Iran-Contra

No Rationalizing Allowed


Reading time – 4:05  .  .  .

Arguments abound about whether to prosecute Donald Trump once he’s out of office for his alleged extensive and nefarious lawbreaking both before and since becoming President. He may be Dear Leader to his MAGA nation followers, but in the eyes of the law he is, at best, a suspect in numerous felonious activities. What are we to do with this?

If Trump is indicted and prosecuted for his many crimes like extortion, multiple counts of obstruction of justice, money laundering, tax fraud, bank fraud and so much more, his angry followers will become yet more enraged and our national divide will surely widen. Some of the hot heads may commit violent acts including vandalism and maybe murder. After all, they are well armed and many believe that the Second Amendment is their Constitutional protection against the evils of government encroachment and is the right tool to use when they feel aggrieved. They may believe it’s their patriotic duty to violently overthrow the government, having been told repeatedly that anything that looks different from Trump World is unpatriotic. Use your own imagination to conjure what red-faced angry people might do if their cult leader is indicted. Preventing such dangerous events is a strong argument against prosecuting Trump. I think, though, that it fails to persuade and is, in fact, negotiating against ourselves. Here’s why.

Richard Nixon was clearly guilty of obstruction of justice of the congressional investigation into the Watergate “Plumbers,” the burglars who broke into the Democratic National Headquarters in what was labeled a “third rate burglary.” Nixon finally left office when Republican senators told him the jig was up and he had to resign or he would be impeached and removed from office. In other words, he was so plainly guilty of having broken laws that even Republicans couldn’t or wouldn’t protect him, so he resigned. That was good. It was also the beginning of a lot of bad.

In a tortured piece of logic that flew in the face of the rule of law, Gerald Ford granted a “full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in  .  .  .  ” That logic was:

”  .  .  .  the tranquility to which this nation has been restored by the events of recent weeks could be irreparably lost by the prospects of bringing to trial a former President of the United States. The prospects of such trial will cause prolonged and divisive debate over the propriety of exposing to further punishment and degradation a man who has already paid the unprecedented penalty of relinquishing the highest elective office of the United States.”

In other words, jeez, some people might become upset over Nixon being held to account for his criminal acts, so we should simply do nothing. So much for accountability.

Do you really want Presidents to have one of these?

Ford took a lot of heat for that pardon and was defeated in the next election, but Nixon went on a tour to rehabilitate his public image so that he could be seen as an elder statesman, rather than the felon he truly was. And that surely cranked up the get-out-of-jail-free card that we’ve issued to all tenants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since then.

Reagan negotiated with the Iranians before his 1980 election and persuaded them not to release our people who were being held hostage. He convinced the Ayatollah with promises favorable to Iran, to hold the hostages until after the election so that Reagan would more easily defeat Carter. That’s illegal, but there was no accountability.

Reagan had his fingerprints all over the Iran-Contra crimes. As close as he got to being held accountable was a reporter calling out to him as he and Nancy walked across the White House lawn from Marine 1. He cupped his hand to his ear and mouthed, “I can’t hear you,” and the scandal slipped off him as though he were coated with Teflon. No accountability.

When he was president, H.W. Bush pardoned the Iran-Contra criminals, which was doubly interesting because Bush was part of the criminal conspiracy and the cover up, so he benefited from those pardons and escaped accountability.

Clinton lied to a grand jury and got away with it. Of course, the circumstances were muddy because Ken Starr had spent 4.5 years looking under every rock for anything Clinton had ever done that might be indictable and found nothing but illicit sex in the Oval Office, which isn’t a crime. So, Starr set up Clinton by forcing him to embarrass himself by telling the truth or lying.

W. Bush got away with the torture of prisoners and lying us into 2 wars. Torturing was and is illegal. I don’t know if lying to Congress to get us into wars is illegal. It sure ought to be.

W. Bush and Cheney got away with awarding massive, no-bid contracts to Halliburton.

Obama got away with refusing to prosecute CIA people who did Bush’s torturing.

And now we have Trump violating the law over and over.

The point is that none of the perps has been held accountable , resulting in violations becoming so ordinary that we no longer expect anything to be done, other than some partisan gnashing of teeth. Refusing to hold wrong-doers accountable guarantees we’ll have more and worse wrong-doing in the future. As horrid as Trump is, I fear the felon who follows him even more.

If Trump is allowed to get away with his noxious crime spree, we can be certain that some future President will do far worse, safe in the knowledge that there will be no accountability. And in our refusing to act properly and hold leaders accountable, invoking any of our rationalized reasons in the manner of Gerald Ford, we are eliminating – demolishing – the rule of law and our very democracy that we say we hold dear.

Caving into threats from MAGA cultists would amount to that very thing. In fact, it amounts to caving in to terrorists. Absurdly, any argument against holding Trump accountable now is caving into the fears of our imagination.

Perhaps you share my preference not to have terrorists running our country. Perhaps you agree with the Founders who refused the divine right of kings and declared that this nation will never have a king. It’s why they set us up with presidents instead. Indeed, read the Declaration of Independence, specifically to review the list of abuses of power of King George III, who was never held to account except by losing a colony. That’s what we will have and perhaps far worse if we neuter the rule of law.

If we want accountability from our leaders, we must hold them accountable. No rationalizing allowed.

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Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
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Your Lyin’ Eyes and Impeachment


Reading time – 3.47; Viewing time – 5:20  .  .  .

The Mueller Report is out and I haven’t had time to go through all 448 pages, although you can do that yourself by getting the PDF from the DOJ website here. Click on the 4th line beginning “Report on the Investigation” for the download. Or if you prefer you can get an indexed and searchable version here.

There is big stuff in that report, including that the lack of indictments of the president is due to the Justice Department guideline that a sitting president can’t be indicted. Also, because so many documents were destroyed by various perps.

Nevertheless, Mueller let us know that he was unable to declare that the President of the United States isn’t a criminal. Stunning! My more chilling takeaway, though, is about Attorney General William Barr.

Barr was promoted as a legal institutionalist, even after his unsolicited, 19-page job application that made it clear that he believed that, metaphorically speaking, a president really could get away with shooting someone on 5th Avenue. That view works for Trump and Barr got the attorney general post.

In each of his public appearances and writings as attorney general, Barr has gone out of his way to exonerate the president. His rhetoric vacillates between cherry-picked, out of context phrases to outright lies all in favor of President Trump. Did he think we wouldn’t notice? In listening to Barr I’m reminded of comedian Richard Pryor’s line, “Who you gonna believe: me or your lyin’ eyes?”

The scary part is that Barr sounds like the president’s defense counsel, instead of the attorney for the Constitution of the United States of America.

In his piece in New York Magazine entitled, “Congress Should Impeach William Barr,” Jonathan Chait wrote,

“The Justice Department is an awesome force that holds the power to enable the ruling party to commit crimes with impunity .  .  .”

We should have seen this coming.

From The Onion, of course. Click the pic

Barr is the former attorney general for President George H.W. Bush. Barr recommended to Bush that he pardon the convicted Iran-Contra felons. Click through the link and scroll down to the Indictments section and you’ll see that these guys did a lot of really bad things, including thwarting the explicit will of Congress. You need to appreciate how significant that is.

Doing that is an attack on Congress itself, and it encourages an imperial presidency. William Barr cemented that by recommending those pardons. And now he’s defending this power grabbing, dictator wanna-be president.

If Barr is an institutionalist, exactly what institution does he serve?

Read more about this here.

And another thing .  .  .

Now that most of the Mueller Report is released, the talk of impeachment is spiraling upward. I’ve long called for the removal of this cheating, lying, fraudulent, self-aggrandizing, democracy damaging president, but now I have significant doubt about that notion.

President Gerald Ford set a woeful precedent by granting, “.  .  .   a full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in .  .  .” Nixon got a free pass for his criminal wrongdoing and wasn’t held accountable in any way.

That is the precedent that Mike Pence will inherit should he become President. That means that our criminal president will likely be pardoned for any and all crimes which he may have committed (think: conspiring with the Russians to disrupt our 2016 election, obstruction of justice; money laundering; and fraud).

Further, if Trump were to be impeached, whether convicted in the Senate or not, he and the Republicans will wail about him being a poor victim, suffering unfair discrimination by the evil Democrats and the Washington swamp. That could lead to another Republican in the White House in 2021 and a Congress controlled by the same spineless legislators who are enabling Trump right now.

The solution that makes the most sense to me is to Benghazi Trump: just keep his wrongdoing in the public eye through November 3, 2020 with ongoing Congressional hearings.

I often have difficulty rationalizing the impact of the bypassing of punishment for wrongdoing in favor of some greater good, but this one looks obvious enough even for me.

No impeachment.

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Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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