Above the law, as if he were a king...

Above the law, as if he were a king...

by digby

This piece by Peter Baker at the New York Times nicely captures one of the major democratic principles at stake in this dumpster fire of a presidency and how the Republicans are dealing with it:

After Watergate, it was unthinkable that a president would fire an F.B.I. director who was investigating him or his associates. Or force out an attorney general for failing to protect him from an investigation. Or dangle pardons before potential witnesses against him.

But the end of the inquiry by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, made clear that President Trump had successfully thrown out the unwritten rules that had bound other chief executives in the 45 years since President Richard M. Nixon resigned under fire, effectively expanding presidential power in a dramatic way.

Mr. Mueller’s decision to not take a position on whether Mr. Trump’s many norm-shattering interventions in the law enforcement system constituted obstruction of justice means that future occupants of the White House will feel entitled to take similar actions. More than perhaps any other outcome of the Mueller investigation, this may become its most enduring legacy.

To Mr. Trump and his allies, this is the correct result, a restoration of the rightful authority of a president over the executive branch as stipulated in the Constitution. Under the theory that Mr. Trump’s legal team advanced, the Justice Department and the F.B.I. work for the president and therefore a president can order investigations opened or closed, fire prosecutors, grant pardons or otherwise use his constitutional power even if it seems overtly self-interested or political.

It was that view that Attorney General William P. Barr embraced in a 19-page memo he drafted last year as a private citizen and sent unsolicited to the White House months before Mr. Trump appointed him to lead the Justice Department. And it was that same view that informed Mr. Barr’s decision on Sunday to make the ruling that Mr. Mueller would not and declare that Mr. Trump had not obstructed justice.

“I celebrate this, I salute this, I think it is a very good thing because the possibility of having the president investigated because of his exercise of his core constitutional powers was a very, very bad thing to have out there,” said David B. Rivkin Jr., a former Republican Justice Department official who has written on the topic. “It debilitates the government at all levels.”

To Mr. Trump’s critics, however, the development represents a dangerous degradation of the rule of law, handing a president almost complete leeway to thwart any effort by federal law enforcement authorities to scrutinize his actions almost as if he were a king.

It's a mistake to assume these Republicans are operating in anything resembling good faith. If a Democrat were to perpetrate anything like what Trump has done they would be hysterically running around in circles decrying his imperious behavior. Remember, they impeached Bill Clinton for obstruction of justice --- and his alleged crime was winking and nodding at his own secretary and asking his friend to get Lewinsky a better job. They are, as we speak, demanding a special counsel to investigate the Obama administration which hasn't been in office since January 2017.

What they count on is the fact that Democrats, hewing to principle, will be on their side if a Democratic president tried to do any of what Donald Trump has done. Even in the Clinton case, which was an embarrassingly low, partisan act, the Democrats were prepared to censure Clinton and they went on television night after night condemning his behavior. They voted against impeachment because it was ridiculous to call what Clinton did a high crime or misdemeanor, but they were unsparing in their criticism. I think it's clear that Republicans are not following that path.

The fact is that we have a bipartisan agreement that the president is not a king --- when the president is a Democrat. We are polarized on the question of whether a Republican president is one. You can see the problem.