And “The Resistance” Jumps The Shark! Pelosi Announces Mind-Bending Impeachment Plan P, and The Washington Post Launches Plan Q

This is all so embarrassing—as an American and an advocate of Constitutional government, I’M embarrassed, and those perpetrating this fiasco have more to be embarrassed about than I do by far— and ridiculous that I am at a loss to describe it fairly. My head-exploding graphics don’t do it justice, and a mere train wreck photo is inadequate. I’m not even certain where to place the focus.

I was tempted to concentrate on the now not rationally disputable fact that if you can read Pelosi’s comments yesterday and consider Greg Sargent’s and Brian Klaas’s columns in the Washington Post and not think, “Holy Cow! These people have completely lost their minds!” you have passed, as the Phantom of the Opera was fond of saying, the point of no return, and your Trump hate and derangement have digested your brain.

This is so, so obvious now, but that’s not an ethics framing, and I’m looking for that. I was thinking about designating the entire Democratic Congress as “Incompetent Elected Officials Of The Month,” but that doesn’t quite encompass the enormity of what we are  witnessing. Similarly, calling the Post’s self-evident decision to put bringing down Trump over all professional standards as well as law, justice and common sense is minimized by calling it mere “mainsteam media bias,” as the Ethics Alarms tag would have it. This is more than that. This is a public display of insanity by those incapable of realizing what craziness is any more.

Did Donald Trump really drive them to this? “Mr. [Trump], are you that smart?”

Let’s start with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said

“Don’t tell anybody I told you this: Trump is goading us to impeach him. That’s what he’s doing. Every single day, he’s just like, taunting and taunting and taunting…We can’t impeach him for political reasons, and we can’t not impeach him for political reasons.We have to see where the facts take us.”

I could have made this gallactically unethical statement an”Unethical Quote of The Month,” but again, that would trivialize its significance. Of course, the statement  begins with a “Comnnie Chung,” an intentionally contradictory “don’t tell anyone I told you this”–what is that? A joke? A signal that Pelosi doesn’t take her own party’s impeachment mania seriously? I have no idea.

I do know, however, that the statement that the President is goading and taunting Democrats into impeaching him is as close as we will ever get to an outright admission that the President’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” consist of his being himself, daring to win the office, and existing on the planet. I’ve checked the POTUS twitter feed: he’s not talking about impeachment “every day” or saying anything that could rationally be interpreted as aimed at trying to goad Congress into taking that step. “The resistance”  regards the President’s existence as enough to justify impeachment. This is Pelosi’s Impeachment Plan P, a Mobius strip, alternate universe theory that says, “We have to impeach him because he’s daring us to and if we don’t, we let him win, but we can’t, but then he’ll win!” [You can find and review Plans A-O here.]

Who in their right mind says things like this in public? It’s like saying “I am  Monga, Empress of the Eels!” You only say it if you are confident your audience thinks you ARE  Monga, or you risk a visit by the men in white coats.

Yet Pelosi’s statement gets worse. “We have to see where the facts take us”—what “facts?” An excessive, disruptive, falsely-reported and dubiously executed investigation provided the facts, and because they do not support impeachment,  the Democrats want to look for more “facts,” they don’t know what, but they are sure they’ll justify impeachment. “Fariness, justice and competence” left the Democrats’ building long ago.

I’m now giving a spoiler on a post I’m working on about impeachment ethics, but this is not how impeachment works, was intended to work, or can work.

What the Constitution says and the Founders intended is that when a President, in office, commits “high crimes and misdemeanors” (“high” refers to crimes relating to the President’s high office, and also modifies “misdemeanors,” meaning that some acts by the President, because of his office and power, may be impeachable even if they are not technically crimes. They are misdemeanors in the general sense, not the legal sense: literally bad acts.), then it may be necessary to remove him from office because those acts make him inherently untrustworthy.

What the Democrats and “the resistance” have been trying to do since the 2016 election is the Bizarro World version of impeachment. Deciding immediately in the wake of their candidate’s defeat (based on no new information that the public didn’t have when it duly elected Trump) that the new President is untrustworthy and dangerous, they have been looking for something that could be used to impeach him. This was essentially what the post-Civil War Radical Republicans tried to do to President Andrew Johnson, and their near-miss failure has been interpreted by many historians (as well as “Profiles in Courage”) as saving the office of the Presidency and maybe the nation itself.

Pelosi’s statement has been mocked in various forums as “we have to pass a bill of impeachment to see what’s in it.”

Bingo.

Now let’s look at the Post’s pundits. Believe it or not, Greg Sargent makes this argument: The Democrats want to get Trump’s tax returns so they can look for something that might justify impeachment, but Trump might prevail in the courts and keep them private, because the courts could hold that Congress was “just rummaging through Trump’s returns to embarrass him and not for a legitimate legislative purpose.” That’s because this is exactly what Congress wants to do.  (I think that the courts rejecting the House’s subpoena is more than possible; it’s virtually certain.)

Democrats dare not take the chance that a court would reject its demand for Trump’s tax documents, because that loss would make Democrats look bad right before the 2020 elections. Ah, but if the Democrats start proceedings to impeach Trump first and then demand the tax returns as part of the inquiry, then they have a “legitimate purpose” to seek the returns!”

There it is: Impeachment Plan Q! Impeach Trump to get his taxes, and then use those taxes to impeach him! Brilliant!

Sargent says, in full derangement mode,

“Not getting Trump’s returns would allow him to get away with one of his most blatant acts of contempt for transparency, for the separation of powers and for the notion that basic accountability should apply to him at all.”

What? When did not providing the public with tax returns become an impeachable offense, since every President before Nixon did exactly that? Accountability for what? The IRS under multiple administrations examined Trump’s returns, and did not find any crimes. Sargent is just giving us “resistance” blather. Ann Althouse calls it “histrionic,” also a good word, and nicer than “nuts.” She writes,

“If the courts took the position Sargent is afraid of, it would be because the court was enforcing separation of powers, limiting Congress to the legislative role and protecting the Executive power from encroachment. Trump isn’t showing “contempt” for separation of powers. He’s taking a position on separation of powers. That position would either win or lose in court, and the court would give the final answer on the meaning of separation of powers.”

Greg Sargent is the model of rationality, however, compared to colleague Brian Klaas, who issues one false theory after another:

“So here’s a question for congressional leaders: Precisely how many crimes does someone have to commit before impeachment hearings are warranted? Does the person in question get a pass if it’s three or fewer? Was there some clause in the Constitution that I missed that says it’s okay for the president to direct a criminal conspiracy in certain circumstances? Is there a Federalist Paper that says the president can commit tax fraud so long as it was years ago, or that obstruction of justice is fair game so long as it happens on Twitter? To oppose impeachment hearings now, you have to believe that the president allegedly engaging in three separate categories of criminal acts isn’t serious enough to even consider impeachment. Really?”

How did a Post editor let this get published? There was no “conspiracy”; the Mueller report was unambiguous on that accusation. The “resistance’s” response is denial at this point, and to keep repeating Big Lies.

Where’s the “tax fraud”? The IRS’s job is to find tax fraud, and didn’t. Trump doesn’t fill out his own returns, and they were presumably examined with unusual care by the agency charged with that responsibility. How dare this hack state as fact that Trump engaged in tax fraud? Oh, he just “knows.” How many times have I heard that justification for impeachment?

And the obstruction claim…there’s no precedent in law or history for punishing opinions, tweeted or otherwise, as “obstruction of justice.” The Justice Department reviewed the evidence and determined that the obstruction theory was weak, ergo no obstruction of justice. Nor was there any underlying crime to try to cover-up by obstruction, and the investigation was not, in fact, obstructed in any way.

It is true that “the resistance” has become completely unhinged gradually, and it may be difficult to see the exact moment of complete detachment from reality, since the movement was hardly rational to begin with. Nonetheless,  that moment has definitely arrived

The Mueller Indictments: Observations And A Spin Report

Late yesterday afternoon the Justice Department announced that it had indicted thirteen Russians and three Russian companies for participation in a scheme to interfere in the United States political system. From the Justice Department website:

“The Department of Justice announced that a grand jury in the District of Columbia today returned an indictment presented by the Special Counsel’s Office. The indictment charges thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 Presidential election. The defendants allegedly conducted what they called “information warfare against the United States,” with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

The full 37-page indictment is here, giving citizens a rare example to read everything reporters know and to thereby be able to gauge exactly how accurate and fair their reporting is, if the citizens are so inclined. SPOILER ALERT: The spin efforts thus far have been staggering.

The press release also tells us in part:

According to the allegations in the indictment, twelve of the individual defendants worked at various times for Internet Research Agency LLC, a Russian company based in St. Petersburg, Russia. …Internet Research Agency allegedly operated through Russian shell companies. It employed hundreds of persons for its online operations, ranging from creators of fictitious personas to technical and administrative support, with an annual budget of millions of dollars. Internet Research Agency was a structured organization headed by a management group and arranged in departments, including graphics, search-engine optimization, information technology, and finance departments. In 2014, the agency established a “translator project” to focus on the U.S. population. In July 2016, more than 80 employees were assigned to the translator project….To hide the Russian origin of their activities, the defendants allegedly purchased space on computer servers located within the United States in order to set up a virtual private network. The defendants allegedly used that infrastructure to establish hundreds of accounts on social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, making it appear that the accounts were controlled by persons within the United States. They used stolen or fictitious American identities, fraudulent bank accounts, and false identification documents. The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans, advocating for and against particular political candidates. They established social media pages and groups to communicate with unwitting Americans. They also purchased political advertisements on social media.

Also:

The Russians also recruited and paid real Americans to engage in political activities, promote political campaigns, and stage political rallies. The defendants and their co-conspirators pretended to be grassroots activists. According to the indictment, the Americans did not know that they were communicating with Russians.

Thirteen paragraphs into the release is this statement: “There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Talk about burying the lede!

Observations: Continue reading

Three Republican Candidates: Gaffes, Disqualifications, Or Something Else?

shooting-yourself-in-the-footI felt badly about piling up three posts recently on unethical female Democrats running for office, and was inspired by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent to do some analysis of Republican candidates who, at least according to Sargent, deserve equivalent criticism to what has been leveled at Alison Lundergan Grimes for refusing to say whether she voted for President Obama. [She did it again last night in her debate with Sen. McConnell.]

Sometimes finding Republican candidates who deserve an Ethics Alarms slap is hard, unless they say something bat wacky like, say, Richard Mourdock. If a Democrat is flagged by The Daily Beast or the Post, I can be pretty sure there was something said or done that was objectively troubling, because the mainstream media will bury anything from a Democrat that is vaguely defensible. A Republican, however, might be accused of certified insanity for a statement that offends progressive cant. Fox and many of the right wing websites, meanwhile, will ignore any Republican whose pronouncements don’t rise to “I am the Lizard Queen!” level of derangement, and will find fault with Democratic candidates on dubious grounds. Here are the GOP candidates for today’s ethics audit: Joni Ernst (U.S. Senate in Iowa); Tom Cotton (U.S. Senate in Arkansas); and Greg Abbott  (Texas Governor race): Continue reading

More Bad Law Ethics: Integrity Test Coming For The Judiciary On Obamacare

"Dear Courts: We intend this mess to be a big, perfect, beautiful palace. Please let us know when its finished.       Your Friend, Congress"

“Dear Courts: We intend this mess to be a big, perfect, beautiful palace. Please let us know when its finished.
Your Friend, Congress.”

In a recent post, I explained how the incompetent drafting and reckless manner in which the Affordable Care Act was passed has corrupted every branch of the government as well as damaged our system and the public’s faith in it. Affordable Care Act supporters continue to desperately try to excuse, fix, and rationalize this disgracefully bad law. Next up is an integrity test for the judiciary, as the legal argument against the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit’s decision in Halbig v. Burwell becomes untenable.

If the two judges on the three judge panel were correct, and it appears they were, then a drafting miscalculation in the ACA has rendered the health care overhaul unworkable, meaning that it can’t be fixed, constitutionally at least, by Executive Orders, waivers, delays or lies, like so much else connected to the legislation. It will have to be addressed the old-fashioned—as in “according to the Constitution”—way, or not fixed at all. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Washington Post Blogger Greg Sargent

“But when it comes down to it, this all happened too long ago and too early in Romney’s life to know with real certainty whether it’s revealing of any of those things or not — particularly when it comes to who Romney is right now. I can’t get around the simple fact that I wouldn’t want to be judged today by some of the things I did in my teens, and I suspect many others feel the same way.”

Washington Post blogger-from-the-Left Greg Sargent, concluding his post entitled, “What Does Mitt Romney’s Bullying Tell Us?

My god, man! I think you’ve discovered The Golden Rule!

Who the heck is THAT guy?

Sargent, being a designated left-wing mouthpiece for a newspaper that often fulfills that role itself, naturally toes the company line in most of his post before having this lucid ethical moment. He spends part of the article speculating on what the Post’s “bombshell story” about what Mitt did or maybe did in prep school might suggest about Romney—all the better to throw out indictments “from some” like cruelty, “a real mean streak,” “a disdain for the weak,” just to plant a seed in the minds of voters that might bloom Greg’s way by November. But he edges into Ethics Hero territory for making the necessary “Never mind!” point in fairness and common sense. Continue reading