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.