If Trump is guilty and pardons himself, it opens a door none of us want opened

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Robert Mueller, courtesy pbs.org

New reports are showing that the President has asked aides about his pardon powers – for his family, his allies, even himself, if the special counsel’s investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia incriminates him.

A lot of Trump supporters have been saying they don’t care. If they haven’t outright denied any of the Russia business is true (#FakeNews!), then generally the refrain goes something like “Russia didn’t tell me who to vote for,” or “I don’t care about any of that, I want better jobs and a better economy.”

I can’t blame people for thinking this way. Of all the scandals and controversy we have seen in the news lately, much of it doesn’t affect our daily lives. If Trump colluded with Russia, it doesn’t directly affect my pay, my job security, my healthcare, or my children’s education. As far as these people are concerned, that’s all on TV, happening far away, for those people in suits in DC to argue about.

But a large part of Trump’s appeal was that he wasn’t influenced by anyone. He stood on his own, against the establishment, paying his way through his own campaign. He owed nothing to the millionaire and billionaire business interests of the party (in fact many of them actively worked against him), to the Washington establishment, to the Republican Party itself – it seemed he owed nothing to anyone besides his supporters. It was believed that he would work for nobody besides the little guy – the factory worker, the coal miner, the laborer.

This was their guy – the guy the working class supported to finally turn the neoliberal establishment on its head, as punishment for screwing them over for decades.

Why was this so appealing? Because of sovereignty. The idea was that Trump represented the power of the working class, pooling their voting power to finally fight back against the establishment which has enacted policy after policy that hurt them. The working class was regaining sovereignty over the federal government.

This is also why Russia meddling in our election is so dangerous, and why it does affect our daily lives. And why, if it does happen to come out that Trump was complicit in this collusion, he cannot be allowed to pardon himself. Putin has threatened our sovereignty, and if he is allowed to get away with it, it will open the door for every other major power on the planet to threaten our sovereignty as well.

A Trump supporter who thinks this doesn’t affect them should think about the possibility of Germany, or the European Union, or China supporting Trump’s opponent in 2020 – using state resources to hack Trump’s campaign or worse. This would weaken your support of your candidate, as you would be up against some of the most powerful political forces on Earth, who are out for their own interest – not yours.

It is already bad enough that Russia is seeing no fallout from the Republican majority for their actions. It would be infinitely worse if the president was guilty and pardoned himself, getting off scot free. This would not only open the door for every other power on Earth to meddle in our elections, but it would also give the President the power to break any law he or she wanted. You may feel that the special counsel’s Russia investigation is a witch hunt, but Trump won’t be in power forever. Do you want a Democrat to be able to break any law they want while in office? What if one day a socialist holds the office of the presidency?

What if a future president (that you may not like) defies the Supreme Court and pardons themself? If this seems far fetched and extreme, look at this headline in the Wall Street Journal this week.

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Courtesy Wall Street Journal, https://www.wsj.com/articles/poland-presses-forward-with-plan-to-remake-supreme-court-1500559212

Imagine what our headlines would look like if the President had no checks and balances on their power.

If you voted for Trump, or voted at all, some part of you must believe in your sovereignty. Don’t be complicit in losing it.

The country is potentially in a very dangerous situation

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Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to President Donald J. Trump, sits in on a meeting with Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, Iraq, April 3, 2017. ([Department of Defense] Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro). Accessed via flickr.com.
The story of Jared Kushner’s attempt to open a back channel of communication with the Kremlin is the first glimpse the public has into the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin (which the FBI has been investigating for a year now).

Given that there is a possibility of illegal activity here, let’s explore a few scenarios of how Trump could leave office in the coming years:

  1. He loses a re-election bid
  2. He is impeached and removed from office forcefully
  3. He completes two full terms

In all but situation 3, we may have a problem here. Given that Trump has praised foreign dictators for being “strong leaders” by instituting martial law, killing their own citizens by the thousands, destroying checks and balances with questionable power grabs, and the like – we know that Trump does not believe in democracy. And since he does not believe in democracy, we can’t be sure that he believes in the peaceful transition of power.

Can you foresee a situation where Trump has to leave office against his own will? Will he gracefully step down if he loses his re-election or, especially, if he’s impeached? Or will we have a constitutional crisis on our hands?

Democracy is inherently fragile, and is only as strong as the integrity of those willing to defend it.

Let’s just imagine in our heads a situation where Donald Trump loses his re-election to a Democrat in 2020. Given how 2016 went, we know the campaign is probably going to be a long, ugly, a demoralizing bloodbath between him and whoever runs in opposition. Trump may even label his opponent as a danger to the country, painting a scary and dangerous picture for voters of the ugly possibilities of what may happen to America if we allow this opponent to take office. We may have sweeping breaches of voting rights by 2020, given that the Republican party as a whole has shown little interest in protecting them. Trump may call the results rigged, or illegitimate; he may use everything in his power to throw mud into the gears of what has always been a peaceful transfer of power in this country. And using “everything in his power” – he’s the president of the United States. He has a lot of power.

But this isn’t even the scariest possibility. Let’s say the FBI, or leaks to the press, or any of the other investigations into his campaign uncover something illegal and impeachable. What if Trump calls it all illegitimate, as he’s already done so far? What if Congress strips him of his power and he says “no?” Trump for the most part controls the military and the police. Using that power to hold onto the presidency might sound like a far fetched scenario, but democracy is inherently fragile, and is only as strong as the integrity of those willing to defend it. As I said, we know Trump isn’t interested in defending democracy; from the looks of things he is only willing to defend himself. And remember that this country has gone to civil war in the past.

Those hoping that Trump will be impeached don’t account for the fact that this country will be in crisis if it comes to that. Even if Trump was successfully removed from power against his will, the extreme partisan divisions that exist right now could very well turn into deep trenches. Our people could turn on one another in ways we haven’t yet thought possible – those who support Trump and those who support his impeachment. Even now, more Republican voters trust Putin, possibly more than they trust Democrats. To think we would be able to pick up the pieces, unite as a country, and go back to normal in a situation like this is a long shot. If it came to that, there would be significant harm done to this country’s institutions, one way or another.

Even at this moment, Trump is using a very familiar playbook. Evan McMullin, who ran for president as a conservative independent in 2016, had this to say about it: “Accelerating investigations place the Trump administration in a familiar authoritarian quandary. Remaining in power subjects them to increasingly compromising scrutiny while offering the best protection from its consequences. So they become evermore willing to take extraordinary, illegal steps to hold onto power as a matter of self-preservation. It remains to be seen what form this will take in the case of the Trump administration.”

Let’s hope that if it comes to this, there are enough Americans left to put the country before party loyalty. But at the moment, in our current hyper-partisan political climate, I’m not convinced that’s the case.