Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Will Congressification result in Trump's Triumph?

Who supports Trump's pardon of Arpaio?
Who agrees with Trump's pardon of Arpaio?

That’s my nomination for a significant digit this morning. The way to get that number is to observe that it is a measure of the influence of one member of the House of Representatives (1 divided by 435). That’s important because we need to figure out who in our government, exactly and concretely, will stand their ground against Trumpism.

Are some of Trump’s key Cabinet members thinking about abandoning him? So it seems when Secretary of State Tillerson, for example, publicly paints Trump as acting alone. But having his cabinet members demure when it comes to outrageous claims and quite possibly illegal decrees is not enough. We need Congress to take a stand now says Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) in Trump is dragging us toward a full-blown crisis. Here’s what has to happen now.

In an interview with me, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.) — the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee — argued strenuously that Trump’s pardon of Arpaio needs to be seen as a signal to those of his supporters who have been implicated in the Russia affair.

“The purpose for which the pardon was granted — to a political supporter of the birther movement — sends a message that if you have the president’s back, if you’re one of his supporters, he won’t necessarily wait until the end of a criminal case to give you a pardon,” Schiff told me. “He is telegraphing to anyone involved in his political campaign that as long as they stick with him, the possibility of a pardon is open, just the way it was for Arpaio.”

And it could get worse. Schiff told me that the manner in which this pardon was done reasonably suggests it may be a signal to officials getting caught up in the Russia probe. “I don’t think it’s lost on anyone that the president is sending a message to those who worked on his campaign that he is not beyond using the pardon power to protect them and protect himself,” Schiff said. He added that Trump showed that “he’s willing to do it even prior to sentence,” which signals that he might be prepared to exercise it “to fend off any further criminal proceedings.”

Now, we do not know whether Trump will go through with something like this. We do not even know where special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s probe is heading. But the point is that members of Congress could be putting Trump on notice right now that if he does resort to such measures, Congress will not tolerate it.

But, you see, there are very few members of Congress who have stepped up to publicly object to what Trump did. They talk the talk. But about the walk?

Congress needs to take action both to reign in Trump and also to protect their own historical position in our constitutional democracy. If Congress lets Trump get away with pre-sentence pardons, they are abdicating their responsibility and thereby threatening our nation.

It is welcome that some Republicans stepped forward to condemn President Trump’s pardon of former Maricopa County (Ariz.) sheriff Joe Arpaio. But something more is needed right now: We also need to hear a loud, clanging alarm from Republicans and Democrats alike that signals to Trump in unequivocal terms that any pardons in the context of the Russia probe will be met by a forceful and immediate response from Congress.

Sure, I agree. But Adam Shiff is but one member of the House and we need far more than just him. So far Congress is showing little inclination for action.

So I worry that Congress is calcified. Congressification may be just another step toward American authoritarianism and Trump’s triumph.

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