America’s constitutional crisis

2020-11-10

in Law, Politics

Some people are saying that Trump’s contestation of election results is just a way to soothe the pain of defeat and raise money for campaign debts, but the statements of high-ranking Republicans show that analysis to be unduly complacent.

Specifically, I mean secretary of state Mike Pompeo promising: “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration” and senate majority leader Mitch McConnell saying Trump is “100% within his rights” to challenge the election.

Trump appointees are hampering the transition process for the Biden administration, likely with the intent to sap their ability to get anything done in the first 100 days which are considered so crucial to any presidency’s ability to implement an agenda. Meanwhile, US COVID-19 numbers are exploding and raising the spectre that, just as much of the promise of reform under Obama was undermined by the need to resolve the Bush-era 2008 financial crisis, Biden will inherit an out-of-control pandemic and a population half-primed to see medical precautions as oppression.

I think it’s already clear that America has been permanently weakened by the Trump administration, both domestically through their erosion of governance norms and self-dealing and internationally through cynical, short-sighted, and transactional diplomacy. That damage has already been badly worsened by threatening the peaceful transfer of power, and may be still more if a Biden administration gets constantly stymied by a hostile Republican senate. America’s strength depends on the norm that the party that gets defeated in elections accepts the legitimacy of the winners. If the country shifts to a pattern where every change of party is rejected by the other as crooked and illegitimate, the foundation of America as one polity will be undermined and fractured.

The nightmare possibility remains that Trump will exhort his supporters to violence during or at the end of the transition period, or that after they turn to violence based on the encouragement so far Trump will support them. The risk of America’s election ending in mass violence persists.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

. November 10, 2020 at 7:27 pm

How Trump’s transition of power delay threatens national security and public safety

Trump shows transition will be as turbulent as his presidency

The newly reelected Kentucky senator is as always plotting several moves ahead in his political power game. While the nation’s interests might dictate a smooth transition, McConnell’s Republicans have no incentive to cross Trump’s fervent supporters. A likely pair of Georgia runoff elections is looming in January that will decide control of the Senate. And looking forward, there remains no option for Republicans, as they contemplate a tough slate of seats to defend in the 2022 midterm elections, but to rely on Trump’s base.
Still, there is also a sense that Republicans are going out of their way to give the President time to accept reality — just the latest occasion when his ego has dictated the course of governance over the last four years.

Trump agency tasked with transition process has yet to recognize Biden’s victory

The Trumpian refusal to accept election defeat is un-American

Trump team needs to accept reality so transition can work

. November 10, 2020 at 8:26 pm

70% of Republicans say election wasn’t ‘free and fair’ despite no evidence of fraud – study | US elections 2020 | The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/10/election-trust-polling-study-republicans

. November 11, 2020 at 12:49 am

Top policy, intelligence civilians resign amid Pentagon shakeup

https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2020/11/10/james-anderson-pentagon-policy-head-resigns/

. November 12, 2020 at 5:46 pm
. November 13, 2020 at 3:22 pm

Why, for example, has Trump fired the civilian leadership of the defence department, including the defence secretary, Mark Esper, filling their posts and others in intelligence with ultra-loyalists? Esper stood up to Trump over the summer, when the president wanted to deploy the military to crush peaceful protests. Does Trump have something similar in mind, a move that would require a yes man to nod it through? Is it possible that Pompeo was not, after all, joking?

For now, I can accept that a full, tanks-in-the-streets coup is not on the cards. One Capitol Hill Republican tells me he suspects Trump sacked Esper mainly to “make him feel better”, and “to get even with the people who thwarted him”, rather than because he wants a Pentagon boss who will agree to send in the troops. Equally possible, says my source, is that Trump plans to go out with a bang, and wants pliant people in post. What kind of bang? Some talk of a total withdrawal from Afghanistan. Conversely, there’s chatter about a possible attack on Iran.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/nov/13/trump-coup-virtual-confederacy-race-legal-trumpian

. November 15, 2020 at 8:46 pm

There is a long-shot legal theory, floated by Republicans before the election, that Republican-friendly legislatures in places such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania could ignore the popular vote in their states and appoint their own electors. Federal law allows legislatures to do this if states have “failed to make a choice” by the day the electoral college meets. But there is no evidence of systemic fraud of wrongdoing in any state and Biden’s commanding margins in these places make it clear that the states have in fact made a choice.

“If the country continues to follow the rule of law, I see no plausible constitutional path forward for Trump to remain as president barring new evidence of some massive failure of the election system in multiple states,” Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, who specializes in elections, wrote in an email. “It would be a naked, antidemocratic power grab to try to use state legislatures to get around the voters’ choice and I don’t expect it to happen.”

For lawmakers in a single state to choose to override the clear will of its voters this way would be extraordinary and probably cause a huge outcry. For Trump to win the electoral college, several states would have to take this extraordinary step, a move that would cause extreme backlash and a real crisis of democracy throughout the country.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/13/can-donald-trump-stay-in-office-second-term-president-coup

. November 16, 2020 at 10:51 pm

Trump Sought Options for Attacking Iran to Stop Its Growing Nuclear Program

The president was dissuaded from moving ahead with a strike by advisers who warned that it could escalate into a broader conflict in his last weeks in office.

Trump asked White House advisers if he could strike Iran nuclear site sometime soon

. November 18, 2020 at 12:22 am

Will Trump Burn the Evidence?

How the President could endanger the official records of one of the most consequential periods in American history.

Hardly a day passes that Trump does not attempt to suppress evidence, as if all the world were in violation of an N.D.A. never to speak ill of him. He has sought to discredit publications and broadcasts that question him, investigations that expose him, crowds that protest him, polls that fail to favor him, and, down to the bitter end, ballots cast against him. None of this bodes well for the historical record and for the scheduled transfer of materials from the White House to the National Archives, on January 20, 2021. That morning, even as President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr., is ascending the steps of the Capitol, staffers from the archives will presumably be in the White House, unlocking doors, opening desks, packing boxes, and removing hard drives. What might be missing, that day, from file drawers and computer servers at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is difficult to say. But records that were never kept, were later destroyed, or are being destroyed right now chronicle the day-to-day doings of one of the most consequential Presidencies in American history and might well include evidence of crimes, violations of the Constitution, and human-rights abuses. It took a very long time to establish rules governing the fate of Presidential records. Trump does not mind breaking rules and, in the course of a long life, has regularly done so with impunity. The Presidential Records Act isn’t easily enforceable. The Trump Presidency nearly destroyed the United States. Will what went on in the darker corners of his White House ever be known?

. November 18, 2020 at 4:19 pm

“The nightmare scenario for markets,” according to Cembalest, would be if Senate Republicans declare the ECA unconstitutional, flip three states in Trump’s favor to give him the required 270 electoral votes and Democrats refuse to participate.
“All of which sets up the prospect of dueling inaugurations,” Cembalest wrote, noting that this outcome was only “narrowly averted” in 1876.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/18/business/stock-market-election-trump-jpmorgan/index.html

. November 22, 2020 at 4:29 pm

Europe far right backs Trump, hopes for violence amid vote drama | United States News | Al Jazeera

https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2020/11/19/how-will-europes-far-right-react-to-us-election-result

. November 23, 2020 at 8:59 pm
. November 24, 2020 at 5:20 pm
. November 26, 2020 at 12:32 am

Trump has tested the limits of the US constitution – but it’s still holding | US elections 2020 | The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/nov/23/trump-us-constitution

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