Now There’s a Tape, Just Like Nixon’s

The appearance today of a recording in which the president commits criminal offenses —  assuredly not for the first time — moved Jennifer Rubin and Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post to both comment. Below is a mixture of their responses (along with a few italicized comments from me):

When President Txxxx allegedly tried firing special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III, refused to respond to lawful subpoenas during the investigation into the 2016 election and committed the other acts to obstruct justice documented in the Mueller report, he arguably violated his oath, broke the law and committed impeachable conduct.

When he tried to extort [the] Ukrainian President (“I would like you to do us a favor though …”) to create dirt to use against now President-elect Joe Biden and stonewalled Congress’s demands for evidence, he again violated his oath, engaged in impeachable conduct and broke the law.

In neither case did Republicans recognize the facts before them. In neither case did they act to remove him.

[A president who] began his presidency trying to obstruct justice [is] ending it trying to obstruct democracy, and with an alarmingly large cadre of co-conspirators.

Some of this attempted obstruction is being conducted, as is so often the case with Txxxx, in plain sight; Txxxx’s anti-democratic conduct is so flagrant and so repeated that we become inured to how abnormal and unacceptable it is. Thus he has claimed massive fraud without basis, unleashed a barrage of litigation lacking the facts and the law to back him up, and riled up his believers to subscribe to the mass delusion that the election was stolen from him.

Behind the scenes, things are even worse, with the craziest of Txxxx’s crazy advisers pushing the president to pursue unimaginable possibilities such as declaring martial law or invoking the Insurrection Act to unleash the military to quell violence that he himself has sought to stir up.

That the ten living former secretaries of defense felt compelled to come together in an op-ed decrying any use of the military in an effort to prevent the peaceful transfer of power underscores the peril of the moment. These aren’t just Democratic appointees — they are conservatives such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, and the two secretaries Txxxx ousted for being insufficiently compliant, James Mattis and Mark ­Esper.

And now . . . we have a chilling glimpse of Txxxx’s delusional private arm-twisting in his frenzy to cling to power.

The Post reports: “President Txxxx urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to ‘find’ enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that election experts said raised legal questions.” In the call, Txxxx asked Raffensperger to change the certified vote that was subject to multiple recounts: “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.”

In fact he threatened him. The Post reports, “During their conversation, Txxxx issued a vague threat to both Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s general counsel, suggesting that if they don’t find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County have been illegally destroyed to block investigators — an allegation for which there is no evidence — they would be subject to criminal liability.” Txxxx, sounding like a mobster as he often does, said, “That’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.” Nice career, there Brad. Shame if anything happened to it.

Pressuring a campaign official to change the vote is a federal offense [it’s a Georgia offense too]: “A person . . . who in any election for Federal office … knowingly and willfully deprives, defrauds, or attempts to deprive or defraud the residents of a State of a fair and impartially conducted election process …” is subject to imprisonment of up to five years.

Threatening Raffensperger with criminal consequences is also arguably extortion: “Whoever, with intent to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits . . . any communication containing any threat to injure the property or reputation of the addressee . . . or any threat to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”

Georgia has counted its votes three times, once by hand, but Txxxx told Raffensperger, “There’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.” He warned that Raffensperger and his chief lawyer were running “a big risk” of criminal liability by failing to find voter fraud.

The man who sparked a special counsel investigation by urging the FBI director to “go easy” on his fired national security adviser, the man who triggered his own impeachment by soliciting a foreign leader to help him dig up dirt on Biden — this man will never learn [or change, as Rep. Adam Schiff memorably argued during the impeachment “trial” a year ago].

Really, why should he? There are never any real consequences.

Which brings us to Txxxx’s co-conspirators.

Vice President Pence . . . is constitutionally obligated to preside over [Wednesday’s] joint session of Congress to certify Biden’s electoral college victory. Pence’s chief of staff . . . issued a statement Saturday night saying that Pence “welcomes” congressional efforts “to raise objections and bring forward evidence” at the session. . . .

And the dozen or more Republican senators . . .who are turning what should be a ceremonial event into a constitutional circus. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, defending his move to object to the certification, could summon only Pennsylvania’s use of mail-in ballots when the state’s constitution “has required all votes to be cast in person, with narrowly defined exceptions.” The state legislature passed a law allowing no-excuse mail-in voting. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, without getting into the merits, threw out a challenge to the law.

“These are very serious irregularities, on a very large scale, in a presidential election,” Hawley intoned. This man calls himself a “constitutional lawyer” and a conservative? In our federal system, what happens in Pennsylvania is up to Pennsylvania. The legislature acted. The court rejected a challenge. The state certified Biden’s win. Hawley proffered not a scintilla of evidence of fraud. What is he arguing — that the votes of more than 2.5 million Pennsylvanians should now be invalidated?

Not to be outdone — or outmaneuvered in the 2024 presidential sweepstakes — Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, joined by 10 colleagues, is pressing for a commission to conduct an emergency 10-day audit of the election results, again, with no evidence to justify such a last-minute step.

Instead, Cruz, like Hawley, uses the very voter fears that Txxxx so carefully nurtured and his allies have stoked to justify the need for extraordinary intervention. Speaking to Fox News . . . , Cruz cited “unprecedented allegations of voter fraud” — allegations that emanate from Txxxx and his allies — that he said have “produced a deep, deep distrust of our democratic process across the country.” This is the arsonist calling the fire department to put out the blaze that he kindled.

“I think we in Congress have an obligation to do something about that,” Cruz lectured. “We have an obligation to protect the integrity of the democratic system.”

Oh please. No one has done more over the past months to undermine the integrity of the democratic system than Txxxx and his enablers. And if Cruz is actually worried about the integrity of the democratic system, he [should] start with the president.

There must be a response to a president who exploits his office for the purpose of overthrowing an election. The evidence is on tape. The next attorney general should move forward, if for no other reason, to deter further attempts at such reprehensible conduct. I would suggest impeachment as well, which could include a ban on holding office in the future, but we know already Republicans will defend anything Txxxx does [even if he declares himself King Donald the First and makes Ivanka his queen].

[If you choose to endure it, the Post has the audio and a transcript.]