Standing up for the rule of law in troubling times

Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.

Voters, not lawyers, choose the President. Ballots, not briefs, decide elections…  The ballots here are governed by Pennsylvania election law. No federal law requires poll watchers or specifies where they must live or how close they may stand when votes are counted. Nor does federal law govern whether to count ballots with minor state-law defects or let voters cure those defects. Those are all issues of state law, not ones that we can hear. And earlier lawsuits have rejected those claims. Seeking to turn those state-law claims into federal ones, the Campaign claims discrimination. But its alchemy cannot transmute lead into gold. The Campaign never alleges that any ballot was fraudulent or cast by an illegal voter. It never alleges that any defendant treated the Trump campaign or its votes worse than it treated the Biden campaign or its votes. Calling something discrimination does not make it so here.

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Those words, which seem to express the most basic standards of American democracy, say it all.  That such words are necessary in a 2020 court decision speaks volumes about where this country is today.

Donald Trump’s TV lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, has made a farce of things as he presses forward with countless unfounded, meritless law suits that allege voter fraud without evidence and demand the voiding of votes that have elected Joe Biden as President of the United States.

From his “My Cousin Vinny” defense to his legal team suggesting that a South American dictator who has been dead for seven years schemed to “rig” the election, Guiliani has made a bigger fool of himself than ever before.  All the while his client, Donald Trump, has cheered him on.

The great thing about how the 2020 election has wrapped up, aside from Biden’s six million vote victory that totaled an actual majority of Americans along with an Electoral College landslide, is that the results have been confirmed over and over again by public officials from both parties.  Most particularly officials who are members of the Republican Party determined that the contest was fair, accurate and beyond question, with no evidence of fraud.

We have seen it in Georgia, when the Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, called the election for Biden after all the votes had been counted.  Then he supervised the hand recount of the five million votes, with the results only changing in minor ways.  He then certified the results.  He did all this despite having himself and his family physically threatened, which seems to be the stock-in-trade of certain fringe elements.

In Michigan Trump and company tried to bully Republican election officials into not certifying certain results in heavily Democratic areas.  The Reps hemmed and hawed but did not give in and the results been have certified.

In Wisconsin the Trump campaign paid $3 million to recount two heavily Democratic counties.  The result – Biden’s margin increased by 87 votes.  That state’s voting results will be certified this week.

And then there is Pennsylvania where hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots swung the results to a decisive Biden win.  Republican officials reported no evidence of fraud.  They were being kind because the biggest fraud of the election was the antics of Guiliani and the alleged lawyers who worked with him.  They somewhat resembled the gang that Hedley Lamarr rounded up to invade Rock Ridge in Blazing Saddles.

Guilani’s press conference that was either sponsored by a landscaping business or a porn shop (hard to tell since they both received a lot of publicity from the event) and his subsequent attempts to play lawyer in various federal court rooms will definitely make the highlight reels when future historians look back at 2020.

The decision of the federal Circuit Court, noted above, outlines the law very well.  A side note:  the judge who wrote the opinion was a Trump appointee and the other two judges on the panel were also Republicans.  Score one for the rule of law.

There has been not one shred of evidence of voter fraud in this election.  Repeating Trump’s lie doesn’t make it so.  In the face of the raging pandemic the 2020 election was conducted in an exemplary fashion.  Kudos to all the election workers and other government officials who made it so.

No matter how much Trump wants to scream in his tweets, the bottom line is that over and over again, from Election Day through the end of November, he has been a loser in one case after another, in one administrative ruling after another.  Losing fits him perfectly.

The sycophantic Republican members of Congress remain lapdogs til the end.  Defending Trump by their words or by their silence is incredibly shameful.  The rule of law stands.

Even with the pardon of convicted felon Michael Flynn and the others likely to follow, Trump will distinguish himself only for buying silence from criminals.  The thing is, a person who is pardoned is still a convicted felon but the person who is pardoned loses his or her Fifth Amendment rights and could very well be called in for testimony in future legal proceedings.

Then there is the question of whether Trump will pardon himself.  The Constitution gives the president the absolute power to pardon for federal crimes except impeachment.

A dense legal tome by attorney Brian C. Kalt “examines six presidential constitutional cliffhangers:  scenarios in which the fate of the president or presidency is in doubt as politicians, courts, and the people argue over the proper interpretation of the Constitution.”  One such scenario concerns the issue of a president pardoning himself.

If he pardons himself Trump’s lawyers will argue that the Constitution does not prohibit such an unprecedented action.  That is true.

But it is also true that the Constitution was written by men who had thrown off a monarchy.  A monarch also had unlimited pardon power, but since he was considered above the law, there was never a question in English law about a monarch pardoning himself.  The president is not a monarch.

The Kalt book quotes a 19th century Supreme Court case, United States v. Lee, in which the Court found that “[n]o man in this country is above the law…  All the officers of the government, from the highest to the lowest, are creatures of the law and are bound to obey it.”  So go ahead Donald, give it a go.  We’ll see how that works out.

There are also the issues involved in the criminal and civic investigations of Trump and his adult children by New York Attorney General Leticia James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.

So let the law and all its consequences proceed.  The year 2021 and a whole new set of issues for Trump and Guiliani are right around the corner.

Money in Politics

Check out the latest Investigative Post Money in Politics report and podcast concerning the financing of local judicial campaigns. Here’s a link: https://www.investigativepost.org/2020/11/30/judges-self-funding-their-campaigns/