Trump Just Suggested His 'Great New Attorney General' May Prosecute His Enemies for 'Treason'

Jack Holmes
Photo credit: Bastiaan Slabbers - Getty Images

From Esquire

The current President of the United States is not compatible with a constitutional republic. The two cannot coexist. Day by day, Donald Trump, American president, is laying waste to the pillars of democracy, determined to destroy any institution that might provide a check on his power or provide an avenue to hold him accountable for what he has done.

He has first and foremost attacked the separation of powers laid out in the Constitution, wherein Congress is a co-equal branch of government to the Executive and has the authority to investigate the administration and provide oversight of the president's activities. He declared a phony National Emergency to seize funds that Congress had refused to appropriate for his Big, Beautiful Wall-an assault on the Power of the Purse that undergirds much of the Legislative Branch's clout in our system. If the president can seize money for whatever he wants, whenever he wants, it destroys the power of Congress to have a say in making policy. The president becomes a king.

Then he embarked on an unprecedented campaign of obstruction on congressional subpoenas, filing lawsuits and blocking even former aides-like White House Counsel Don McGahn, whom the Mueller Report found Trump repeatedly instructed to obstruct justice-from testifying. This has culminated in his lawyers' argument, in court, that Congress actually has no power to investigate malfeasance by the president and his aides-and that, consequently, Watergate was an illegitimate investigation. You know, the one that ended with Richard Nixon's resignation because he did a bunch of crimes.

The president has waged war on the institution of the free press, attempting not just to undermine the credibility of news organizations that provide information independent from his regime, but also to cast journalists as Enemies of the State. Like with immigrants, he has referred to the media in dehumanizing terms, and suggested he "hates these people"-reporters-but "would never kill them," a disgusting way to put the idea on the table. He has sought to intimidate members of the press, cheering a political ally's physical assault on a reporter who dared ask him a question about healthcare. (The congressman, Greg Gianforte, pled guilty to a misdemeanor.)

That is just one of many instances where Donald Trump has embraced political violence from the rally podium. This month, he cracked a "joke" after a rally attendee yelled about shooting immigrants at the border. In February, a rally goer worked into a frenzy physically attacked a BBC journalist. In October, a fringe supporter sent bombs to his perceived enemies in the media and the Democratic Party.

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And lastly, he has sought to destroy the independent system of justice and the rule of law, which provide a platform for the republic to function. The United States has never treated everyone equally before the law, but Trump has found a pet toad for an attorney general who has declared, in effect, that the president is above it. If the president can obstruct and interfere in any investigation he likes, including one into himself and his opponents-especially if he's upset at it-then the law does not apply to him. Moreover, Trump has banged the drum constantly for his political opponents to be investigated and thrown in jail-a list that now includes the Justice Department and FBI officials who undertook a perfectly legitimate investigation into his campaign's ties to Russian nationals.

This escalated to a new level Monday night when the president held a rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania.

Here is the President of the United States suggesting his political opponents, and law enforcement officials who investigated him and his associates, committed "treason." Under the Constitution, this charge carries a penalty of death. It is not the first time he has thrown around the T-word.

He has based this assessment on the idea that his campaign was "spied" on, a lie he has trotted out in various forms ever since he tweeted that the Obama administration ordered a "wire tapping" of Trump Tower. Trump and his lackeys have never provided evidence of this. That includes their noise around whether the government's surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump foreign policy adviser with deep ties to Russia whom the FBI secured a FISA warrant to monitor, was undertaken illegally. The specifics around what, exactly, the "spying" was seems to be completely fluid based on whatever you can get enough people to believe in any given moment.

But the more worrying detail was towards the end there. "We have a great new attorney general who will give it a very fair look," the president says. Somehow, you don't get the feeling it will be fair. William Barr is Trump's pet toad, and has already established himself as an apparatchik willing to do anything in service to presidential power. (We should have seen this more definitively, based on his record during Iran-Contra and on Executive Power more broadly, before he was confirmed.)

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Barr manipulated the rollout of the Mueller Report to obscure the fact that the president committed multiple felonies. It was clear the second section, in particular, served as Robert Mueller's impeachment referral to Congress, though you'd never have known it from how Barr represented the findings in his reprehensible Letter. He has already echoed conspiracies about "spying," including while testifying before Congress. He has signaled his intent to lead Trump's Investigate the Investigators movement, a means of undermining the credibility of the Russia investigation and muddying the waters around just who engaged in serious misconduct. (Hint: it was the president.) When Trump suggests his attorney general is going to take a look at throwing his political opponents and disloyal law enforcement in jail, he does not mean Barr will just be looking. And the Red Hats respond by chanting for the Enemies to be Locked Up.

There is no longer any need to imagine what American Authoritarianism might look like. It is here. The president is a would-be autocrat. He will annihilate our constitutional republic via one thousand cuts if he is allowed to continue wielding the immense power we have so inexplicably given him. He has broken the law for much of his adult life and gotten away with it because nobody ever looked behind his golden curtain. Now he's broken the law while occupying the most heavily scrutinized office in the history of the world, and the only way to once again escape accountability for what he's done is to destroy any institution or mechanism of democracy that would allow the public to hold him accountable.

Need more proof? Here he was doing a ChopperTalk before heading to the rally yesterday.

The president has simply declared his administration will disregard the ruling of a federal judge because he was nominated by a Democrat. This is yet another direct assault on the Constitution's separation of powers, which holds that Congress will make the laws, the judiciary will interpret them, and the president will execute them. Donald Trump has declared the judiciary has no such authority if it is wielded in a way he finds inconvenient. And as MSNBC's Chris Hayes pointed out on Twitter, Trump says "this never happened to any other president" while referencing a ruling that "literally opens with it happening to another president." The Trump presidency is based in part on the idea he is uniquely victimized and persecuted, representing a constituency that is victimized and persecuted, regardless of what's occurring in observable reality.

Any impeachment question is political, but the stakes go far beyond that now. If the current president is allowed to continue in office, it will sanction the idea that the Executive can commit multiple felonies, destroy other democratic institutions, and continue on as the leader of a republic. This is not possible. The president seeks a world where the law is applied selectively, based on his prerogatives, and where the only truth is whatever information is dispensed by his regime. In this postmodern Dark Age, the only viable currency left is power. Funny that nobody has more of it than him. Anyone who thinks they can ride this wave and get off whenever they want is a fool. Autocracy is a riptide-just ask the Russians.

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