Sunday, November 29, 2020


 It occurs to me that our current president has engaged in a rather large number of actions that are unprecedented by any other president, as well as some only rarely happening and not for a long time, many of which for nearly all other politicians would make them viewed as simply unacceptable for being a president.  However, with him, there have been so many that people simply ignore most of them as being, "Oh well, there goes Trump again being himself."

First of all I do not have a full list of his norm-shattering precedents. In googling I saw an article that proclaimed he had violated 20 "presidential norms." But it was behind a firewall.  And even though these may have been norms, it may be that other presidents violated at least some of them.  Anyway, here goes a a partial list.

The first president to be accused of violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.  Actually there are two such clauses, the more famous one involving foreigners buying off a president, and then a domestic one as well.  He has been accused of violating both of them on numerous occasions, although never formally convicted of any, with a couple of law cases in court, mostly involving just the Trump Hotel in Washington.  But the list of likely violations is long and involves many properties and forms, with at least 22 foreign nations reputedly involved.  The funny thing is that just because something is forbidden in the Constitution does not immediately make it specifically against the law.  In any case, it remains that somehow no other president has even been accused of violating either of these clauses, but Trump is pretty clearly massively guilty of actually violating both of them blatantly and numerous times, with only the mildest outcry even from his critics.

He is the first president to have been legally charged with engaging in racial discrimination.  This would have been in 1973 right after he began working for his father's real estate business.  He was not found officially guilty but had an out of court settlement in which he was ordered to stop doing what he had been doing. As it was, the Justice Dept later accused him of doing exactly that, returning to his previous racially discriminatory practices, after which he seems to have more or less stopped.  Of course there are past presidents with much worse race relations records than his, such as outright owning slaves as did most of the Founding Fathers from the South.  But in those days what they did was legal, if immoral.

The first president to be sued for breach of contract.  I do not have the exact number of times that he has been so sued, but it is a lot.  As it is he has been involved in over 3500 lawsuits, although more often than not with him as the plaintiff.  This is more than the combined lawsuits involving the top five construction businesses in New York City.  Many presidents have been sued for a variety of things, such as defamation or policy actions they engaged in as president.  Not a president, but Hillary Clinton has been sued about 900 times, mostly by people upset with policy actions by her, never for breach of contract, despite all her and Bill's Whitewater shenanigans.  Somehow I would think that repeatedly violating something so basic as simply keeping one's word in a business contract would make one ineligible to be president, but I think many of his followers inaccurately think this is a sign of him being a "good businessman," a reason many people voted for him in 2016 reportedly.

The only president to go bankrupt more than once, in his case six times, another matter suggesting he has not been as good a businessman as many think he has been.  Four other presidents have gone bankrupt, each of them once and in all cases due to cosigning for loans where the person they cosigned with engaged in conduct that led to the financial problems that dragged the president into having to declare bankruptcy.  Those four included some distinguished ones: Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Grant, and William McKinley.  Of course Jefferson was a profligate spender and poor money manager, dying deep in debt.  Lincoln's wife, Mary, was a notorious overspender. Grant generally had poor experience in his business affairs, with his bankruptcy occurring after he left office, with some attributing his drinking to his poor business judgment.

The only president to suggest that those who died in military service for the US were "losers" and "suckers," apparently the last straw that led John McCain's widow, Cindy, to support Biden for president.

The only president to publicly lie in office more than 1000 times.  The latest count for him now exceeds 23,000 times, and this is in a bit less than one term.  Actually I could not find an exact count for any other president basically because they did it so infrequently nobody seems to have kept count, so it is possible I am wrong on this. But certainly nobody came remotely close to him in his lying rate.  Digging around it seems that his closest rivals were actually a predecessor-successor pair: LBJ and Nixon.  LBJ notoriously repeatedly lied about the Vietnam War, a very serious matter, with the Gulf of Tonkin incident at the top of the list.  Of course, Nixon repeatedly lied about Watergate.  Almost certainly every president lied while in office, with the lies ranging from serious to strategic (FDR in WW II) to political to sexual (Bill Clinton) to careless unawareness of facts (Reagan) to just frivolous.  In digging into this I found an article excoriating Obama for supposedly lying 37 times about details of the ACA, with the article, written by a critic while he was in office, suggesting that this would ruin the entire rest of his presidency and nearly rose to the level of impeachability.  Oh how we have moved on.

Which brings us to refusing to concede defeat when an election was called against him by leading observers.  We need to be clear here that a number of elections were not called for a long time and involved difficult and even extra-constitutional machinations, including 1800, 1824, 1876, and 2000. But in all those cases once the unusual delays ended in determining the winner, the loser conceded forthwith without further efforts to undo the outcome.  As of almost a week ago Trump did finally allow the GSA to allow transition activities to begin, but only because he could still contest the election outcome, which he continues to do, with I gather a majority of his backers still supporting his efforts, even as nearly all his lawsuits have failed and enough states have formally certified their results to guarantee that indeed Biden will have more than 270 electoral college votes.

This leads us to a last item, not completely unprecedented and not yet done by him, but not done since 1869, and on twice before then, in 1801 and 1829 some in connection with those dragged out contested elections, but with this one a pretty clearly solid win for Biden.  It would be if he refuses to attend and participate in the inaugural of his successor.  Even Herbert Hoover did so in 1933 for FDR in what many have identified as the last really hostile and difficult transition, although Hoover did not contest the landslide outcome against him.  Trump may yet change his mind, but current reports have him considering not only not attending but holding a rival event at the same time, a rally in which he would declare his candidacy for 2024, and if he does that, it would be another unprecedented action.  John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and the also impeached Andrew Johnson did not do anything like that when they did not attend the inauguration of their respective successors.  And if somehow Trump does not attend, expect his fervent followers to be all impressed rather than duly shocked.

Barkley Rosser


The Sophist said...

>> I think many of his followers inaccurately think this [his many instances of breach of contract] is a sign of him being a "good businessman," a reason many people voted for him in 2016 reportedly.

I fear that this is a more-general coarsening of America, and our drift from a high-trust equilibrium, towards a lower-trust equilibrium. And this isn't just Trump's doing, of course. I remember when the Mortgage Bankers' Association walked away from the lease on their headquarters, at the same time that homeowners who did the same were excoriated in the press.
Perhaps the Trump voters you describe above, are merely imitating what they see in their elites, everywhere they look. I think that this is the *most* important reason that white-collar crime needs to be prosecuted: that without such prosecution, Americans everywhere lose trust in each other,and everyone begins to behave in a manner consistent with that loss of trust.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Under the Unitary Executive theory (espoused by Bill Barr
and others), if the president is engaged in unlawful acts,
it is up to Congress to impeach him. Otherwise, the voters
can choose a replacement. It looks like we have done that.

Anonymous said...

Grant faced financial problems after he left office and spent his last days finishing his biography to provide for his family. Not to compare the two, but I am quite sure a book from Trump will be forthcoming to help deal with his financial situation and list his grievances and set the stage for 2024 though he won't really run (per Mary Trump due to fragile ego and risk of loss) though he could possibly win because the economy may still be recovering in 4 years and Republicans may stall Biden's progress.

Note: the ability to challenge Trump on emoluments seems difficult as those suing must show injury to establish standing to sue - this seems wrong since it is in the Constitution.

ProGrowthLiberal said...

"if the president is engaged in unlawful acts,
it is up to Congress to impeach him."

The House did but the Senate punted in what has to be called Profiles in Cowardice.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

"The House did but the Senate punted in
what has to be called Profiles in Cowardice."

As Lindsey Graham opine recently, 'If we (i.e.
the GOP) don't reelect Trump, we'll never
elect another President' (or words
to that effect.)

As if.

(The GOP base was instructed to believe that
this was a survival issue for their party.)

Fred C. Dobbs said...

The GOP contingent in Congress, of
about 50 Senators and 200 Representatives,
constituting a not-insignificant part of the GOP base.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Is this anything?

“Stop the Steal” Republicans Are the New Anarchists

via @slate - November 25

In Georgia’s runoffs and across the country, the radicals are on the right.

... The anarchists aren’t on the left anymore. They’re on the right.

The new anarchists don’t smash windows or loot stores. They scream “Stop the Steal.” Hundreds of them gathered in Atlanta on Saturday to demand the overthrow of the incoming Joe Biden administration. They claimed that Trump won Georgia (he didn’t) and that Democrats, by “stealing in every way you can imagine”—fabricating ballots, impersonating voters, digitally manipulating the tally—had rigged the outcome. (All these fantasies have been debunked.) They threatened to purge the state’s “traitor” Republicans—Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger—for refusing to triple-investigate and block certification of the results.

The new anarchists pretend to support law enforcement. But when the law doesn’t go their way, they threaten violence. “Victory or death!” the crowd in Atlanta chanted. One speaker at the rally vowed to “fight for Donald Trump until our last dying breath.” Another warned, “If they seat an illegitimate government, we’ll remove them.” A third said Trump would stay in power because “the Deep State doesn’t have the military on their side.” When police asked the rally’s leaders to finish up and end the event—after letting them rant for two hours without a permit—a speaker shouted at the cops: “We backed the blue. Thank you for nothing!” ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Here are the outstanding legal fights Trump is waging over the election

NY Times - November 30

President Trump’s window to use the courts to overturn the victory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is closing quickly as the so-called safe harbor deadline — the date before which any election controversies must be settled — approaches on Dec. 8. Then the voting results are considered final.

Still, in the past week, Republicans have launched last-ditch efforts to halt or reverse the certification process in three key swing states: Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Each of these suits make extraordinary demands on the judges hearing them and would require unprecedented decisions to succeed.

There are also two federal lawsuits moving through the courts seeking to reverse the certification process in Michigan and Georgia. Both of them were filed by Sidney Powell, a former member of Mr. Trump’s legal team who was disavowed by the president last week after she made wild accusations that foreign leaders and some Republican officials were involved in a scheme to manipulate voting machines.

Appearing on Fox News on Sunday, Mr. Trump referred to the numerous — and almost completely unsuccessful — election-related lawsuits that he and his supporters have filed in recent weeks saying, “It’s hard to get to the Supreme Court.”

But he has at least one current path to the nation’s highest court in his continued effort to undermine the election — though it is not a guaranteed one — and even if the justices accept his case and rule in his favor, there isn’t all that much he stands to gain.

Mr. Trump’s road there was paved on Friday when he and his legal team were handed a defeat in a unanimous ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which soundly rejected their attempts to stop or reverse the certification of election results in Pennsylvania. (Pennsylvania certified its election results last week.) ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

The blistering appellate decision upheld an equally searing ruling from earlier in the month by Matthew W. Brann, a district judge in Pennsylvania, who wrote that Mr. Trump’s attempts to derail the commonwealth’s election were based on “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations.”

Shortly after the Third Circuit’s ruling came down, Mr. Trump’s lawyers vowed to ask the high court to reconsider the case, but by Monday morning they had not done so yet. And even if the Supreme Court granted the request to reverse the campaign’s appellate loss, it might not get much, given the narrow way in which Mr. Trump’s lawyers structured the original appeal.

Instead of contesting the substance of Judge Brann’s ruling, Mr. Trump’s lawyers asked the Third Circuit only for permission to file a revised version of its initial complaint. Assuming the Supreme Court takes the case and abides by the strict terms of the president’s appeal, it would be able to do no more than return the matter to Judge Brann’s court for further action.

Mr. Trump’s defeat in the Third Circuit left him relying on an ever-dwindling number of suits across the country geared toward overturning the results of the election. On Saturday, he suffered another legal loss when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed out a suit by some Republican supporters that had also sought to stop certification of the commonwealth’s vote count.

That suit, led by Representative Mike Kelly, Republican of Pennsylvania, claimed that a state law authorizing mail-in ballots was unconstitutional and sought retroactively to nullify their use in the election — a move that, if successful, would have tipped the state to Mr. Trump. But the mail-in ballot law was passed last year with bipartisan support and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed Mr. Kelly’s attempts to overturn it, saying he had filed his claims too late.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Biden’s Economic Team Suggests Focus on Workers and Income Equality

NY Times - November 30

In the White House and elsewhere, the president-elect’s selections are heavy on labor economists and champions of organized labor.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. formally announced his top economic advisers on Monday, choosing a team that is stocked with champions of organized labor and marginalized workers, signaling an early focus on efforts to speed and spread the gains of the recovery from the pandemic recession.

The selections build on a pledge Mr. Biden made to business groups two weeks ago, when he said labor unions would have “increased power” in his administration. They suggest that Mr. Biden’s team will be focused initially on increased federal spending to reduce unemployment and an expanded safety net to cushion households that have continued to suffer as the coronavirus persists and the recovery slows.

In a sign that Mr. Biden plans to focus on spreading economic wealth, his transition team put issues of equality and worker empowerment at the forefront of its news release announcing the nominees, saying they would help create “an economy that gives every single person across America a fair shot and an equal chance to get ahead.”

Mr. Biden’s picks include Janet L. Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chair, as Treasury secretary; Cecilia Rouse of Princeton University, to head the White House Council of Economic Advisers; and Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress think tank, to run the Office of Management and Budget. All three have focused on efforts to increase worker earnings and reduce racial and gender discrimination in the economy.

Ms. Tanden said in February that rising income inequality was the consequence of “decades of conservative attacks on workers’ right to organize” and that labor unions “are a powerful vehicle to move workers into the middle class and keep them there.”

The two other nominees to Mr. Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey, are economists who have pushed for policies to advance workers and labor rights, and who advised Mr. Biden in his campaign as he built an agenda that featured several longstanding goals of organized labor, like raising the federal minimum wage and strengthening “Buy America” requirements in federal contracting.

Ms. Boushey has also been a vocal advocate of policies to help working families, including providing up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. In an interview last week, Ms. Boushey said such a policy was especially critical during the pandemic, “when lives are at stake.”

William E. Spriggs, the chief economist for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. labor union, hailed the selections, saying in an email on Monday that “we have not had a C.E.A. as focused on the role of fiscal policy and full employment since President Johnson.” ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Wisconsin and Arizona make it official as Trump fails to stop vote certification in all six states where he contested his defeat

Washington Post - November 30

Please note: The Washington Post is providing this important election information free to all readers. ...

Wisconsin and Arizona on Monday became the last two of six states where President Trump has contested his defeat to finalize their vote counts, dealing a fresh blow to his quest to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory as a chorus of Republicans and Democrats offered support for the election’s integrity.

Trump and his allies vowed to continue pressing legal claims challenging the election results in several states, but such efforts have met with resounding failures in the courts across the country. Monday’s certifications brought to a close a key period in which Trump and his advisers had said they would be able to derail Biden’s win.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) certified her state’s election results alongside the Republican governor and attorney general. Several hours later, the Democratic chairwoman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, Ann Jacobs, completed her state’s canvass and declared Biden the winner of the state’s 10 electoral votes, a declaration that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers promptly certified.

Their actions brought Biden one step closer to an official victory on Dec. 14, when the electoral college meets.

While Trump has kept up a stream of baseless claims that the election was corrupted by fraud, a growing number of state officials on both sides of the aisle pushed back against that notion. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Arizona and Wisconsin Certify Biden’s Wins

NY Times - November 30

Arizona and Wisconsin on Monday certified President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the winner in their presidential elections, formalizing his victory in two additional battleground states as President Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the election continued to fall short.

Such certifications would be an afterthought in any other year. But in a political environment where Mr. Trump’s false claims of sweeping voter fraud have created an alternate reality among his die-hard backers in the West Wing and beyond, the results have closed off yet another path to victory for him.

Although Mr. Trump has infused daily drama into the normal postelection bureaucratic process by urging his Republican allies to push to block the certification of results or to overturn them entirely in battleground states won by Mr. Biden, the proceedings on Monday were staid affairs.

In Arizona, Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state, formalized her state’s results while sitting at a long table with three Republicans who signed the election documents: Gov. Doug Ducey; the state’s attorney general, Mark Brnovich; and the chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, Robert M. Brutinel.

Ann Jacobs, the chairwoman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, signed a document during a three-minute video conference in which she narrated herself certifying Mr. Biden’s victory.

“I am now signing it as the official state determination of the results of the Nov. 3, 2020, election and the canvass,” Ms. Jacobs said before holding the document up to the camera. Later Monday afternoon, Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin, a Democrat, announced that he had signed the state’s Certificate of Ascertainment appointing Mr. Biden’s slate of electors to represent Wisconsin at the Electoral College.

Mr. Trump, buoyed by his legal team and supporters in the conservative news media, has held out hope that he could somehow prevail in Wisconsin and Arizona, as well as Georgia, where Republican officials on Monday firmly refused to challenge Mr. Biden’s victory there. In all three states, along with Michigan and Pennsylvania, the other two states that flipped from voting for Mr. Trump in 2016 to Mr. Biden this year, the Trump campaign has sought to undermine the results through legal and public relations efforts aimed at delivering the president Electoral College votes. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Barr says Justice Dept. hasn’t uncovered widespread voting fraud that could have changed election outcome

via @BostonGlobe - December 1

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

His comments come despite President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the election was stolen, and his refusal to concede his loss to President-Elect Joe Biden.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Barr said U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but they’ve uncovered no evidence that would change the outcome of the election.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told the AP.

The comments are especially direct coming from Barr, who has been one of the president’s most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voter fraud could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail. ...

Trump has railed against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. Trump recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but has still refused to admit he lost.

The issues Trump’s campaign and its allies have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.

But they’ve also requested federal probes into the claims. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.

Barr didn’t name Powell specifically but said: “There’s been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that,” Barr said.

He said people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said such a remedy for those complaints would be a top-down audit conducted by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.

“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all, and people don’t like something they want the Department of Justice to come in and ‘investigate,’” Barr said.

He said first of all there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.

“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. They are not systemic allegations and. And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on.”

Anonymous said...

Alas, unrelated.

Long-term care residents and health workers should get vaccine first, C.D.C. panel says

NY Times - December 1

An independent panel advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Tuesday to recommend that residents and employees of nursing homes and similar facilities be the first people in the United States to receive coronavirus vaccines, along with health care workers who are especially at risk of being exposed to the virus.

The panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, voted 13 to 1 during an emergency meeting to make the recommendation. The director of the C.D.C., Dr. Robert R. Redfield, is expected to decide by Wednesday whether to accept it as the agency’s formal guidance to states as they prepare to start giving people the shots as soon as two weeks from now.

“We are acting none too soon,” said Dr. Beth Bell, a panel member and global health expert at the University of Washington, noting that Covid-19 would kill about 120 Americans during the meeting alone.

States are not required to follow the panel’s recommendations, but they usually do. The final decision will rest with governors, who are consulting with their top health officials as they complete distribution plans.

The new recommendation is the first of several expected from the panel over the coming weeks, as vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna go through the federal approval process, on the thorny question of which Americans should be at the front of the long line to get vaccinated while supply is still scarce. The panel described it as an interim recommendation that could change as more is learned about how well the vaccines work in different age groups and how well the manufacturers keep up with demand.

The roughly three million people living in long-term care and those who care for them are a relatively clear target; 39 percent of deaths from the coronavirus have occurred in such facilities, according to an analysis by The New York Times. But states and health systems will ultimately have to decide which of the nation’s 21 million health care workers should qualify to receive the first doses, as there won’t be enough at first for everyone.

Pfizer and Moderna have estimated that they will have enough to vaccinate, at most, 22.5 million Americans by year’s end, with the required two doses, a few weeks apart. The C.D.C. will apportion the supply among the states, with the initial allocation proportional to the size of each state’s adult population.

The only member of the committee to vote against the recommendation was Dr. Helen Talbot, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, who expressed discomfort with putting long-term-care residents in the first priority group because the vaccines’ safety had not been studied in that particular population. “We enter this realm of ‘we hope it works and we hope it’s safe,’ and that concerns me on many levels,” she said before the vote.

But most panel members who offered opinions said they thought the high death rate among that group made it imperative to include it. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

CDC director warns the next few months could be ‘the most difficult in the public health history of this nation’

CNBC - December 2

... The next few months of the Covid-19 pandemic will be among “the most difficult in the public health history of this nation,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday. ...

“So we are at a very critical time right now about being able to maintain the resilience of our health-care system,” Redfield said. “The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times. I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult in the public health history of this nation, largely because of the stress that’s going to be put on our health-care system.”

Redfield added that deaths caused by Covid-19 are already rising. He said the country is now in the range of reporting between 1,500 and 2,500 deaths everyday. ...

“The mortality concerns are real,” Redfield said. “And I do think unfortunately, before we see February, we could be close to 450,000 Americans [who] have died from this virus.” ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

How Trump allies in Congress can launch one more challenge to Biden’s win in January

Washington Post - December 4

There’s one final maneuver at least one Trump ally says he will attempt to deny Joe Biden a win: to take advantage of an 1880s law that allows members of Congress to challenge a state’s results and make the whole Congress vote on whether to accept the results. It’s been attempted after almost every election for the past two decades. It got nowhere in the past, and it almost certainly won’t now. ...

Once states certify their results and once the electoral college votes Dec. 14, states send their electoral college vote totals to Congress to be counted and confirmed. This happens Jan. 6. It’s largely a formality since election law says Congress has to treat those results as “conclusive.”

But there is a mechanism that allows lawmakers to challenge those results. It’s an extremely confusing, poorly written law from the 1880s known as the Electoral Count Act, which was written to help guide Congress if there is a dispute in a state about which candidate won. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Find Your Place in the Vaccine Line

NY Times - December 4

(Find your place in the Covid vaccination queue.)