Trump’s Playing Chicken with the Electorate. Obama: What’s Good for the Goose…

Trump’s Playing Chicken with the Electorate. Obama: What’s Good for the Goose… February 20, 2020

Holy hell, what the bejesus is going on with this man. It’s like Trump is trying his hardest to win a game of chicken with the American electorate, playing who will pull out first, the electorate, or the man trying his hardest to be the world’s most powerful douchebag, openly flaunting rules, protocols, general morality and decorum, to see what he can get away with.

After being acquitted during the impeachment, he continues to have Guiliani do they very things that got him into trouble in the first place, all the while Tweeting incendiary insanity. He meddled in the legal case of Roger Stone, who was convicted of a seven-count indictment that accused him of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election. Trump’s tweet managed to get the Department of Justice (DOJ) to do a volte-face, calling for a reduction in the suggested sentence of 7-9 years down to 3-4…

But this wasn’t enough… Oh no, his commutations and attacks on the justice system didn’t stop there.

Trump has now granted clemency or commutation to eleven white-collar convicts, embroiled predominantly in corruption scandals. The most notable was infamous former Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich. The pardons have come hot on the heels of Trump’s meddling in the Stone case and look to be a case of Trump flexing his muscles to achieve his own political ends. He has hilariously defended his actions by saying that this can’t be partisan because Rod Blagojevich is (was?) a Democrat. Well, the reality is that Democrats, as well as Republicans, loathe him, but more importantly, the man has declared: “He’s got obviously a big fan in me. And if you’re asking me what my party affiliation is, I’m a Trumpocrat.” He appeared on Celebrity Apprentice with Trump, so there is almost certainly a narcissistic connection.

The whole debacle leaves a very unsavoury taste in the mouth. Trump looks to be setting the foundations in place to do something with regard to Roger Stone. Trump attempted to cover up his corruption get-out-of-jail-free spree by including a couple of women in there, as AP states:

resident Donald Trump went on a clemency blitz Tuesday, commuting former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s 14-year prison sentence and pardoning former New York City police commissioner Bernie Kerik, among a long list of others.

Those who got a break from Trump include financier Michael Milken, the “junk bond king” who served two years in prison in the early 1990s after pleading guilty to violating U.S. securities laws, and Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former San Francisco 49ers owner convicted in a gambling fraud scandal after building one of the most successful NFL teams in history. But Trump also commuted the sentences of several women with more sympathetic cases to balance out the men convicted of corruption.

In all, Trump took clemency actions related to 11 people, his latest interventions in the justice system as he faces growing criticism for weighing in on the cases of former aides. Trump made clear that he saw similarities between efforts to investigate his own conduct and those that took down Blagojevich, a Democrat who appeared on Trump’s reality TV show, “Celebrity Apprentice.”

“It was a prosecution by the same people — Comey, Fitzpatrick, the same group,” Trump told reporters. He was referring to Patrick Fitzgerald, the former U.S. attorney who prosecuted Blagojevich and now represents former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired from the agency in May 2017. Comey was working in the private sector during the Blagojevich investigation and indictment.

The clemency actions come as an emboldened Trump continues to test the limits of his office now that impeachment is over. The actions drew alarm from Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. of New Jersey, who accused Trump of using his unfettered pardon power “to shield unrepentant felons, racists and corrupt scoundrels.”

Blagojevich was convicted on charges of political corruption, including seeking to sell an appointment to former President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat and trying to shake down a children’s hospital.

But Trump said the former governor had been subjected to a “ridiculous sentence” that didn’t fit his crimes.

“That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence, in my opinion and in the opinion of many others,” he said.

Trump confirmed the pardons on an air base tarmac as he left Washington for a West Coast visit. He said he had yet to think about pardoning his longtime confidant Roger Stone, who is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday, or granting clemency to several former aides who have ended up in legal jeopardy, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and disgraced former national security adviser Mike Flynn.

But he made clear anew that he is sympathetic to their cases. “Somebody has to stick up for the people,” Trump said. As for Stone, in particular, he added: “You’re going to see what happens. I think he’s treated unfairly.”

Former Manhattan Assistant U.S. Attorney Mimi Rocah said the pardons sends a message that corruption is OK and “signal to his friends who are facing investigations or prosecutions for white collar crimes … that Trump has their back.”

Indeed, Pascrell predicted that, following Trump’s acquittal by the Republican-controlled Senate, “outrageous abuses like these will accelerate and worsen.”

In Illinois, current Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, said in a statement that Trump “has abused his pardon power in inexplicable ways to reward his friends and condone corruption, and I deeply believe this pardon sends the wrong message at the wrong time.” Republicans in the state echoed his criticism of the Blagojevich action.

Many of the pardons announced Tuesday were advocated by well-heeled friends of the president, including Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate, Tom Barrack, a longtime Trump confidant and the chairman of his inaugural committee, and Fox News personality Maria Bartiromo.

Milken’s advocates, for example, included all of the above — along with Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney. It was Giuliani who charged Milken with 98 felony counts, including racketeering, insider trading and securities fraud, when he served as the top federal prosecutor in New York City in 1989.

“He paid a big price, paid a very tough price,” Trump said of Milken, who was among a small group of GOP mega donors who spent Election Night 2018 at the White House, according to media reports.

Blagojevich’s case had been championed by his wife, Patti, who went on a media blitz in 2018. Appearing on Trump favorite Fox News, she encouraged him to step in, likening the investigation of her husband to special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

And relatives of Paul Pogue, the owner of a construction company found guilty of underpaying his taxes, whom Trump also pardoned, have donated large sums to Trump’s reelection campaign.

The final point to make is that, for Trump supporters (some of whom frequent this blog), I have often talked about how I simply can’t believe how they can rationally support Trump; how do people maintain support for this utter buffoon?

The answer, from regular commenters here (we know who they are) should be something like: “I adhere very strongly to consequentialism, and I support Trump only inasmuch as he is the best vehicle to achieve X, because his behaviour over A, B and C is morally reprehensible; but, that said, it appears to get us to X.”

But we don’t hear this, we hear poor ad hoc rationalisations or denials or conspiracy theories or deflections (such as procedural points with the impeachment).

What remains to be said is this: If Obama had been the person doing all of the interfering and impeachable things that Trump has so obviously been doing, would these same Trump defenders be defending Trump?

Ha ha ha! Of course not. These people are defending Trump because…Trump. They are not defending his actions, his behaviour.

Trump has come to represent far more than his actions and behaviour. He represents an assault on liberalism and a defence of every conservative value you might want to think of (for them) even though his own moral behaviour is starkly in contradiction to these conservative values: a thrice-married serial sex offender who is rude and crude who has shown not only massive religious ignorance, but appears not to have a religious bone in his body. He represents pro-life and anti-abortion, pro-second Amendment gun advocacy. He represents religion qua Christianity. All of these single issues that people use as drivers for their entire political lives mean that Trump receives their undying support, even given the many egregious things he says and does.

So, to repeat, would the honest Trump supporter have defended Obama with the same robustness, the same arguments, that they defend Trump with?

Absolutely and completely not. And that should really worry them.


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