Ralph Nader

Here's how Biden can prove he truly is a 'union guy'

President Joe Biden likes to say, "I'm a union guy." Unfortunately, as Vice President from 2009 to 2017, his boss, Barack Obama wouldn't let him be a "union guy." Even with large Democratic majorities in Congress and control of the White House, worker needs went unmet.

Setting records for raising Wall Street campaign cash, Obama reneged on his 2008 promise to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour by 2011. He reneged on a promise to the AFL-CIO to push for "card check" to facilitate workers wanting to form a union. He did nothing to preserve traditional earned worker pensions provided by corporations while bailing out Wall Street crooks whom he refused to prosecute.

Obama stubbornly blocked an eager Biden from going to speak at a massive workers' rally in Madison, Wisconsin at the critical time when Democrats were challenging corporatist Governor Scott Walker's anti-union "budget repair bill."

One would think after eight years of biding his time, a liberated Joe Biden would be the most pro-union labor president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He probably is by default, due to the cowardliness of his predecessors who would have lost some of their own elections without union support.

The question now is: Given the entrenched deprivations of workers and abandonment of labor to serf-labor countries abroad, is President Biden pro-union-labor enough, apart from the temporary Covid-19 relief? The answer has to be a qualified, NO.

He has dropped into limbo the long-overdue $15 federal minimum wage from his legislative priorities. He did give strong verbal support to the Amazon workers union-organizing drive at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. However, when the workers lost, Biden did not assail the extreme union busting tactics by Amazon that exploited weak labor protection laws. He has finally nominated the new head of OSHA – the under-funded, Trump-wrecked job safety agency that is in shambles.

What he has done is come out strongly for the Congressional Democrat's latest version of labor law reform—the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) that passed the House on March 9, 2021, with a 225-206 vote.

The problem with the PRO Act, like its legislative predecessors over the past 60 years, is its faint-hearted attempt to chip away at the unmentioned, gigantic, anti-union TAFT-HARTLEY ACT OF 1947—a devastating anti-organizing and union representation law.

The Taft-Hartley law was so extreme that its principal author, Senator Robert Taft (R-OH), offered to amend some of its sharpest claws in the late 1940s. His offer was rejected by outraged unions who wanted a more significant repeal. That, astonishingly, was the last major bellow by the large unions and the AFL-CIO against this stifling chokehold over the union movement. Union membership in the corporate sector is at 6.3 percent. Overall union membership regularly hits new lows.

Even mentioning the repeal of Taft-Hartley by unions and Democratic candidates has become taboo. When campaigning for president in Detroit at a labor hall in 2004, a retired UAW worker came up to me with tears in his eyes. He said, "I never thought I would hear getting rid of Taft-Hartley from a presidential candidate."

On the 50th and 60th anniversaries of Taft-Hartley's passage by a Republican Congress – that is 1997 and 2007 – I strenuously urged the AFL-CIO and the largest unions to hold public demonstrations of protest. (Does anybody think big business would have allowed such handcuffs without battling year after year for repeal?)

The union leaders wouldn't inform the public of this pernicious law with a national event against this tragic curtailing of worker's freedoms to band together and bargain together in major workplaces such as Amazon, Walmart, and McDonald's. No other western country allows such draconian anti-labor restrictions.

Unions are waiting on the Democratic Party to lead while the Democrats are waiting upon big business. Biden should make ending the anti-worker, anti-union, and pro-employer union-busting, Taft-Hartley Act the battle cry for the Republic. The PRO Act doesn't come close to this objective.

Taft-Hartley is a wide-ranging, intricate paradise for union-busting law firms, corporatist legislators, and atavistic judges. It authorized states to enact so-called "right to work" laws or more properly named "right to shirk" laws, allowing workers to keep benefits of union contracts but not pay union dues. This provision vastly decreases union membership and increases employer leverage to resist union organizing.

Taft-Hartley gives employers all kinds of ways to block union certification elections, harass workers with demands for obstructionist hearings on what is an "appropriate bargaining unit," permits aggressive anti-union organizing, and outlaws the "closed shop" for union solidarity.

One of the most damaging provisions defines "employees" so as to exclude supervisors and independent contractors. This greatly diminished the pool of workers eligible to be unionized. For example, years ago AT&T widely expanded the number of "supervisors" to both deplete the union membership numbers and use their "supervisors" as management control tools.

Taft-Hartley has other pro-management provisions, including controls over pensions, disclosure of information, and workplace time for union purposes.

Once Taft-Hartley was on the books, its restrictions were strengthened by the courts and the National Labor Relations Board (whose last pro-corporate general counsel was just fired by Biden). With the expansion of the "gig economy," by Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and other companies whose business model is built on having no employees, the challenge for American workers is nothing less than displacing anti-labor dictates with a comprehensive worker's human rights law.

The PRO Act is decidedly not anywhere near Biden's recent recognition that "Nearly 60 million Americans would join a union if they get a chance …. They know that without unions, they can run the table on workers – union and non-union alike."

Ralph Nader: Here's how congressional Democrats betrayed voters on Medicare

Do you remember the promises made by the Democratic Party's presidential and Congressional candidates on universal health insurance? You can forget their pledges and somber convictions now that your votes put the Democrats in charge of the House and the Senate. The Democrats' leaders are abandoning their promises and retreating into a cowardly corporatist future.

Here is the present scene. Leading Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have decided to spend tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the giant health insurance companies like Aetna and United Healthcare to "cover recently laid-off workers and those who purchase their own coverage," as The New York Times reported. There are no price restraints on the gouging insurance premiums or loophole-ridden policies. That is why giant corporate socialist insurers love the "American Rescue Plan," which gives them socialist cash on the barrelhead. The law lets insurers decide how and whether they pay healthcare bills with co-pays, deductibles, or grant waivers. All these anti-consumer details are buried in the endless and inscrutable fine print.

Whatever happened to the Democrats' (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pramila Jayapal, etc.) demand for single-payer – everybody in, nobody out – with free choice of doctors and hospitals instead of the existing cruel, and profiteering industry for which enough is never enough? Senator Sanders often mentioned a Yale study, published on February 15, 2020, that found:

Although health care expenditure per capita is higher in the USA than in any other country, more than 37 million Americans do not have health insurance, and 41 million more have inadequate access to care. Efforts are ongoing to repeal the Affordable Care Act which would exacerbate health-care inequities. By contrast, a universal system, such as that proposed in the Medicare for All Act, has the potential to transform the availability and efficiency of American health-care services. Taking into account both the costs of coverage expansion and the savings that would be achieved through the Medicare for All Act, we calculate that a single-payer, universal health-care system is likely to lead to a 13% savings in national health-care expenditure, equivalent to more than $450 billion annually…." (See the study: Improving the Prognosis of Health Care in the USA, February 15, 2020).

Well, House Speaker Pelosi is discouraging House Democrats from supporting Representative Pramila Jayapal's H.R. 1384, Medicare for All Act of 2019, the gold standard for single-payer. News reports indicate that Representative Jayapal (D-WA) and Representative. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) will reintroduce their Medicare for All bill next week. Speaker Pelosi is telling Democrats in the House to focus instead on the modest expansion of Obamacare with its corporate welfare, utter complexity and seriously inadequate coverage. Almost eighty million Americans are presently uninsured or underinsured – a level that will not be significantly reduced for deprived workers by tweaking Obamacare during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A modified Obamacare, with no price ceilings, will hardly reduce the tens of thousands of American deaths every year because people cannot afford health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time to prevent fatalities. The Yale study also found that: "ensuring health-care access for all Americans would save more than 68,000 lives and 1.73 million life-years every year compared with the status quo." Tweaking Obamacare does little to stem the relentless surge in healthcare prices and profits in our country, which is unique for not placing billing ceilings on medical procedures and drugs. This "get whatever you can" behavior by the vendors is so uncontrolled that healthcare billing fraud and abuse is costing people one billion dollars A DAY! Malcolm Sparrow, who is an applied mathematician at Harvard, estimates medical billing fraud amounts to at least ten percent of all healthcare expenses each year.

Obamacare does nothing to limit the perverse incentives of a fee-for-service system that includes unnecessary operations, over-diagnosis, and over-prescribing all of which increase the risks of preventable casualties. A Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine peer-reviewed study in 2016 estimates that close to 5000 lives are lost weekly due to such "preventable problems" just in hospitals (see: Study Suggests Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S., May 3, 2016).

It gets worse. Year after year, the corporate Democrats, along with the Republicans, are facilitating expanding corporate takeovers of Medicare and Medicaid. The giant and widening attack on Medicare is called "Medicare Advantage," which more accurately should be called "Medicare [Dis]advantage." Our corporatized government, under both Parties, has been allowing deceptive promotional seductions of elderly people to take Medicare [Dis]advantage – now fully 40% of all Medicare beneficiaries – which is just a corporate insurance plan with multiple undisclosed tripwires.

Former President Trump worsened what he inherited from the Democrats in outsourcing Medicare. He launched something called "direct contracting" that, "could fully turn Medicare over to private health insurers" declared Diane Archer, former chair of Consumer Reports, in her article on March 8, 2021. Medicare Advantage premiums can be pricey. According to Kay Tillow, Executive Director of the Nurses Professional Organization, "The Medicare Advantage Plans are smiling all the way to the bank. In 2019 each Medicare Advantage beneficiary cost taxpayers $11,822 while those in original Medicare cost $10,813 each – that's over $1,000 more and over 9% more per person for the for-profit insurers!"

Where is the outcry among Democratic politicians to reverse completely the corporate takeover of Medicare? Last year, many Democratic candidates pontificated about the need for single-payer health insurance, but now in Congress, we are scarcely hearing a peep about this vital human right. Their campaign rhetoric is just distant memory. Tragically, it is now harder than ever for the elderly to get out of Medicare [Dis]advantage and go back to traditional Medicare.

Millions of elderly people are deceived by televised marketing lies and slick brochures. The hapless Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should investigate and end the deceptions. Congressional investigations and hearings are long overdue. As the authoritative Dr. Fred Hyde says about the so-called Medicare Advantage: "It's not what you pay, it's what you get." That is, the corporate health plan works until they get sick, until "they want their doctor and their hospital." Dr. Hyde was referring to the narrow networks where these companies park their beneficiaries.

More astonishing in this story of the rapacious corporate takeover of Medicare is that AARP promotes these flawed plans to their members, takes paid ads by big insurers in AARP publications, and derives income from this collaboration.

Imagine, over 50,000 SEIU retirees are automatically placed by their unions in these Medicare [Dis]advantage traps without first being allowed to choose traditional Medicare.

This whole sordid sabotage of the nineteen sixties Democrats' dream, under President Lyndon Johnson, of taking the first step toward universal healthcare coverage for everyone, begs for more exposes. It begs for more clamor by the progressive Democrats in Congress who are strangely passive so far. I'm speaking of Representatives Jayapal, Raskin, Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), and the receding "Squad," as well as Senators Warren and Sanders. If we can't expect these stalwarts to start the counterattack that will save lives, save trillions of dollars over the years, focus on prevention not just treatment, and diminish the anxiety, dread, and fear, that the citizens of Canada and other western nations do not experience because they are insured from birth on, who is left to defend the American people against the arrogant health insurance corporate barons?

I'm sending this column to these self-styled progressive Democrats along with a two-page specific critique of corporate Medicare from the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) website. PNHP's membership counts over 15,000 pro-single-payer physicians. In a comment on the PNHP site, Don McCanne, M.D., says, "Remember, the mission of private, for-profit Medicare Advantage insurers is to make money, whereas the mission of our traditional Medicare program is to provide health care. We are supporting a program that deferentially caters to the private insurers and their interests when we should be supporting a program that is designed to take care of patients. Those being deceived by the private Medicare Advantage marketing materials really do not realize the bad deal they may be getting until they face the private insurer barriers to needed care. Silver Sneakers won't take care of that." (See: https://pnhp.org/news/russell-mokhiber-explains-why-private-medicare-advantage-plans-are-a-bad-deal/)

If you care about this issue, tell your Members of Congress it is time to pass Medicare for All represented by H.R. 1384.

Ralph Nader slams Democrats for 'deliberately disabling themselves' on impeachment

Donald J. Trump has once again circumvented justice, but not because of a want of facts or law. His life preserver was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to refrain from calling critical witnesses possessing "smoking gun" incriminating evidence at Mr. Trump's second impeachment trial. Her plan to abandon an Ace of Spades for a Two of Clubs to prove Mr. Trump's guilt was upset by Republican freshman Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.) who gave the Democrats an opportunity to subpoenas witnesses to testify under oath to fortify the video evidence introduced during the House Managers' case in chief.

Ms. Beutler's disclosing a conversation with House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) proving President Trump's endorsement of his mob's resort to lethal force and violence to unconstitutionally prevent a peaceful transfer of presidential power precipitated a surprise 55-45 Senate vote this morning, including several Republicans, to entertain live witnesses. Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin (Maryland) appeared on NPR shortly before the Senate reconvened from a recess at 12:30 pm. The Senator declared that the impeachment trial would be continued for two weeks; and, that the only issue remaining for resolution between the prosecution and defense (then in private negotiations) was whether five witnesses for each side would be named or left open for later identification in a Senate witness resolution.

Mr. Cardin was clueless of the Democratic capitulation, snaring defeat from the jaws of victory. The House Managers and Mr. Trump's defense team agreed to a stipulation to admit into the record a mere written statement by Congresswoman Beutler, not delivered in person under oath or via a deposition. Not a single witness would be called.

The impeachment case presented by the House Managers was only the tip of the iceberg of what transpired in the White House, in Washington, D.C., in George, Michigan, and Texas, and around the country generally in Mr. Trump's relentless, lawless, unconstitutional exertions to falsify the results of the 2020 presidential election. Trials without witnesses are not genuine trials—even in a civil impeachment prosecution in which the sole sanction is disqualification from future federal office, not loss of liberty or even a fine.

During Mr. Trump's first impeachment trial over his attempt to brandish the powers of the White House to coerces Ukraine into announcing a criminal investigation against Joe Biden, Democrats sought a few witnesses. The Senate Republican majority nixed the request. During the second and vastly more consequential impeachment trial, the Democrats bypassed witnesses notwithstanding Mr. Trump's flagrantly unconstitutional attempt through force and violence to prevent Vice President Mike Pence from counting state-certified electoral votes and Democrats enjoying a Senate majority.

Once again, Speaker Pelosi, the puppeteer of the House Managers, took impeachment to the Senate without a full hand. She disarmed the Democratic case against Mr. Trump for inciting an armed insurrection against the legislative branch in two respects: no witnesses; and, no additional impeachment articles pivoting on Mr. Trump's systematic institutional attack on Congress and usurpation of its authorities with impunity. (Note his monarchical decree on July 23, 2019: "Then I have Article 2, where I have the right to do anything I want as president.," which he employed to justify serial violations of law. See our attached letter to Speaker Pelosi and proposed Articles of Impeachment printed in the Congressional Record (December 18, 2019, H12197).

We expect that aggressive investigative reporting will soon reveal the details of Speaker Pelosi's masterminding the calamitous decision to forego trial witnesses in the second impeachment trial, the last clear chance to hold Mr. Trump accountable for shattering separation of powers. The reported ostensible reason for a truncated trial—shorter than the narrower Ukraine predecessor—was to avoid distraction from President Biden's agenda and stimulus legislation. But the argument does not wash. The Senate could have completed both a full impeachment trial and moved Mr. Biden's agenda by working a full week (not the customary three-day routine) and split their time between the trial and legislation. The urgency of the Biden agenda seems attenuated since the Senate is in recess all next week.

An NPR reporter observed: Democrats had a chance of opening up the trial with witnesses about what really happened in the White House "from primary sources, but in the end the desire to be done won out." The loss was steadfast courage and an abdication of constitutional duty to lay down markers to preserve the nation's Republic for ourselves and our posterity against wannabe Trumps craving dictatorial powers.

In the end, the rush trial was not a matter of rationing the Senate's time, it was not a matter of Senate ignorance or incapacity. It was a loss of nerve and the disastrous misguided strategy of Speaker Pelosi with her House Managers selected for pliability.

Democrats deliberately disabled themselves. History teaches that cowardice is possessed of infinite obstinacy. We are fortunate that the nation's founders against King George III were made of sterner stuff. The Constitution's framers endowed their descendants with sufficient congressional authority to prevent coming full circle back to monarchy under a different name. Alas, we are not so fortunate in our current congressional leadership and the portentous forces they have emboldened and ignited in the coming years.

Historical Note: During the Watergate impeachment proceedings in 1974, on the verge of an affirmative House impeachment vote, Senate Republican leaders Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott traveled to the White House to inform President Richard Nixon that conviction in the Senate was inevitable. Where are Republicans today with a former president who criminally incited force and violence with the imminent danger of death against Members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results of the 2020 election in violation of the Twelfth Amendment and the Electoral Count Act? Where were you Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Lindsey Graham, and other lawmakers intimidated by Trump within the GOP? Groveling before the tyrant, or aiding and abetting his despotic movement?

Ralph Nader: Here's how Democrats disarmed themselves before Trump’s Senate impeachment trial

Donald Trump, has with luck, eluded the consequences of being a failed gambling czar with no respect for the law. But his luck has reached a new level with Congressional Democrats refraining from holding him accountable for breaking the law and violating the Constitution as regularly as the rising and setting of the sun for four years. (See: December 18, 2019, Congressional Record, H-12197).

Now the Democrats are moving forward into an impeachment trial, using only a fraction of the voluminous incriminating evidence against a president who incited insurrection against Congress and the Constitution. Trump directly incited an armed mob, bent on mayhem, against both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate who were gathered to count state-certified electoral votes under the Twelfth Amendment and the Electoral Count Act. The Joint Session of Congress heard the vile mob chant the chilling phrase "Hang Mike Pence," the Vice President who had fallen from Trump's favor by refusing to compromise his constitutional duty to count rather than to second-guess the state-certified votes.

The Democrats know if the Senate neglects to convict Trump (requiring a two-thirds majority) and prohibit him from running for the White House ever again (requiring only a simple majority) they will be unleashing a vengeful monster, loaded with cash for a 2024 presidential run. Republicans should fear that prospect to avoid the risk of internecine warfare.

So, wouldn't you think with the election over the impeachment managers would go full throttle before the national television audience and conduct a trial for historical accountability, the rule of law, and protection of posterity?

Instead, Democrats are signaling failure by prejudging how Republicans will vote before seeing what should be gripping trial evidence and the rising outrage of the American people. Trump's polls are steadily falling already.

Prejudgment leads to another Democratic mistake – settling for a short trial. Even Senators Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have said they want a truncated impeachment trial so the Senate can focus on the Covid-19 driven stimulus bill. This legislation is already moving quickly. Besides, the Senate can drop its routine of working three days a week and start working five days a week or more just as do most Americans.

There are other self-inflicted constraints. Democrats should have subpoenaed Trump and Pence immediately after the House impeached Trump on January 13, 2021. Trump has spurned an invitation to testify voluntarily under oath by lead House manager Jamie Raskin (D-MD). House and Senate Democrats should know the hazards of declining to issue a trial subpoena to Mr. Trump because special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation was compromised by his failure to do so. Why follow a losing playbook?

The courts have no jurisdiction over impeachment questions the Supreme Court said in Nixon v. United States, 506 U.S.224 (1993). The Senate runs its impeachment trial as it chooses, including holding Mr. Trump's lawyers in contempt if they attempt to disrupt the proceedings or continue to argue issues they have lost, like the absence of jurisdiction over a former president. As a no-show in a civil, not criminal proceeding, Mr. Trump's defiance of a subpoena would justify an adverse inference of guilt by the Senate.

There is also no sign the Democrats are seeking other witnesses such as Garrett Miller who has said he and others were operating at the direction and approval of President Trump. The liar-in-chief had just told his supporters at the notorious rally on the Mall, "We're going to walk down, and I'll be there with you," before Trump the betrayer retreated to the White House to witness on television the violence, he provoked and incited.

Families of victims deserve to be heard. And members of the Senate and the public should hear of the detailed thuggery by Trump in Georgia and at the Justice Department. The prosecution must go deep, starting with the testimony of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and then acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

The Democrats are not subpoenaing Mike Pence to testify about Mr. Trump's bullying him to reject state-certified electoral votes in violation of the Twelfth Amendment and the Electoral Count Act in key states that would deny Joe Biden's electoral vote majority. Pence's refusal angered Trump who then resorted to an insurrection against the Capitol to accomplish by force and violence what he was unable to accomplish by bullying.

Given their penchant for a short trial, the Democrats seem unlikely to highlight Trump's pattern and practice throughout his presidency of flouting the Constitution and duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, including protections for all Americans. Trump's former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, has declared that obstruction of justice was "a way of life" at the White House.

The House impeachment managers are under the direction of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As in the first impeachment of Trump, she believes the American people have a short attention span and proceeds to prejudge the vote by Republicans in the Senate. Is this a self-fulfilling prophecy – assuring failure by holding back the full hand the Democrats possess – an Ace of Spades – under the Constitution?

Do the Democrats want to convict or just impeach a president who brazenly asserted "Then I have article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president." He produced four years as proof of such lawbreaking. Will Trump overcome the Democrats on this last clear chance for our Constitution to prevail and for the assault on Congress, its legislators, staff, and other employees to be answered with justice?

Do you know how weak and spineless the National Democrats are? They almost blew the Presidential election to the worst, most delusional, lawbreaking, incompetent president in U.S. history. Less than 100,000 votes in four swing states saved the country from a second despotic Trump term. The Democrats also lost House and Senate seats to the most crazed, cruel, anti-people, corporate-indentured, militaristic, and monetized Republican Party in history.

If the Democrats do not go full throttle in this trial—this last clear chance to exercise the Constitution against Tyrant Trump—they will be remembered as profiles of infamy. If the Party of Jefferson and FDR fails to meet this fundamental challenge, history will show them as betraying the people's trust, abdicating their constitutional duties, and setting an awful precedent ready for use by any future president to annihilate the Constitution.

The struggle inside Mitch McConnell's brain

Since 2015, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has ruled the Senate with an iron hand, describing himself as "the Guardian of Gridlock." He was Senator "NO," except for confirming over 200 mostly corporatist federal judges.

Now comes a new challenge for Mitch McConnell as he leads 49 other Republican Senators, twenty of whom are up for re-election in 2022. Earlier this month, McConnell broke with Trump publicly in a Senate speech holding the wannabe American Fuhrer responsible for the January 6th storming of the Congress. On that day, Trump had just spoken to a crowd on the Mall and incited his followers to rush the Capitol and "stop the steal." In the aftermath of this insurrection, the Kentucky Senator said he was keeping an open mind about his vote during the coming impeachment trial of Trump.

Predictably, McConnell received a flood of criticism from the Trump supporters for daring to distance himself from the dangerous, unstable, Liar-in-Chief. Senate insurrectionists Senators Cruz and Hawley stood firm with Trump, even after the Trumpsters' violent riot in their hallowed workplace.

Then came Senator Rand Paul, a crypto-libertarian opportunist and Trump toady (a scheming shadow of his father, ex-Rep. Ron Paul) to propose a vote on whether a president who is impeached while in office could be tried after his term was up. In a January 21, 2021 letter, an overwhelming number of liberal and conservative constitutional law experts said, "In sum, the Constitution's text and structure, history, and precedent make clear that Congress's impeachment power permits it to impeach, try, convict, and disqualify former officers, including former presidents." (The full text of the letter is available online at Medium.Com) Not to do so, as Republican constitutional law specialist Bruce Fein said, "would fail to a set a precedent to deter future presidents from committing all kinds of impeachable offenses during the last days of their presidency and would undermine the additional sanction, by majority Senate vote, of banning Presidents who have committed 'high crimes and misdemeanors' from ever running for federal office again."

McConnell, reverting to form, voted with Rand Paul and all but five courageous Republicans for the nonsense assertion that the Constitution prohibits a trial of an impeached president after departure from office. Since it would take seventeen Republicans to join with fifty Democrats to convict Trump, the media pundits quickly prejudged the outcome as an acquittal.

Inside McConnell's brain, however, the path ahead is not preordained. McConnell still insists, as one of 100 Senate jurors, he is keeping an open mind as he weighs the evidence at the open televised trial starting on Tuesday, February 9th in the Senate. This might be true. Allowing the Trumpian half of his brain to overpower his judgment and vote to acquit Dangerous Donald would spell disaster for the Republican Party (assuming the Democratic Party doesn't go to sleep as it did after Obama's win in 2008).

Here is what the "survival" part of McConnell's mind may be thinking:

"My GOP is a minority Party. We've only won the popular vote for President once since 1988, having been saved by the Electoral College in 2000 and 2016. Our majorities in the House have been due to gerrymandering designed to produce safe Republican districts in key states. We can't assume that the cowardly Democrats will continue to give us seats in the Senate that they should have won, apart from giving up contesting many seats altogether."

"We should break completely with Trump and his uncontrollable, delusional, hardcore extremists dedicated to "civil war," that the Department of Homeland Security has deemed the "leading domestic terrorist" threat. Conviction of Trump is the way forward. He wouldn't be able to run again. We won't be bullied, intimated, and lied about every day in order to push us toward these political militias and their crude, violent talk and actions by acquitting Trump. We can't be the "law and order" Party if we don't accept that "no one is above the law."

"Also, the media would demand answers for out-of-control Republican outlaws and their Trumpian grip on state Republican Party committees. We will be so relentlessly distracted daily by Trumpian chaos and Trump's 2024 candidacy that we won't be able to reset the traditional stable GOP and advance our conservative agenda. Trump is causing us to lose our campaign contributions from frightened corporate CEOs who cannot tolerate daily political disruptions and overtly divisive rancor that rankles the workplace."

"Some of our own legislators already are being investigated by the FBI for their involvement with these extremist groups." (See the New York Times article: Republican Ties to Extremist Group Are Under Scrutiny).

"Furthermore, letting Trump go triumphantly into the electoral arena would increase the risk of internally splitting the Party with Trump either saying "his way" or creating a new "Patriot Party". For many reasons, that would end our electoral chances for a generation. It will be worse than what FDR did to our Party."

"I make these arguments to my Senate Republicans, having just been re-elected. The Senators up for election in 2022 are fearful of being primaried. They cannot stand the burst of hate mail they would receive."

"To them, I would say: "relax, look at the huge margins most of you won by in 2016. You're just too cozy and not used to a primary challenge, which should make you an even better campaigner. Besides, you'll raise much more campaign money by standing tall against the tyrant who attacked America, who will turn on you at a tweet's notice if you're not 100% with him."

"Given the super-safe seats – no one is going to beat Thune, Moran, Lankford, Kennedy, Crapo, Boozman, and Shelby in any primary. Besides, any ultra-extremist candidates who win primaries are sure to lose in the general election. That's what happened in Delaware in 2000. The great majority of sane GOP voters know a suicide drive when they hear and see it."

Such is the swirling mind of Mitch McConnell these days. With more incriminating evidence coming out about Trump's attempted election coup, and the expected alarming under oath testimony at the Senate trial, the sheer political self-interest and regard for the GOP's future should result in the Senate voting for conviction.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate and the author of "The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future" (2012). His new book is, "Wrecking America: How Trump's Lies and Lawbreaking Betray All" (2020, co-authored with Mark Green)

Ralph Nader: Can justice finally overtake its most defiant fugitive?

Despite the many crimes Donald Trump regularly committed over four years, it took his blatant incitement of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, to put him on the road to prison. (See: Letter to vice President Mike Pence Re: Invocation of Amendment 25). What transpired on Wednesday in the shadows of the Washington Monument was a pure violent street crime that resulted in five fatalities, property smashed and damaged, and many assaults by hundreds of rioters who broke into or were allowed into the Capitol.

The current prosecutor is Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael R. Sherwin. USA TODAY reported that Mr. Sherwin said: "'We're looking at all actors here and anyone that had a role and, if the evidence fits the elements of the crime, they're going to be charged,' Sherwin said these words after he was asked by a reporter if investigators are looking at the role the president played."

From Day One in 2017, several people foresaw the signs of an emerging sociopath, using violent rhetoric to encourage illegal behavior. It wasn't only professional psychologists who declared Trump to be severely unstable. Each day he created and disseminated dangerous fantasies. This egomaniacal wannabee monarch could not stop lying in a dangerous manner, making false accusations or delusionally bragging.

Reporters, commentators, litigants, and elected representatives who were documenting Trump's trail of political and public insanity were overwhelmed by his doubling down on his flailing and wrongdoing in plain sight. But they mostly declined to draw the enforcement conclusions arising from their convictions, further enabling Trump's use of the power of the bully pulpit to intimidate or threaten his critics.

Remember, Trump, said, "I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president." He recklessly kept doing just that. The Republicans supported him and covered for him, while the Democrats huffed and puffed in place. The Democrats refused to file eleven well-documented articles of impeachment and instead only went with the Ukraine matter. (See: December 18, 2019, Congressional Record, H-12197)

Meanwhile, in dozens of ways, Trump emboldened the most extreme of his supporters. Recall his outcry "liberate Wisconsin." Trump's support for the armed invasion of the Michigan state capitol with impunity, and his many signals, and inactions showed the white supremacists in the streets that the President and William Barr's Justice Department would overlook hateful racist mischief and mayhem. He even encouraged one of these groups by repeating their militant mantra verbatim.

Published warnings about Trump's interest in insurrection were largely unheeded by the mass media and even by the independent progressive media. They were too satisfied with reporting on his outrageous behavior and tweets, and too pleased with how easy a subject Trump was for derision. We and others would invoke specific criminal statutes he violated frequently, such as the Hatch Act (using federal property and personnel for political campaign objectives) or the Anti-Deficiency Acts (spending much money strictly not appropriated by Congress) and other grave flouting of statutory and regulatory, mandates, scores of congressional subpoenas and major constitutional provisions. The news media did not regard Trump's deep lawlessness as worthy of much reporting or editorializing. The excuse was "Trump is just being Trump." Both the media and members of Congress, without paying attention to legal penalties, allowed Trump to keep pushing the envelope on lawbreaking until his invasion of the very Congress that let him get away with so much. It took lawmakers scrambling for their lives through Congressional tunnels to wake them up beyond their rhetoric or perfidy. There are severe consequences for ignoring the law's non-enforcement and when the media and elected officials become too jaded to challenge a president who doesn't respect the rule of law or constitutional restraints.

This assault may not be Trump's last act before January 20th. For sure he will increase the presidential pardons for his friends, family, and quite possibly the rioters and himself. Nobody knows what this "Mad Dog" Trump will try to do on his way out. However, it is reassuring that neither the courts nor the military have met his expectations of supporting and shielding him from his adversaries. These two institutions affirmatively refused to sanction dictatorial rule.

The mounting calls for Trump's resignation, or prosecution, or removal by impeachment conviction or the exercise of the 25th Amendment are coming from all sides – Democrats, Republicans, bi-partisan declarations of retired military and civilian officials from past Administrations, and even business groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers. Their immediate urging would be to stop further mayhem and upheavals by a cornered, rampaging commander-in-chief who knows that, in one of his favorite phrases, "this is our last chance."

Maybe merely advancing these acts of enforcement and evictions, rooted in our constitution and law, will be a deterrence and persuade Trump to quietly go right away to Mar-a-Largo, as suggested today on NPR by Jeh Johnson, former Secretary of Homeland Security.

That kind of finale has not been his MO, whether as a failed gambling czar, choosing corporate bankruptcy as an exit strategy, or as a president who doesn't show remorse, admit mistakes, or that he ever "did anything wrong."

If there is anything Trump dislikes more than being a loser (the election), it is being a two-time loser. Perhaps he will back down, play the victim again, and with the help of a stable of defense attorneys, hope that he can wear a pin-striped suit instead of an orange jumpsuit while wistfully watching Fox News behind bars.

(See our new book, Wrecking America: How Trump's Lawbreaking and Lies Betray All)

Ralph Nader: Serial lawbreaker Trump and future presidents can't be allowed to brazenly undermine the rule of law

Serial lawbreaker Donald J. Trump is embarking on the most sordid presidential pardon spree in American history. He has already pardoned convicted crooks, thieves, and violent outlaws. Trump's pardon lawyers are frantically assembling more MAGA besotted individuals and groups to be pardoned wholesale. The number may climb into the hundreds. The queue is long. Trump corruptly doles out pardons to spite his list of archenemies and to reward his sycophants as many people are pleading with Trump for pardons. (For a partial list of Trump pardons see here.)

Trump thrills at what he considers his absolute power to pardon, including family members and himself. He is wrong. No constitutional right or power is pursued at all costs. All have limits. The power to pardon is limited at least by prohibitions on bribery, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and the 400-year honored maxim that "no man can be a judge in his own case." Further, the Constitution's framers specifically described corruptly motivated pardons as impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors and specifically authorized criminal prosecution of the President after impeachment and removal from office. The latter would become an overthrow of lawful orders with presidential self-pardons.

No president has displayed the audacity or depravity to self-pardon. In 1974, the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department concluded that the president cannot self-pardon.

Legal scholars differ on whether pardons must specifically describe the crimes and persons to be pardoned and whether the beneficiary must confess guilt. Trump's cynical pardons could provoke Congress and the courts to set procedural and substantive limits.

President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon in the aftermath of his resignation to avoid impeachment and conviction for defying a congressional subpoena, obstruction of justice, and misuse of government agencies. On September 8, 1974, in broad and sweeping language, Ford declared that pursuant to Article II Section 2 of the Constitution "I … do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969, through August 9, 1974." Nixon's pardon was never challenged for non-specific descriptions of the pardoned offenses.

Thus far, of the over 60 pardons or commutations issued by Trump, the vast majority of recipients have featured a personal connection or political affinity.

President Jimmy Carter, on January 21, 1977, pardoned violators of the draft laws, known as draft resisters, many of whom fled to Canada. He granted "a full, complete and unconditional pardon" to "all persons who may have committed any offense between August 4, 1964, and March 28, 1973, in violation of the Military Selective Service Act or any rule or regulation promulgated thereunder." He included in this pardon "all persons heretofore convicted," of any such offense, "restoring to them full political, civil and other rights." Excluded, however, were all persons "convicted of or who may have committed any offense involving force or violence."

President Carter specified the offense but did not name the thousands of Americans pardoned. He simply established a Justice Department procedure for the beneficiaries to obtain a certificate of pardon.

With four weeks of Trump's tenure remaining, rumors of what he could or should do are multiplying. Will he pardon all inmates in federal prisons convicted of nonviolent marijuana or other drug offenses? Will he pardon a wide network of people who could otherwise be compelled to testify against him? Will he pardon former business associates or future business partners of all federal offenses? (He cannot pardon for state offenses.)

Trump can issue anticipatory pardons before an individual is formally charged with a crime.

Thus far, of the over 60 pardons or commutations issued by Trump, the vast majority of recipients have featured a personal connection or political affinity. Speculation has centered on pardons for Edward Snowden or Julian Assange to leaven Trump's overt favoritism.

Trump's corruptly motivated pardons will continue until President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. He will probably refrain from resigning in favor of Vice President Pence in exchange for a pardon for himself and family members. The stench of bribery would be too great.

In the final days of his four-year chronicle of statutory criminal and constitutional violations (See: December 18, 2019, Congressional Record, H-12197 and many past articles by writers on Trump's lawbreaking), Trump will give both the Congress and the courts great incentive to set specific limits on the pardon power.

Trump and future presidents cannot be allowed to brazenly dishonor justice and undermine the rule of law.

Congressional abdication and public indifference will pave the way for the kind of monarchical power so resolutely dreaded by our Constitution's framers who fought to defeat King George III and repudiate tyranny. Unless resisted by a resolute, aroused citizenry.

Ralph Nader: The Democratic Party is controlled by smug, entrenched people living in the exclusive top one percent

The Republican and Democratic Parties have been evaluated in many ways but not often by the standard of sheer energy levels. Compare the ferocious drive by Trump, Republican Senators and Representatives, Attorneys General, and Governors in promoting, with baseless allegations and buckets of lies, overturning the presidential election. Of the more than 50 election lawsuits filed by Trump's Republican allies, almost all of them have been promptly thrown out of court.

The wildly frivolous efforts by Trump and his cronies have provoked a rare public letter, signed by over 1,500 lawyers, including past presidents of bar associations, urging disciplinary proceedings against the lawyers representing craven Republican operatives in their attempted electoral coup. (See: lawyersdefendingdemocracy.org)

Even after the Electoral College voted on December 14, 2020, to declare Joe Biden the winner, the Trumpsters are continuing their reckless fanaticism. Extreme Trumpster Congressman Mo Brooks (D-AL) plans to lead a move on January 6, 2020, to demand that the House and the Senate refuse to certify the Electoral College decision.

Now let's go back to the George Bush/Al Gore presidential election in 2000, where there were real shenanigans. It all came down to Florida's electoral votes, notwithstanding Al Gore winning the national popular vote by about 500,000. Thousands of people were prevented from voting because they had names similar to the names of ex-felons who were purged from the voting rolls.

Ari Berman's Nation magazine article, "How the 2000 Election in Florida Led to a New Wave of Voter Disenfranchisement" reports: "If 12,000 voters were wrongly purged from the rolls, and 44 percent of them were African-American, and 90 percent of African-Americans voted for Gore, that meant 4,752 black Gore voters—almost nine times Bush's margin of victory—could have been prevented from voting." According to Florida's Sun-Sentinel newspaper, "The felon lists were compiled by Database Technologies Inc., now part of ChoicePoint Inc., an Atlanta-based company. In 1998, DBT won a $4 million contract from the Florida secretary of state's office to cross-check the 8.6 million names registered to vote in the state with law enforcement and other records." Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush's brother Jeb Bush was Florida's governor during this horrendous disenfranchisement.

There were also deceptively confusing ballot designs in three Florida counties that tricked voters into voting for the wrong candidates.

And there was the judicial coup d'état stay by the U.S. Supreme Court, led by Republican Justice Antonin Scalia that blocked the ongoing statewide recount ordered by Supreme Court of Florida which would have awarded the state and the election to Al Gore.

Democrats meekly accepted this whole sordid episode, apart from their lawsuit. Vice-president Al Gore, presiding over the U.S. Senate rejected pleas from House Democrats to challenge the Electoral College certification. Al Gore had already accepted arguably the most blatantly, politically partisan Supreme Court decision "selecting" George W. Bush on December 12, 2000.

The 2004 presidential contest, between George Bush and John Kerry, came down to the swing state of Ohio. By 118,601 thousand votes, the Republican Secretary of State awarded the state to Bush/Cheney. There were, in the days before the election, claims of Republican skullduggery, including voting place irregularities, obstructions of voters, and flaws in proprietary software used in the vote-counting process. Kerry's vice-presidential running mate, Senator John Edwards begged Kerry not to immediately concede and to wait for more revelations. But Kerry threw in the towel the day after the election.

Civic leaders in Ohio took their concerns about electoral wrongdoings to the veteran lawmaker, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) who held public, unofficial House hearings on the subject. It was too late to change anything, but the hearings did cast a shadow over the GOP which the establishment Democrats quickly forgot about.

In 2009, the Fox Television-driven launch of the Tea Party movement, having more than 350,000 engaged volunteers, roiled the back-home town meetings of Republican members of Congress and secured a clenched-teeth grip on the House of Representatives with some three dozen true believers. This small cohort, self-named the Freedom Caucus, had an outsized veto over Rep. Speaker John Boehner and eventually drove him to resign.

The seventy or eighty Progressive Caucus members in the House have scarcely generated a ripple with their demands on the House Democratic Leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Energetic, demanding Democratic resisters in the House hardly exist, whether on overdue anti-corporate crime legislation, labor law reform to remove barriers to organizing trade unions, fundamental corporate tax reform, corporate-managed "free trade," or runaway militarism.

The Progressive Caucus could not even broaden the Impeachment proceedings last November/December to include the well-documented daily violations of the Constitution by Trump (See: December 18, 2019, Congressional Record, H-12197). There was little significant energy in the Democratic ranks when Obama won the White House and the large congressional majorities in the House and Senate in 2009-2010. The weak Democrats didn't rollback many Bush actions and continued Bush's foreign and military policies.

What accounts for the difference between the two parties? Well, the Republicans are really into their trilogy – get more tax cuts and subsidies, get even less regulatory law enforcement and keep the war machine humming. The rank-and-file Republicans also slam the Democrats on abortion, judicial nominations, immigration, and being soft on crime.

The Democrats have to themselves the bread-and-butter family economic issues, worker and environmental injustices, and addressing the meager public services, and our crumbling infrastructure. These issues should really fire up the Democrat Party base. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party is controlled by smug, entrenched people living in the exclusive top one percent. Why should they exert themselves? Especially since lassitude invites more campaign money than ever before.

The national civic groups have many progressive agendas but can't find congressional sponsors that make up a determined force on Capitol Hill. When they can find somebody like Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) to introduce a bill, it is largely ignored and becomes a one-day news story release.

A junior Representative from Georgia, Newt Gingrich, through sheer willpower built a powerful political base. He toppled two Democratic House Speakers Jim Wright and Tom Foley, took over the House of Representatives in 1994, and became the House Speaker in 1995.

Senate tyrant Mitch McConnell defies red and blue state governors, mayors, federal and state lawmakers, social service groups, and overwhelming public opinion by blocking the stimulus-relief legislation for months.

What Democratic Senators or Representatives have this energy level?

It was Kevin Phillips, the big business-aware, Republican strategist and writer who years ago provided the apt metaphor: "Republicans go for the jugular, and the Democrats go for the capillaries." It is beyond troubling that the Democrats haven't increased their level of energy to confront the worst, cruelest, most corrupt, GOP in history. The delusional Trumpist Party didn't lose control of any state legislatures, held the Senate, nearly retook the House, and didn't lose one House Republican incumbent.

Just under 400,000 votes, in the six battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, gave Biden his Electoral College victory! Democrats wake up!

Ralph Nader: Biden must not let the Trumpster outlaws escape and become immune fugitives from justice

The Biden Transition team is about to connect with the Trumpsters running federal departments and agencies into the ground. The Biden staff should prepare for serial shocks. Biden's people will be observing the first glimpses of staggering wreckage and corruption. They need to tell the American people what they find.

The Trump regime gave itself lawless license to do whatever it wanted. Trump operatives dismantled or disabled humane program after humane program, health and safety regulations, and economic protections designed to protect working people, children, the elderly, and people living in poverty.

After all, the Trumpsters got the green light from their boss Donald, who when not playing golf, tweeting tantrums, and watching Fox News, believed that "I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president."

When the Bidenites take over on January 21, they will find hollowed-out government law enforcement and shelved research projects. They'll see offices empty after government scientists and other civil servants were forced out. Other public servants will be sitting in what the Japanese call "window jobs," ordered to stop working on vital matters ranging from limiting climate disruption to stopping Wall Street rip-offs. The Trump administration turned important government jobs into do-nothing positions.

Heavily censored federal CDC workers, benumbed from prohibitions on what they can say, and who were ordered not to speak the words "climate change" will receive their rescuers with deep relief. EPA workers who were ordered to repeal or weaken over 100 environmental safeguards – unleashing deadly toxins into people's air and water – will feel the breaking of the restraints imposed on sound science.

Specialists who were told to weaken or eliminate about 50 occupational health and safety standards and literally shut down enforcement at OSHA will also start to see the early dawn.

Biden's team will discover destruction or theft of public records, spectacles of looting and plunder of public trust and public property.

They will hear stories of corporate lobbyists coming in and out of the agencies as if they owned the government because they did. Trump turned over the federal government to Big Business, as has never before happened, brazenly, openly, and endlessly. His nominee to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) into nothingness, marauding Mick Mulvaney, openly said the agency's mission was to protect Wall Street Big Banks and unscrupulous payday lenders!! Mulvaney abandoned tens of millions of defrauded Americans. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Mulvaney proved "he would rather cozy up with payday lenders and industry insiders than listen to consumer advocates who want to make sure hard-working Americans are not cheated by financial scams." Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Mick Mulvaney had "no intention of putting consumers above financial firms that cheat them."

Much of the Trump Administration corruption started at the despoiled White House, which Trump turned into a family business incubator to enhance his Brand. Trump's crime spree was aided and abetted by his "personal lawyer," Attorney General, William Barr who twisted government lawyers into ignoring or overturning the rule of law under orders from the political bosses.

Shoveling out corrupt, crony contracts, grants, subsidies, giveaways, and bailouts in a frenzy of taxpayer torture will occupy many officials in the new Administration as they attempt to unravel, expose, and if possible, claw back ill-gotten gains.

Unlike the entering Obama Administration back in 2009, the Biden Administration must come in with a determined mindset as they begin restoring the rule of law and reversing Trump's cruel and crazy policies. Biden's team will also need to start restoring past services and initiating new services for the citizenry.

They must not let the Trumpster outlaws escape and become immune fugitives from justice. If Trump's wrecking crew escapes the arm of the law, for sure they and their base will return with a vengeance in two and four years.

For Joe Biden, healing America is not incompatible with bringing these self-dealing, law-breaking, constitution-violating, anti-American crooks to justice. In truth, both tasks are complementary with the basic belief that "nobody is above the law," which escapee Trump has long treated as a laughable cliché.

The way to start this redeeming process is to draw a clear line between what Biden's appointees find and what they intend to change. They must give cogent reports to the people about Trump's crumbled and wasted agencies so that Trump's record of destruction and pillage will not be forgotten because of short public memories. Otherwise, Trump's mass media will let him leave the public with the truth-denying Orwellian impression that he left the Democrats "a great" federal legacy.

(See our new book, "Wrecking America: How Trump's Lawbreaking and Lies Betray All")

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