Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The GOP, Not Just Trump, Own His Calls for "Terminating" the Constitution

The United States Constitution is purportedly a sacred document to Republicans. But for as much as they claim to be in awe of or inspired by the document, GOP lawmakers were tepid in their defense of the document this past week after their party's de facto leader, Donald Trump, suggested it should be terminated to suit his ends.

Last weekend, former President Donald Trump made a post on his fledgling social media site Truth Social, in which he basically stated that supposed evidence from Elon Musk on Twitter's suppression of information during the 2020 presidential election should render the results of that race invalid. Trump's solution was to run a new election or simply reinstate him into the White House — actions that he suggested required the "termination" of the Constitution.

Trump wrote:

A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.
After huge outcry over what essentially amounted to the destruction of our nation's framework of self-governance, Trump tried to walk back his comments two days later, saying that the "fake news" media had misconstrued his words. But in that same post, Trump again proposed actions that would require the complete upending of the Constitution, contradicting his assertions that he was misquoted.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Ultimately, Trump doesn't believe in the Constitution anyway — or rather, he only believes in his ridiculous interpretations of the document. Remember, as president, Trump once famously stated that Article II of the Constitution, which discusses the powers and limitations of the presidency, allowed him to do whatever he wanted, without consequence, a claim that constitutional scholars rightly scoffed at.

What's really disturbing, though, is how those comments then and his more recent ones this past week still don't appear to be enough to motivate Republicans to drop him as their leader, once and for all. Even those who do speak out about them aren't doing so in a real forceful way.

Mitch McConnell suggested such comments are disqualifying for anyone planning to run for president (as Trump is doing), but didn't use Trump's name when expressing that sentiment. And Kevin McCarthy, the presumptive next Speaker of the House, is responding to Trump's troubling words by ignoring them — he hasn't made any statement to them as of Wednesday morning.

That's quite remarkable. Remember, this is the guy who is trying to make a point out of reading the Constitution out loud in the first hours he takes control of the House of Reprsentatives. To ignore how Trump says he wants to dismantle that document is quite telling of how McCarthy really feels about it — that his party's reading of the Constitution is a performative exercise that doesn't mean squat to him.

If the GOP can't forcefully condemn these harmful and anti-democratic suggestions from the ex-president (recognizing them as likely giving his most ardent base of followers more fodder for which they can use to oppose representative democracy in the U.S.), then the words he's uttered aren't just disqualifying for anyone running for president: the words that are unsaid are also disqualifying for GOP lawmakers or candidates in general.

Trump's words should be rejected outright. Otherwise, Republicans own them, too.

Featured image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Friday, August 12, 2022

Trump Says He Declassified Docs. With the Espionage Act, That Doesn't Matter.

Donald Trump's defenses against claims he did anything wrong, relating to his improperly holding classified documents — including being under investigation for potentially violating parts of the Espionage Act, per the search warrant of his Mar-a-Lago property that was made public Friday — are, to no surprise, not accurate.

On his Truth Social account (where anything BUT the truth is ever uttered, it seems), Trump listed a couple of reasons why (in his mind) criticism of him harboring top secret, classified information at his Palm Beach resort (including potential info on nuclear weapons) was fine. 

Let's look at what he had to say.

Number one, it was all declassified.
Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia
Well, no, it most likely wasn't. There's a process for declassifying information as top secret as the documents Trump was harboring. Just saying "I declassified this" isn't how it works.  

Additionally, according to The Wall Street Journal, the documents that were extracted WERE classified. So, Trump is lying.

But let's give Trump the benefit of the doubt, and say that his claim is true. That's STILL NOT AN EXCUSE for what he's done, as Charlie Savage at The New York Times points out:

For one thing, two of the laws that a search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago this week referenced — Sections 1519 and 2071 of Title 18 of the United States Code — make the taking or concealment of government records a crime regardless of whether they had anything to do with national security.
Savage goes on to note that:
The Espionage Act makes no reference to whether a document has been deemed classified. Instead, it makes it a crime to retain, without authorization, documents related to the national defense that could be used to harm the United States or aid a foreign adversary.
Let's look at the other claim Trump made in his Truth Social posting:
Number two, they [the DOJ] didn’t need to “seize” anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago.
This contradicts what we know about the whole situation from this week. Trump is gaslighting here, hoping his loyalists don't know any better.

Trump was subpoenaed this spring to turn over additional documents that the National Archives didn't collect in January. Within that very subpoena, it said the former president had to turn over other documents, if he had any, that were classified.

An informant indicated to DOJ that Trump still had classified documents in his possession (and as pointed out above, reporting from The Wall Street Journal confirmed that). This means that Trump violated the conditions within the subpoena.

Search warrants generally happen when investigators believe that a person will not voluntarily comply with subpoenas. The DOJ had reason to believe that, with these additional documents the informant told them about, Trump wouldn't comply. But they also had reason to believe this because Trump didn't comply in the first place — he didn't turn these docs over when he knew he had to.

Trump is in a lot of hot water — hotter than he's ever been in before — with these latest developments. The unsealed warrant suggests the DOJ is looking to charge him with crimes relating to the Espionage Act, which is not a slap-on-the-wrist kind of law, to say the least.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Decades-Old U.S. Law, Still on the Books, Could Imprison Anyone Discussing Abortion Online

A provision that's never been enforced since it was passed as part of a larger law in the way-back-times of former President Bill Clinton could land anyone talking online about abortion (in the U.S.) in prison for several years.

Per The New Republic:

[Q]uietly sitting on the books, where it’s been for nearly three decades, is a law that explicitly makes it a crime to discuss abortion online.
TNR's Melissa Gira Grant elaborates on how this came to be, and what it could mean:
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first major attempt by Congress to define what would be lawful on the internet. The act includes a provision that criminalizes discussing abortion, with potential punishment of up to five years in jail, $250,000 in fines, or both.
Obviously, this law is a violation of free speech protections that exist within the First Amendment. But with Republicans all-but-guaranteed to win Congress next year, the potential for a GOP president to win in 2024, and the Supreme Court's 6-3 far-right majority, it's possible that the law could be enforced — particularly if Republicans continue pushing to become a "Christian nationalist" party — and there would be no remedy to go about challenging it (let alone reversing the awful decision that the Court imposed in the first place). 

Any talk of abortion online, and you could find yourself sitting inside a federal prison. That's it. That's the law, potentially, if Republicans gain the power to govern without any checks and balances again.

Public Domain