I’ve been enjoying a lot of schadenfreude lately

First, it was Alex Jones’s comeuppance in court. He mouthed off to the judge and ended up with two judgments resulting in about $50M in punitive and compensatory damages for claiming the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre was staged.

This weekend though it was watching Donald Trump writhe in Bedminster while FBI agents raided his Mar a Lago estate and left with eleven sets of documents, most of which were classified, all of which his lawyer attested in June did not exist.

Some of the material seized contained the Top Secret classification, and some of it was marked as SCI material. I once had a Top Secret clearance, and I could view certain siloed Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (SCI). I’m pretty sure I never did, because I don’t recall going to a SCIF (SCI facility), which is the only place I could have read it. If I had a need to read it though I would have had to prove my need, needed to have read it in the facility, and would have had my entry, exit and the documents I read logged. I would have been watched the whole time too.

So it really can’t be overstated how big a security breach this is. The Oval Office is not a SCIF. I’m not sure where the nearest SCIF is but there is probably one in the basement. The War Room might be considered a SCIF. If so, Trump couldn’t be bothered to walk there. A president that follows the law would read it (and leave it) there.

But at least the White House is a secured building. Mar a Lago is not, at least it’s not up to federal security standards. And while Trump may think that when president he could instantly declassify anything, he couldn’t. He’d have had to go through a process which would have included feedback from the agencies affected.

Instead, he threw the stuff in boxes and brought them with him to Florida and appears to have largely stored them in rooms that were not even locked and in a resort open to the public, presumably full of people who never passed a background investigation. Why? It’s not too hard to figure out. Trump is thoroughly corrupt and probably saw some way to profit from their possession. That it was also illegal probably didn’t cross his mind, or simply didn’t bother him.

Meanwhile, his supporters cheered him on, even as his excuses kept changing and were contradictory. From the Law and Order Party and their reactions, we learned that Law and Order applies only to non-Republicans, but certainly not to a former President of the United States, unless they are a Democrat. How dare the jack-booted thugs of the FBI raid his home! The only reason they would do this is because it’s a political act.

For years, Republicans were in a lather because a potentially classified email might have been stored on Hillary Clinton’s private server. But actual voluminous classified documents, including some containing sensitive intelligence sources and methods were stored offsite and unlocked doesn’t bother them at all as long as it was on Donald Trump’s estate. Because, well, reasons.

Trump, of course, said the “raid” was illegal, as if a search warrant signed by a federal magistrate is not legal. This sent his supporters into a predictable tizzy. One unhinged supporter who also posted on his Truth Social site stupidly entered a Cincinnati FBI field office to wreak vengeance with his gun to be quickly shot to death by the many heavily armed agents there.

Next, Trump said that if classified information was found, it was only because the FBI somehow planted it there. This is after he voluntarily returned classified information he had taken with him when he left office. I’m sure Mar a Lago has a surveillance system. I can’t wait to see the videos of FBI agents surreptitiously bringing classified documents into Mar a Lago just so they could later find them. I’m sure his supporters think these videos must exist. But if it doesn’t, it’s no matter. The government somehow surreptitiously erased the data. It was probably the CIA or NSA.

His supporters are convinced the only way to make things right is to get rid of the FBI altogether. Well, if no one is around to enforce the law, that certainly solves the problem of future Donald Trumps doing the same thing. We won’t need much of the court system either because there won’t be much left to bring before a judge if no one is investigating crimes. Anyhow, they tell us that we need to do this because of the danger of tyranny. Umm, if there are no FBI agents, instead of tyranny you’ll get a lot of anarchy, as who will be around to enforce the laws? You know, those laws the Party of Law and Order supposedly want prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law except, of course, if the lawbreaker is a Republican.

These rationalizations don’t matter in the least. Republicans don’t care about reasons, only outcomes. The only acceptable outcomes are that those in their party get to act with impunity and the rest of us don’t. Any means needed to achieve this outcome are perfectly okay. Democracy obviously means nothing to them. In fact, the law means nothing to them. The only thing that matters is power, and that they are the only ones allowed to wield it and to decide what it is.

And that’s because they clearly know best. Watching their ping ponging explanations as Donald Trump changed his explanations clearly demonstrates their sound minds, even temper and fairness. It’s a mystery to them why the rest of us would object.

If we do have a country of law and order, Trump will be prosecuted and convicted for these egregious violations of national security. Should it come to it though I’m confident that Trump will evade justice somehow. It looks like Russia is waiting for his exile. At least he’d feel at home there.

Much worse than Watergate

Our Chinese curse of living in interesting times continues. These days are truly extraordinary, although it may be hard for many Americans to see it. Our republic hangs in the balance on what happens over the next days, weeks and months.

It’s easy even for me to get caught up in the political drama of the moment, most recently the #ReleasetheMemo controversy. What’s harder to see is the big picture and how our republic is becoming increasingly tenuous. We are moving quickly toward an authoritarian state.

The #ReleasetheMemo controversy, with the said memo now officially released, allowed Republicans and Trump to release highly classified information to make the most tenuous possible case that the FBI and Justice Department is out to get Donald Trump. (A curious case to make since it is a department full of Republicans and has always had Republican FBI directors.) Releasing this memo also exposes sensitive intelligence sources and methods, which the Justice Department has said may result in people getting killed. You would think that this would give those approving this memo some pause, but not at all. Trump broadcast his approval of the memo even before even reading it. It’s not clear he actually has read it, as he has zero attention span.

How crazy is this conspiracy theory? Let Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet the Press explain it:

Why Trump would do this is obvious: he’s trying to escape justice. It is now abundantly clear that minimally he and many on his team have obstructed justice. It’s also abundantly clear that Russia has the goods on him. Trump admitted as much after he fired former FBI director James Comey: he said it took the Russian heat off him. He wants to make this whole “Russian thing” go away.

The memo gives him the pretext to remove Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein oversees the Mueller investigation. Mueller’s report will never see the light of day if Rosenstein is gone and Trump’s own lackey is in charge. So I expect Rosenstein will soon be fired. Mueller doesn’t have to be fired, but Trump will probably require his replacement to fire him anyhow. Trump will not allow himself to be held accountable for his actions. He never has and never will. Escaping justice is all he cares about.

A side effect though would be to make the Justice Department partisan and for it to lose its independence. Think about what this means. The Justice Department and the FBI in particular are our primary means of enforcing the law of the land. If they didn’t do this, you don’t have justice. At best you get very selective justice.

And Congress, at least almost all Republicans in Congress, are all for this. That was the whole point of #ReleasetheMemo. Congress is supposed to execute oversight of the Executive Branch. What we got now is just the opposite: Congress is aiding and abetting the White House and abdicating its role in oversight, in particular its oversight in making sure the Justice Department operates impartially.

So for the first time ever both Congress and the Administration don’t want the Justice Department to actually impartially administer justice. I was about fifteen when Watergate broke, and this didn’t happen during Watergate. It’s true that Democrats controlled Congress, but once Republicans realized the scope of Watergate they worked with Democrats to hold Nixon accountable. Now it is just the opposite.

This should not be surprising. Republicans are just following through on a long-executed playbook. Their goal is to end democracy and our republican government. In 2016 we not only elected Trump, but we also disenfranchised millions of voters. If these voters could have voted most likely would have kept Trump out of office. Republicans worked overtime to reduce the share of minorities and poor people who were allowed to vote. They aggressively purged voter roles.

Of course it’s not just limiting voting that Republicans worked at, but also at populating the judiciary with conservative judges, “strict constructionists”. So we pretty much have one party control now: Republicans control Congress, the White House and effectively the Judiciary, at least the Supreme Court. In Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down much of the Voting Rights Act, we watched conservative justices aid and abet the process of disenfranchising voters. One of Trump and Congress’s major tasks has been to put more conservatives in the judiciary by filling openings denied to Barack Obama during his presidency.

When you have a Justice Department that won’t administer justice; when you have a White House actively trying to keep the Justice Department from administering justice and setting it up so that it can’t do so in the future; when you have a Congress aiding and abetting by blocking the administration of justice; and when you have a court system that increasingly won’t uphold justice uniformly, you have a complete perversion of our form of government.

You have in effect removed the checks and balances from our system of government. We end up with a republican form of government in name only. Moreover, we set the conditions for authoritarian government instead.

That’s what we are up against at the moment. In the past I had faith in the American people to rectify the problem, which hopefully they will do in this year’s midterms. But our voting system is badly frayed due to gerrymandering and voter suppression. Depending how the Supreme Court rules in two gerrymandering cases it is considering this year, it could make our voting system even more disenfranchising. And we are also deeply polarized voting for our tribe rather than in the best interest of the country.

It’s abundantly clear that Republicans only want the “right” person to vote, which largely means only “white” people. We have a president who is openly racist. We have a Republican Congress that is pretty much the same way. The #ReleasetheMemo controversy shows just how far extreme Republicans will go on this issue. They will put party before country, not just a little bit but by taking a mile instead of an inch. There is no bridge too far for them as long as they can hold on to power. Democracy and republican government don’t mean anything to them. They are not patriots.

All this is going on right under our noses but it is hard for many of us to see the full scale of the wreckage they are unleashing. True patriots will of course protest and work hard to change this. Republicans though have gotten so skilled at manipulating the system to favor only them that it’s unclear if anything short of a new revolution can actually restore democracy. Arguably, we don’t have it anymore.