The baleful impact

Tom McCarthy at the Guardian talks to a couple of legal boffins about Trump’s erosion of democratic and legal norms.

“We’ve never had a president attack the intelligence and law enforcement agencies that work for him in this way,” Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor and former assistant attorney general under George W Bush, said in an email. “He’s attacking them in order to discredit the Mueller investigation. But the baleful impact on those agencies’ morale and on public trust in them unfortunately extends far beyond that investigation.”

While whispers of a “constitutional crisis” are in the air, many mainstream analyses reject that idea, pointing out among other things that the Mueller investigation continues full steam ahead, no matter how much Trump might whine about it.

So far, it does. That could change. “So far so good” is not all that comforting given the maniac in the Oval Office who will bring it all down if he can.

The bad news is that it doesn’t take a constitutional crisis to constitute a national emergency, said Eric Posner, a University of Chicago professor specializing in constitutional law.

“I think the problem with thinking about this in terms of crisis is that we should be concerned about what Trump is doing whether or not there ever is a crisis,” Posner said. “It’s perfectly possible, for example, that Trump could undermine Mueller’s investigation without causing a constitutional crisis.”

Plus he could and can undermine a great deal more than Mueller’s investigation; he’s doing it every day. This is the crisis; we’re in it, we’ve been in it for months; it’s not one loud bang but an hourly onslaught.

“I think what people are worried about, when you look at other countries that have slid into authoritarianism, what has happened is that the leaders of those countries have proceeded incrementally, and so when he does some things initially that people didn’t resist, that enhances his power. Once he has more power he can do more things, take more action.

“And you could slide into an authoritarian regime without a real crisis ever taking place, and I think that’s what people should be focusing on.”

Especially since it’s already happening, it’s been happening since the day Obama left.

Shortly after Trump’s election, Amy Siskind, a former Wall Street executive, started a website called The Weekly List, seeking to catalogue news stories documenting “eroding norms under the current regime”.

The site, which Siskind said gets up to a million visitors a week and which this year produced a book blurbed by current Trump target Samantha Bee, bears this tagline: “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.”

That’s pretty much why I’ve been focusing so obsessively on Trump (along with the fact that I can’t look away). I feel a need to document it, to keep track.

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