The Justice League

ROBERT MUELLER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE

When Robert Mueller was appointed the Special Counselor for the Russia Investigation by the Deputy Attorney General back in May 2017, one of the first things that he did was assemble a team to help him with the day to day activities.  Not only would these team members do the heavy lifting in the courtroom, but their expertise would shape the investigation.  These hires also tell us who and what they know.

What do we know about this team?

They are some of the best prosecutors in the world, specializing in everything from white-collar crimes to cybersecurity to terrorism.  Many of them gave up 6, 7, possibly 8 figure salaries and partnerships to work on the Russian Investigation at base government pay.

What does this mean?

This means that there is more than enough evidence to convince some of the greatest lawyers on Earth to leave their private practices representing the wealthiest clients in the world to take part in the largest case in history.  At the least, they will take part in the prosecution of the President of the United States.  At the most, their roles will be pivotal in securing the fate of Democracy as we know it.

Who’s on the team, and what do they do?

Robert Mueller, Special Counselor

Former FBI Director, Mueller took over the position one week before the 9/11 terror attacks.  He became the longest serving FBI Director since J. Edgar Hoover.  After his time there, he became a partner at WilmerHale law firm in Washington, D.C.

James Quarles, member of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force

James Quarles was a young man in the 1970’s, but already a skilled lawyer.  He served as an Assistant Special Prosecutor in the Watergate scandal.

Andrew Weissmann, Fraud and Corruption

Weissmann headed up the Enron Task Force between 2002 and 2005.  Before that he was a federal prosecutor in New York.  He took down Enron Chariman Kenneth Lay, CEO Jeffery Skilling, and members and bosses in the Genovese, Colombo, and Gambino crime families.

Greg Andres, White-Collar Crimes

Andres brings foreign bribery experience to the team.  He took down an $8 Billion Ponzi scheme in Texas.

Andrew D. Goldstein, Assistant US Attorney from Southern District New York

Goldstein worked for Preet Bharara in SDNY where he led the public corruption unit.  He has experience in money laundering, fraud, and corruption cases.  Before his boss was fired by Donald Trump, Goldstein and Preet were supposedly working on a RICO case against the Trump Organization.  Rumor has it that he took the evidence against Trump with him down to Washington.

Elizabeth Prelogar, The Russian Expert

Prelogar is fluent in Russian, and clerked for Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elana Kagan.

Rush Atkinson, Criminal Fraud

Atkinson is a prosecutor in the Criminal Division Securities & Financial Fraud Unit.

Aaron Zebley, former Chief of Staff to FBI Director Mueller

Zebley has expertise in Counterterrorism and National Security cases.  He was prosecuting Al Qaeda before prosecuting Al Qaeda was cool.  In recent years at WilmerHale, he focused on Cybersecurity cases.

Michael Dreeben, Supreme Court Expert

Less than 10 attorneys in history have argued more than 100 cases before the United States Supreme Court.  Michael Dreeben is one of them.

Adam Jed, Civil Appeals Expert

Jed is an appellate lawyer in the civil division, not the criminal division.  This implies that they’re preparing for civil cases, and expecting them them to challenged on appeal.

Aaron Zelinsky, U.S. Attorney from Maryland

Zelinsky has worked for Rod Rosenstein, and was a hostage negotiator in the State Department under President Obama.

Kyle Freeny, Money Laundering and Asset Recovery

Freeny just wrapped up work on the “Wolf of Wall Street” money laundering case when he got the call to join the Mueller team.

Zainab Ahmad, Counterterrorism and Witness Flipping

Ahmad has singlehandedly crippled Al Qaeda in the United States.  She has more convictions against terrorists in the United States than anyone else.  How?  She’s THE expert in flipping witnesses. If she can flip hardened terrorists against each other, what chance does a member of the Trump Family have against her?

Jeanie Rhee, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General

Rhee has two years of DOJ experience, and worked with Robert teller at WilmerHale.  She represented the Clinton Foundation in a racketeering lawsuit in 2015.

Brandon Van Grack, National Security Division Prosecutor

Van Grack is an expert in espionage, national security, and International Crime cases.

Ryan Dickey, Cybercrime Expert  

Ryan K. Dickey is a United States Attorney who specializes in cyber crimes. He was the prosecutor who convicted the original Guccifer, and is the man behind the shutdown of MegaUpload. He is one of the best attorneys in the world for prosecuting computer crimes.

What can we infer?

We have multiple experts in money laundering, fraud, bribery, mafia crimes, cyber crimes, espionage, counterterrorism, asset recovery, witness flipping, international crimes, and Russian culture.  By the way, they also have one of the few people alive that prosecuted a White House for criminal charges.

Mueller is not fucking around.

So far, we’ve got two arrests on white-collar crimes, and two convictions on plea deals for lying to the FBI regarding contacts with Russians.  Plus, there’s a ton of stuff still under seal.

Without hyperbole, this is one of the greatest collection of lawyers ever pulled together.  They’ve been working on this case since May 2017, and the investigation began a year before that.  Any one of these prosecutors coming after a person would cause sleepless nights and panic inducing anxiety.  All of them coming after a person would cause them to seriously contemplate suicide.

They are not fucking around.  People are going to jail, or worse.

Thanks to Reddit user PoppinKREAM and this post for making this post a lot easier to put together.

It’s A Feature, Not A Bug

“It’s not broken, it’s supposed to do that.”

“It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”

“The system’s working fine, you’re just using it wrong.”

“The only problem here is user-related.”

I’ve heard many phrases like this in my life-long association with technology, but the phrase “It’s a feature, not a bug” didn’t really come into the lexicon until sometime in the early 2000’s, when some higher-up from Microsoft was quoted saying that in response to customer complaints about error screens they were getting in Windows.  Since then, it’s become an inside joke within the IT world to describe a feature, device, program, or system that doesn’t work for the end user, but part of it, usually the error checking, is working normally.

Why am I talking about an IT inside joke?  Because I feel that it’s relevant to the current situation.

Today is January 22, 2018.  Monday.  And Day 3 of the United States Government Shutdown.  A shutdown that was completely avoidable, and 95% the fault of the Republican Party.  I reserve 5% for the Democrats involved, but this is the same level of blame one would give to the owner of a dog that chewed a hole through the fence at the boarding kennel, broke out of the yard, and dug up the neighbors flowerbed.  Sure, they could have done more to make sure the dog wasn’t left at a neglectful kennel, but they’re about fourth or fifth down the chain of responsibility.

Anyway, on Friday, I watched the Senate vote and fail to pass a spending bill.  I sat back, had a couple glasses of wine, and heckled the television as Mitch McConnell blamed the Democrats for not passing the cloture threshold on the spending bill.  While asking which one of the Ninja Turtles turned to evil and grew up to become a Senator from Kentucky, I realized a few things.

  • I have absolutely no social life whatsoever at this point, and I’m happy with that.
  • This shutdown was completely avoidable.
  • I really like sweet red wine.
  • This was put into motion last year when Trump rescinded the DACA protections.
  • The White House has no interest in negotiating in good faith.
  • The Republican Party Leadership is complicit in this mess.
  • At any point in the last 4 months, since CHIP funding ran out, they could have reauthorized it, but decided to use it as a bargaining chip.
  • At any point since October, Congress could have passed bipartisan legislation to codify DACA.
  • This shutdown is a feature, not a bug.

That last one struck me.  Not as hard as the headache the next morning when I woke up, but it still struck me.  This shutdown was planned out since last year when Congress refused to give Trump even a penny for his border wall.  Okay, “planned” is a little strong for these people.  They can’t plan a lunch without screwing it up.  But, the option of a shutdown was put into place.

I think that the Trump White House thought a Government Shutdown would be beneficial for them for a few reasons.

  • It would force Congress to push their agenda.
  • It fits with Trump’s “negotiating style.”
  • It would make the Democrats look bad for standing against them.
  • It would make the Democrats look bad for agreeing with them.
  • It would shut down the Congressional Investigations into Trump.
  • It would shut down the Special Counselor’s Investigation.

Congress doesn’t want to pay for a Mexican Border Wall, or a Muslim Immigration Ban.  Congress doesn’t want to screw up all of the trade agreements, or mess with the treaties in place.  They want to keep the lights on, keep things running, and lower taxes for their donors.  Anything else is window dressing.

As far at “The Great Dealmaker” goes, a shutdown is the only way that he can fall back on his traditional methods of negotiation.  From looking at Trump’s history in business, here’s how a typical business deal goes down…

  • Engage in negotiations with someone in a lower position than you, like a small company or someone desperate for business.
  • Demand onerous terms from the other party, while agreeing to give very little.
  • Fail to deliver on even the pittance that you agreed to give in the first place.
  • Fight your partner now opponent at every step of the way, until they’re no longer capable of defending themselves.
  • Continue to attack your opponent and blame them for the eventual failure of the business while you run it into the ground to squeeze it for every spare penny possible.
  • Shut the business down in an attempt to shift the blame, liquidate the assets, and move on to the next deal.

Any halfway competent President would have avoided a shutdown at the last minute when Chuck Schumer was willing to negotiate funding for the Border Wall in exchange for DACA.  That right there should have been the end of the game.  They could have walked out of the White House, shaking hands, high-fiving, and carried that bill proposal to the House and Senate for a vote.  Instead, Trump is a terrible dealmaker.  He wants everything, is unwilling to compromise, and is either too stupid to see a great deal, or is working for other means.

As far as the Democrats go, there’s no way they would come out of this in a good position.  If they agree to the spending bill, they lose any chance of getting DACA on the floor for a vote before the March deadline.  If they don’t agree, they’re stuck in the middle of a shutdown, and they actually realize how that’s a bad thing.

But, what if this is all part of some master plan by Trump and his Russian allies to shut down the government and the investigations into him?  Well, that’s something to think about.  Congress will be too busy arguing with each other to engage any committee work, and all of their pages and assistants are temporarily sort-of unemployed.  The only work that Congress is doing now is restoring funding so that the government can work.

As far as Mueller goes, his investigation continues.  Special Counselor investigations are funded by a special permanent indefinite appropriation, not an annual one like the standard budget.  So, while the parks are closed and soldiers don’t get paid, Mueller’s team keeps showing up to work.

By the way, Senator Claire MacCaskill proposed an amendment to a bill that would allow the military to still be paid during the shutdown, but it would require unanimous consent.  Mitch McConnell objected.

CLOTURE THRESHOLD

I mentioned earlier about the Cloture Threshold.  Cloture, sometimes called a super majority, is the vote threshold that is required in the Senate to break a filibuster.  A filibuster is an action or speech where a Senator can take the floor and not yield to anyone or anything.  Currently, that threshold is 60.  Unless special rules are enforced, like the reconciliation process used for the Tax Bill and the attempted Obamacare repeal, all Senate votes are treated as though they need to break a filibuster.  This is because the filibuster has been relegated to a procedural tool to clog up work in the Senate.

The vote was 50-49 in favor of the last ditch spending bill.  John McCain was in Arizona getting medical care.  5 Democrats, all from conservative states and facing reelection, voted for the bill.  4 Republicans, none of which are facing reelection in 2018, voted against it.

 

That’s it for now.  I’ll be back later with some updates that happened over the weekend, including a story about several Russians attending Trump’s inauguration.

 

Thank you, and have a good one.

GTKYG – Chain of Succession

Welcome back to the “Get to Know Your Government” series.  Today, I want to talk about a subject that might not be known by too many people outside of history buffs and Constitutional Law scholars, but that I feel will be heading to the forefront of conversation in 2018.

The American Presidential Chain of Succession.

As I covered in GTKYG-Presidential Removal Processes, there are a few ways that a presidency can end prematurely.  When that happens, the Vice President assumes the role of President, and under the powers granted to them under the Second Section of the Twenty Fifth Amendment, they are allowed to nominate their choice for Vice President.  This happened when Gerald Ford assumed the presidency following Richard Nixon’s resignation.

But, how far does the chain of succession go?  What if there were a situation where multiple people died at once, or were removed from office?  What happens then?

In that case, it goes down the line to then person in the chain.

Following the President and Vice President, the Speaker of the House is third in line. The Speaker is the elected head of the House of Representatives.  That position is currently held by Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin.

After them, it’s the President pro tempore of the Senate.  This position is an honorary one, awarded to the Senator who has served the longest in the Senate.  Currently, that position is held by Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah.

If, by some chance, all four of these people are unable to assume the presidency, or turn it down, the chain of succession goes through the Cabinet, by order that the position was created, starting with Secretary of State, Treasury, Defense, Attorney General (the original four positions from Washington’s first Cabinet), then through the rest of the positions, in the order that they were added.

CHAIN OF SUCCESSION

Below is a list of those positions, those mentioned above and the Cabinet positions, along with who is in the position, and their party affiliation, if available.  OPEN represents that the position is not currently filled, or has an acting head who has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.

  1. President Donald Trump (R)
  2. Vice President Mike Pence (R)
  3. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R)
  4. President pro tempore Orrin Hatch (R)
  5. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R)
  6. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin (R)
  7. Secretary of Defense James Mattis (I)
  8. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R)
  9. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke (R)
  10. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue (R)
  11. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross (R)
  12. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta (R)
  13. Secretary of Health and Human Services OPEN
  14. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson (R)
  15. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (R) NOT ELIGIBLE FOR PRESIDENT
  16. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry
  17. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
  18. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (I)
  19. Secretary of Homeland Security OPEN

If, and I mean IF, by some infinitesimal chance that everyone in the list above is not able to assume the office of President, then the chain would go through Congress, in order of the leadership bodies first (Majority Leaders, Minority Leaders, Majority Whip, etc.), then through each person in order of their tenure in office.

THE DESIGNATED SURVIVOR

I’m not talking about the ABC show with Keifer Sutherland, but the idea that the show is based off of.

Before any joint session of Congress where the President, Vice President, and Cabinet get together, one member of the Cabinet is chosen to spend the event in a bunker somewhere.  They’re taken to a non-disclosed, secure location, where they’re kept under guard.  This is in case the unthinkable happens.

In case the Capitol is attacked, and everyone inside is killed.

If that were to happen, then the Designated Survivor would be sworn in as President, and they would be tasked with restaffing and rebuilding the government.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

It’s important to understand how things work, especially the government.  If something falls apart, we need to know how it can be fixed.

Really?  Ok, here’s why…

We are in uncharted waters with the Russian Investigation.  I’ve written many times about how many people are tied up with Russia, or have their own looming legal troubles.  There is an above zero percent chance that multiple people in the chain of succession could be indicted at once.

Here’s the list again, along with why they might not be able to, or interested in, taking the presidency.

  1. President Donald Trump (R) – Russia, RICO, Obstruction Investigations
  2. Vice President Mike Pence (R) – Russia and Flynn
  3. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) – Russia, Money laundering at RNC
  4. President pro tempore Orrin Hatch (R) – Clean, but REALLY OLD
  5. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) – NY Fraud Investigations, Russia
  6. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin (R) – Abuse of Public Trust, Taxpayer Funded Trips
  7. Secretary of Defense James Mattis (I)
  8. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) – Russia
  9. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke (R) – Abuse of Public Trust, Taxpayer Funded Trips
  10. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue (R)
  11. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross (R) – Russia, tied to Putin family in Paradise Papers, Money Laundering ties with Paul Manafort
  12. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta (R)
  13. Secretary of Health and Human Services OPEN
  14. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson (R)
  15. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (R) NOT ELIGIBLE FOR PRESIDENT – Immigrants are not eligible for the Presidency.
  16. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry – Abuse of Public Trust, Taxpayer Funded Trips
  17. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos – Russia.
  18. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (I) – Abuse of Public Trust, Taxpayer Funded Trips
  19. Secretary of Homeland Security OPEN

The craziest of the rumors I’ve heard have Trump, Pence, and Ryan all being indicted and/or removed from office at once.  If that happens, then Orrin Hatch would be the next in line, but he’s 83 years old, has hinted at retirement, and reportedly might have dementia or Alzheimer’s.  After him, the next clean person in the list is Jim Mattis, Secretary of Defense.

Is it likely that we end up with President Jim Mattis?  No.  It’s not impossible, but highly unlikely.  This is one of those crazy scenarios that just isn’t likely to happen.  Then again, I said the same thing about Trump becoming President.

BREAKING THE CHAIN

There is one other part to keep in mind.  Remember when I said earlier that if the Vice President becomes the President, they get to choose their own Vice President?

That could come in to play, and could be used to elevate someone up the chain, especially if there is some kind of Quid Pro Quo in place to provide a stable transition of power.

Let’s face it, Mike Pence is likely to become the 46th President of the United States, and it will happen before 2020.  If it has to happen, I’d rather it happen late next year.  Under the 22nd Amendment, if a Vice President serves more than half of their predecessors term, they can only run for election once.  If they serve less than two years of a term, then they could run for two terms.  If it’s late enough in the year, he won’t be able to cause too much harm, and will be stuck in his own legal quagmire with Russia.

Assuming Mike Pence comes to power, he would get to choose his own Vice President, pending approval of both houses of Congress.  One of the rumors I’ve heard would have him choosing a “safe” choice that would serve as a place holder while he’s going through his own legal mess.  Someone who’s integrity isn’t under question, and knows the lay of the land.

And that’s how we could possibly end up with President James Mattis.

GTKYG-Pardon Limitations

In this installment of “Get To Know Your Government”, I’m going to talk about something that’s been in the news recently, and is floating around like the Boogey Man.

The Presidential Pardon.

There’s a lot of confusion floating around about what it does and doesn’t do, and what it can or can’t be used for.  Hopefully, this article can answer some questions.

A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

The Presidential Pardon is a power granted by the Constitution of the United States to the country’s Chief Executive, the President.  Not much is laid out in the Constitution itself, but Alexander Hamilton described the Pardon Power in the Federalist Papers #74 as a means of mercy, based on the power of kings to grant mercy as a last resort.  The pardon power can be used at any time EXCEPT IN THE CASE OF IMPEACHMENT.  George Washington pardoned two of the leaders of the Whiskey Rebellion instead of hanging them.

WHAT DOES A PARDON DO

A pardon forgives the crime committed, and removes any criminal penalties of the said crime, for the crimes and/or time period specified in the pardon.

A pardon can only be issued by the executive of a jurisdiction, like a President or Governor.

WHAT A PARDON DOESN’T DO

A pardon is not a “Get out of jail, free!” card.  Accepting a pardon is an admission of guilt, per Burdick vs. United States.

A pardon does not eliminate civil liability.  If someone were pardoned for committing a murder, the family of the victim can come after them in civil court, but could also use that persons acceptance of the pardon as evidence in the civil trial.

A pardon can only be applied to specific crimes listed, not to other crimes committed by the person.  Using the murder example, if it turns up that they also littered as well, they could face penalties for that.  Not the murder, just the littering.

A pardon can only be applied to criminal charges inside of a specific jurisdiction.  Charges for the same or similar crimes can still be brought by an individual state if they were pardoned in federal court, and vice versa.

A pardon doesn’t protect someone from self-incrimination.  Since accepting a pardon is an admission of guilt, and the person cannot be tried for the crime they committed, the person receiving the pardon cannot claim to protect themselves from self-incrimination since they’ve already admitted guilt.  In other words, they waive their Fifth Amendment rights.

HOW DOES THIS PLAY OUT?

Now, we’ve come to the question of the day.  Can Donald Trump pardon himself and his co-conspirators?

Short answer:  No.

As I’ve described in Lateral Movement, Nixon already asked if he could pardon himself.  This brief describes what his legal team determined.  Short version, a President cannot pardon themselves nor their co-conspirators, as doing so would put them above the law.

Is there a case on this which answered the question?  No.  We are in uncharted territory.  Courts don’t rule on hypothetical cases.  The idea that a President would not only be so corrupt that they would commit multiple crimes, but that they might try to pardon themselves was unthinkable by the Founding Fathers.  They anticipated some corruption, but this level was unfathomable.  There was no need to codify the pardon powers then because they didn’t think it would be needed.  Sort of like the warning on a bottle of Windex that says “Do not spray directly into eyes.”

Let’s assume for a moment that Donald Trump’s legal strategy consists of pardoning himself and his co-conspirators.  First, if it’s involved with an Impeachment, no can do.  A presidential pardon cannot be used in cases of Impeachment.  There are some fine hairs that need to be split, but the two main questions are at what point does Impeachment begin, and are all crimes in an impeachment non-pardonable, or just the Impeachment process of removing a person from office?

Here’s my prediction.  And by mine, I stole part of this from @AltScalesofJustice.  Things are going to come to a head.  Criminal indictments will be served to Trump’s staff, family, and President Donald Trump.  Donald Trump will pardon himself.  Maybe his family, but definitely himself.  This pardon will immediately be challenged in the Supreme Court.  In a unanimous decision, (Maybe 8-1 or 7-2 at the weakest, but the SCOTUS would want to make a statement with this) the Supreme Court would rule that no one, especially the President of the United States, is above the law.  By attempting to pardon himself, Donald Trump attempts to circumvent Due Process, and place himself and his co-conspirators in an extra-judicial position.  The SCOTUS puts a restriction on the pardon power, Trump tries to fire back at the SCOTUS, and Trump is then removed from office.

WHAT IF THE PARDON SURVIVES SCOTUS REVIEW?

So, let’s assume for a moment that the SCOTUS rules 5-4 that the President can pardon themselves.  What then?

In that case, Donnie’s fucked 8 ways from Sunday.

If he leaves out one co-conspirator, they’ll turn on him faster than a fidget spinner.  They will turn states evidence for whatever state indicts him first, second, third, fourth, and fifth.

Next, he’ll get impeached and removed from office as fast as the Senate can move.

Once he’s removed from office, here come the State Indictments.  He pardoned himself of Federal charges, not State charges.  New York will own his ass.  Literally.  Enterprise Corruption is the state statute of RICO.

While he’s facing hell from at least 39 states (all of the ones that had their voting systems hacked on his orders), the Feds will come at his with a Civil RICO charge.  Using his pardon as evidence against him, the government will seize his assets.  All of them.

It gets worse for Donnie.  Remember all of those crimes he pardoned himself for?  He can be subpoenaed to testify in court about each and every one of those, and what he did, who he worked with, and why.  And he can’t refuse an answer, since he has no rights to avoid self-incrimination.

So, in short, instead of dying in Leavenworth, penniless and infirm, he’ll die in Riker’s Island, or in Chino, or in any other prison, penniless and infirm.

On that happy ending, I’ll finish this article.

GTKYG-Presidential Removal Processes

Welcome to another installment in “Get To Know Your Government,” a series that answers obscure questions about how politics and government in the United States works.

This installment is brought to you by 2017. The Hold-My-Beer of years.

The President of the United States of America is the head of the Executive Branch of the Federal government, and is ostensibly in charge of setting policies on how laws are enforced, is the Commander in Chief of the military, and helps set foreign policy. They do not create laws, nor do they interpret them. Those are the purview of the Legislative and Judicial branches, respectively. Separate but equal in power, ensuring a series of checks and balances on each other.

A President is elected through the Electoral College, not by popular vote, and serves a 4 year term. The 22nd Amendment set a limit of two terms. This was after FDR died in office shortly after being sworn in for his fourth term.

There are five ways that a person can be leave the Presidency. They are completing their term, death, resignation, removal following Impeachment, and removal following the procedures laid out in the 25th Amendment.

SERVING OUT THE TERM

The easiest, and by far most common method for a President to leave the office is to finish their term. Once their four years are up, or 8 if they won reelection, they walk out and go home. Every President since Gerald Ford has left the office peacefully at the end of their term. It’s said that on Inauguration Day, the two happiest people on the planet are the incoming and outgoing Presidents. One has accomplished their life-long goal, the other is glad that it’s someone else’s problem now.

DIED IN OFFICE

The next most common method of leaving office is unfortunately the most tragic. Dying in office. This has happened 8 times in American history. William Henry Harrison got sick and died in 1841, a few months after being elected. Zachary Taylor ate something that didn’t agree with him in 1850. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, as was James Garfield in 1881, and William McKinley in 1901. Warren G. Harding died of mysterious circumstances in 1923, Franklin D. Roosevelt died of natural causes in 1945, and John F. Kennedy was killed in 1963. In each of those situations, the Vice President was immediately sworn in as President.

RESIGNATION

As of August 2017, only Richard Milhouse Nixon has resigned the office of President of the United States. Nixon resigned before he was impeached for his role in Watergate. When he resigned, Gerald Ford became the first President to serve that wasn’t elected by the Electoral College as either the President or Vice President, as he was appointed to replace Spiro Agnew.

IMPEACHMENT

The founding fathers developed a method to remove corrupt government officials from their offices called Impeachment.

Impeachment works when the House of Representatives drafts and passes Articles of Impeachment against a person, listing all of the crimes they are accused of. Then, the House votes on each article. If even one of those passes the House, the official is Impeached. That does not mean they are removed from office, however.

Following an Impeachment, the passed articles then head to the Senate for trial. There, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court oversees the trial while the Senate serves as the jury. If a 2/3rds majority votes yea, the person is removed from office and is barred from serving the public trust ever again.

While this has happened with many judges and other bureaucrats, no President has been removed from office this way. Bill Clinton was impeached in the 1990’s for lying under oath, but the vote to remove him from office wasn’t even close. Andrew Johnson avoided removal from office by one vote.

25TH AMENDMENT

The final legal method for removing a President from office is through use of the 25th Amendment.

Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Section 4 of the 25th Amendment was originally intended to be used for temporary incapacitation or serious medical issue, like a stroke or heart attack. George W. Bush used this when he went under for a colon surgery, and, for s few hours, Dick Cheney was Acting President. The only thing he did was write a note to his granddaughter.

This has never been used to permanently transfer power to the Vice President. It hasn’t been needed yet.

LIKELIHOOD OF EACH HAPPENING

Personally, based off of what I’ve seen, read, heard, felt, and tasted, here’s how I think Trump will leave office.

Donald Trump won’t make it a full 4 year term. He’s under several investigations at once, is facing record low approval ratings, is an embarrassment to the country, and is dangerously unstable, and unhealthy.

Death from natural causes is pretty high with him. I won’t rule out an assassin trying something, but the Secret Service is very good at their job.

Trump may try to resign when he feels things are getting too close to him, but he’s just unstable enough to want to fight this the whole way through an Impeachment. I put the odds between those two at a coin toss.

As far as the 25th goes, all it requires is a majority of the Cabinet, or a panel appointed by the House to determine whether Donald Trump is fit to serve as President. I still think it’s pretty unlikely, which considering its 2017, means it’ll probably happen. It’s the easiest and safest way for the Republicans to get away from Trump without any criminal charges.

That’s it for tonight. Let’s see what else breaks.

GTKYG – The Federal System

HOW THE FEDERAL SYSTEM CAME INTO EXISTENCE

When the United States was created, it was very unique for its time. A country without a monarch, made up of states, none of which had a monarch or aristocracy of their own. Each group was made up of people selected by their own peers. This, the American Experiment was born.

The United States of America, at its inception, was a loosely organized collection of colonies, that only had two things in common: a feeling of alienation from England and a distrust of a central government. This is why, when the government was first formed, the Articles of Confederation left the central government of the United States very weak, and put most of the power in the hands of the states.

The Articles were introduced in November 1777, and were ratified by all of the states in 1781. It was clear almost from the onset that the Articles were flawed. The Federal government was very weak, unable to pass any law without 9 states agreeing, couldn’t regulate trade and commerce between the states, and was essentially economically neutered. That’s why the Federalist Convention, later called the Constitutional Convention, was called in May 1787.

A SEPARATION OF POWER

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Nobody wanted a situation with one person or body having all of the power in a strong central government. The states didn’t want a strong central government telling them what to do. The first of many compromises was reached, where the United States would have jurisdiction over interstate issues like military actions, treaties, commerce, and the like, while the states would retain control over events inside of their own borders. This is how the balance of power between the states and the federal government was created.

A TON OF COMPROMISES

My favorite definition of compromise is an agreement where both parties are equally dissatisfied. The only way to get the states to agree to anything on how the federal government was structured was a series of compromises. Our bicameral legislature was a compromise between the small and large states on voting rights. The Electoral College was a compromise between free and slave states for electing the president. The four year presidential term was a compromise between those that wanted an election for executive every year, and those that wanted one appointed for life.

But by far the largest compromise was the Bill of Rights. The Constitution covered many aspects and elements of how the federal government would work, but it didn’t guarantee the rights and freedoms of the citizens. The states refused to ratify the Constitution without these guarantees.

JUDICIAL PROTECTIONS

Most people know about the Bill of Rights, but like most things in politics, they don’t know the details. Sure, they’ll cry about freedom of speech or carrying guns, but ask them which amendment protects from cruel and unusual punishment (Eighth) or which prevents soldiers from taking quarter in their house without permission (Third), and they’ll look flummoxed.

What’s amazing is how important judicial protections are in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. 5 of the 10 amendments deal specifically with legal protections for the individual from the federal government. Little things that we take for granted like bail commensurate with the crime, a right to a quick and speedy trial, and trial are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

HOW DOES THIS WORK IN PRACTICE

The separation of jurisdictions between the states and federal courts creates the possibility that an act is legal under one set of laws, but not the other. For example, smoking weed is legal in Colorado, but it is still illegal in the eyes of the Federal government. To quote Jules from Pulp Fiction, “it’s legal, but it ain’t a hundred percent legal.” The reverse happens as well. While there are many laws on the federal books about how to properly transport firearms, some states go above and beyond those.

This also creates the scenario where an act is illegal on both the federal and state levels at the same time. Because laws were violated in different jurisdictions at the same time, both, or all depending on how many states are involved, could each press charges.

Here’s an example. Let’s say a real estate developer from New York laundered money from Russian Oligarchs using banks in New York, real estate in Florida, and moved these funds to California, using shell companies in Maryland. Who can come after him?

Answer: All of them. At the same time.

Federal law prohibits the accepting of money from Russian Oligarchs per the Magnitsky Act. New York, California, and Florida each have laws against using banks located in their states to laundering money, and Maryland would consider creating a company for the sole purpose of laundering money illegal. There’s likely some fraud in there as well.

So, that’s the Federal System of law in a nutshell. One question that I feel should get its own article, and will soon, is “What about a pardon?” There are limits to those, the biggest being that it can only be used on Federal laws, not state. So, in the above example, if the real estate developer was pardoned federally, they’ll still have New York, California, Florida, and Maryland to deal with.

2016 GOP Primary

One question that I've been asked time and time again, is "how in the ever loving fuck did Donald J. Trump become President of the United States of America?"

The short answer is, it's complicated.

The not-as-short answer is he somehow won the nomination of the Republican Party, then somehow won the general election, with a little help from his friends.

This article will cover the first part of that statement, the Republican Party Nomination Process.

Heads up, the language may be a little harsher than normal.

First, a little background. The U.S. is essentially a two party system, the Democratic and Republican parties. The Democrats are the left wing, liberal party while the Republicans are the right wing, conservative party. One thing that this country does differently that everyone else is associating red with conservative and blue with liberal. This is flipped in Europe. So, a "blue state" is more liberal.

The Republican Party was founded in the 1850's a liberal and radical party of abolitionists. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. He was also a liberal. The parties flip sides every generation or two. The current sides were drawn in the 1960's when the Democrats signed the Civil Rights Act into law, causing the Southern (racist) part of the party to join the Republicans.

The Republicans are also called the GOP, or Grand Old Party. Kind of ironic since the Democrats were founded a solid 30 years before them.

The primary system is different from state to state, but consists of each state choosing a nominee by assigning delegates to vote at the party convention where the person is officially nominated.

Sounds simple? Well, we're Americans. We find new and interesting ways of fucking shit up.

The presidential campaign race unofficially began some time in 2012, after Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney, and news pundits had nothing else to talk about for a few years. A lot of names would be tossed around, built up, and torn down over the next couple years. People would launch focus groups and exploratory committees, create PAC's and Super PAC's, and beg for money.

Running for any office is expensive. Federal office is more expensive. The Presidency is obscenely expensive. In 2016, both Trump and HRC spent or had spent on their behalf over a billion dollars each.

Winning the election requires name recognition, being able to stand out from the crowd.

Winning an election requires a media presence. It requires knowing how to use the camera and web to your advantage.

As much as I'd love to attribute Donald Trump's GOP win to unlawful shenanigans, I can't. First, I haven't seen or heard of any evidence. Second, the rational explanation fits the facts better.

There are four major reasons how Donald Trump won the GOP Primary.

  1. He took advantage of the 24 hour news cycle to increase name recognition.
  2. He stood out in a crowded race.
  3. He was willing to reach depths no one else tried.
  4. He took advantage of a broken system.

THE 24 HOUR NEWS CYCLE

There used to be a time when a single news story in politics would last a long time, and details were fleshed out carefully by reporters who dug deep to find a story. Every night, a handful of men would read the news to an entire nation, for a half hour every night. These stoic arbiters of truth would discuss the top stories from the nation, and around the world, as the populace watched.

Then Cable News happened.

People could now get their news at anytime of the day or night, not just at dinner time. As news broke around the world, here was CNN.

A funny thing happened after CNN came about. It wasn't exactly a new thing, but if you only have to fill 30 minutes a night, it's easy to hide.

The Slow News Day.

Some days, nothing happens. There are no stories to break, no major events taking place, nobody famous dies or has a baby. No one goes to war, or gets arrested for accepting bribes.

In the era of Cronkite and Murrow, if nothing happened, they could fill the half hour with an expert interview, in-depth analysis, or an editorial speech.

CNN, on the other hand, has a big problem on a slow news day. They have to pull out all the stops for each and every minuscule issue. But if nothing happened that day, too bad.

To complicate matters, CNN originally was commercial free. At some point in the mid-80's, they figured out that they could make money from running commercials. Over time, they became dependent on the commercial revenue. They went from reporting the news to making money by reporting the news. It's a slight difference, but their unofficial business model switched to selling commercial space.

This business model became very successful. So successful, that others joined the fray. MSNBC, CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox News, Fox Business, Current, OAN, and many more. The playground was getting pretty crowded. All of these places, plus the internet, made things…interesting.

Two ways evolved for these places to grab viewers. Either by delivering the best, most thoughtful and researched stories, or screaming at each other and playing to the customer base. The latter seems to have won.

This created a vacuum where even the slightest transgression, like wearing a tan suit or ordering dijon mustard on a burger, could generate dozens, or even hundreds of hours of coverage.

The end effect is that by 2015, the news channels had essentially scared off most people, or solidified them to only watching the news their "side" supports, like politics was a sport. It created the false equivalency fallacy.

Enter Donald Trump.

A man without shame. Loud, brash, obnoxious, ignorant, without a filter for his mouth. A man who's very existence is an insult to politicians and public servants.

Donald Trump would take advantage of the 24 hour news cycle by being himself. Cable news wanted viewers, and Trump's fuckup-du-jour would bring eyes to the channel.

STANDING OUT IN A CROWDED RACE

The 2016 Democratic Primary election became more of a coronation than a race when Joe Biden decided not to run. HRC faced some competition from Bernie Sanders, but not enough to defeat her.

The GOP Primary, on the other hand, was a crowded cluster of 17 men and women. Okay, 16 men and 1 woman. This article lists all of the candidates that ran, tried to run, thought about running, or toyed with running at least once.

Why so many? Obama.

The United States tends to swing back and forth between the two main parties. Since Truman left office in 1953, the only time that the presidency stayed with the same party for more than two terms, and that was from Regan to Bush Sr. in 1988. The odds were in their favor. Whoever won, would be short-tracked to the White House.

Seventeen candidates.

Fifteen white guys, one woman in Carly Fiorina, and Bobby Jindal.

Nine governors, five senators, one CEO of a Fortune 500 company, one neurosurgeon …

And a Reality TV show host.

Here's who Trump went up against, and what they were known for.

Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana
Carly Fiorina, CEO of HP
Rick Perry, Governor of Texas
Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin
George Pataki, Governor of New York
Lindsey Graham, Senator of South Carolina
Mike Huckabee, Governor of Arkansas
Rand Paul, Senator of Kentucky
Rick Santorum, Senator of Pennsylvania
Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey
Jim Gilmore, Governor of Virginia
Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida
Ben Carson, Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery
Marco Rubio, Senator of Florida
Ted Cruz, Senator of Texas
John Kasich, Governor of Ohio

This list is in order of how they performed, from worst to second place.

Trump stood out from this crowd not by being the best candidate, or the best person to serve as President. He stood out by being wholly and woefully unqualified, unquestionably ignorant, obtuse on policies and facts, and belligerent to his opponents.

REACHING NEW CAMPAIGN DEPTHS

Donald Trump had less money, experience, knowledge, skill, and patience than all of his opponents. What did he have that his opponents didn't?

A complete lack of shame, and no compunction about playing dirty.

Someone in Trump's camp knew that Donald would not win a traditional campaign against qualified politicians. Ever.

The only he could win was by changing the game. Fighting dirty, appealing to the undesirable elements of the party, and going to new places to wage this battle.

Name calling isn't new in an politics, but there's usually a little bit of respect between the candidates. Going back to the founding of this country when Thomas Jefferson called John Adams a hermaphrodite, they still respected each other. Donald Trump doesn't respect anyone. He either looks down on a man, or admires their strength. I said man because I honestly do not believe he is capable of viewing women as anything other than objects to control and acquire. (I'll have more on his messed up psyche later.)

Donald Trump needs positive affirmation. It's a fatal flaw in people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and this desire to be loved outweighs social norms like not attacking a candidate's spouse in a debate, or claiming that Ted Cruz's father helped kill JFK. He cares more for that little heart at the bottom of his tweet than he does about the feelings of those he attacks.

Soon, the crowds ate this shtick up. His twitter followers, human and boy alike, pounded that like button like it dispensed free meth. (Of course, the Russian Bot Army doesn't show up till late June, early July.)

Donald Trump's platform of "Make America Great Again" also reached a new low. Donald didn't just accept the fringe, he actively embraced it and courted it. He went after the conspiracy theorists, the racists, the dominionists, the autocrats, and anyone else against the "Deep State." His team went to Twitter, 4Chan, and Reddit to recruit fans to create memes to spread, and jumpstarted support throughout the country.

How did this play on the air? Pundits talked about Donald Trump's disaster-du-jour. People paying attention were completely and totally disgusted by his behavior.

People not paying attention to the news heard his name.

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF A BROKEN SYSTEM

Now, it's time to vote. The Primary system in the U.S. is… broken to say the least. Instead of all states voting at the same time, they're staggered over months. Each state has their own rules as to how delegates get selected for the party conventions. Some use votes open to all voters, some are open only to registered party members, some use a caucus of party officials.

Each state also has rules on how they award delegates, but for the most part, they're split with most going to the winner, then the rest awarded by district or county winners. Not only is it possible for a candidate to win all of a state's delegates without winning a majority of the votes, it's pretty common. For example, South Carolina is a winner take all primary. Trump claimed 32.5% of the vote. 67.5% of the people voted against him, but since he had the highest single tally, Donald Trump won all 50 delegates.

What was that 67.5%? 45% of that was Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio split down the middle. The rest were split evenly between John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Ben Carson.

But, you might be asking "how did Donald Trump win?" Here's a thought experiment.

There are 17 candidates, each asking a pool of 100 voters to elect them.

10 of those 100 are crazy. Another 10 are completely undecided. The remaining 80 voters will choose between the best qualified candidates, and ruled out 1 candidate.

The crazy people love that 1 candidate, while the other 16 candidates are trying to split the pool of 80. The last 10 will pick randomly between the top 5.

What does this mean? The worst candidate has at least 10 votes, probably 12, 4 candidates have 7 votes, and the rest have 5 each. The Crazy Candidate wins.

That's how the race started. Within a couple races, the field narrowed to Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Kasich, and Ben Carson. This was the build up to Super Tuesday.

Super Tuesday is when the most number of states, 11 in 2016, hold their primary. It will make or break a candidate. Going into Super Tuesday, Trump had a lead, but wasn't insurmountable. By the end of the day, Trump had taken a commanding lead.

Let's go back to the thought experiment. Instead of 17 candidates, the race starts with 9. What happens then?

The Crazy Candidate still has their 10 guaranteed, but so do the other 8. The undecided voters make the choice.

This phenomenon played out during Super Tuesday when multiple contests were very close. Trump won many races, but they were very close.

For the remainder of the race, Trump fought a three headed dog that refused to work together. Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich couldn't beat Trump individually. They split the responsible votes between themselves.

How could this have been prevented?

Next part of the thought experiment. Instead of 17 candidates, we're down to 5. What happens then?

The Crazy Candidate still has their guaranteed 10 votes, and 10 people will split the vote among all five candidates. However, the 4 serious candidates each take 20 votes. The Crazy Candidate ends with 12 votes while the other 4 have 22 each. The Crazy Candidate is done.

Imagine, for a moment, that the Presidential GOP race after Iowa, the very beginning of the race, if either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio dropped out of the race. Let's say Ted dropped out and pledged his delegates to Marco. And after Super Tuesday, John Kasich did the same, leaving a Rubio versus Trump race. What happens then?

Crunching numbers from this link, Marco Rubio still loses New Hampshire, but takes South Carolina. Nevada still goes to Trump. Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia now belong to Rubio. He would take a commanding lead, and wouldn't look back. He would have won every contest for the next month. By the end of March, Marco Rubio would have been so far ahead that no one could catch him. By my calculations, he would have won the nomination by April.

Why Rubio? He doesn't microwave fish in the lunchroom.

CONCLUSION

By taking advantage of a broken system, a 24 hour news cycle desperate for footage, and engaging the fringes of the party, Donald Trump was able to stand out enough from the competition to win the 2016 Republican Party Nomination for President of the United States of America.