Monday, December 7, 2020

44 Days to A Fresh Start: Don't Fret Pardons, Worry About Trump Declaring Martial Law

 So many people are anxious about Donald Trump issuing countless pardons during the final days of his presidency. They’re especially overwrought he might self-pardon, a constitutionally vague permissible action.


Me? I’m more frightened by the notion that Trump might declare martial law under emergency powers to overturn the election. Martial law would allow him to jail any dissenters with no rights to habeas corpus release from incarceration.


 Crazy, no? But perfectly legal, according to some constitutional experts. More worrisome—advisors like guilty-but-pardoned-liar-to-the-FBI Michael Flynn and Scott O’Grady, nominated to be the Pentagon’s assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, are pushing the idea (Two separate links: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-election-2020/michael-flynn-suspend-constitution-martial-law-trump-reelection-b1765467.html and https://mol.im/a/9019671).


A desperate to stay in office Trump, having exhausted all judicial appeals and having lost the Electoral College vote count to Joe Biden, might take their counsel to heart as his only and final recourse.


If you’re not already pulling your hair out or losing sleep over this possibility (I personally couldn’t get the idea out of my head at 3 am Monday), spend a few minutes reading this prescient article from the Atlantic back almost two years ago. Here’s an excerpt: 


“This edifice of extraordinary (presidential) powers has historically rested on the assumption that the president will act in the country’s best interest when using them. With a handful of noteworthy exceptions, this assumption has held up. But what if a president, backed into a corner and facing electoral defeat or impeachment, were to declare an emergency for the sake of holding on to power? In that scenario, our laws and institutions might not save us from a presidential power grab. They might be what takes us down” (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/01/presidential-emergency-powers/576418/).


Executive orders, I believe, require sign-off from the Justice Department, which perhaps provides some context into the intense French Apache being danced by Trump and his frequent enabler Attorney General Bill Barr.


After stating he did not see fraud sufficient to warrant dismissing election results, Barr’s fealty and performance was sharply criticized by Trump. Barr, countered, no doubt, by letting it be known through the media that he was contemplating resigning before Trump’s term in office comes to an end.


How convenient. After years of promoting absolute presidential power, Barr now has second thoughts of endorsing the corruption of our electoral process. He knows if he withholds approval of a martial law pronouncement Trump would fire him, and dismiss any successor, until, like Richard Nixon during the Watergate Saturday Night Massacre, Trump would find his “Robert Bork” willing, if not eager, to legalize his malevolent intentions.


To rehabilitate his already tarnished reputation, Barr has seemingly decided he will not be the one to authorize martial law.


Of course, the military needs to be on board for martial law to be implemented. Based on comments he has made, General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would be expected to resist.


But like Barr, Milley could be replaced by Trump. For several weeks Trump has been seeding compliant officers at the Pentagon, and nominating others, including the aforementioned O’Grady.


Intricate intrigue, is it not? It is, as author Sir Walter Scott wrote in “Marmion, A Tale of Flodden Field,” “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!”


Sleep tight tonight, if you can.

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