Trump's election saboteurs were paid for by his campaign. The 'privilege' debate is over

Trump's election saboteurs were paid for by his campaign. The 'privilege' debate is over
President Donald J. Trump participates in a bilateral meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, to the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

We've known for some time now that the "official" attempt by Donald Trump's inner circle to find a strategy for nullifying a United States presidential election was deadly serious, was plotted for many weeks, and featured some of the top Republican criminals in the country. Rudy Giuliani gave up stovepiping false claims against Joe Biden's family invented by corrupt European oligarchs for this one. Bernard Kerik took time off from whatever the hell he's been doing, since he got out of prison, to join up. Steve Bannon was spurred into action even though it'd take time away from his day job of bilking Trump's base with fake border wall schemes. Anyone who was anyone in the GOP crime family was working all the knobs.

Mar-a-Lago's resident golf cheat is now claiming that those team attempts to nullify Trump's removal from office were a matter of "executive privilege," private deliberations, and advice given to him as the nation's pretzeldent. These claims didn't fly from Day One and are no closer to becoming airborne today. There is no "executive privilege" recognized for ex-presidents, as he is no longer in government. "Executive privilege" specifically cannot be used to cover up crimes, and what the House Select Committee is currently investigating is the crime of obstructing a U.S. election through violent and nonviolent means.

It also won't count as "executive privilege" when it wasn't being done as part of your "executive" duties to begin with. The Washington Post has a new piece targeting that point, noting that Giuliani and Kerik's attempts to dodge House demands for information on the plot suffer from a rather glaring weak point: It was the Donald Trump campaign that footed the bill for the team's posh Washington hotel "command center" and other expenses.

The attempt to nullify a U.S. election was being paid for by Trump's campaign, not by Trump's administration. Giuliani and the others involved can pound sand on any thought of invoking an "executive" defense for Team Sedition.

The details laid out in the Post are gorier, of course, with the team racking up huge bills while Trump threatened to stiff them (as usual), Fox News shouting-head Jeanine Pirro personally intervening with Trump and team to convince them to reimburse Giuliani and Kerik (did you remember that Pirro's husband is another cog in the Republican crime machine, one who would get a last-day Trump pardon for felony tax evasion?), and the Trump campaign eventually paying out "more than $225,000" for steep hotel bills and travel expenses.

Everyone involved is an absolutely terrible person, either a felon or within hand-shaking distance of felonies, and it was all the sort of incompetent mess that Trump's bottom-feeders specialized in. The point, though, is that the team's attempts to nullify the election by inventing a new vice presidential power to simply declare that the election didn't count was decided to be an offshoot expense of the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

And that means there is no "executive" to invoke for an executive privilege claim. Team Sedition was acting on behalf of Trump's political campaign, not his administration.

In practice, not a lot of this matters. Trump's executive privilege claims were nonsensical from the start; the only real test is whether the team's absolute contempt for U.S. laws and the investigative powers of Congress will result in consequences. The new rule of Republicanism is that legality or illegality doesn't matter, because even international extortion or assembling a violent mob are allowed so long as you have sufficient allies in government to ensure no investigation takes place.

If Congress wants to get to the bottom of just how the violent mob that Trump's team assembled on January 6 intersected with the rest of the Trump White House and campaign's efforts to intimidate Mike Pence and Congress into nullifying the presidential election's results, it's going to have to start throwing people in jail—and soon. Come next November, there's a very good chance enough pro-sedition Republicans will be elected to Congress to shut down the investigation and bar even the Justice Department from probing the day's events further.

Come next November, there could very well be a Republican majority in place that would order the minting of new coins commemorating the seditionists as new American heroes. The clock is ticking here.

Long story short, the foot-dragging by the Biden Justice Department and by the House itself is getting more dangerous by the day. There is yet no serious belief among the insurrection's orchestrators that Congress will pursue them if they simply refuse to testify, and—still—there are zero plausible claims that any of Trump's pro-nullification plotters have protection against congressional demands. Dust off the powers of inherent contempt and send the Sergeant-at-Arms off with enough pairs of handcuffs to do the job. The nation can't claim to have laws if the nation's elites never find the stomach to enforce them.


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