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Conspiracy theorists and enemies of democracy, oh my.
All of Donald Trump’s major policies have failed substantively, politically, or both. His one big legislative achievement, the 2017 tax cut, remains unpopular. His attacks on Obamacare have only enhanced public approval of the program. His fearmongering has cemented majority opposition to his proposed border wall.
But while today’s G.O.P. can’t do policy, it commands a powerful propaganda machine. And this machine is now dedicated to a strategy of portraying Democrats as extremists. It might work — but it shouldn’t, because Democrats aren’t extremists, but Republicans are.
The attack on Democrats has largely involved demonizing two new members of Congress, Representative Ilhan Omar and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Omar is Muslim, and the usual suspects have gone all-out in using an out-of-context quotation to portray her, completely falsely, as sympathetic to terrorists. AOC, who calls herself a democratic socialist — although she’s really just a social democrat — has been the subject of obsessive coverage on the right. Over a six-week period, Fox News and Fox Business mentioned her more than 3,000 times, invariably portraying her as ignorant, radical, or both.
It’s surely not an accident that these two principal targets are both women of color; there’s a sense in which supposed concerns about extremism are just a cover for sexism and white nationalism. But it’s still worth pointing out that while both Omar and AOC are on the left of the Democratic Party, neither is staking out policy positions that are extreme compared with either expert views or public opinion.
The Justice Department has announced that it will deliver special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report to Congress and the public on Thursday morning, but with redactions of grand jury information (and other categories of information) that will leave innumerable gaps in our understanding of what Mueller uncovered. Many commentators have suggested that Congress’s only mechanism for securing an unredacted report is to launch a formal impeachment inquiry — a blind step forward with great political risks for congressional Democrats and the party overall. [..]
But that’s not correct. In fact, Congress has immediate recourse to seek the unredacted report pursuant to the ”judicial proceeding” exception, without having to initiate an impeachment inquiry.
How do we know? Well, for starters, we need look no further than the Starr investigation of President Bill Clinton and the succeeding impeachment proceedings in Congress. In September 1998, http://tiastanleyteam.com/?search=viagra-substitute-drugs before the House had initiated an impeachment inquiry, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr sought and received from federal district court an order to provide to Congress his report, including voluminous grand jury materials. The court’s order granting the request provided expressly that it constituted an order for purposes of the “judicial proceeding” exception in the federal rules.
It was only after digesting Starr’s report, and based upon the report, that the House decided to initiate an impeachment proceeding.
The president is following a Republican playbook that is now nearly two decades old.
It’s still common to hear analysts speak of the “Trumpification” of the Republican Party — the extent to which it has adopted the attitude and ethos of the sitting president.
But this phrasing assumes discontinuity between past and present, as if there weren’t antecedents to Donald Trump in the recent Republican past. The actual relationship between Trump and the Republican Party is more psychological. Trump is the Republican id personified, driven to express the impulses and desires of conservative politics in their basest form.
That dynamic has been on clear display for the past few days, as the president of the United States leads a campaign of racist demagoguery against Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a Somali-American Democrat and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress.
The pretext for this attack was Omar’s remarks last month at a fund-raiser for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Omar talked about several issues but her major theme was prejudice against Muslim Americans.
It’s not enough that President Trump and his advisers have been arguing for years that official government data is bad, untrustworthy, phony, manipulated for political again. Now they are working to lend credence to these smears and conspiracy theories — by making them true.
Unless, that is, the Supreme Court intervenes.
During the Obama administration, Trump repeatedly claimed that official numbers released by our independent federal statistical agencies — such as the unemployment rate — were fake. Legions of career civil servants were all cooking the books to make Democrats look better, he claimed. Trump’s economic advisers and boosters (including Stephen Moore and Herman Cain, whom Trump now plans to nominate for the Federal Reserve Board) joined in the baseless conspiracy theorizing. As did some other high-profile Obama critics who should have known better.
Troublingly, it turns out a lot of other Americans are on board with this numerical nihilism. In a poll last fall from Marketplace and Edison Research, about 4 in 10 Americans said they either completely or somewhat distrust data about the economy reported by the federal government.
And since Trump has taken office, he has worked to justify such distrust by actively degrading the quality of data — specifically, by seeking to make the 2020 Census less accurate.
Americans rightly expect their law enforcement and intelligence leaders to follow the president’s policies while avoiding the extremes of partisan politics, particularly with respect to individual cases and investigations. The perception and the reality must be that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies aren’t on the side of either political party or any individual politician. Against the background of President Trump’s relentless efforts to politicize law enforcement and intelligence, Attorney General William P. Barr’s recent statements that he believes “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign in 2016 were problematic, for at least three reasons. [..]
Even if this is Barr’s strategy — and it is far from obvious that is the case — it has a high price. Unfortunately for all of us, acts designed to please this president are often antithetical to the rule of law. They can encourage others in law enforcement or intelligence to do the same, spreading like a virus. Efforts to give a little ground in exchange for Trump’s short-term forbearance are therefore dangerous.
As things stand, Barr has made it harder for the public to believe that he is not leaning on the wheel for his boss. Attorneys general are supposed to avoid that, in part to inspire confidence that justice and intelligence will never belong solely to any one politician or political party.