In America right now, two forces seem to be moving rapidly toward a collision. One might be called “the force of the rule of law.” The other — arrayed against it– is “the force of Trumpian lawlessness.”
A showdown seems to be coming– as there seems lately seems lately to have been a crescendo, a quickening of the pace with which things are unfolding– and that intensification suggests to me that this showdown is weeks, not months, away.
I’d like to ask: will the law or lawlessness prevail? How do you see the story unfolding?
Here are some of my thoughts to help frame that question.
One issue is whether this conflict will be decided by one side backing down, or by combat. And here’s why I think neither side is going to back down.
A “peaceful” resolution could involve the Trumpites allowing the American system of justice to take things to wherever they legally need to go. Which would mean, for example, complying with a subpoena compelling the President to testify (as other Presidents have had to do). And it means that if Trump were to be impeached and convicted , he would submit to such a judgment (as, for example, Nixon did).
But Trump submitting in any way does not seem likely. His conduct throughout this investigation — all the seekers of justice he has fired or tried to fire, all his improper intrusions into the FBI and the Justice Department attempting to make them instruments of his power (not the independent enforcers of the law they are supposed to be) — suggests that there is no limit to what Trump would do to avoid being brought down by the legal process.
So, I don’t see Trump backing down.
Alternatively, another possible “peaceful” resolution would involve the system of justice backing down. (It seems, for example, that it’s possible that the FBI not standing up more for Andrew McCabe is an illustration of this.) Backing down could mean not issuing a subpoena to compel Trump to testify, or not taking Trump to Court if he refuses to cooperate as the law requires.
But I think we know Mueller well enough to know he’s not going to back down. He has taken this on with full seriousness, and will fulfill his mission as well and as fully as he can. (And, it should be said, for as long as he can, for he cannot control what happens on the other side, where Trump is railing at Sessions, at Comey, at McCabe, at the whole FBI, and where Trump already once gave the order to fire Mueller.)
So if nobody backs down, does it not follow that the two forces are moving toward a collision, each drawing upon all the powers and influences at their disposal?
Will this lawless President manage to kill or at least render harmless the investigation now moving forward under Robert Mueller? Will Trump be able to make Justice and the FBI his “loyal” servants, or at least to make them submit to his will?
Will the other players in this story — the media, the public — play any important, determinative role? Will the election of 2018 be a crucial part of the story?
What do you think? How will this unfold? Which side will win this battle?
(Here’s one way of looking at how high the stakes in this battle are — so high it is frightening to contemplate. When it has played out, which United States will we have: 1) An America where the American system managed to rally to protect itself from a lawless, would be authoritarian in the Oval Office– despite his attempts to take over that system; or 2) an America where lawlessness — even proved — was able to hold onto power, because the lawless President blocked the power of the rule of law?)