What Must We Do And How Must We Do. It?

A couple of days ago, Steve Bannon was indicted for defrauding Trump supporters, who had been enticed into sending money to Bannon and three co-conspirators to “build the wall.” The money went into their pockets, not into construction.

It’s tempting to find this sordid little episode of predators taking advantage of bigots a parable for “just deserts,” (as Michelle Goldberg wrote, “In the MAGA movement, you’re either a predator or a mark” and that seems about right) but that isn’t the lesson to be taken from this unsurprising, add-it-to-the-list evidence of moral rot in Trumpworld.

Reuters has a list of  those who have been arrested and convicted of criminal behavior so far, and there is ample evidence that–with or without including the ethically-challenged saboteur at the Post Office– the current list is only the tip of a very large iceberg.

And at the center of that iceberg is Donald J. Trump.

Last week, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the Trump Campaign’s co-operation with Russia that was far more damning than the Mueller Report. CNN called it the most comprehensive and meticulous examination to date.  It explained in detail the ways in which Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election,  confirmed that the Trump campaign welcomed that help, and revealed multiple contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates both during and after the campaign.

Prosecutors with the Southern District of New York look increasingly likely to get Trump’s tax returns, although probably not before the election, and they already have the paperwork he submitted in support of his loans from Deutsch Bank. The results of that ongoing investigation are likely to confirm a history of tax evasion, money laundering and bank fraud.

Michelle Goldberg has explained why America needs accountability for the corruption of this administration–and why genuine accountability can’t be reduced to political slogans like “lock him up.” As she notes,  “a president who runs the White House as a criminal syndicate creates a conundrum for liberal democracy.”

Obviously,  merely losing an election is not a crime, and it shouldn’t create legal liability.

But you can’t reinforce the rule of law by allowing it to be broken without repercussion. After four years of ever-escalating corruption and abuses of power, the United States cannot simply snap back to being the country it once was if Trump is forced to vacate the White House in January. If Biden is elected, Democrats must force a reckoning over what Trump has done to America.

Of course, a Biden victory is far from assured, and if he loses, there may be no stopping this country’s slide into a permanent state of oligarchic misrule. But right now, while there’s still hope of cauterizing Trumpism, ideas about post-Trump accountability are percolating in Democratic and activist circles.

Those  “percolating ideas” come from a number of quarters: the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, recently released a report titled, “How a Future President Can Hold the Trump Administration Accountable.” Protect Democracy is a legal group founded by a former associate White House counsel during Obama’s Administration. It has been investigating the experience of countries around the world that have transitioned to democracy from authoritarianism. Sheldon Whitehouse, one of the most thoughtful members of the Senate, has suggested a tribunal modeled on South Africa’s Truth Commission.

America is facing a whole lot of “ifs.” If Biden wins, if the Democrats take the Senate, if there is an orderly transition of power…then, there will need to be a thorough housecleaning. That housecleaning needs to be conducted in a manner that is both transparent and meticulously fair. The. Qanon folks, the Neo-Nazis and Proud Boys and KKK are beyond reason, but the rest of us aren’t, and we desperately need an administration that understands and fairly enforces the rule of law–and holds itself to a high moral, ethical and legal standard.

Voting blue up and down the ballot is only a first step, but it’s an absolutely essential first. step.


  1. The only difference between the short-fingered vulgarian and any other U.S. elected official whose corruption crosses into felony territory is a DOJ memorandum. Yes, we must be careful how we handle the post-vulgarian clean up; that path can also lead to the end of liberal democracy if it begins with mere retribution. But, no one is above the law, not even former presidents.

  2. I agree with holding Trump accountable, but then again, I also agreed with holding Bush/Cheney accountable and placing our former IC director in federal prison for lying to Congress. None of that happened under democratic or republican control.

    Obama refused to let Saudi Arabia be held accountable for the 9/11 scandal. He denied survivors the right to sue them for liability. My guess is the world would not appreciate the outcome of the discovery process. Americans would learn the truth about what happened.

    As we’ve discussed here many times, our justice system has been corrupted for decades as well and not sure how exactly it can be repaired. It’s broken and damaged locally to the SCOTUS.

    Bankers who defrauded Americans and tanked the global economy received no jail time. No federal indictments were handed out. If a worker steals from their employer, they get their name in the newspaper and prison time which destroys their chances to work again once they get out of jail. Those connected with the oligarchs — nada!

    Based on all the above, the republican-led committee who is pointing fingers at Trump is probably just setting the stage for the GOP to begin the rebranding process by first throwing Donny under the bus — using him as a scapegoat to save face in the event he loses.

    The only question is, “Will his loyal follower’s transition back to the GOP or become even more rabid anti-government “patriots?”

  3. I have to agree with much of what Todd has posted concerning these past decades of an absent and often corrupt justice system. And while this will upset the eager Biden supporters out there, I doubt Joe will do any better. If he does anything at all, it will be to “accommodate” the Trumpers and make nice. So, while I’ll vote for Biden, I won’t expect meaningful reform much less justice meted out to the current collection of criminals in the government.

  4. Any clean-up has to be non-partisan in nature. It would seem as if just giving independence to the SDNY will bring most of the criminal activity to trial, but we also need to remember that unethical and unlawful are two different things. Mr. Mueller didn’t say the campaign colluded with Russia, even though they obviously did, because collusion isn’t unlawful. He also clearly stated he wouldn’t be able to prove conspiracy because he was lied to by those involved.

    We do need to set penalties for violations of the Constitution and oath of office.

  5. Sheila,

    “Voting blue up and down the ballot is only a first step, but it’s an absolutely essential first step.”

    I totally disagree. The first step must be to totally understand and deal with the political playing field from top to bottom. Without that, it’s continual POLITICAL SUICIDE.

  6. I believe it must have been 1991 when I was listening to the Tony Brown Show a nationally syndicated show out of Chicago. Brown’s guest was Morris Dees the leader of the Southern Poverty Law Center. After a lengthy discussion, Brown then says, “Morris what about the system, the system.” Dees answer, “We don’t get involved in that.”

    And we still continue to wonder, “Why we are up Shit’s Creek without a paddle.” I guess accurate intelligence gathering means nothing.

  7. We do need to set penalties for violations of the Constitution and oath of office. – Peggy Hannon

    Without taking the Senate – this is all wishing thinking. – Lester Levine

    It is obvious that there is a ton of work that needs to be done so that our current debacle can never happen again. When the forefathers wrote the Constitution, they were very prophetic and thoughtful, but who could have anticipated the country 200 yrs later. Revisions/amendments are truly necessary. I am still having a difficult time understanding the absolute need for multiple party system. An elected official should best reflect the thinkings/feelings of the people who elected them. Why does it have to be according to a political party? As a newly registered voter (after 50 yrs, it was my own ideological protest until DJT) “politics” and “politicians”seems to be the biggest problem we face.

    Even in high school i could never grasp the concept of things being added to a bill in the house or senate that had nothing to do at all with the meat of the bill…..I believe that there should be line item only voting and in my pea brain, that would/could eliminate all the haggling/bickering that goes into getting something passed…..maybe I am still dreaming those teenage dreams, but as a country, our government certainly needs to do better at all the levels!

  8. Let’s just go on and forget about the SYSTEM. To quote P. T. Barnum: THERE’S A SUCKER BORN EVERY MINUTE! I’m sure, over the years, the time frame has certainly been shortened.

  9. Any person who thinks about anything after election day, is not focused enough on election day. Period. It is not step one. It is the only step. The left is like a classroom full of ADHD children. It makes me nervous to expect anything productive. Just get Trump out. Nothing else matters.

  10. It is not U.S. attorneys In the SDNY that are fighting to obtain Trump’s tax returns, but rather Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. This distinction is important because, should Biden, if elected, decided to pardon Trump as Ford did Nixon, a federal pardon does not apply to state charges.

  11. Biden needs a comprehensive ethics agenda that has teeth. We can no longer just assume that the occupant of the White House will do the right thing based on laws that will never be enforced, and norms that can just be ignored.

    Not typically a fan of hers, but Elizabeth Warren would be the perfect person to lead this effort.

    Oh, and Biden needs to put back into position the independent whistleblowers who have lost their job under the Trump administration.

  12. The capabilities of Biden/Harris are already being tested as they build a team to help them get elected and at the same time prepare to do the job that the Constitution demands of them after election day. There are lots of balls that they have to keep their eyes on.

    First is to appeal to we the people not just to get us on board but actually involved in campaigning as well as motivating us to vote despite the obstacles. At the same time Republican lies can’t go un-countered. Will, should, the Obama’s get involved in that? While it’s primarily a DNC gig, it’s also essential to hold the House and take the Senate. Of course this is all done with limited resources that must actively and effectively get managed to apply them to the most critical races.

    At the same time the job of preparing for transition has never been more critical because it’s so clear that there are no Republican dirty tricks off of the table. Every one will be rolled out along the way either to compromise our democracy before election day or ignore our decision after Election Day. Every one foreign and domestic needs to be anticipated and prepared for.

    After four years of nothing but frustration it’s good to be back into doing territory.

  13. After we have a new AG in January we must prosecute Trump if we want to protect our democracy from fiuture would be tyrants who, protected by precedent, will try their wings at the destruction of our democracy via threat and intimidation and, in the end and if not thwarted, outright coup. Such prosecution, as I have written elsewhere, must be conducted not in getting even but rather to deter future wanna be dictators from trying their wings as authoritarians. Trump will, of course, scream politics, just as Bannon is doing with his larceny/embezzlement, but the paper trail and the testimony of those in on the game seeking less or no time in jail who rat will prove otherwise and I think a jury could be persuaded that the reason the defendants are in the dock is not because they are Republicans or liberatians or whatever, but because they stole or embezzled money, which has nothing to do with their political inclinations.

    I will be greatly disappointed if Biden pulls a Jerry Ford and pardons Ala Baba and his Forty (or more) Thieves since Trump’s record makes Watergate look like a walk in the political park and should not go unpunished and also since, among other things, a pardon for anyone who is attempting to undermine our Constitution and the rule of law richly deserves to spend some time in the warden’s closet.

  14. “Any person who thinks about anything after election day, is not focused enough on election day. Period. It is not step one. It is the only step. The left is like a classroom full of ADHD children. It makes me nervous to expect anything productive. Just get Trump out. Nothing else matters.”

    TLentych; a line from a movie I recently watched has stayed with me, don’t remember the movie or how it was used but for some reason felt I needed to remember it. Until your comments I couldn’t apply it to express my deep, deep concerns about those who cannot let go of Joe Biden’s past words and how he said them or his past actions which they don’t agree with or what they believe he will or won’t do if elected.

    “The only thing consistent is now.” is the line and your opening sentence identifies the “now” we must focus on or we are lost. I have moved beyond “nervous” every time I read those who say they will vote for Biden but precede their comment with complaints about him or add “but” and list their complaints after. Now we must focus on ridding our government of Trump and his cohorts and the Democratic candidate is Joe Biden; let’s focus on getting him elected to get Trump out.

  15. On January 21, 2021,Joe Biden will mutter some B. S. about how we must “get on with the work of healing this country after our long national nightmare.” Platitudinally exhausted, he will become complicit with the Trump mob by pardoning everyone in sight and grinning with pride about how pope-like he is. At that time, the number of coronavirus deaths will exceed 200,000, making Trump’s shameful effort to kill democrats one of the greatest acts of genocide in American history (Andrew Jackson would be proud). Prosecutor- VP Kamala Harris will, of course, be muzzled.

    But hope and even possible redemption lies elsewhere. More people than ever agree that American Blacks have been dealt a rotten hand since 1619. More want to do something about it. There‘s a chance – even an opportunity – to devise some form of reparations that will provide both an economic cushion for Blacks and a shot at an education that doesn’t plunge them into lifelong debt. If Democrats take the Senate, such compensatory legislation could be passed and funded before Republicans have the ability to remind us how greed-driven racism remains their primary support. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate punishment for all of Trump’s enablers as well as the ultimate leap forward for justice in America!

  16. I highly recommend that folks who wonder how we got Trump read “It Was All A Lie: How the Republican Party became Donald Trump” by Stuart Stevens. It goes back to the days of the John Birch Society and how it took over the Republican Party in 1964. I’m an old lady, and I well remember those days. The lie has been building up ever since then.

  17. Roberta Dunn,
    Your question “Why does it have to be according to political parties?”, made me think. Part of our “system” is that we have two political parties. That is locked in by rules we set up so that it is almost impossible for some outside third party to get any traction at all. I suspect it was done in the self interests of the two major parties, but the structure has gotten more and more rigid the longer the “system” is in place.

    Most democracies in the rest of the world have dozens of political parties. To get anything done you have to form coalitions and make compromises, leading to more moderate positions on many issues. If you really do get a centrist party that manages to represent the will of more than a majority of the people, then the centrist party takes power and to some extent ignore the fringe parties. By contrast, in a two party system, as soon as you have a majority, you can tell every one else to go take a hike.

    I am wondering if some of the truly partisan flaws we see in our current situation is not the result of the locking ourselves into two party system.

    I also think those self serving laws that have locked in the two party system are going to be a tremendous roadblock to whatever becomes of the Republican Party after they are free from Trump.

  18. Jan,

    You’re right about the John Birch Society. But, you don’t defeat Trump with history. You have to take ACTION pre-emptively, and you can’t do that when the organizations responsible for intelligence gathering have been seriously compromised. You don’t publish INTELLIGENCE.

    We’ve been sold-out. And if we don’t correct the PERFIDY immediately, what’s left of our procedural democracy will be completely destroyed.

  19. For anyone who still believes in reality, I would strongly recommend reading “Perfidy” by Ben Hecht (Gefen Publishing House, Ltd., Jerusalem, Israel, 1961). Lightning can strike twice. And it, unfortunately, has done just that.

  20. Dan,

    I’m not a big fan of Bernie personally, but a number of his policy proposals, if enacted, would get us closer to the notion of the big-hearted country we have been peddling for the last couple of centuries. Democrats are stuck in the ruts in the middle of the road while Republicans have fallen off the cliff to the right. 2021 might present an opportunity for a third party that really does head off in a new direction. Given progressives’ vote-getting success in 2016 and their bargaining power in 2020, there seems to be enough of them to make a serious effort. Bernie has timed out, so AOC looks like the most promising leader of such a movement. People who want action on climate change, those seeking solutions to income equality, racial justice advocates, those tired of endless pointless wars, proponents of affordable housing, less white-collar crime and a justice-based revamping of capitalism would find a more accommodating home in such a movement than in either existing party.

  21. …Biden, if elected, decided to pardon Trump… — Jan Lindemann

    That phrase put me to thinking. Biden, with absolutely no intention of following through, should float the possibility of pardoning Trump. Why? Because it would remove some of the resolve from Trump’s refusal to leave office. Trump would have some hope of surviving prosecution after leaving office. Then stiff the stiff and prosecute the shit out of him. Who said Karma has to be fair?

  22. “Any person who thinks about anything after election day, is not focused enough on election day. Period. It is not step one. It is the only step…Just get Trump out. Nothing else matters.” –TLentych

    That’s the sort of half-thought that the Bush 2 administration put into their Iraq invasion. Just invade; nevermind the aftermath.

    In big movements there should be enough thinkers to assign one team to invasion/election and another to aftermath/prosecution.

  23. Who is Jan Lindemann? I found no one of importance by that name on Google. Joe Biden stated on NBC News and in an interview on MSNBC in May of this year that he would NOT pardon Trump, would let the appropriate legal authorities deal with it. There was nothing more recent posted regarding that issue.

    “Any person who thinks about anything after election day, is not focused enough on election day.” To repeat TLentych regarding the election; Bernie supporters are still supporting Bernie, people who do not want to vote for Joe Biden are telling people to vote Green or Libertarian. We are still living in 2016; those more than SEVEN MILLION who voted for Jill Stein and Gary Johnson contained those votes against both Hillary and Trump, no statistical breakdown is known. It is Deja vu all over again to quote Yogi Berra. Voters in this country appear to have learned nothing from the 2016 election which resulted in the Electoral College appointment of Trump or from the almost four years of Trump’s hell we are still living in.

  24. Jan Lindemann posted on this blog today. I didn’t know you had to be someone “of importance” to participate in this string of comments.

  25. I apologize, I missed the name backtracking through comments. It was the comment which caught my attention in your post.

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