We are not Trump’s peons

Trump’s lawyer thinks Trump is an absolute monarch.

Trump continues to make it chillingly clear that his unceasing attacks upon the system are neither accidental nor a mistake borne of naïvete. Trump believes he commands the government with the same totality he commands his business. His lawyer, John Dowd, has elevated this assumption to official presidential doctrine in an explosive interview with Mike Allen. A “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case,” he says.

So Trump can do anything he wants to, and no one can stop him. That’s a dictatorship. John Dowd is saying Trump is a dictator.

Dowd is claiming on Trump’s behalf virtual immunity from the law. The powers he is asserting, and the dangers it would bring, have almost no limit.

There are two ways a president could abuse the power of law enforcement. The first is offensive, to direct it as a weapon against his political enemies. The second is defensive, shielding himself and his allies from any accountability, and thereby enabling them to commit crimes without consequence. Trump has expressed frequent interest in both methods. Trump has harangued the FBI and the Department of Justice for failing to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server. Clinton’s email server was investigated by the FBI in 2016, but the bureau concluded no rational prosecutor could bring charges. Trump has shown no compunction in asserting his belief that, now that he controls the presidency, if Trump demands the FBI lock somebody up, they should lock her up.

More pertinent to Trump’s needs of the moment is his demand for immunity from any mechanism of legal accountability. Trump does not accept the legitimacy of any legal restraint. He repeatedly demanded the FBI director pledge personal loyalty to him, and fired him when he failed to demonstrate his obsequience* to the president’s satisfaction. He did something similar to the U.S. Attorney in New York, who has legal jurisdiction over much of Trump’s financial world. He has publicly attacked Special Counsel Robert Mueller and threatened, publicly and privately, to fire him.

He seems to think the whole thing is just more The Apprentice, with a wider reach. It would be nice if he had acquired a little knowledge of how our system is supposed to work before running.

It is true, as Trump’s Republican defenders say, that he does not grasp the differences between his role as business owner and his role as elected official. But that is not a defense. It is a restatement of the accusation.

Trump’s belief that the entire government should operate on his personal behalf in exactly the same way as his employees at the Trump Organization is a worldview incompatible with republican government. Imagine the 2020 election conducted in an atmosphere in which Trump can sic law enforcement upon his opponent, and in which his supporters can commit any crimes they want on his behalf, secure in the knowledge that the president will protect them from prosecution.

He has to be gone long before then. Has to. Has to.

*Yo that’s not a real word.

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