Don’t Blame Jack Smith For The Erosion Of The Rule Of Law

INSIDE: Stormy Daniels ... MTG ... Kristi Noem
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 26: President Donald Trump and newly sworn-in U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett look on during a ceremonial swearing-in on the South Lawn of the White House October 26, ... WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 26: President Donald Trump and newly sworn-in U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett look on during a ceremonial swearing-in on the South Lawn of the White House October 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Senate confirmed Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court today by a vote of 52-48. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo. Sign up for the email version.

It’s Not Supposed To Work This Way

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon being so obviously in the tank for Donald Trump in indefinitely postponing his Mar-a-Lago trial set off a new round of recriminations over various tactical decisions Special Counsel Jack Smith made in bringing the classified documents case.

Smith should have picked a different venue than South Florida! He should have had Cannon recused already! If Garland hadn’t been so slow, this wouldn’t be an issue now!

None of those are availing here, and they miss the larger point that for the rule of law to mean anything it must be sturdier and more enduring than a few tactical decisions by a single prosecutor in a single case.

We can take that notion one step further: A lot of commentary and analysis over the last year has insisted that you can’t rely on the criminal justice system to rid us of Trump – the election is the real tool to remove the Trump threat.

It would be pedantic to say there’s no truth to that, but at the same time it turns the rule of the law on its head for it be susceptible to the results of any one election. No one prosecutor, no one case, no one election should be able to determine the fate of the rule of law.

The rule of law isn’t supposed to be dependent on who wins or loses the presidency. It’s not supposed to turn in the wind like a vane. It is supposed to be lasting, immutable, and consistent. Presidents and prosecutors may come and go, but the principles underlying the rule of law must be resilient to those ephemeral real world changes.

What principles are those? That no one is above the law – and no one is below it either. That justice is meted out fairly without regard to party or ideology. That the rules of the game apply to everyone and aren’t selectively enforced. That the legal system isn’t a weapon to be deployed against one’s political adversaries. That the weakest benefit from the system as much as the most powerful, and that the most powerful are called to account same as the weakest.

Before you scoff at my idealism or naivete, of course these are aspirations. We fall short of them all the time. They’re ideals to be pursued, not a destination we’ve arrived at. The consensus around those principles does ebb and flow, but the principles themselves haven’t been under sustained attack at the level in this way perhaps ever in our history (again, excepting out the consensus’ historic blindness to minorities and disfavored groups). It’s a measure of how far we’ve sunken that we’re squabbling over which tactic, hack, or clever trick we should deploy to shore up the erosion of the rule of law.

We’re in a very bad place when it’s widely agreed that the rule of law hangs in the balance in the 2024 election, as it did in 2020. The democratic experiment cannot long endure if one of the two major political parties is itself anti-democratic. Democracy itself can’t regularly be on the ballot. The democratic consensus must be deeper and broader than that for the rule of law to survive.

The Ongoing Threat Of Another Coup

WaPo: Top Republicans, led by Trump, refuse to commit to accept 2024 election results

Quote Of The Day

Donald Trump is the first American presidential candidate to explicitly threaten the democratic system on which a free press depends. He could win. Considering the stakes for the country, that ought to be the campaign issue that dwarfs all others.

Veteran reporter John Harwood

Liveblogging The Cross-Examination Of Stormy Daniels

TPM’s Josh Kovensky is back at the courthouse this morning, where he’ll be liveblogging Day 2 of the testimony of Stormy Daniels. Her continued cross examination by Trump’s lawyer is expected to be hard-hitting. You can follow along in real time here.

The Complexities Of Sexual Violence

Amanda Marcotte: Stormy Daniels testimony reveals the triumph of #MeToo


Philip Bump: Trump’s classified documents trial blown apart by Cannon

Georgia RICO Case Ain’t Happening Before Election Either

An appeals court in Georgia has agreed to take up Donald Trump’s appeal of the trial judge’s decision not to disqualify District Attorney Fani Willis from the case over her affair with one of her prosecutors, adding new delays to a case that was already looking likely to spill over into 2025.

MTG Fails To Oust Speaker Johnson

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) easily survived a GOP mutiny led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Only 10 Republicans joined her in voting to oust Johnson, while Democrats overwhelmingly voted to save him.

FreedomWorks Is Shutting Down

While the Tea Party era was a forerunner of Trump, it’s not the same as MAGA-ism, and the latest proof of that is the shuttering of FreedomWorks announced yesterday.

Helmed in its heyday by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), FreedomWorks could not survive in the Trump era, a remnant of an earlier still-poisonous brand of Republican activism but not in the same league as MAGA.


NYT: How Republicans Echo Antisemitic Tropes Despite Declaring Support for Israel

Ya Don’t Say?

Politico: “The U.S. oil industry is drawing up ready-to-sign executive orders for Donald Trump aimed at pushing natural gas exports, cutting drilling costs and increasing offshore oil leases in case he wins a second term, according to energy executives with direct knowledge of the work.”

When MAGA Bites Its Own

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