Bill Blum

Here's how to prevent a 2024 Trump campaign

Now that Donald Trump has gone full Lukashenko in his now-violent plot to retain power, we have to ask whether this time, finally, the nation will muster the collective will to hold him responsible for his malfeasance. The future of American democracy may depend on how the question is answered.

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Even before Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 to disrupt the joint session of Congress that had convened to certify Joe Biden's Electoral College victory, Trump had committed a variety of fresh federal and state criminal offenses in his hour-long telephone conversation with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on January 2. In the call, the sitting president of the United States pressured Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary's general counsel, to "find" him enough votes to overturn Biden's win in the state.

As two recounts and a signature audit have confirmed, Trump lost Georgia by precisely 11,779 ballots. Nonetheless, Trump made it clear toward the latter part of his talk with Raffensperger that he wasn't just asking for an outlandish favor. Rather, he was making a demand, and serving notice in his official capacity that both Raffensperger and Ryan could face federal prosecution if they refused to comply.

Don't accept this interpretation of the conversation from me. Take it from Trump himself. Trump has acknowledged on his Twitter account that he made the call, and the Washington Post, which broke the story, has published a complete transcript of the conversation, in which Trump was joined by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and several lawyers, including prominent conservative attorney Cleta Mitchell.

The Washington Post has also released the complete audio recording of the conversation and you can listen to Trump's own words:

"That's a criminal offense," Trump can be heard saying, accusing Raffensperger of reporting false election results. "And you can't let that happen. That's a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.… And you can't let it happen, and you are letting it happen. You know, I mean, I'm notifying you that you're letting it happen. So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state."

Realizing the need for action, two Democratic members of the House of Representatives—Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York—have written FBI Director Christopher Wray, asking for a criminal investigation into Trump's threats. Citing two federal statutes and a Georgia law, Lieu and Rice wrote that they believe Trump has "engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of [federal and state] election crimes."

Lieu and Rice might also have added treason and sedition to the list, but they drafted their letter before Trump supporters rioted at the Capitol.

Unfortunately, there is still little chance that Trump actually will be prosecuted for the phone call. Federally, as Biden's inauguration approaches, Trump can be preemptively pardoned for any crimes, either by resigning and permitting Mike Pence, as his successor for the few days remaining in the lame-duck period, to do the honors or by issuing a pardon to himself. And as for Georgia, no one should expect an indictment as long as the levers of state government remain in Republican hands.

There is another way to hold Trump accountable, however—by means of a second impeachment.

The goal of a second impeachment would not be to remove Trump from the White House, unless, of course, he somehow manages to pull off a coup d'état before January 20. The goal would be to disqualify Trump from ever holding federal office again.

Under Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution, judgment in cases of impeachment extends to both sanctions—removal from current office and disqualification from holding future office. Since Trump reportedly has floated the idea of running for president again in 2024, a second impeachment would be designed to deal a death blow to another Trump campaign with hearings in the House and a trial in the Senate focused on the "high crimes and misdemeanors"—the phrase used in Article II of the Constitution to define impeachable offenses, along with treason and bribery—that Trump committed in his first term in office. Impeachable offenses, moreover, are not subject to the pardon power.

A second set of impeachment articles returned against Trump could allege a bundle of serious crimes in addition to the phone call to Raffensperger, ranging from obstruction of justice in connection with former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election to conspiracy to defraud the United States by subverting the entire 2020 election.

Nor would the fact that Trump was no longer president legally bar a second impeachment. In 1876, the Senate conducted an impeachment trial of Secretary of War William Belknap even though he had resigned before the House voted to impeach him for financial corruption. Although the Senate failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed to convict Belknap, a majority of senators found him guilty. His impeachment trial lasted nearly four months and featured more than 40 witnesses.

While Richard Nixon escaped impeachment via resignation, the current House and Senate would not be bound by Nixon's example. Both chambers would be free instead to follow the Belknap precedent in the case of impeaching a former president, as several leading constitutional scholars indicated in interviews with the Washington Post in 2019.

If he were faced with a second impeachment, Trump wouldn't get off as easily as he did the first time around. He would still have to be convicted of an impeachable offense by a two-thirds Senate majority, but as Amherst College professor Austin Surat argued in a USA Today column published January 4, only a simple majority vote would be needed for disqualification. The National Review's Kevin D. Williamson has also called for a second impeachment.

The bottom line is that Donald John Trump, our 45th commander in chief, must be brought to justice by any legitimate means. With the House in Democratic hands and with enough Republicans in the Senate fed up with Trump's sedition, a second impeachment is not only possible—it is a necessity.

Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal thrillers: Prejudicial Error, The Last Appeal, and The Face of Justice.

Trump's now-violent plot to retain power demands that he be impeached again

Now that Donald Trump has gone full Lukashenko in his now-violent plot to retain power, we have to ask whether this time, finally, the nation will muster the collective will to hold him responsible for his malfeasance. The future of American democracy may depend on how the question is answered.

Even before Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 to disrupt the joint session of Congress that had convened to certify Joe Biden's Electoral College victory, Trump had committed a variety of fresh federal and state criminal offenses in his hour-long telephone conversation with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on January 2. In the call, the sitting president of the United States pressured Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary's general counsel, to "find" him enough votes to overturn Biden's win in the state.

As two recounts and a signature audit have confirmed, Trump lost Georgia by precisely 11,779 ballots. Nonetheless, Trump made it clear toward the latter part of his talk with Raffensperger that he wasn't just asking for an outlandish favor. Rather, he was making a demand, and serving notice in his official capacity that both Raffensperger and Ryan could face federal prosecution if they refused to comply.

Don't accept this interpretation of the conversation from me. Take it from Trump himself. Trump has acknowledged on his Twitter account that he made the call, and the Washington Post, which broke the story, has published a complete transcript of the conversation, in which Trump was joined by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and several lawyers, including prominent conservative attorney Cleta Mitchell.

The Washington Post has also released the complete audio recording of the conversation and you can listen to Trump's own words:

"That's a criminal offense," Trump can be heard saying, accusing Raffensperger of reporting false election results. "And you can't let that happen. That's a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.… And you can't let it happen, and you are letting it happen. You know, I mean, I'm notifying you that you're letting it happen. So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state."

Realizing the need for action, two Democratic members of the House of Representatives—Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York—have written FBI Director Christopher Wray, asking for a criminal investigation into Trump's threats. Citing two federal statutes and a Georgia law, Lieu and Rice wrote that they believe Trump has "engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of [federal and state] election crimes."

Lieu and Rice might also have added treason and sedition to the list, but they drafted their letter before Trump supporters rioted at the Capitol.

Unfortunately, there is still little chance that Trump actually will be prosecuted for the phone call. Federally, as Biden's inauguration approaches, Trump can be preemptively pardoned for any crimes, either by resigning and permitting Mike Pence, as his successor for the few days remaining in the lame-duck period, to do the honors or by issuing a pardon to himself. And as for Georgia, no one should expect an indictment as long as the levers of state government remain in Republican hands.

There is another way to hold Trump accountable, however—by means of a second impeachment.

The goal of a second impeachment would not be to remove Trump from the White House, unless, of course, he somehow manages to pull off a coup d'état before January 20. The goal would be to disqualify Trump from ever holding federal office again.

Under Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution, judgment in cases of impeachment extends to both sanctions—removal from current office and disqualification from holding future office. Since Trump reportedly has floated the idea of running for president again in 2024, a second impeachment would be designed to deal a death blow to another Trump campaign with hearings in the House and a trial in the Senate focused on the "high crimes and misdemeanors"—the phrase used in Article II of the Constitution to define impeachable offenses, along with treason and bribery—that Trump committed in his first term in office. Impeachable offenses, moreover, are not subject to the pardon power.

A second set of impeachment articles returned against Trump could allege a bundle of serious crimes in addition to the phone call to Raffensperger, ranging from obstruction of justice in connection with former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election to conspiracy to defraud the United States by subverting the entire 2020 election.

Nor would the fact that Trump was no longer president legally bar a second impeachment. In 1876, the Senate conducted an impeachment trial of Secretary of War William Belknap even though he had resigned before the House voted to impeach him for financial corruption. Although the Senate failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed to convict Belknap, a majority of senators found him guilty. His impeachment trial lasted nearly four months and featured more than 40 witnesses.

While Richard Nixon escaped impeachment via resignation, the current House and Senate would not be bound by Nixon's example. Both chambers would be free instead to follow the Belknap precedent in the case of impeaching a former president, as several leading constitutional scholars indicated in interviews with the Washington Post in 2019.

If he were faced with a second impeachment, Trump wouldn't get off as easily as he did the first time around. He would still have to be convicted of an impeachable offense by a two-thirds Senate majority, but as Amherst College professor Austin Surat argued in a USA Today column published January 4, only a simple majority vote would be needed for disqualification. A National Review writer has also called for a second impeachment.

The bottom line is that Donald John Trump, our 45th commander in chief, must be brought to justice by any legitimate means. With the House in Democratic hands and with enough Republicans in the Senate fed up with Trump's sedition, a second impeachment is not only possible—it is a necessity.

Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal thrillers: Prejudicial Error, The Last Appeal, and The Face of Justice.

Here's how the rest of Trump's desperate effort to stay in power will play out

Donald Trump isn't about to concede the presidential election to Joe Biden. Not now, and seemingly, not ever.

Anyone who has followed Trump closely knows two things about the man that make it relatively easy to anticipate his next move. The first is that, ideologically, Trump is a fascist who has no regard for democracy. The second is that, psychologically, he is a malignant narcissist who suffers from a toxic stew of narcissism, paranoia, antisocial personality disorder and sadism. As a result, it is virtually impossible for him to acknowledge, much less accept, failure.

Trump also faces the prospect of being prosecuted for a variety of state and federal felonies upon leaving office. And while he can avoid federal jeopardy with a pardon, to do so he would either have to resign and permit Mike Pence, as his successor for the duration of the lame-duck period, to do the honors or undertake the legally dubious step of issuing a pardon to himself. Even then, he would remain exposed to the ongoing probe conducted by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance into allegations of tax, business and insurance fraud under New York law.

How, then, does a fascist and a malignant narcissist who faces jail stave off defeat? Having lost both the popular vote and, more importantly, the tally in the Electoral College, and after being rebuked by numerous state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court, Trump is moving to his next option—staging what would amount to a coup d'état, invoking the complex provisions of the 12th Amendment, when Congress meets in a joint session on January 6 to confirm the winner of the presidential race.

That there will be an attempted coup is no longer a matter of speculation. In an appearance on "Fox & Friends" on December 14, Stephen Miller, perhaps the most deranged and malevolent of Trump's senior advisers, openly declared the administration's plan to overturn the election results in the upcoming joint session.

A gambit under the 12th Amendment is a long shot, to be sure, but so was Trump's initial presidential bid back when he descended the escalator at Trump Tower in June 2015 to announce his first campaign and stigmatize undocumented Mexican migrants as "rapists" and drug traffickers. It behooves us, then, to take Trump and Miller seriously.

Ratified in 1804 in the aftermath of the hotly disputed election of 1800 (which ultimately seated Thomas Jefferson as the nation's third president), the 12th Amendment modified the procedures that govern the Electoral College. And while the 12th Amendment itself was modified by the 20th Amendment (which moved up the presidential inauguration from March to January), its basic provisions remain intact.

Of particular relevance to Trump's machinations, the 12th Amendment stipulates that after the electors of the various states (there are 538 of them today) cast and certify their votes for president and vice president, their ballots are transmitted to the president of the Senate. Under the Constitution, the president of the Senate is the vice president, currently Pence.

The president of the Senate's role thereafter is ministerial and mandatory. Under the terms of the amendment, the president of the Senate "shall," in the joint session, "open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President," provided—and this is the key to appreciating the impending coup—that such person receives a majority of the electoral votes.

But what happens if the Electoral College vote count is disputed? To understand what occurs then, we have to toggle back and forth between the 12th Amendment and a statute passed by Congress more than 130 years ago—the Electoral Count Act (ECA) of 1887. Under the ECA, if a single member of both the House and Senate signs and submits a challenge to any state's electoral votes, the joint session must immediately go into recess to allow each chamber to meet separately and debate the merits of the objections. To be sustained, objections require the support of a majority of the members of each chamber. Absent a majority, the objections fail.

It's all but certain that when the joint session convenes on January 6, objections to the electoral votes cast in the swing states of Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania indeed will be lodged. Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, one of the zaniest of the GOP's bloated stable of right-wing fanatics, has announced that he will file an objection. Alabama Republican Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville, the thick-headed former college football coach, has suggested he will join Brooks.

A drama not seen in this country since the election of 1876, when alternate slates of electors were sent to the Senate on behalf of Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes (the eventual winner), will then ensue.

Reminiscent of 1876, alternate pro-Trump slates of Republican electors have met in several swing states, and plan to send their votes to the Senate in time for the joint session to back up the objections that will be raised by Brooks and Tuberville.

Both the 12th Amendment and the ECA address a doomsday scenario in which no candidate wins a majority in the Electoral College, whether because of the presence of alternate electors or for other reasons. In that event, the task of naming the next president is transferred to the House. The House then conducts a "contingent election," but with each state delegation getting one vote rather than each representative casting individual votes. Since Republicans will hold 27 House delegations in the next Congress, Trump would emerge victorious.

Fortunately, a contingent election in the House is highly unlikely. Because the Democrats control the House, and several Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have recognized Biden as president-elect, the Brooks and Tuberville objections, even if backed by alternate electors, are destined to fail, as their objections will be subject to an ordinary majority vote in each chamber. In addition, to date, no votes cast by rogue pro-Trump electors have been certified by state governors or officially by any state legislatures, as required by the ECA.

But even that won't necessarily end Trump's attempted coup. According to press reports, Trump is considering advice offered by Michael Flynn to declare martial law to force a new election in the swing states that voted for Trump. Flynn, the disgraced retired Army lieutenant general and former national security adviser whom Trump pardoned in November for lying to the FBI, has been promoting the idea of martial law on Twitter and on right-wing media.

In any other era, Flynn would be dismissed as a caricature straight out of "Dr. Strangelove." The trouble is, we're living in the increasingly treacherous waning days of the Trump era, dominated by a fascist and a malignant narcissist desperate to remain in power.

Trump's coup will fail, but not before leaving a lasting stain on American democracy.

Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal thrillers: Prejudicial Error, The Last Appeal, and The Face of Justice.

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Why Bill Barr will go down as the second-biggest loser of the Trump era

Of all the bombastic statements ever uttered by Attorney General William "Bill" Barr, a remark made toward the end of a lengthy interview with CBS News in May will be remembered above the rest. Asked how "history" will look upon his controversial motion to dismiss the criminal charges that Special Counsel Robert Mueller brought against Michael Flynn for making false statements to the FBI, Barr raised his eyebrows, chortled loudly, and flashed a sly smile.

Then he answered:

"Well, history is written by the winner. So it largely depends on who's writing the history. But I think a fair history would say that it [the move to drop the Flynn case] was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law."

Barr's attempt to dismiss Flynn's prosecution went wildly awry. The dismissal motion was intensely litigated, and Flynn was still awaiting sentencing when, on November 25, President Trump issued the retired Army lieutenant general and former national security adviser a "full and unconditional pardon" for "any and all possible offenses" arising from the Mueller investigation. No matter that Flynn had twice pleaded guilty to the false statement charge. So much for the rule of law.

Barr's Justice Department responded to the pardon with another dismissal motion on Flynn's behalf. The motion was granted on December 8.

Flynn, for his part, responded to the pardon on social media with reckless abandon, tweeting an ad from the Washington Times that called for Trump to suspend the Constitution and "invoke limited martial law" to permit the military to conduct an election do-over.

The history of Barr's service as Trump's attorney general will no doubt be the subject of much future academic and political commentary. And while future historians may debate the details of his record, Barr will not be among the "winners" who will get to pass judgment on his performance as the nation's top law enforcement officer. To the contrary, Barr will go down as the second-biggest loser of the Trump era, subordinate only to Trump himself.

It may be tempting to look at Barr as something of a tragic figure, as someone who lost his moral compass and sacrificed his good name in fealty to a corrupt leader. Tempting, perhaps, but wrong.

Yes, it's true that a few Democrats, along with some influential mainstream legal commentators, supported Barr's nomination to become attorney general before his appointment in 2019. They believed he was an "institutionalist," and they hoped that he would be an improvement over his immediate predecessors, Jeff Sessions and Matthew Whitaker, who had disgraced the Department of Justice. They were fooled.

The real tragedy is that anyone left of center ever viewed Barr as a fair-minded institutionalist. The truth is that Barr has always been an aggressively partisan right-wing ideologue, bent on entrenching the most retrograde of GOP policies.

A longtime and fervent proponent of the "unitary executive" theory, which posits that all executive branch power is vested in the president and in its most extreme form amounts to a blueprint for presidential supremacy, Barr served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993 in the administration of George H.W. Bush. Barr is widely credited with using his position as attorney general at the time to secure pardons for six criminal defendants accused of breaking federal law in connection with the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s.

Two of the Iran-Contra pardons—granted to former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and former CIA officer Duane Clarridge—were issued "preemptively," prior to conviction, in a fashion reminiscent of Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon and those Trump is reportedly contemplating for himself and members of his family and inner circle. For his work procuring the Iran-Contra pardons, Barr earned himself the nickname of the "Coverup-General."

After Trump nominated Barr to serve a second stint as attorney general, the ACLU issued a scathing report, asserting:

"During his time in government as well as in the private sector, Barr amassed a record of advancing policies that advocated dragnet government surveillance, mass incarceration, and discriminatory profiling while pushing an aggressive theory of expansive executive power that sidelines Congress' constitutional role in checking the president."

Since resuming the reins as attorney general, Barr has proven to be everything the ACLU feared, and more. From publicly mischaracterizing the findings of the Mueller report to defying congressional subpoenas, intervening in the sentencing of Roger Stone, forcing Geoffrey Berman to step down as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and allegedly giving the order to assault peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters outside the White House, Barr has strived to transform the Justice Department into a neofascist ministry of the interior dedicated to advancing the personal interests of the president rather than those of the nation.

And don't be misled by Barr's recent revelation, made in an interview with the Associated Press, that the DOJ has found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Barr may have incurred Trump's ire with the disclosure and he may even be considering resignation as tensions with Trump mount, but as the multiple litigation debacles of Rudy Giuliani have shown, Barr simply stated the obvious to the AP—that there is no credible case of voter fraud to be made.

In the same interview, Barr disclosed that he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel to continue an ongoing probe into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigations conducted by both Mueller and the FBI. Unless Biden's new attorney general rescinds Barr's order, Durham will be in a position to perpetuate the corrosive right-wing myth that agents of the "deep state" had conspired to "stab [Trump] in the back" and cripple his presidency.

Durham's appointment is Barr's cynical parting gift to the country, illustrating once again that there is no honor or redemption to be found in the public works of Bill Barr. Not now, and, absent the unforeseeable, not ever.

Trump's legal woes are looming — will Ivanka snitch on her father?

If you're a fan of TV crime procedurals, you've no doubt seen shows where detectives interrogate two suspects detained in separate and austere holding rooms. The object is to get one of the perps to snitch on his accomplice and "turn state's evidence" in return for leniency.

The dramas may feature different actors and different crimes, but the essential script components are the same: The cops offer immunity, witness protection or some other kind of favorable treatment in exchange for a confession. The arrestees, however, remain defiant, and hang tough. Some sit stone-faced and silent. Others smirk and laugh. Still others hurl back insults, accusing the cops of incompetence and a rush to judgment.

Then, slowly, just before a big commercial break, the fear of doing hard time sets in. One of the suspects reconsiders the possibility that his confederate will cash in on the promise of a deal, leaving him alone to take the rap. The perp's rough exterior cracks. Before you can say "case closed," Miranda rights are waived, and the truth emerges.

In real life, the drill rarely concludes as quickly. And while some suspects invoke the Fifth Amendment and never agree to talk, others do. Just ask Rick Gates why he decided to testify against his former business partner Paul Manafort. Faced with the prospect of a lengthy prison term, Gates opted to save his own skin.

As Donald Trump's desperate plot to subvert the election fails and the end of his presidency approaches, Ivanka Trump could face her own "state's evidence" moment as a result of her role in her father's sketchy business enterprises in New York.

According to the New York Times, both state attorney general Letitia James and Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. are investigating income-tax-avoidance schemes undertaken by the Trump Organization that involve questionable deductions claimed for "consulting fees" paid to Ivanka and other individuals and businesses.

Vance's investigation is criminal in nature, while James' inquiry is civil. The probes, per the New York Times, are being conducted independently, but they overlap. New subpoenas have been issued in each, seeking information about the consulting payments.

The subpoenas come on the heels of a blockbuster story published by the New York Times in late September that revealed Trump paid a mere $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency, and that he paid no income taxes in 10 of the 15 years prior to that.

Documents obtained by the New York Times also indicate that between 2010 and 2018, Trump wrote off "$26 million in unexplained 'consulting fees'" as business expenses on his tax returns. The $26 million included $747,622 paid to an unidentified individual. That amount, it turns out, exactly matches income Ivanka listed as consulting fees on the 2017 financial disclosure forms she filed when she joined the White House staff.

As former New York City prosecutor Elura Nanos wrote in a recent column for the Law & Crime website, "This could be a problem, as Ms. Trump was an executive officer both of the company making the payment and the company doing the consulting. When a key person is on both sides of such a transaction, tax deductions could be illegal if the payments were inflated."

CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, who worked for eight years as an assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting white-collar crimes, described Ivanka's predicament more bluntly in a November 20 on-air interview, remarking:

"I used to do Mafia cases. This is exactly what they would do. If they wanted to take money out of a company and put it in the pocket of an individual, they would say, 'We'll just call it a consulting fee.' That does not make it okay on its own. The question… is did Ivanka Trump actually give consulting services worth $747,000? I mean, think about that."

Ivanka reacted to news of the consulting-fee subpoenas in true Trump fashion, rage-tweeting:

"This is harassment pure and simple. This 'inquiry' by NYC democrats is 100% motivated by politics, publicity and rage. They know very well that there's nothing here and that there was no tax benefit whatsoever. These politicians are simply ruthless."

It's rarely a good idea, whether on television or in the actual world, for a potential suspect to directly attack the investigators. The better course is to let your lawyers do the talking.

Ivanka, of all people, should know this. In 2012, she and Donald Trump Jr. reportedly avoided a felony fraud indictment for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development in lower Manhattan. The siblings narrowly escaped prosecution, but only after high-powered attorney Marc Kasowitz, a longtime Trump family consigliere and a Vance campaign donor, allegedly leaned on the DA behind the scenes to drop the case.

Vance is showing no signs of backing down this time. To the contrary, he is leading a grand jury probe that extends well beyond the possible misuse of consulting fees to determine if any of the president's past business practices violated state fraud and income tax laws. He is also looking into whether the Trump Organization falsified corporate records in connection with the hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In July, Vance scored a historic legal victory when the Supreme Court denied the president's request to halt Vance's inquiry, rejecting Trump's claims of "absolute immunity" from state criminal prosecutions.

Trump cannot be pardoned for state crimes, and absent a federal pardon, once he leaves office, he will lose the immunity he now enjoys as a sitting president from prosecution for any federal offenses he may have committed. And while Trump's attorneys currently are back before the Supreme Court, asking the panel to narrow the scope of Vance's subpoenas, that effort would appear similarly doomed once Trump departs the White House.

What this means for Ivanka remains to be seen. She has not yet been formally accused of committing a crime, or officially been named as a target of any investigation. Moreover, even if she is eventually indicted, everyone—even a Trump—is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Still, as the clock ticks down on the Trump presidency, the first daughter may well be advised to ponder whether her legal interests and those of her father have diverged to the point where it would be better to cooperate with the authorities, fess up, and ultimately turn state's evidence.

Stay tuned. This story is just beginning.

Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal thrillers: Prejudicial Error, The Last Appeal, and The Face of Justice.

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Trump is in survival mode — and caught in a pardon dilemma with no good alternatives

Donald Trump is becoming more fearful and anxious by the day. Above everything else, he desperately wants to save his own skin and avoid spending his remaining days outfitted in an orange prison jumpsuit. This is why, as the legal challenges to his humiliating defeat at the polls fail one by one, he will eventually shed his phony tough-guy facade and seek refuge in a presidential pardon for the myriad of federal felonies he may have committed.

The question is not whether Trump will pursue the pardon remedy, but precisely when and how he will do so. Even though a presidential pardon would apply only to federal offenses and leave him exposed to charges under New York law arising from the ongoing probe conducted by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, he has no other viable choice.

One of the few things Trump understands about the Constitution is the plenary nature of the pardon power granted to presidents. The pardon power is the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card. To date, Trump has used his authority to pardon or commute the sentences of 44 individuals convicted of federal crimes. The recipients of his beneficence include such darlings of the unhinged radical right as Joe Arpaio, the notoriously racist former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona; and Dinesh D'Souza, the prominent author, documentary filmmaker and conspiracy theorist.

Trump also understands that with the loss of the presidency, he will lose the immunity he currently enjoys from federal prosecution. I have written before and often of the federal charges Trump could face once he leaves office. They include:

  • Obstruction of justice and perjury in connection with the investigation conducted by former special counsel Robert Mueller into suspected Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  • Obstruction of Congress, extortion and bribery in connection with his efforts to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up political dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden in exchange for the release of U.S. military aid previously approved by Congress.
  • Income tax and financial fraud for underreporting the revenue earned from his real estate ventures, and misrepresenting the value of his assets on loan applications.
  • Involuntary manslaughter for his grossly negligent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in thousands of avoidable deaths.
  • Violation of campaign finance laws for conspiring with his former lawyer Michael Cohen to pay hush money to pornographic film star Stephanie Clifford, aka "Stormy Daniels," and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the summer and fall of 2016.

All of the above crimes fall within the general five-year federal statute of limitations.

When the decision hour arrives, Trump will have two basic options: he could resign and accept a pardon from Mike Pence, who would become acting president during the lame-duck interregnum before Joe Biden's inauguration; or he could decide to pardon himself.

Both sorts of pardons would be prospective, or preemptive, in nature, as they would be issued prior to the filing of any federal indictments.

A prospective pardon from Pence would mirror the one conferred on Richard Nixon by Gerald Ford in 1974, which gave Nixon "a full, free, and absolute pardon… for all offenses against the United States" that Nixon had or "may have committed" during his time in office. Given the Nixon precedent and the broad nature of the pardon power, a Pence pardon would be all but impossible to overturn in court.

It remains to be seen whether Pence, who likely has ambitions to run for president in 2024, would want to risk tarnishing whatever remains of his public brand with a pardon of the most corrupt chief executive in American history. On the other hand, Pence may come to view a pardon for Trump as a gesture of fealty that would forever endear him to Trump's strong and loyal electoral base.

A self-pardon, however, would be more in keeping with Trump's image as a rogue and trendsetting norm-breaker, and would allow him to avoid any indebtedness to Pence. In 2018, in the midst of the Mueller investigation, Trump tweeted, "I have the absolute right to PARDON myself."

Although Nixon reportedly toyed with the idea of pardoning himself, no president has ever attempted the feat. It's also by no means clear that a self-pardon would be upheld should the issue ever reach the Supreme Court. In a memorandum drafted four days before Nixon's resignation, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel advised that a self-pardon would be illegal "Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case."

Whatever path Trump chooses, a pardon would be seen by many as a moral, if not legal, admission of guilt. Worse still, a federal pardon might only incentivize Cyrus Vance to go for the maximum punishment in his investigation of Trump for tax and business fraud under New York law.

Clearly, Trump is in survival mode. He has no escape route, and he is running out of time. He is caught in what the ancient Greeks called a "dilemma," a predicament with no good alternatives.

Here's the case for impeaching Clarence Thomas — the most corrupt Supreme Court Justice

With the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, the radical right has completed its long and painstaking project to seize control of the Supreme Court, and to reshape constitutional law for generations to come. Barrett's elevation will give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the court and usher in a crisis of legitimacy for the third branch of government not seen since the 1930s.

The right's triumph has prompted anger and soul-searching among Democrats and progressives, sparking calls to expand the number of Supreme Court justices, echoing Franklin D. Roosevelt's unsuccessful effort to add additional seats to the high tribunal in the midst of the Great Depression.

Enlarging the Supreme Court is entirely within the power of Congress, as the number of justices is not set by the Constitution. The court's composition has, in fact, varied over time, ranging from six justices when the Constitution was ratified to 10 in 1863. The panel was reduced to nine by an act of Congress in 1867 and has remained there since then by statute.

While Democrats should definitely demand court expansion if they retake the White House and the Senate and hold the House, there is at least one additional step they should take to address the court's legitimacy crisis—the impeachment of its most corrupt member—Clarence Thomas.

Thomas should be impeached on charges of perjury for allegedly lying in his annual financial disclosure statements for over a decade and, more fundamentally, for lying in his 1991 confirmation hearing about his disgusting history of sexual harassment.

Although federal judges are appointed for life, their terms are subject to "good behavior." Like all civil officers of the United States, they can be removed, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, "on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

The impeachment process, as we were reminded by the experience of President Trump, consists of two basic steps: First, members of the House of Representatives impeach an official by adopting, on a simple majority vote, one or more articles of impeachment, which read very much like a criminal complaint or a grand jury indictment. Step two proceeds with a trial in the Senate, which has the power to convict on a two-thirds ballot. Ouster from office follows conviction automatically, and cannot be appealed.

Only three presidents—Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Trump—have been impeached in our history, and all were exonerated in their Senate trials. A fourth, Richard Nixon, resigned in the face of near-certain impeachment and removal for his role in the Watergate scandal.

The impeachment of federal judges, by contrast, has been far more common. To date, 15 federal judges have been impeached, and eight have been convicted by the Senate. Indeed, the only Senate impeachment trials resulting in convictions have involved judges.

Since 1988, three federal judges have been impeached and removed on charges involving perjury. The last judge to be impeached was G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of the Eastern District of Louisiana, a Clinton appointee who was convicted by the Senate and ejected from office in December 2010 for accepting bribes and, among other derelictions, signing false financial declarations under penalty of perjury.

Thomas, if targeted, would become just the second Supreme Court Justice to be impeached. In 1804, the House charged Associate Justice Samuel Chase with eight articles of impeachment for engaging in arbitrary and oppressive conduct and expressing political bias while serving as a trial judge in certain Sedition Act cases during an era when Supreme Court justices also conducted trials. An outspoken Federalist and supporter of John Adams, Chase incurred the ire of Thomas Jefferson and his Republican allies. Chase was acquitted the following year in a Senate trial presided over by Vice President Aaron Burr. (The chief justice of the Supreme Court presides only in presidential impeachment trials.)

As the Senate's website instructs, Chase's exoneration has since been construed to insulate the "judiciary from… congressional attacks based on disapproval of judges' opinions." Guided by the Chase example, an impeachment proceeding against Thomas could not be initiated because of policy differences Democrats may have with him, even though Thomas has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the constitutional rights of minorities, women and criminal defendants during his tenure on the Supreme Court.

Like Porteous, however, Thomas is vulnerable to perjury allegations.

Under the 1978 Ethics in Government Act, all high-ranking federal officials are required to file yearly financial disclosure statements for themselves and their spouses to safeguard against conflicts of interest. But for 13 years, Thomas failed to report his wife Virginia's earnings on the mandatory annual financial disclosure forms that he signed under penalty of perjury, indicating that his spouse had no non-investment income when in fact she was steadily employed in high-level jobs as a policy analyst and an outspoken conservative activist.

According to Common Cause, Virginia—who is also a lawyer and a one-time aide to former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey—received more than $686,000 between 2003 and 2007, working for the Heritage Foundation. In 2011, claiming incredulously that he had misunderstood his reporting responsibilities, Thomas amended his financial disclosures, which can now be examined on the OpenSecrets.org website.

As University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos pointed out in a 2011 Daily Beast article, "The relevant question on the disclosure form isn't complicated: Even if Justice Thomas wasn't a lawyer, he shouldn't have needed to hire one to explain to him that the box marked NONE next to the phrase 'Spouse's Non-Investment Income' should only be checked if his spouse had no non-investment income." In Campos' view, Thomas' omissions were "criminal."

Thomas' alleged perjury in his testimony before Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 was of a far greater magnitude, centering on his denial under oath that he harassed Anita Hill and other female colleagues while he served as the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

The clash between Hill and Thomas was televised and made for riveting viewing, even more so than the rancorous battle over the 2018 confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. Thomas was treated with kid gloves by the all-male members of the Judiciary Committee, who sat largely in silence as he denied ever engaging in inappropriate behavior and claimed that he was being "subjected to a 'high-tech lynching.'"

Hill, who is now a professor of social policy and law at Brandeis University, was treated with scorn and contempt by the Judiciary Committee. Some members called her "delusional," suggested she was mentally "unstable" and was a "scorned woman" out for revenge against Thomas for rebuffing her romantic advances.

In addition to assassinating Hill's character, the committee, under the chairmanship of Joe Biden, then the senior Democratic senator from Delaware, declined to call three other female Thomas accusers to testify at the hearing. One of those accusers, writer Angela Wright, remains an outspoken critic of Thomas, and has publicly called for his impeachment. Anita Hill, too, has never wavered, insisting she told the truth.

Unlike criminal trials, impeachment proceedings are not governed by statutes of limitations. In any event, it is never too late to do justice and provide Hill and Thomas' other accusers with the fair hearing they never received.

Even assuming Thomas would avoid conviction in the Senate, his impeachment trial would be nothing like the farce of Trump's proceeding. With Democrats holding a majority in the Senate and Kamala Harris presiding as vice president, documents would be subpoenaed and witnesses, including Thomas, would be called to testify.

The impeachment of Thomas would also offer Biden a full and final opportunity to make amends for the past. Above all, combined with a move to expand the number of seats on the Supreme Court, impeaching Thomas would restore the legitimacy of the judiciary as a bulwark of constitutional rights, and send a message that the nation has had enough of Republican efforts to return the country to the dark days before the New Deal and the civil rights movement.

Before any of that happens, of course, Donald Trump and his GOP enablers must be defeated at the polls.

Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal thrillers: Prejudicial Error, The Last Appeal, and The Face of Justice.

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Why the 25th Amendment is no match for a madman and his party of sycophants

Should the 25th Amendment be invoked to remove Donald Trump from office? In a press conference on October 9, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Jamie Raskin unveiled legislation based on the amendment that would establish a bipartisan commission that could answer the question and determine if Trump has the capacity to discharge the powers and duties of his office.

The commission would have 16 members, selected in equal numbers by Democratic and Republican congressional leaders, and would include four physicians and four psychiatrists. The remaining members would consist of eight retired statespersons (either former presidents, vice presidents, Cabinet secretaries, or surgeons general). The appointed members would then select a 17th panelist to act as chair of the commission. Once the commission is formed, Congress could pass a concurrent resolution, directing it to conduct an examination of the president.

Formally enrolled as H.R. 8548, the measure is modeled on a nearly identical bill Raskin introduced in 2017. The new legislation has 38 co-sponsors, all liberal Democrats, and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for further review.

On the surface, H.R. 8548 makes perfect sense, offering a badly needed mechanism to rescue the nation from a chief executive who is patently unfit to sit behind the Resolute Desk for a single day, much less another four years. Under the terms of the bill, as Pelosi and Raskin stressed, the commission would become a permanent body, and could be summoned into action to deal with future presidents beyond Trump in the event they, too, become incapacitated.

Unfortunately, the legislation doesn't have a prayer of being enacted. It is far too late in the legislative session for any action to be taken.

Even assuming the bill could be rushed to passage in the House, it would inevitably die in the sycophantic GOP-controlled Senate. And even assuming it somehow moved out of the upper chamber at unheard-of warp speed, it would never be signed into law by the very president whose competency has been called into question.

Still, as an expression of constitutional principle and good-government impulses, H.R. 8548 deserves serious debate and consideration.

Long before he was infected with COVID-19, Trump was a sick man unprepared and unable to serve the American people in any position of leadership. Physically, according to some notable independent physicians who have reviewed information released by Trump's doctors, the 74-year-old president suffers from worrisome comorbidities, including heart disease and obesity. Mentally, in the view of some of the country's top mental health professionals who have studied the president's behavior and rhetoric, Trump suffers from malignant narcissism, a toxic mix of narcissistic personality disorder, sociopathy, paranoia and sadism.

Post-COVID, Trump's condition has worsened. Since his release from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he spent three nights receiving a potent therapeutic cocktail of remdesivir (an antiviral drug), an experimental monoclonal antibody treatment from Regeneron, and dexamethasone (a powerful corticosteroid), the leader of the free world has been in a full febrile meltdown, engaging in unhinged rants and ravings that for the good of the nation cannot be ignored or dismissed as political theater or spirited electioneering.

Among other signs of deterioration, Trump has bragged that he was quickly cured of the virus, called his infection "a blessing from God," and declared that he feels better than he has in 20 years. In addition, without the slightest semblance of logic or coherence, he has flip-flopped erratically on the need for another COVID stimulus package, threatened Iran with annihilation, renewed his criticism of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the wake of a foiled right-wing terrorist plot to kidnap her, and lambasted Attorney General Bill Barr for failing to indict Joe Biden and Barack Obama for allegedly spying on his 2016 presidential campaign.

Never known as a beacon of stability, Trump seemingly has entered what Pelosi has dubbed an "altered state." Some observers are asking if the drugs he has taken are in some way responsible.

Although remdesivir and Regeneron's antibody treatment are not known to cause serious side effects, the same cannot be said of dexamethasone. As Newsweek deputy science editor Kashmira Gander explained in a recent column, the steroid has been associated with adverse reactions such as aggression, agitation, anxiety, mood swings, trouble thinking, and in rare instances, grandiose delusions, psychosis, delirium and hallucinations.

Whether what we're witnessing from Trump is truly a form of steroid rage or a combination of the dexamethasone and his baseline proclivities—not to mention his rational fear of criminal prosecution should he lose the election—the president has never been as dangerous as he is now.

But there is no quick legal fix, either under the 25th Amendment or by means of legislation like H.R. 8548, for removing Trump, or any other unfit president who refuses to step down. If anything, removing an incompetent president by means of the 25th Amendment is more difficult than removing a corrupt president by means of impeachment.

Ratified in 1967, the 25th Amendment was crafted in the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy to clear up ambiguities and fill gaps in the Constitution's original provisions on presidential succession.

The Constitution, as it emerged from the founding convention of 1787, addressed the issue of succession in Article II, Section 1, which stipulates:

"In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by law provide for the case of removal, death, resignation or inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what officer shall then act as President, and such officer shall act accordingly, until the disability be removed, or a President shall be elected."

The rule of vice-presidential succession was restated by the 12th Amendment, which dealt primarily with the Electoral College and was ratified in 1804. The 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, offered more clarification, stating that if the president-elect dies before being sworn into office, the vice president would be sworn in instead.

However, not until 1947, with the passage of the Presidential Succession Act, did the current line of succession take shape, extending from the vice president through the speaker of the House, the president pro tempore of the Senate, the secretary of state, and then to other Cabinet officials.

Still, questions about succession remained—among them, how to define a president's inability to serve, particularly when the inability is mental or emotional in nature. Who gets to make the determination that such an inability exists? And can the president resist efforts to have himself declared unable to serve?

Section 4 of the 25th Amendment addresses these issues. The section consists of two densely worded paragraphs, the first of which provides:

"Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments [the Cabinet] 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." [Emphasis added]

The second and final paragraph of Section 4 instructs, in so many words, that the president can attempt to override a declaration of incapacity by notifying the Senate and House leadership in a counter-declaration that no such inability exists. Thereafter, the vice president, with the support of a majority of the Cabinet, or the "other body" referred to in the first paragraph, can contest the president's override. To resolve the conflict and place the vice president in charge, a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress is required to confirm that the president is, in fact, "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."

The procedures outlined in Section 4 have never been invoked, and it is implausible that they would be used against Trump, even if he drags the nation to the brink of absolute ruin in the time remaining before the election or in the lame-duck session afterward. The amendment simply contains too many moving parts and depends on too many external contingencies to make it a viable option.

First and foremost, only the most cockeyed optimists could believe that Vice President Mike Pence, a corrupt and inveterate liar in his own right, would sign a declaration of incapacity against Trump.

Second, as noted above, it is exceedingly doubtful that the current Congress would seize the initiative and pass legislation creating the "other body" in the form of the commission envisioned by H.R. 8548. And even if such a commission were formed, a declaration of incapacity in the end would still have to be endorsed by the vice president to have any force and effect.

Third, and finally, it would take a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate to override the president's counter-declaration of fitness.

Check and checkmate.

The only way to rid the American body politic of the pestilence of Donald Trump is to vote against him in overwhelming numbers on November 3, and then, if necessary, to drag him kicking and screaming, tweeting and whimpering, from the White House.

Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal thrillers: Prejudicial Error, The Last Appeal, and The Face of Justice.

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Here are 5 grim truths about Trump's nightmare Supreme Court

The deed is done. President Donald John Trump has nominated 48-year-old 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the United States Supreme Court. Barring a miracle, Senate Republicans, now reduced to little more than a personality cult ever faithful to their führer, will confirm the nomination.

The consequences of Ginsburg's passing and Barrett's elevation will be horrendous, and felt for generations. Here are five grim observations to help explain the scope of the anticipated nightmare.

1. Barrett Will Drive the Court Sharply to the Right

Every new Supreme Court justice alters the ideological orientation of the institution. Trump's first two appointees to the high tribunal—Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh—made the panel more conservative, and transformed Chief Justice John Roberts into the court's most important and frequent swing voter.

Barrett's confirmation will create a solid 6-3 conservative majority. And while Roberts will remain in the political center, the center itself will move decisively to the right.

Barrett was appointed to the federal bench by Trump in 2017. In her brief judicial tenure, she has authored about 100 opinions. In addition, as a professor at Notre Dame Law School, where she taught constitutional law and statutory interpretation until her 7th Circuit appointment, she wrote several influential academic articles and delivered a number of public speeches, creating an extraordinarily large paper trail.

Taken as a whole, Barrett's body of work has been hostile to gun control, critical of Obamacare, antagonistic to employment and sex discrimination claims, and skeptical of consumer rights and economic regulation generally.

In criminal law, she has questioned the constitutionality of the "Miranda rule," which requires arrestees subject to custodial interrogation to be advised of their right to remain silent.

In immigration law, earlier this year, she dissented from a 7th Circuit ruling that struck down the Trump administration's "public charge" policy, which bars noncitizens from receiving a green card if federal authorities believe they are likely to apply for public assistance. (The policy has since been reinstated as a result of a decision issued by a different federal circuit court.)

Most distressing of all is Barrett's outlook on abortion and the continuing viability of Roe v. Wade. While stopping short of declaring that Roe should be overturned, she has expressed support for state laws that impose strict requirements on the operation of abortion clinics, placing her at odds with recent Supreme Court rulings. And in two dissenting votes cast in 2018 and 2019, she endorsed an Indiana law that required fetal remains to be buried or cremated after an abortion.

If you're looking for a historical parallel to measure the potential impact that a Barrett for Ginsburg swap could have, don't look to Gorsuch, who succeeded Antonin Scalia, or Kavanaugh, who replaced Anthony Kennedy. Look instead to Clarence Thomas, who filled the vacancy left by the retirement of the liberal legend Thurgood Marshall in 1991.

Like Thomas, Barrett is a staunch and inflexible proponent of "originalism," the jurisprudential philosophy popularized by Scalia, for whom Barrett clerked from 1998 to 1999 after graduating from Notre Dame Law School, where she ranked first in her class.

In its current iteration, originalism asserts that core legal terms and concepts like "freedom of speech," "due process" and "equal protection" should be interpreted by judges today according to the "original public meaning" they had when they were first inserted in the Constitution or added by subsequent amendments.

Also like Thomas, Barrett has questioned the importance of adhering to past Supreme Court precedent decisions, writing in a 2013 article for the University of Texas Law Review: "I tend to agree with those who say that a justice's duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks clearly in conflict with it." She voiced a similar position in a 2016 article she coauthored for the University of Pennsylvania's Journal of Constitutional Law, acknowledging that adherence to precedent presents "a notoriously difficult problem for originalists."

Even more so than Thomas, Barrett is a religious zealot. She and her husband Jesse, a former federal prosecutor, are reportedly members of People of Praise, a small, tightly knit, patriarchal charismatic Christian sect based in South Bend, Indiana, that professes admiration for "the first Christians who were led by the Holy Spirit to form a community."

In a 2006 law school commencement speech at Notre Dame, Barrett urged graduates to become a "different kind of lawyer," who sees that a "legal career is but a means to an end, and… that end is building the kingdom of God… [I]f you can keep in mind that your fundamental purpose in life is not to be a lawyer, but to know, love, and serve God, you truly will be a different kind of lawyer."

According to the Washington Post, Barrett "was a paid speaker five times, starting in 2011, at the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a summer program established to inspire a 'distinctly Christian worldview in every area of law'… to show students 'how God can use them as judges, law professors and practicing attorneys to help keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel in America.'"

In 2015, Barrett signed a letter "from Catholic Women" to the Synod of Bishops, an advisory body to the Pope, that committed the signatories to act "in service to the Church's evangelizing mission."

Trump initially added Barrett to his list of possible Supreme Court nominees in November 2017. She was subsequently passed over, but, according to Axios, the president has been ghoulishly "saving" her to replace Ginsburg. Given Barrett's extreme views, it's easy to understand why her moment has arrived.

2. Barrett's Nomination Is the Culmination of a Decades-Long Republican Push to Remake the Judiciary

Beginning in the early 1970s in reaction to the liberal—and historically atypical—work of the Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren, the right has lobbied to place conservative ideologues on the federal bench.

Within the counterrevolution, no group has been more influential than the Federalist Society. From its founding in 1982 by three law students at Yale and the University of Chicago, the society has grown to include more than 200 chapters at law schools across the United States. From its base in Washington, D.C., today, the society also operates a "lawyers division" with more than 70,000 attorneys enrolled in chapters and "practice groups" in 90 cities.

Barrett is a former Federalist Society member. The other Republican-appointed justices on the court (Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Thomas, Alito and Chief Justice Roberts) are also either current or former members.

Once confirmed, Barrett will be Trump's third Supreme Court appointment. In the past 50 years, only Richard Nixon, who added four justices, has exceeded that total.

Trump has also been highly successful in placing Federalist Society members on the lower courts. Thus far, the Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed 53 Trump judges to the federal appellate courts, and 161 to the federal district trial courts.

3. Trump Is Banking on Barrett to Support Him in the Event of a Disputed Election

Trump is a man of dubious intellectual rigor. He may or may not fully comprehend—or personally care about—the long-term impact his judicial nominees will have on American law and society.

One thing he does understand, however, is self-interest. As I have argued before, Trump desperately wants to be returned to power after the November election, not only to gratify his bloated ego, but, quite literally, to avoid possible prosecution for an array of federal offenses committed before and after he became president. He knows full well that under Department of Justice policy, sitting presidents cannot be indicted and prosecuted for federal crimes. Remaining in the Oval Office while the statute of limitations on his misdeeds expires is his stay-out-of-jail ticket.

Trump has been working feverishly to undermine public confidence in the election because he is trailing Joe Biden in most polls. Unable to restrain himself, he disclosed on September 23 that he expected the election to "end up in the Supreme Court" in a replay of Bush v. Gore, the infamous judicial coup d'état that handed the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush. A ninth justice, Trump insists, will be needed to break any 4-4 ties in order to determine the winner of the election should disputes over state voting results reach the Supreme Court.

Enter Barrett, Trump's choice to deliver him a second term by judicial fiat.

4. The Democrats Must Support Structural Reforms to Take Back the Courts

The time has long since expired for the Democrats to meet the Republican judicial counterrevolution with equal resolve. It no longer suffices for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and their ilk to appeal to the nonexistent decency of Republicans to adhere to constitutional norms and practices. Trump and the Republicans are interested only in retaining and wielding power.

Structural reforms are essential to respond to Republican tyranny. These include, at a minimum, ending the filibuster rule in the Senate; expanding the number of Supreme Court justices as well as the number of lower-court federal judges; and promoting statehood for Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

All of these changes can be implemented legislatively if the Democrats regain a Senate majority and repeal the filibuster. None requires a constitutional amendment.

As the veteran legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin explained in a recent New Yorker column:

"The number of Justices is not fixed in the Constitution but, rather, established by statute… [T]he Democrats could simply pass a law that creates two or three more seats on the Supreme Court. To do so would be to play hardball in a way that is foreign to the current Senate Democrats. But maybe, in light of all that's happened, that's a game they should learn to play."

5. The Slide to Minority Rule Continues

The United States has entered an unmistakable era of minority rule. Because of the Electoral College, we have a president who lost the 2016 popular vote by nearly 2.9 million ballots. Because of the constitutional design of the Senate, which allocates two senators to each state regardless of population, we have a Republican Senate majority, even though Democratic candidates for the Senate in 2018 received more than 58 percent of the aggregate popular vote for the upper chamber.

The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court will be yet another inflection point in the slide to minority rule. In a real democracy, it would be unthinkable for an outlier like Barrett to receive a lifetime appointment to the most powerful judicial body in the land.

Yet here we are. And here we will remain unless and until enough ordinary Americans, not just the operatives who run the Democratic Party, rise up and say that they have had enough.

Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal thrillers: Prejudicial Error, The Last Appeal, and The Face of Justice.Source: Independent Media InstituteCredit Line: This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

Bill Barr is an authoritarian fanatic intent on establishing Christian theocracy in America

Attorney General Bill Barr is by far the most dangerous member of Donald Trump’s inner circle of neofascists, white supremacists, grifters, liars and enablers. Not only is Barr a hardline exponent of the “unitary executive theory,” which promotes a broad expansion of presidential power, but he is also a true believer in the virtue and necessity of establishing a Christian theocracy in America.

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