the election. Even if Biden wins Trump will (again) refuse to accept the results. When this happened in 2021 he tried to block the peaceful transition of power on January 6th. It was a chaotic day filled with mistakes that he won’t make again.

Trump famously predicted that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose support. I didn’t believe him at the time but I do now. His support base is strong and deep and they have lots of guns. I don’t say this lightly but our only real chance of remaining a democracy lies in some outside factor. Polls show that if Trump is convicted in one of his trials he will lose support but I don’t believe that. He’s gotten too much mileage claiming he’s being persecuted. I do believe he’s running in part to avoid jail time; he has already raised the possibility of pardoning himself.

I can’t promise I’ll get any better at posting to this blog but I’ll try.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 164: Another Day In Court

Yesterday former President Trump and his legal team were in court yesterday, specifically US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. It stems from a criminal case linked to his January 6, 2021 attempt to overthrow the government and remain in power. Trump’s team filed a brief arguing that he is immune from prosecution because he was acting in his role as President. There is reason to argue that a sitting President cannot be charged with a crime but Trump wishes us to believe that he can never be prosecuted, unless his crime causes him to be impeached and removed from office by Congress.

I subscribe to an excellent podcast called Prosecuting Donald Trump and yesterday they gave me access to the recording of the hearing. I listened to it so you don’t have to. Here’s what I learned:

Trump’s legal team argues that if a President breaks the law he cannot be prosecuted, even after he leaves office, unless he was impeached by the House of Representatives and removed from office by the Senate. They argued that without this protection Presidents would always have to “look over his shoulder” when making decisions and worry that after they leave office they will be prosecuted. The President needs this protection to govern effectively.

Jack Smith is prosecuting the Trump case and his team responded that this is not sufficient. For example, if a President breaks the law he can then resign and provide no avenue for him to answer to his actions. Additionally they reminded the court that after Trump was impeached for his actions on January 6th several Senators advised against voting to convict. They argued that once Trump left office he would be subject to criminal charges and since he was leaving office on January 20, 2021 there was no point. Now the Trump wants to have it both ways.

It’s no surprise that I disagree with Trump but I just can’t get past the idea that the President can break the law with no fear of consequences. Trump argues that if a President can be prosecuted for actions in office it would open floodgates. One of their examples was President George W. Bush lying to Congress to get their agreement to invade Iraq. There are two problems with this: President Bush honestly believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (because his Vice President and Secretary of Defense told him so). Additionally, it’s not illegal to lie to Congress unless you’re under oath. He never was. President Trump claims he honestly believed the 2020 election was stolen from him but we have tape of him admitting he lost. This just doesn’t work.

The US Court of Appeals will likely render their decision in the next few weeks and it will almost certainly go to the Supreme Court. I can only hope the court rules against Trump.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 163: Looking at January 6th, Three Years Later

On the morning of January 6, 2021 I didn’t expect the date to be important. But newly defeated President Trump did. He knew that the Senate would convene that day to accept the electoral votes of the 2020 election and preventing that was his last chance to stay in office. He proclaimed, then and now, that he won the election but it was stolen from him by corruption and voter fraud.

Trump was far from the first president to be defeated in his quest for re-election; that goes all the way back to John Adams. But he was the first who fomented violence to keep his job. On December 19, 2020 he tweeted this: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

On that morning he held a rally near the White House and told his followers to march to the Capitol to “take back our country.” In fairness he expected to join the crowd but his Secret Service team refused his request and took him back to the White House.

What happened next shouldn’t have surprised anyone. The crowd marched to the Capitol, broke windows, climbed over barriers, assaulted law enforcement and attempted to prevent Congress from certifying the vote. At first even Republicans saw this for the terrorist act it was. But it didn’t take long for that to change.

Even those who were in harm’s way have now claimed this wasn’t an attempt to overthrow the government but a peaceful protest. Trump now refers to those convicted of crimes related to this are hostages. You can read an excellent article: here.

We can’t let Trump and his minions rewrite history. Our future depends on it.

The Election 2024 Chronicles, Volume 11; The Trump Chronicles, Volume 162: Why I Believe Trump Is Ineligible To Be President Again

As of a few days ago we are in an election year. This election, alas, has been hard to watch and I wish I had written more. By the election I hope to have written enough to have given a good sense of the year.

This is unusual this early but the nominees are almost certainly set. Once again, presumably, Joe Biden will run against Donald Trump. We’ve had a rematch before. We’ve been this way before. Grover Cleveland served from 1885 and 1889 and lost to Benjamin Harrison in 1888. Cleveland ran again in 1892 and defeated Harrison’s bid for reelection. He served his second term from 1893 to 1897 and retired after that.

But the election of 2024 has a few wrinkles. For the first time in our history in 2020 the loser refused to concede. Trump has spent the time since 2020 successfully convincing a large percentage of Americans that he was fraudulently defeated and the Presidency was stolen from him. Frankly conceding defeat is custom but not a requirement.

But on January 6, 2021, in the waning days of his Presidency Trump planned to overthrow the government and stop the peaceful transfer of power. That was the day the Senate was to gather and accept the electoral votes and vote to name Joe Biden the 46th President. But on that day Trump gathered his supporters at the White House and directed them to march to the Capitol and stop the voting. They almost succeeded. It was only through the heroic actions of Vice President Mike Pence, the Secret Service and the Capitol Police.

So why does that make him ineligible to run again? After the Civil War we passed three Constitutional amendments: 13, 14, and 15. The 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship to newly freed slaves who were born in the United States but it does several other things. Section 3 says this:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 3 intended that those who betrayed their oaths by fighting for the Confederacy couldn’t come back to government service. But according to my reading Trump’s actions fit this. He took an oath of office at his inauguration in 2017 and called for the violent overthrow of the government in 2021 to stay in office.

Those who support his reelection claim that it should be up to the American people to chose our next President. But if you want someone who is under 35 or was not born in this country to be President, you can’t have what you want. Several years ago when Arnold Schwarzenegger was the wildly popular governor of California there was talk about finding a way to be President. His political star fell soon after that but even if it hadn’t he couldn’t become President. Even a naturalized citizen can’t be President.

Constitutional amendments don’t expire and they don’t become guidelines. They are the law of the land unless they are repealed (as was the 18th Amendment).

More later.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 161: Let The Flipping Begin

In a post last month I spoke about (among other things) Georgia’s indictments against former President Trump. I suggested that there were so many co-conspirators because the prosecutors hoped one or more of them would “flip,” that is, agree to testify against Trump in hopes of a lighter sentence.

Well it’s happened. Two of those indicted, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, have agreed to testify in return to reduced sentences. This happened as jury selection was beginning for their trial. One of the conditions of the agreements is that they both truthfully testify against Trump and the other conspirators. They both avoided jail time and we have to believe they have pretty devastating testimony against Trump.

In other bad news, Trump’s choice for the next House Speaker was Jim Jordan and his fellow Republicans voted today to remove him from consideration. It appears that Trump’s strategy of bullying and threatening to get his choice is no longer working.

More later.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 160: Let’s Talk Indictments

In the last few months we’ve been reading about criminal indictments against former President Trump. It can be hard to keep up (unless you’re a news nerd like me). I thought this might be a good time to see if I can boil it all down and make things sensible to the average person. Let me know how I did. By the way I didn’t categorize this under the 2024 election chronicles because it has almost nothing to do with any of the other candidates.

Background: Donald Trump was elected President in 2016; he lost the popular vote but garnered more electors. This also happened in 2000 when George W. Bush beat Al Gore. Trump ran for re-election in 2020 and lost. He didn’t get enough electoral votes and current President Joe Biden won. Trump declined to acknowledge his defeat, and while he did leave the White House on January 21, 2021 he has claimed all along that the election was stolen from him. In the last few years we’ve witnessed several investigations of illegal activity around this and he’s been criminally charged four times in four different places. Since he is running for President in 2024 it’s gotten a little complicated.

New York On April 4, 2023 in New York Trump plead not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records from the 2016 campaign. Of all the charges this is the least worrisome to Trump. During the 2016 campaign an adult film actress whose stage name is “Stormy Daniels” claimed she had an affair with Trump. Since he was married to Melania then and she had just given birth to their son, Trump feared that news of this might hurt his campaign. At Trump’s direction his personal lawyer Michael Cohen paid her $130,000 on the promise that she would not disclose this to anyone. Cohen paid this out of his own pocket and Trump repaid him. But since the purpose of this payment was to avoid bad publicity for his campaign it was seen as an illegal campaign contribution. Trump attempted to portray the $130,000 as legal fees to his attorney but he and Cohen were unable to provide the paperwork to show what legal services Cohen provided to Trump for the $130,000. They falsified business records to hid the payment. Since the funds were drawn off of Trump’s Capital One checking account in New York, he was indicted in New York As I said, this is the least of Trump’s legal woes. These charges were brought by New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg and the trial is set for March 25, 2024.

Florida On July 27, 2023 the Southern District of Florida filed a 40 count indictment against former President Trump and others accusing him of illegally taking documents from the White House that belonged to the National Archives. Some of them were classified and were found in unsecured areas. When a President leaves the White House it’s a chaotic time because the White House staff has only a few hours to clean and prepare the White House for the new President and family. It can be difficult to determine what belongs to the President and what belongs to the National Archives. Because of the volume of paperwork involved it’s not hard to imagine that sometimes classified documents get misplaced. When this happened with President Biden his staff caught the mistake and returned the documents. But when Trump left the White House he directed that several boxes, some containing classified and highly sensitive information, be taken to his resort and residence in Mar-a-Lago. Since Mar-a-Lago is a public resort it’s impossible to know who had access to these materials; there was no attempt made to secure them. After Trump left the White House he was contacted by the National Archives because they believed he took boxes of documents that should have been sent to the Archives. In May and June of 2021 the National Archives made specific requests for documents. Trump claimed he didn’t have anything classified and as President he had the power to declassify anything. Over the next year the National Archives attempted several times to have Trump turn over documents; he lied, he instructed his employees to lie and he directed employees to move boxes from Mar-a-Lago, Florida to his golf course in New Jersey. Finally, on August 8, 2022 the FBI executed a search warrant to Mar-a-Lago and seized 102 classified documents. Trump and others were indicted on June 8, 2023. The trial is set for May 20, 2024.

Washington D.C. On August 1, 2023 Trump was indicted on four counts: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights. These indictments focus on the events leading to the insurrection to storm the Capitol on January 6, 2021 to reverse the 2020 Presidential election and keep Trump in office. The Presidential election was held on November 3, 2020 and four days later Vice President Biden was commonly acknowledged as the winner. Trump insisted that he won the election and promised to reveal widespread fraud and cheating. Since most elections results are clear we have certain formalities that don’t normally get much attention. Each state counts the votes and declares a winner. The winning candidate then appoints electors and on December 14, 2020 electors met and awarded 303 votes to Biden and 235 to Trump. Those votes were then sent to the US Senate who was tasked to count the votes and certify the election on January 7, 2021. Almost from the beginning Trump and his allies began speaking with officials in several states that Biden won, arguing that there was fraud and the states had the right to choose electors themselves, regardless of the popular vote. When Trump learned that the Senate will meet on January 6th (with Vice President Pence in his role as presider of the Senate) to certify the election he began to pressure Pence to refuse to accept the electors and proclaim Trump the winner. Pence refused. He then directed his supporters to come to the Capitol on January 6th with the intention of preventing the Senate from accepting the electors and certify the election for Biden. The trial is set to begin on March 25, 2024.

Georgia This may be the indictment that Trump should fear the most. This also point to Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election and there is some overlap from the Washington D.C. indictment. But here Trump was indicted with 18 others. On January 2, 2021 Trump made a conference call to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Trump insisted he won Georgia’s popular vote and ordered Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes (he lost the state by 11,779 votes). He and his co conspirators targeted Ruby Freeman, an election worker in Fulton County, Georgia. They accused her of election crimes (handling a suitcase of false or stolen ballots); they then harassed and threatened her. Fearing for her life she left her home for a period of time. Additionally, Trump and some of his co conspirators attempted to file “false electors,” that is, electors that would vote for Trump. Their hope was that the US Senate would be given the false set. What makes this indictment different from the others is that this make use of RICO. RICO is an acronym for “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations.” Legislation was written to give prosecutors broad ability go after criminal conspiracies. A conspiracy is when two or more people cooperate to commit a crime; as a funny aside, Rudy Giuliani made great use of this when he was a prosecutor in New York. This will allow one or several of Trump’s co conspirators to “flip” or testify against him for a reduced sentence. Nobody has, but his chances of everyone maintaining their silence are remote. That trial is set for March 4, 2024.

Still with me? This turned out to be much harder to write than I expected. I tried to be accurate and concise but I found that those terms are different points on the same continuum. The trial dates look close to each other and Trump is pushing to have them moved after the 2024 election. I see these dates are more as a starting point than fixed points. To the ability I can I’ll keep writing on this.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 159; The Election 2024 Chronicles, Volume 6: Our First Former President Is Indicted

Since he first announced his run for President we’ve known that Donald Trump believes that rules and laws apply to other people and nothing he does is wrong. He is the only President to be impeached twice for clear wrongdoing; he successfully hid behind his office. But it appears his hubris may have reached its limit.

In March he was indicted by the state of New York for falsifying business records; a woman named Stephanie Clifford (stage name Stormy Daniels) claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump. Trump then directed money to buy her silence and claimed it was money paid to his attorney.

But he has since been indicted on far more serious charges. When a President leaves office virtually all his papers belong to the National Archives and special care is given to memos classified as Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. There’s always a fair amount of chaos when a President leaves office and it’s not unheard of for someone to accidentally remove documents that should have stayed. When President Trump left the White House on January 20, 2021 he directed boxes to be taken to his residence in Florida. When the National Archives noticed documents were missing they asked the Trump team to produce them. Trump refused. Trump was then issued a subpoena demanding those documents. Again he refused. He then directed his lawyers to either deny they exist or hide them to make sure they weren’t found. In August of last year the FBI obtained a search warrant as they believe Trump still has documents that belong to the National Archives; they search his residence and find 102 classified documents.

You can read the full text of the indictment here. It’s remarkably short and readable and I recommend everyone read it. Please note: if you haven’t read it and want to give me your opinion I won’t listen.

So where do we go from here? These are serious charges and he could end up doing serious prison time if he’s convicted. But he has a history of using social pressure and money to avoid taking responsibility for his actions. He’s claiming that he’s being singled out because he’s running for President and the whole thing is unfair. It’s been good for his popularity and fundraising but won’t make any difference as his case goes on.

At this point he has a few choices:

  • He can go to trial and hope to be acquitted. But he runs the risk of being convicted and sentenced. I don’t see him doing this
  • He can instruct his lawyers to bargain for a lighter sentence. In other words he pleads guilty to a lesser charge that will give him a lighter sentence. This would require him to admit guilt. Again, I don’t see him doing this.
  • He can plead “no contest.” This means he avoids admitting guilt but does not fight the charges and he accepts that he will be sentenced. Vice President Spiro Agnew famously used this plea in 1973. To the extent that this does not absolve him of the charges I don’t see him doing this.
  • Similarly a defendant can use the “Alford plea.” Here the defendant also does not admit guilt but recognizes that there is enough evidence to convict him. Once again this does not allow him to avoid being sentenced and I can’t see him agreeing to this.

So what will he do? I’ve been miserably wrong in all my predictions but I think he’ll run. Much like Edward Snowden I believe he’ll find a way to get to Russia and seek asylum from Vladimir Putin. Furthermore I believe that he kept many of those documents as a type of “currency” to get Putin to allow him in.

I know that’s a pretty serious charge but I believe nothing matters to Trump more than saving his own skin. When he was arraigned he wasn’t required to surrender his passport. If that happens you heard it here first.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 158: There Is A Way This Could Happen

Over two years since he lost his reelection bid former President Trump continues to beat the drum that the election was stolen from him. Earlier this month he wrote on social media that the “fraud” allows for “the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” This is obviously not true but it got me thinking.

When the Constitution was ratified in 1789 it allowed for future amendments in Article V. There are two ways it can be done: A proposed amendment that is passed by a 2/3 majority of both houses of Congress and then ratified by the state legislators in 3/4 of the states becomes an amendment. This how it’s always been done.

But the authors of the Constitution also recognized that there may be a point where Congress refuses to act and they allowed for another method: Two thirds of the state legislatures can call for a Constitutional convention to consider amendments. This has never been done, but it is allowed.

So here’s the Constitutional question: if there is another Constitutional convention, can they only propose new amendments or can they scrap existing parts of the Constitution? There is a precedent for repealing amendments: the 18th amendment instituted prohibition (of alcohol) and the 20th amendment repealed it. But no part of the Constitution itself has ever been repealed.

Some Constitutional scholars believe that the convention can only deal with the amendments but others disagree. Those who disagree point out that the original Constitutional convention was meant only to amend the previous Articles of Confederation. But once the framers began to meet they understood that the Articles of Confederation needed to be scrapped and they needed to start over. If you’ve never heard of the Articles of Confederation (and most Americans haven’t) you can read about it here. They hold that this can happen again.

Now imagine the parts of the Constitution that you hold most dear: freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, etc. Is that what you really want? I imagine not. I also don’t think that’s what Mr. Trump wants, but he seems to think he can control every process. Fortunately he can’t.

Seriously, Mr. Trump: call me. Teaching you how our nation works won’t be easy but I’m willing to give it a try.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 157: He Never Going To Stop Making Money Off The Rest Of Us

President Trump claims to be the wealthiest President, and while nobody knows it’s generally assumed he’s correct. And while he uses that as a measure of his intelligence most of it was inherited. To quote an old sage it’s like waking up on 3rd base and claiming to have hit a triple.

I’m enough of a capitalist that I don’t begrudge anyone his wealth, though I would like people like Mr. Trump be a little more generous to those who wasn’t born to a wealthy family. What I do object to, however, is when a wealthy person preaches self sufficiency while draining money from tax payers.

The Secret Service was founded in 1865 to prosecute counterfeiters. After President McKinley was assassinated in 1901 its agents began to protect the President. The agency has since expanded to protect the President’s family and candidates running for President. This requires the protection detail to travel with the President at government expense.

In 2009 President and Mrs. Obama celebrated a “date night” in New York City. This was roundly criticized by Republicans as a waste of taxpayer money. We don’t know how much it cost but some thought the price tag (including transportation) was something north of $70,000. But by any measure President Obama didn’t personally profit from this.

When President Trump was elected he criticized his predecessor for, among other things, playing golf at government expense. As a candidate in August 2016 he said this: ““I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to play golf.” During the next four years he played golf 307 days; nearly one day in four.

Because the Secret Service needs to be in close proximity to the President they often stayed at Trump properties. Now you’d think the President would comp them those rooms or at least only charge them what any government employee would pay. You’d be wrong.

Not only is it estimated that we paid $1.4 million for those room, we’ve recently learned that the Trump organization charged as much as $1,185 per night. In 2017 his son Eric (who is afforded protection as the President’s son) stayed at Trump’s hotel in Washington D.C. He stayed there even though that hotel is a few blocks from the White House. The Secret Service, again required to be in close proximity, was charged $1,160 when the normal rate would have been $242.00.

Not only are these expenses exorbitant but they are paid directly to the Trump Organization. In other words when President Trump travels and stays at one of his properties, he profits at taxpayer expense.

I’ll remind him of this next time I see him.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 155: No Mr. Trump, Those Documents Don’t Belong To You

In the hours after the 2016 election I began this category (The Trump Chronicles). A year and a half ago I hoped I had written my last column on that topic.

Much as I have tried to stay true to that hope but I finally couldn’t stand it anymore. I write this shortly after Mr. Trump’s home in Mar a Lago was searched by federal officials. As you can imagine our former President is decrying this “invasion” while claiming there was nothing to see.

Well, no. It appears that when he left office in 2021 he took several boxes of documents with him, including some with classified information. Despite being told over and over that White House documents belong to the American people, he insisted that they belonged to him. Since he saw himself as the supreme leader, everything belonged to him.

He had a habit of tearing papers in pieces when he was done with them, which necessitated government employees to tape them back together. You can read about it here.

Shortly after he departed the White House the National Archives noticed missing material. They contacted Mr. Trump’s staff requesting their return. They were then subpoenaed (court ordered) and the staff insisted they weren’t in possession of anything in the subpoena. The government’s last resort lay in a search warrant. They had to prove that they had probable cause to believe Mr. Trump had documents that didn’t belong to him and they did.

Particularly troubling for me is that some of those documents were classified. Since Mr. Trump spent most of his transition time (election to inauguration) trying not to leave one could easily believe that the process of stealing that information was chaotic and perhaps nobody intended to steal classified information.

But here’s what concerns me: the noose is tightening on Mr. Trump. He’s currently being investigated by the Department of Justice as well as the states of New York and Georgia on criminal charges. He’s never been one to take responsibility for his actions and I believe if indicted he will flee the United States. His primary destination has to be Russia, which explains why he supports Russia over Ukraine and continues to fawn approval from Russian President Putin.

Now imagine he flees to Russia with classified files as a bribe for asylum. Crazy? I hope so, but I’ve said this many times before: I hope I’m wrong.