For a special prosecutor

The revelations about Russia’s deliberate and successful attempt to install a puppet President in the White House – reinforced by Trump’s surprise selection of a Secretary of State whose current employer has  $300 billion stake in removing the sanctions imposed on Russia for annexing Crimea and stirring up civil war in Ukraine – raises the question of what anyone can do about it now, other than fuss and fume and resolve to treat Trump as someone with the legal powers of the Presidency but absolutely no moral authority or entitlement to deference (or even the presumption of good faith).

I’m pleased to report that John Weaver, Gov. Kasich’s campaign strategist, has come up with the right idea: a Special Prosecutor charged with investigating any illegal conduct, including foreign interference and computer hacking, in the 2016 Presidential election. That prosecutor could be granted resources, subpoena power, and unlimited access to intelligence information. Such an appointment is within the power of the Attorney General, and the President may properly suggest such an appointment.

That would be a radical step for President Obama to take, and even somewhat out of character, so he’s unlikely to do it unless he faces a groundswell of public support for the idea, including from some prominent Republicans (e.g., Lindsay Graham and John McCain).

Yes, as a matter of law Trump could dismiss that Special Prosecutor, or order his Attorney General to do so. But as a matter of politics that would be a very, very bad move on Trump’s part. Moreover, Sen. Sessions faces a confirmation hearing, and the Senate (with just a little bit of Republican help) could require an ironclad commitment not to carry out a second Saturday Night Massacre, or impede the investigation in any way, as a condition of confirmation. (At what point firing a prosecutor because he’s getting too close to finding the truth becomes a criminal obstruction of justice is not, I think, a matter on which the courts have yet ruled.)

A Special Prosecutor can properly do what an ordinary prosecutor may not: issue a full report with respect to the findings of the investigation, whether or not it leads to prosecution. (Recall the long pornographic essay produced by the Lewinsky investigation.) So even if the process didn’t take any scalps, it would produce an authoritative account of what was done, and by whom, to undermine American democracy.

Of course there’s an argument that the findings of that report might trigger another Presidential impeachment, or some other form of Constitutional crisis, and that – now that we’ve allowed a lunatic to get his hands on the nuclear codes – we shouldn’t do anything to make him even crazier, or to further weaken public trust in government. But I can’t see it that way. If we tolerate cheating, we’re just going to get more cheating, as certainly as Shelby County followed Bush v. Gore. Time to draw the line.

So we all have our assignments, don’t we? Tweet, Facebook, and blog. Call your Member of Congress and your two Senators. Call the White House. Write letters to the editor. Talk to your friends and get them into action

Above all: never let up. Be as relentless about finding the truth as Trump will be about continuing to conceal it.


Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

3 thoughts on “For a special prosecutor”

  1. The view from Moscow: bingo!

    The view from Beijing is mixed. On the one hand, Trump has threatened a trade war and is being easily manipulated by Taiwan hawks. These are serious negatives. On the other, both its geopolitical rivals, Russia and the USA, will soon be corrupt oil & gas kleptocracies. That's a formula for accelerated decline. Xi's deal with Obama, that opened the way to the Paris climate agreement, is looking better and better: in fact, it may have given China the keys to global hegemony. 195 countries, that is everybody, have committed themselves to phasing out coal, oil and gas early in the second half of this century. That is, to putting Exxon and Saudi Arabia permanently out of business.

    The key technologies for this, wind, solar and hydro electricity generators and electric vehicles, are in place and all except hydro are improving all the time. Wind and solar are cheaper than coal and in many places gas generation. BEV cars are competitive in performance with ICEVs, and competitive in price in under ten years. Electric buses are already there. The light the oil industry sees at the end of the tunnel is the headlight of an oncoming train: or if you like the lights of 100,000 Chinese electric buses already on the roads, that will never burn a drop of oil in their working lives. (Well, maybe a small can of lubricating oil or grease for the transmission and door hinges every year or so.) China leads world manufacturing in BEVs by a length and in PV solar by a country mile. Trump will see to it that the USA is nowhere.

    I have no vote, but applaud Mark's call for a special prosecutor. BTW, can McConnell get away with confirming Sessions, Pruitt, Carson and Tillerson etc. without hearings, going straight to a floor vote? It would be getting close to an Enabling Act.

  2. Trump is blowing off his daily intelligence briefings and even boasting about it. If ANYTHING happens in the way of a terrorist act when he is in charge, we can all demand that he be impeached for dereliction of duty. Hell, maybe we can suggest it now.

  3. Hey, where are our conspiracy theory instincts? What would the right wingers be doing right now if the situation were reversed?

    Starting to circulate theories that the president-elect was a secret Russian agent, that's what!

    The appointment of a personal friend of Putin as Secretary of State is the final proof of a conspiracy so immense and an infamy so black as to dwarf any previous venture in the history of man.

    Think of it. If you were a hostile power and you wanted to infiltrate the government of the United States, what kind of candidate would you choose for your purposes? A superpatriot, of course. Would you have him run on a slogan that said "Make America Weak and Russia Strong?" Hell no; you would have him run on a promise to Make America Great Again!

    So let's start insinuating already!

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