The past week is a perfect example of the Perpetual Ghastly Premise : this stuff is so bad, the blizzard of badness so overwhelming, that it becomes almost impossible to maintain focus on anything but the overwhelming weight of it all. Which is what they want.
This post is a humble stab at an idea I’ve been kicking around in my head for awhile: one of our fundamental challenges, in combating this national nightmare, is our collective lack of imagination. We don’t have any cultural or historical context for this type of challenge, we can’t conceive of where we might be headed, or what new hell awaits when we wake up to check the news every morning. I believe we all need to be thinking bigger, scarier, more desperately, and we need to work to dramatically expand our imaginations with regards to just how bad this can, and likely will, get…
APPARENTLY NECESSARY DISCLAIMER: the below is a bit of speculative fiction, one that imagines how bad this could get, very quickly. G&R willing, it will never become reality.
January 13, 2019
Trump Admin Issues Warrant for Obama’s Arrest
Unprecedented Move Seen by Critics as Shocking Abuse of Power,
by Supporters and GOP as Promise Kept
WASHINGTON, D.C. – United States Attorney General Rudy Giuliani announced today that he had received, from a little-known Trump-appointed judge in west Texas, a warrant for the arrest of President Barack Obama.
The criminal complaint giving rise to the warrant provided little detail of the basis for the charges, aside from referencing repeated, and recently escalated, allegations by President Trump that the Obama Administration impermissibly investigated the Trump campaign during the lead-up to the 2016 election.
A spokesperson for Pres. Obama released a statement stating that this is “a sad day for America,” and reiterating that Obama, and his administration, did nothing wrong. It was unclear, as of today, whether Giuliani would attempt to execute the warrant, and arrest the former President.
The stunning move by Giuliani, to criminally pursue a political rival, and former President, on dubious charges, follows the failed efforts by previous Attorney General Jeff Sessions to criminally prosecute Sec. Hillary Clinton – Pres. Trump’s rival in the 2016 election – and a sustained criminal investigation against a number of high profile Trump critics in recent months.
It also appeared, to many, to be a direct response to Pres. Trump’s repeated allegations and insinuations at rallies in recent months that his predecessor, Mr. Obama, engaged in undefined criminal conduct and should be jailed.
“[Pres. Trump] has been barnstorming the country, screaming ‘lock him up’ with no basis whatsoever, and the Attorney General is just shamelessly doing his bidding,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, who has been a vocal critic the Trump Administration. “This is a farce and a travesty. The United States of America is officially a banana republic, and let’s be clear, we’ve been there for a long while.”
Pres. Trump has in fact been escalating his attacks on Obama at a string of rallies in areas where he still enjoys strong support, which he refers to as the “Real America.” At a recent rally in Pensacola, Florida, Pres. Trump claimed that “Obama is the real treason guy, and yet they blame Trump. He doesn’t love this country. His loyalty is to his native Africa, and he hates Real America … he hates Trump.”
Trump claimed at that same rally, without basis, that his predecessor had personally fabricated evidence referenced in the 2018 report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The President has repeated those allegations against Obama more than a dozen times in recent months on Twitter.
Mr. Mueller’s report recommended criminal charges against President Trump, and more than one dozen members of his administration and campaign, in relation to efforts to aid and abet Russia’s attack on the 2016 election, and subsequent efforts to obstruct justice.
Republicans in Congress declined to take any action in response to Mueller’s recommendations, and Trump promptly fired Mueller and instructed then-Attorney General Sessions to launch an investigation into Mueller and his team. This was followed by the investigation into Sec. Clinton, and has spawned more than one dozen additional investigations and criminal referrals. To date, none of those Trump-ordered investigations have yielded any convictions, and all have been widely criticized as baseless and politically driven.
Trump’s latest broadsides against his predecessor appear to be driven by a renewal of calls to investigate Russia following a string of unusual occurrences surrounding the 2018 mid-term election in November, in which, despite winning only 42 percent of the vote nationwide, House Republicans narrowly held onto their majority. Election watchdogs highlighted signs of significant foreign intervention throughout the campaign season – both by Russia and other hostile foreign actors emboldened by the lack of U.S. response to Russian meddling in 2016 – including more than 100 House races, and 14 Senate races, in which foreign actors appear to have had the access and capacity to change vote tallies.
President Obama, who has largely avoided direct criticism of Trump, spoke out in the aftermath of the mid-terms, urging Republican leaders to put partisanship aside and investigate what he called a “continued, targeted attack on the United States.”
Republicans, clinging to a four vote majority in the House, have refused to investigate these attacks, echoing Trump’s mantra that these concerns are merely “sour grapes” on the part of Democrats. Calls for investigation have intensified, however, and public reaction has been overwhelming, with several protests in recent weeks ending in arrests and violence . . . .
…BACK TO THE PRESENT DAY…
To be honest, I initially envisioned the headline above to be about Hillary Clinton, but in light of recent events, that seems almost too likely, too believable a scenario. It is, tragically, not hard to imagine a scenario where, as early as this coming year, 2018, the hysterical screams of “lock her up” become a reality.
And if that seems far-fetched, if you’re inclined to think “never in America!,” you are, respectfully, not paying attention. We’re just under two weeks into 2018, and in that stretch of time alone – while we’ve been distracted, rightfully by serious questions about the President’s mental capacity, his obvious racism, and countless other atrocities – we’ve also seen an extraordinary escalation of attacks on the basic premise of rule of law, by this President and his Republican enablers. Consider the following, all of which occurred or broke in the first THIRTEEN DAYS of 2018:
- President Trump told the Wall Street Journal that Hillary Clinton should have “been taken out of the campaign and put on trial,” and gleefully referred to her as “guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty.” Of what, he did not bother to articulate.
- In that same WSJ interview, Trump stated that what Adam Schiff is doing – which is, to be clear, his job as a Congressperson – is “probably illegal.”
- To celebrate the New Year, F.A.T. also tweeted his desire to see Sec. Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin imprisoned: “Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act?”
- Trump then tacked on, for good measure, that he also felt “Jail!” was appropriate for “Comey and others.”
- Just a day or two later, Trump’s lapdog Justice Department announced that it would be investigating the Clinton Foundation, again, apparently solely to placate the whiny-little-bitch-in-chief.
- And inevitably, it was also announced that DOJ, at the behest of the President, was reopening the investigation into “her emails.”
- And the Republican Party is increasingly falling in line with their dear leader: just for shits and giggles, the Republican National Committee circulated a fun image of Jane Sanders – wife of Bernie, a potential political rival for F.A.T. in 2020 – behind bars, with the heading “jane in jail??”
- Meanwhile, Republicans continued to question the integrity of lifelong public servants like Robert Mueller and Andrew McCabe, and escalated their efforts to undercut the entire investigation into Russia’s attack on the United States.
- Sens. Grassley and Graham bizarrely referred Christopher Steele for “criminal investigation” by the FBI, based on, well, nothing other than a desire to carry President Trump’s jock, and to undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation into a grave attack on this country.
- When Democrat Diane Feinstein released testimony that revealed just how craven Grassley and Graham’s behavior was, the President immediately took to calling Ms. Feinstein’s acts, the lawful acts of a sitting U.S. Senator, “possibly illegal.”
- And F.A.T. literally cannot appear to stop himself when it comes to saying and tweeting things that, in any other time, uttered by any other person, would be unequivocally condemned as obstruction of justice.
- Meanwhile Devin Nunes, the #1 GOP toady for Mr. Trump, teamed up with the spineless wonder Paul Ryan to force the FBI/Justice Department to turn over key records related to Russia investigation. If history is any indicator at all, Mr. Nunes will abuse the shit out of that privilege.
- In response to Republicans’ open corruption, Democrats released a thorough and damning report detailing both (i) the stunning depravity of Republicans who are engaging in a cover-up for President Trump, without, presumably, knowing what it is they are covering up; and (ii) the dangers of F.A.T.’s stunning failures to even attempt to address the fact that Russia is still attacking us to this day. It’s worth a read. It’s scary.
- Also on the obstruction of justice front, we also learned this week that Jeff Sessions sent his aids to talk to congressional staffers to try to gin up derogatory information about Jim Comey, in the weeks before Trump fired Comey. The United States Attorney General apparently told his staffers that he wanted to see one negative news article per day about Comey, right up until he was fired.
- Sessions also gave us a nice look of where DOJ’s law enforcement priorities will be in 2018, but summarily closing a case in which DOJ was investigating a shocking bit of police brutality where a mentally-ill, Marine veteran with a heart problem was tased, beaten, called a “nigger,” shot and killed by police, in his own home. Read the story. It’s devastating.
- Sessions also indicated that, contrary to the wishes of a massive majority of Americans, he will attempt to undercut states rights by aggressively enforcing federal marijuana laws in states where the drug has been legalized.
- Meanwhile, Session’s DOJ did something mildly appropriate by bringing terrorism charges against a right wing, neo-Nazi madman (a torch-carrier at Charloteesville!) who attempted to blow up a train in Nebraska. But contrary to the blaring chest thumping they do when they charge a “real” terrorist (i.e. one associated with Islamic terrorism), the DOJ decided not to tell anyone about it.
- And in case you missed it, Sessions and the DOJ are turning to raw, ugly retaliation in their abortion war, trampling the privacy rights of women out of nothing other than miserable spite.
- Not to be outdone by DOJ, ICE had a banner few weeks in its efforts to make every Hispanic in America – regardless of citizenship or immigration status – feel hunted. Just two days ago, ICE arrested immigration activist Ravi Ragbir at a routine check-in with ICE officials, a clear effort to intimidate immigration activists who are open about their undocumented status.
- And the acting director of ICE suggested that politicians in so called “sanctuary cities” should be arrested and charged with crimes.
- We also learned in the past week that ICE – which has made a name for itself in the utterly inhumane, un-American policing industry – also, (i) recently conducted massive sweeps of 7-11 stores for no apparent reason, and (ii) collaborated with Motel 6, in a shocking infringement on basic privacy rights, to target “guests with Latino names” on a far wider scale than was previously admitted.
- In other news, the Trump Administration announced that it would be waiving punishment against five big banks convicted of manipulating global currencies, including Deutsche Bank, to which Trump or his businesses are believed to owe at least $130 million.
- And Joe Arpaio, the blatantly racist convicted criminal – and the creep who received an unprecedented, flagrantly political pardon from F.A.T. this past summer – announced that he was running for Senate in Arizona.
- And while Trump’s increasing and corrupt control over the DOJ and the FBI was spilling out into the open, we also had the privilege of seeing the acting CIA director posing with F.A.T. and his Republican enablers at a political photo op. Let’s be clear, that’s not supposed to happen, and if the CIA is already serving a political function for this President, we are, indeed, fucked.
This is just a sampling; there is not a question that, amidst the madness of the past two weeks, I’m missing plenty of other examples. And again, the list above is from only the first THIRTEEN DAYS of 2018 – I didn’t even try to backtrack and pull together all the horrifying erosions of the rule of law we saw in 2017.
And therein lies the rub: 2017 was bad, worse than we could’ve imagined; the first thirteen days of 2018 have upped the ante; if we are to take anything from the increasing willingness of Republicans to aid and abet this catastrophically dangerous presidency, it is that things will only, ever, get worse.
In 2018, Republicans, led by their unsteady leader, will throw the word “criminal” around like a frisbee at a Phish concert.
They will launch investigations into Mr. Mueller and his investigators, and they will continue to purge honorable, patriotic individuals from the ranks of every agency in our government, and replace them with zealots, back-benchers and cowards. They will allow President Trump to defame and demean whoever he chooses, no matter how corrupt the motivation, and they will shamelessly deride the true patriots who work to seek the truth regarding the Russian attack on our country as “criminals” and “partisans.”
In order to distract and confuse, to gin up their blood-thirsty base and close ranks around their corrupted President, they will rake Hillary Clinton over the coals – every hour of every day, they will manufacture bullshit scandals to deflect attention from F.A.T.’s actual scandalous behavior. And if, God and the Resistance willing, Mr. Mueller is permitted to see this investigation through, and he does, as it appears likely, blow the whistle on extraordinary wrongdoing on the part of Trump and his associates, they will, mark my words, attempt to “lock her up.”
And it won’t stop there. They will see the electoral value of having their political opponents harrangued with “criminal” allegations. Maybe it starts, in 2018, with a few select Senate races, a few baseless investigations that go nowhere, but that tip the balance in a close race away from the Democrat.
But if that’s successful, we’ll see those insinuations escalate in the lead up to 2020, and, as the wise man Jeffrey Toobin noted in the midst of the remarkable and unsettling events of the past thirteen days:
You heard it here first. There will be calls for a criminal investigation, and probably an actual F.B.I. investigation, of the Democratic nominee for President in 2020. Doesn’t matter who it is.
— Jeffrey Toobin (@JeffreyToobin) January 5, 2018
Moreover, as Republicans increasingly work to shield President Trump from the inquiries into his aiding and abetting of an attack by Russia, we need to remind ourselves that they are simultaneously providing cover for none other than fucking Russia. We need to prepare ourselves for the reality that, in the coming years, the United States ceases attempting to block Russia’s attacks at all.
We need to be able to imagine a reality where the FBI, the CIA, DHS, and other federal law enforcement arms are focused first and foremost on doling out political punishment, and political protection, as F.A.T. and his Republican enablers see fit.
Protestors and members of the Resistance will be jailed and prosecuted.
Advocates for immigration, heroes fighting for basic reproductive rights, members of Black Lives Matter, will be slandered and harangued, some will even be labeled domestic terrorists.
Corporations and organizations that take a stand against Trump will face regulatory retribution, and those that flatter and fawn over F.A.T., or that simply pay him off, will see justice turn a blind eye to their transgressions.
Media outlets will be increasingly attacked, threatened with and subjected to lawsuits, reporters will be bankrupted by frivolous lawsuits funded by dark money, some will be jailed.
I could go on and on. This was supposed to be one of those short, breezy posts, churned out in an hour or less, but I’ve clearly failed.
I don’t have a solution, my capacity for hope is limited.
It’s hard, and uncomfortable, to imagine Trump’s Army, to imagine an America where law enforcement, prosecutors, and a huge swath of judges – not to mention the President and his GOP enablers in Congress – view their sacred power as a hard-won political weapon.
But that’s what we’re up against. And if America as we know it has any chance of surviving, we need to grow the fuck up, and start reckoning with just how bad this could, and likely will, get.