WHAT WILL LIKELY HAPPEN WITH TRUMP’S APPEALS
In the DC appellate court hearing on the issue of immunity of a president and former president to avoid criminal prosecution for crimes committed while serving as president, Trump’s attorney set himself up for failure by claiming that former presidents cannot be prosecuted for crimes they commit while in office UNLESS they are impeached and convicted by Congress. Full stop. Only after being impeached in the House and convicted by the Senate could a former president face an indictment and possible criminal consequences for wrongdoing committed while he was president.
Appellate court judges love to use hypotheticals to test the propositions and positions of appellate attorneys. In this hearing one of the three appellate court judges, Judge Pan, helped Trump’s attorney, John Sauer step into a flaming pile of s—- of his own making by throwing him a hypothetical that highlighted the shocking nature of the position Trump wanted the court to buy when it comes to presidential immunity.
Judge Pan, asked this critical hypothetical: “Could a president who ordered Seal Team Six to assassinate a political rival who was not impeached, would he be subject to criminal prosecution?”
What the judge was pressing Trump’s counsel on was whether a president who had not been impeached (and, presumably, convicted by the Senate) could behave like a dictator, king or autocrat to defy criminal law at will. Could he use the powers granted him as president to do something that is a class x felony crime without suffering consequences that any other citizen in our country would normally face, namely criminal prosecution. Trump’s lawyer said – yes. He tried to say it was a “qualified” yes by arguing that IF Congress had impeached and convicted the president, then, and only then, he could be criminally indicted after leaving office.
No president has yet ever been impeached AND ALSO convicted. Ever. In the history of our country. And impeachment is a political matter which is separate and apart from our criminal system and does not have the same level of penetrating investigation or power to deeply investigate that our justice system has. In addition, if a president can do anything he wants and not face consequences in the criminal justice system, then what’s to stop him from ordering Seal Team 6 to also assassinate any Senator who might vote to convict him? Or simply leave office before the end of his term before he could be subjected to a congressional impeachment? Or outright bribe Representatives and Senators to reject impeaching him?
The appellate court will definitely reject Trump’s argument and the Supreme Court will reject it too. The most likely outcome will be that the written decision by the DC appeals court will be extensive and scathing when it comes to Trump’s immunity argument. This three judge panel will establish some basic guidelines for the criminal prosecution of a former president and reject absolute immunity for criminal behavior. Trump’s lawyer will, of course, appeal. But the Supreme Court is most likely to refuse to hear the case on appeal which would mean that the appellate court ruling would stand. This will happen fast enough for the district court trial led by Jack Smith’s team to try the case before Judge Chutkan before the 2024 election so that Americans know who they are voting for as president.
Unlike the immunity case, the 14th Amendment case on appeal from Colorado, will, I believe, be heard by the Supreme Court. There I think the Court will use an off ramp to allow Trump to stay on the primary ballot across the country. Lawrence Tribe recently articulated a plausible roadmap that the Supremes could take. They could say that back in the days post Civil War when the lawmakers who wrote the 14th Amendment used the word insurrection they knew what it meant then but we need a better definition for our current times. Therefore, Congress needs to come up with a definition of insurrection if states are going to be able to apply the mandate of section 3 of the 14th amendment today to bar someone from holding office who either engaged in insurrection or aided and gave comfort to insurrectionists. The disqualification needs to be clarified, in other words. That will allow the Supreme Court to split the baby like King Soloman: rejecting Trump’s immunity argument and allowing him to stay on the ballot. We all know that Congress will be unable to agree on that. Game over. Trump gets to be on the ballot everywhere.
In other words, Trump will still loom as an existential threat to America.
WHAT’S COMING IF TRUMP IS RE-ELECTED
Axios is reporting that Donald Trump will stock his Cabinet and White House with people who want to end our democracy and install Trump as a dictator. When Trump was elected in 2016 there was concern that he would have no knowledge or interest in learning about the Constitution or laws of the country but many people made themselves feel better by believing that he would have people who WERE knowledgeable who would act as “guardrails” for his presidency.
Over time Trump learned that he could evade the guardrails by doing things like putting in “acting” heads of departments which avoided the cumbersome scrutiny of Congressional review that a normal department head would be subjected to. He learned how to avoid being limited by the guardrails by using executive orders and trying to make decrees like the Muslim ban. By the end of his administration he had jettisoned most of the people who were protecting the system from him and replaced them with loyalists who let him do as he pleased. If Trump were to be re-elected he would start with loyalists who have been pre-vetted for their willingness to trash our democracy.
There is a report from Axios that every American needs to read and understand. The so-called 2025 Project goals are being developed by the right-wing Heritage Foundation. They plan to get Trump into power as a dictator so that they can get the unbridled benefit of that power.
Read the plan that is already in the works:
THE END OF THE AMERICAN EXPERIMENT
If Trump wins, that will be the end of our democracy. Full stop.
2024 would be the last free and fair election in our country. Trump would also stay in power after that indefinitely, because if he leaves office and the rules of our democracy return, he could end up in prison. Once in power Trump will not give up power. That’s what dictators do. They rig the system to stay in power.
If you think dictators only take power by coup these days you would be wrong. Hitler himself was voted into office. So were all of the recent autocrats including Viktor Orban of Hungary and Erodgan of Turkey. Once in power, the rule of law and human rights are ignored by the dictator. The dictator dictates the rules.
Once in power, if the courts ruled against Trump do you really think he would follow that ruling? Of course not. Once in power, Trump would look to Putin, Viktor Orban, Kim Jung Un and other dictators as his role models. There would be no more real elections in America.
We would also very probably see the following:
The use of the military on Day One being used to put down any disturbances resulting from Trump’s election. He will use the Insurrection Act to take control of the country using the military.
The end of abortion rights. (There would be a national ban on the abortion medications which Trump could do without Congress. People who think Trump would be a moderate on abortion don’t understand that he doesn’t care about the policy, he cares about getting and staying in power. To do that he needs the support of evangelicals. Therefore, he will do whatever he needs to do to make that group happy.)
The end of LGBTQ rights.
No climate change legislation. Trump has vowed on day one to “drill drill drill.”
Concentration camps for immigrants and other brown skinned people swept up in round ups.
Children separated from their families at the border.
Book banning if the books offend rightwing sensibilities.
No more “dreamers” hoping to become American citizens after living their entire lives in the United States.
Laws would be applied only to people who are not Trump loyalists. His loyalists will get to be as corrupt as they want without consequences.
Here is a run down of some of the Yes men Trump would reward with power if he won in 2024 which has been documented in Project 2025.
Former President Trump, if elected, would build a Cabinet and White House staff based on two imperatives: pre-vetted loyalty to him and a commitment to stretch legal and governance boundaries, sources who talk often with the leading GOP presidential candidate tell Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei.
- Why it matters: Trump would fill the most powerful jobs in government with men like Stephen Miller, Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio and Kash Patel — with the possible return of Steve Bannon. If Trump won in 2024, he’d turn to loyalists who share his zeal to punish critics, purge non-believers, and take controversial legal and military action, the sources tell us.
Trump and his prospective top officials don’t mince words about their plans:
- They want to target and jail critics, including government officials and journalists; deport undocumented immigrants or put them in detainment camps, and unleash the military to target drug cartels in Mexico, or possibly crack down on criminals or protesters at home.
- They want to scrap rules that limit their ability to purge government workers deemed disloyal.
What’s happening: Trump hasn’t settled on specific roles for specific figures, and hates it when his staff and friends speculate otherwise. It’s not in his DNA to do detailed personnel planning, and a lot depends on the last few people he’s talked to.
- But in rolling conversations with friends and advisers, he’s been clear about the type of men — and they’re almost all older, white men — he’d want to serve at his pleasure if he were to win a second term.
Between the lines: We wrote last month about the multimillion-dollar effort to vet loyalists for up to 50,000 lower-level government jobs in a Trump administration. This is about their potential bosses.
- It’s unclear who would land where, but make no mistake: These are specific prototypes of Trump Republicans who would run his government. This is very different from the early days of his first term. This time, it’d be all loyalists, no restraints.
Here’s our latest intelligence on what’s being discussed among Trump and a small group of confidants:
Vice president: Those who’d be considered include J.D. Vance, the “Hillbilly Elegy” author and a MAGA favorite; Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders; Kari Lake, a leading election denier now running for U.S. Senate in Arizona, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. (Vance might prefer to remain in the Senate as “Trump’s hammer,” we’re told.)
- Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), one of the few Black Republicans in Congress, has traveled with Trump on the campaign.
WHAT CAN WE DO
It is easy to feel helpless in the face of this onslaught of MAGA energy and the rampant mis and dis information on social media, Fox News, OANN and Newsmax. How can we do something effective to stop the crazies? Cynicism is a de-motivator. To the extent that the rightwing can encourage Americans to be cynical and hopeless, they win.
Biden has been one of the most effective presidents since FDR but that messaging has been stifled. Read Simon Rosenberg’s Hopium Chronicles and Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American to learn what Biden is doing so well. The rightwing media constantly attacks Biden. MAGAs in the House are trying to prove Biden is falsely equivalent to Trump by attacking Hunter Biden and by starting a phony impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden where there is NO EVIDENCE of any wrongdoing by Joe Biden. Mainstream media is always trying to be fair minded which they think means acting like both sides are equal. Nope. They are not.
When Hitler came to power he too was treated like a “normal” politician by the media in our country and in Germany. That was a huge mistake.
There is a lot we can do. We can become change agents- people who spread the word about what is really going on instead of ceding the megaphone to mis and dis information on social media and conservative outlets.