A Disgrace to the Nation, a Disgrace to the Presidency

I have not been shy about my fierce antagonism to Donald Trump. But his Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin culminated in a show stopping trainwreck that should’ve shocked nobody but generated bipartisan outrage across the United States. On Monday, July 16, 2018, Trump held a friendly rendezvous with Putin who sabotaged an American election on his behalf. And he has been rewarded by seeing an American foreign policy turn in a pro-Russian direction.

When Donald Trump issued a plea on a podium in Doral, Florida on July 27, 2016, he stated, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” We all know he was referring to the emails Hillary Clinton had deleted as irrelevant to her work as Secretary of State. But for those who don’t understand, Trump was publicly asking for Russian agents to break into her computer systems, steal documents she had erased, and release them to the public. And according to recently released indictments Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed a few days before, that same day, for the first time, Russian hackers attempted to hack into, “email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office.” They also, “targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton campaign.” Now Russia’s campaign to interfere in the election had been an ongoing campaign as early as March that year. What Trump’s request seems to have done was focus efforts on Clinton’s inbox. There are plenty of plausible explanations of wat happened here. Maybe the Russians heard Trump’s call and heeded it. Perhaps Trump’s invitation was attached to a private plea to Russian contacts like one sent by either Paul Manafort or Roger Stone. It’s possible the whole thing was just coincidental. But we should resist the tendency to speculate since it’ll just distract us from what we do know. And it’s damning.

Nonetheless, it should be glaringly apparent that Vladimir Putin is not our friend. He does not share our values nor does he care for democracy. In fact, he rules Russia as a kleptocratic dictator with a repressive iron fist. For God’s sake, the guy had his critics and political opponents murdered, including journalists and ex-spies like Alexander Litvanenko in Great Britain. It’s obvious that Russia couldn’t have meddled in the 2016 presidential campaign by hacking into the DCCC, DNC, and Hillary Clinton’s team without his orders. And we know they orchestrated this massive information theft on the Dems and used it to help Donald Trump win. Not to mention, Russia’s efforts to help Trump win included social media campaigns to inflame racial divisions on his behalf with armies of bots meant to elevate stories boosting him and hurting Clinton along with efforts to compromise state voting machines. None of this is in doubt.

Even before Donald Trump decided to run for president, the Russian ties were there. In 2008, Donald Trump Jr. said of the Trump Organization, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” And in 2014, Eric Trump added, “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” From 2003-2017, “buyers connected to Russia or former Soviet republics made 86 all-cash sales — totaling nearly $109 million — at 10 Trump-branded properties in South Florida and New York City.” Trump’s onetime campaign manager Paul Manafort had ties to the Kremlin and was deeply in debt to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch, closely connected to Vladimir Putin. And he was keeping in touch with this guy’s team during the election as well as asked of his powerful position in the Trump campaign, “How do we use [it] to get whole?”

Yet, we also know that Donald Trump has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin even at considerable political cost after asking Russia to hack into Clinton’s emails, which it did. We know that Trump associates like Roger Stone seem to have advanced warning of the hacked emails’ release. We know that the willingness to cooperate with the Russians wasn’t one of Trump’s idiosyncratic musings. It was suffused in the Trump campaign’s top ranks since members of his inner circle like Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort eagerly accepted a meeting with Russian operatives promising Hillary Clinton dirt. And that Trump dictated the statement lying about the infamous Trump Tower meeting’s purpose. Additionally, we know the Trump campaign interfered in the Republican National Committee’s platform drafting to softening the language on Russia and Ukraine. We know that Jared Kushner sought a secret communications channel with the Russians so the US government couldn’t hear their negotiations.

The Russia strokefest even carry on to Donald Trump’s presidency for there has never been a single issue haunting his administration as long or as much as his Russian ties. Since his election, he’s bucked his party, his administration, and decades of foreign policy in attempts to shield Russia from sanctions for electoral interference, pull American support back from NATO and the European Union, and forge a closer relationship with Vladimir Putin. Then there’s Trump’s own testimony about firing FBI Director James Comey to end his investigation into Russia’s role into the 2016 election. In addition, he wanted to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for failing to protect him from the investigation. An it’s no wonder the Trump administration has moved from arguing that Trump didn’t obstruct justice to arguing that by definition, the president can’t obstruct justice. All of this leads to Trump insisting on the Helsinki meeting with Putin over his staff’s objections and despite the absence of any clear agenda.

Indeed, Donald Trump addressed the election hacking during his joint press conference with Vladimir Putin. “I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” he said. Well, you think? Because of course he’d deny that he’d have anything to do with election hacking despite all evidence to the contrary. Trump then added, “And what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer.” Uh, no it’s not. If anything, that’s like having Al Capone offering to help the cops with the investigation over the guys involved in the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. You know that things won’t turn well. If anything, Putin isn’t interested with working with the Mueller investigation. More likely he’d offer to help with respect to draw people from the Mueller team into Russia to kill them.

Donald Trump then attacked US intelligence services and again mused how much better it might’ve been if Russia cracked into Hillary Clinton’s server and gotten her documents. “What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails?” he demanded as if anyone cared about her emails 2 years after the 2016 election. “33,000 emails gone — just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily.” Even his allies were dumbstruck, with former Bush press secretary Ari Fleisher tweeting: “I continue to believe there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. But when Trump so easily and naively accepts Putin’s line about not being involved, I can understand why Ds think Putin must have the goods on him.” Asked if Russia had compromising material on Trump, Putin replied, “it’s difficult to imagine utter nonsense on a bigger scale than this. Please disregard these issues and don’t think about this anymore again.” Though you can imagine him privately laughing maniacally with fellow Russian officials. When asked about whether he holds Russia accountable for their actions contributing to the deterioration in the US-Russia relationship, he replied in an answer reeking of treason:

“Yes, I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think the United States has been foolish. I think we have all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time, frankly, before I got to office. I think we’re all to blame. I think that the United States now has stepped forward along with Russia. We’re getting together and we have a chance to do some great things, whether it’s nuclear proliferation in terms of stopping, we have to do it — ultimately, that’s probably the most important thing that we can be working on.

“I do feel that we have both made some mistakes. I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart. It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know, virtually, none of it related to the campaign. They will have to try really hard to find something that did relate to the campaign.

“That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily and, frankly, we beat her. And I’m not even saying from the standpoint — we won that race. It’s a shame there could be a cloud over it. People know that. People understand it. The main thing — and we discussed this also — is zero collusion. It has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.”
He’s basically saying that the US is no better than Russia. And that he won a clean campaign so all what the Mueller probe is doing is hurting our relationship with Russia.

Despite that 12 Russian agents hacked into Democratic emails on Putin’s orders and for Trump’s benefit. And the Trump team was eager to let it all happen. Later, when asked specifically about Russia-backed hackers stealing Americans’ private correspondence, Donald Trump replied: “My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me, and some others, and said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have confidence in both parties.” Uh, Coats and his team didn’t think it’s Russia. They said it was Russia. But anyways, as president of the United States, Trump stated that he has equal confidence in Vladimir Putin and the American intelligence community the same way he believes that both the white supremacists and counter-protestors in Charlottesville were “very fine people.” Such remarks are politically baffling since such remarks only undermine his position. The simplest explanation for why a president who happily outsources his domestic policy to Paul Ryan and his judicial nominations to the Federalist Society insists on freelancing around Russia is that there’s a genuine meeting of minds between Trump and Putin on a wide range of issues.

Take the matter of the natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 Germany plans to build which Russia hawks in the US and Europe have long been concerned about. Such pipeline would give Russian fossil fuels more access to the European market. Donald Trump often likes to criticize Germany but rarely likes to bash Russia. But somehow, he surprised many observers by criticizing this pipeline at the NATO Conference in Brussels. On the surface, it appears that Trump had tried to ingratiate his passion for making trouble with German Chancellor Angela Merkel with something resembling routine American foreign policy. But the Helsinki summit quickly dashed those hopes. Asked by a Russian journalist about the pipeline and how he’d characterize the US-Russia relationship, Trump made it clear his pipeline concern isn’t that it would give Russia undue political leverage over Germany, but simply that would be bad for fossil fuel interests:

“I called him a competitor, and a good competitor he is. I think the word competitor is a compliment. I think that we will be competing when you talk about the pipeline. I’m not sure necessarily that it’s in the best interests of Germany or not. That was a decision that they made. We will be competing. As you know, the United States is now, or soon will be, but I think it is right now the largest in the oil and gas world. So we’re going to be selling LNG. We’ll have to be competing with the pipeline. I think we will compete successfully. Although there is a little advantage locationally. I wish them luck.

“I discussed with Angela Merkel in pretty strong tones. But I also know where they’re coming from. They have a very close source. We will see how that all works out. But we have lots of sources now. The United States is much different than it was a number of years ago when we weren’t able to extract what we can extract today. So today, we’re number one in the world at that. I think we will be out there competing very strongly. Thank you very much.”

Essentially, Donald Trump’s view on the relationship with NATO to Nord Stream 2 make absolutely no sense. But it’s consistent with his overall worldview. While a normal US leader may worry that Russo-German energy ties might undermine Germany’s ability to lead an independent Europe at a political level, Trump’s objection is backward. He doesn’t think it’s worth America’s while to contribute to Europe’s defense through NATO if Europe turns around and buys Russian gas. He defines Russia as a “competitor” to the United States exclusively in the commercial sphere rather than a geopolitical one. That’s why he called the EU a “foe” in much stronger terms in regards to competition levels in export markets. If you view world affairs through a mercantile like Trump does, then America’s closest allies who are mostly rich democracies are our biggest enemies and deterring Russian expansionism is a waste of cash. Nonetheless, it’s time to accept that this is what Trump really thinks and that’s how he’s governing accordingly.

In New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait published a speculative idea that Donald Trump had been a compromised Russian agent since the 1980s, which though chilling borders more on conspiracy theory than anything else. It’s more likely that Trump is more concerned on how the Russian election meddling for his behalf may render his electoral victory illegitimate. Though he doesn’t care much about how to win since he’s employed dubious means in the past. In fact, he’s more worried about getting caught. Nevertheless, like much of the debate, Chait’s piece reflects the view we’re still largely in the dark about the Trump Organization’s true nature of its relationship with Russia. Except we’re not. In fact, we know a vast amount about Trump’s Russia connections, Russia’s role in the 2016 election, the Trump Organization’s efforts to conceal Russian contacts, Trump’s efforts to impede the investigation into the matter, and about his treatment of Russia, Putin, and NATO since his election. As former NSA official and executive editor of Lawfare Susan Hennessy told Vox, “Every single time we’ve heard of that the Russians reached out to offer something — dirt on Hillary Clinton, access to another trove of emails, secret meetings, back channels — the common theme of every single individual in Trump’s orbit was, ‘Yes. Help us out.’ That is the really astounding picture that has emerged.”

While there is much left to find out, learning the truth is important for its own sake. Yet, the obsessive focus on what we still don’t know reflects a hope among Donald Trump’s opponents that Mueller will find something, reveal something, or bait Trump into doing something that will trigger consequences of some kind. However, there’s nothing so automatic in the system. And there’s no reason to believe further revelations would call forth that kind of response. At this point, the big issue isn’t what we don’t know. It’s what to do with what we do know.

Thanks to politics, the 2018 and 2020 elections can’t and won’t act as a clear way for accountability on Donald Trump and Russia. From issues such as Supreme Court justices, tax policy, Obamacare’s future, civil rights, workers’ rights, and environmental regulations, there is too much at stake at any given election these days and there are too few choices available for voters for them to answer a problem as complex and unusual as this one. This is especially true since Republicans control both houses of Congress and many in the House have went out of his way to protect him. Because they know their future is tied to Trump’s survival. Anything that weakens his administration weakens their 2018 reelection prospects, their ability to fill judgeships, and their ability to pass tax cuts. Thus, their political lives depend on Trump’s political strength.

It’s hard to remember now that Donald Trump entered the White House with an unexpectedly low level of support from his own party. Vulnerable Republican senators and House members refused to admit voting for him while Speaker Paul Ryan stated he’d no longer defend him. As a candidate, Trump was personally hostile to a number of established GOP figures like US Senator Ted Cruz and expressed heterodox views on a wide range of policy issues. Theoretically, it could’ve led to an unusual dynamic where congressional Republicans subjected Trump to an uncommonly stringent level of oversight for a same-party president, and Trump engaged in an uncommonly high level of policymaking cutting across established party lines. In practice, Trump and the GOP reached a Faustian compromise. Republicans would give no restraint whatsoever on Trump’s personal corruption or financial conflicts of interests. While Trump won’t attempt to pursue heterodox agendas on infrastructure, healthcare, anti-trust, etc. that he promised on the campaign trail, which was easy enough since he made them to give socially conservative white working-class voters no incentive to vote with their economic interests. And he doesn’t care much about those supporters anyway and had no plans on fulfilling what he promised them. The deal has worked well on domestic issues, culminating in the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to succeed Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

But it’s begun falling apart on foreign affairs after a successful 2017. Coats, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and others with conventional conservative Republican views hold key advisor jobs in the Trump administration. However, Trump had no interest taking their advice since he thinks that advice is wrong. And now he’s acting to unravel America’s global trading relationships, doing what he can to undermine NATO and the EU, trying to find excuses to get out of defense obligations to South Korea, and otherwise implement a mercantilist vision he’s articulated over and over again. Thus, it’s time for congressional Republicans to stop issuing gutless statements denouncing him and start taking this seriously as his policy agenda. But since Republicans place a higher value on party unity than the foreign policy issues they claim to stand for, they will do whatever they can to stay in Trump’s good graces and avoid angering his base before the upcoming midterm elections. Because they don’t want to jeopardize their legislative agenda, they’ll let their Snowflake King take a sledge hammer on decades of US foreign policy on Russia and other issues. At the same time, the mainstream GOP tries desperately to at least pretend they can be anti-Putin and pro-Trump. However, the Trump-Putin presser makes it clear that it’s impossible.

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats don’t have the power to do anything right now and are more focused taking back Congress back in 2018. But even if they do win the election, their priority will be retaking the presidency in 2020. So they’ll more likely focus on healthcare and Social Security, not Russia and the 2016 campaign. Thus, it’s best we don’t expect impeachment down the line in the foreseeable future. Since while the Democrats can successfully impeach him and remove him from office quite easily once they’re in power, that might mean President Mike Pence. And no one in the Democratic Party wants that.

As for the rest of the legal system, well, there’s nothing necessarily illegal about Donald Trump publicly asking Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. Just as there’s nothing illegal about him pursuing a stunningly pro-Putin foreign policy after receiving Russia’s aid. The actual hacking was illegal, no doubt. But who’s going to hold Russia accountable for that? It won’t be the Trump administration who asked for and benefitted from their help. For when asked by a Reuters journalist “Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular” that has contributed to the decline in the US-Russia bilateral relationship, Trump delivered the defining answer of his foreign policy that he doesn’t. Nor did he object to Vladimir Putin’s oppression, Russia’s 2008 effort to dismember the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, Russia-backed forces shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17 and killing hundreds of civilians, Russia’s invasion of Crimea, its subsequent invasion of Eastern Ukraine, Russia’s apparent use of a deadly nerve agent in the UK, or of course, the computer hacking associated with the 2016 election.

Though Mueller’s indictments were announced just before the infamous Trump and Putin summit, it first led to talk of whether Trump might cancel it meeting (which he didn’t) and then speculation over whether and how he’d confront Putin over Russia’s actions. But everyone knows that Trump’s actual response to Russia’s intervention on his behalf has always been of gratitude and solicitousness. So what other response is there to a world power doing exactly what you asked of them in a time of political need?

Nevertheless, after a massive bipartisan condemnation of Donald Trump’s disastrous press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki where he questioned Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Trump held a surprise press conference the next day to walk back on his comments. Sitting at a table with members of Congress, he read clearly prepared statement asserting he had “accepted” US intelligence’s findings that Russia was behind cyberattacks leading up to the 2016 election. He claimed he had misspoken about the press conference when he questioned the idea of Russian interference which might be plausible in theory. But take his statement in the context of what Trump actually said, it makes no sense. And it’s very clear he’s still expressing skepticism about Russia’s guilt as he states:

“My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others; they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have confidence in both parties. … I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails.

“So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people [Russian agents indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for election interference]. I think that’s an incredible offer.”

What he’s saying is that there’s a conflict between US intelligence and Russia claims, that he’s not sure who’s right, and that he’d appreciate Russian intelligence’s help in clearing up what happened. Despite the fact that the 12 newly indicted Russians were intelligence agents so we’re in no position to trust Russian intelligence on such matters whatsoever. What’s more he still reiterated his skepticism when he said, “I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” following it up with, “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.” He still doesn’t believe Russia is involved and he’s trying to convinced us that he didn’t mean what he said. Let’s not kid ourselves that Trump’s trying to gaslight the entire world and assert something he didn’t by sheer force of confidence. He’s brazenly lying to us and we shouldn’t let him get away with it. Russia meddled with the 2016 presidential campaign of which can there be no doubt. We shouldn’t believe otherwise.

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Yes, Virginia, There Was a Manchurian Candidate and Now He’s President

While Donald Trump was out of the country acting like a complete disgrace toward our closest ally, Special Counsel Robert Mueller filed an indictment against 12 Russian officers for crimes related to hacking and publicly releasing the Democrats’ emails as part of an effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential campaign. As long suspected, Mueller alleges it was Russian intelligence officers behind the high-profile hackings of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and various Hillary Clinton campaign staff emails, including those of her campaign manager John Podesta. Many of these were posted by 3 separate entities. Two of those, “Guccifer 2.0” and “the DCL Leaks website” were created and controlled by GRU officers from Russia’s intelligence agency. The third, Wikileaks, got the stolen DNC emails from these officials (and eventually, the Podesta emails), but referred as “Organization 1” it’s not yet charged with anything.

The indictment presents significant technical evidence on precisely how these Russians pulled off the hack, including electronic communications and transfers of information between the various figures involved. However, there’s no allegation that any Americans or any Trump campaign member were criminally or knowingly involved in the hackings or leaks. Or at least not yet. But nonetheless, this new slew of indictments brings the entire total in the Mueller probe to 32 individuals and 3 companies.

The new indictments released on Friday, July 13, 2018, provide concrete evidence that the release of the hacked DNC emails was timed for maximum political impact. And they suggest Russian intelligence agents and Wikileaks planned to engineer discord between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters during the 2016 Democratic National Convention. According to the latest Mueller statement, a conversation between Russian intelligence and Wikileaks on July 6, 2016 had the latter correspond with GRU officers with “if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefable [sic] because the DNC is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” After the Russians responded with, “ok … i see,” Wikileaks explained their motives for wanting information that would reveal tension between the Sanders and Hillary camps. They replied with, “we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary … so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.” Of course, tensions between Sanders and Clinton existed long before the hacked emails were released since it was why the DNC was such a splash. But Russia and Wikileaks knew that releasing the information at the opportune time would have ripple effects. The Democratic National Convention was meant to be a coming together moment to focus on defeating Donald Trump and the Republicans after a long and bitter primary between Clinton and Sanders. In fact, Sanders actively encouraged his fans to vote for Clinton in his convention speech. Yet, with the leaked emails as backdrop, he was booed at every turn and some Berniecrats didn’t heed his call to vote at all in 2016. Though there is a lot of speculation about how the trove of leaked DNC documents spurred discord between the two groups, the indictments suggest that this is exactly what the Russians wanted.

Mueller’s indictments also detailed a Russian hack into a state board of elections website (believed to be Illinois) in July 2016. According to him, Kremlin-linked hackers, “stole information related to approximately 500,000 voters, including names, addresses, partial social security numbers, dates of birth, and driver’s license numbers.” In addition, Russian spies penetrated a US vender that supplied voter-registration verification software and, in November 2016, sent over 1,000 spearfishing emails to “organizations and personnel involved in administering elections in numerous Florida counties.” They even visited election websites in Georgia, Florida, and Iowa in an attempt to find vulnerabilities. The incursions into the US voting infrastructure have been widely reported. But Mueller’s indictment present clear evidence that Russian intelligence probed into the systems. Though there’s no proof that these hacks altered the vote count or election outcome. Yet, Russia wasn’t poking around for kicks since spies were likely gathering information and searching out vulnerabilities.

But these 12 new indictments of Russian intelligence officers are a powerful reminder of the 2 hard core truths of the Trump-Russia story that often go missing amid the political controversy and amateur detective work. First, whether the anyone in Trump campaign was knowingly involved or not, real crimes were committed in 2016 with real victims. Second, since announcing his candidacy for the presidency in 2015, Donald Trump has gone out of his way to shield those who committed these crimes from exposure or accountability. But whether that’s because his campaign colluded with Russia or that he merely benefited from these crimes remains to be seen. Yet, these points are worth dwelling over because they cut against 2 commonplace narratives about the case. One renders the entire issue as a question of mystery and spycraft, leading ultimately to things like Jonathan Chait’s maximalist speculation that perhaps Trump had been a KGB asset since the 1980s or anything comparable to the stuff of Cold War fiction like The Manchurian Candidate. The other renders it as a narrowly political question where passionate Hillary Clinton fans should feel robbed of an election win. Though her critics across the political spectrum can smugly feel self-assured there were other reasons she lost.

Obviously, illegal hacking and invasion of privacy is a bad thing on its own terms regardless of election outcome. When Russian hackers pilfered John Podesta’s Gmail inbox, they didn’t exclusively obtain material highly relevant to Hillary Clinton’s career and political prospects. In fact, the vast majority was simply the personal correspondence of a man involved with Democratic Party politics. Wikileaks then laundered through his emails to disguise their origins and posted their entirety online with no regard to privacy or newsworthiness. The contents include a risotto recipe, an email birth announcement by a friend, a performance evaluation on a previous job, and hundreds upon hundreds of examples that had nothing to do with Clinton or American politics. But once the emails were out, there were few visible alternatives but to cover them. It’s understandable why Republicans chose to opportunistically take advantage of the crimes by gleefully citing them as a damning indictment on Clinton. However, fundamentally, all Americans using email have a genuine interest not seeing this form of privacy invasion not to become a routine aspect in our lives. It’s illegal for a reason, and it would be good for people committing this kind of crime to be caught and punished.

But Donald Trump has consistently acted to prevent any form of accountability. In fact, during the 2016 campaign, he publicly lauded the criminals on TV. Of course, he shouldn’t have done this since it was in poor form. But the fact he did this probably deserved to be a bigger point of emphasis in the coverage at the time. Yet, what’s really remarkable is that Trump has kept operating as a kind of de facto accessory after the fact of the crimes. He’s repeatedly denied the existence of a Russian hacking campaign by over and over again suggesting that Mueller and the federal investigators looking into the crime are nothing but a partisan political ploy. However, at best, it’s Trump rather than Mueller who’s exclusively viewing the whole thing through a partisan lens. But a less generous interpretation of Trump can be that he’s deliberately trying to stymie the investigation because he’s aware that he’s personally guilty of serious crimes. And he fears a thorough investigation will expose them.

Even if that’s not the case and Donald Trump is merely reacting to the partisan interest in the Trump-Russia investigation with his own partisan antics, the misconduct involved is serious. A president has obligations to the country and to its citizens, including those who didn’t vote for him. Donald Trump’s inability to even feign anger or outrage at the real crimes committed against real American citizens is remarkably relative to the context of what’s ordinarily considered acceptable presidential behavior. That it seems banal from Trump itself is perhaps not surprising given how flagrantly and consistently he reminds us that he doesn’t care about anyone outside his narrow circle of support. Yet, that’s merely a measure of how far we’ve fallen as a society in the Trump era. But it’s not a real reason to ignore it.

Still, you have to wonder about Donald Trump’s conduct over the whole Russia investigation. On July 27, 2016, in front of TV cameras in front of the whole world, he said he hoped Russia would, “find the 30,000 emails that are missing … I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Apparently, Russian intelligence officers were happy to oblige since they launched a new attack to hack and publicly Democratic emails, according to Mueller’s latest indictments. To be clear, the DNC emails had been hacked and leaked by then while Podesta’s inbox was already compromised. In fact, the Russian email phishing expeditions against the Democrats were well underway by March 2016 when the Podesta emails were infiltrated. In May, George Papadopoulos drunkenly bragged about Russians having dirt on Hillary Clinton to an Australian diplomat. The infamous Trump Tower meeting involving Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort took place in June. Thus, Trump’s comments can’t be claimed as the start of Russia’s digital attacks against American political parties and figures. But the timing is nevertheless uncanny. Because the same day he called for Russia to find Clinton’s missing emails, the hackers went after Clinton’s personal email within hours. As the indictment states:

“The conspirators spearphished individuals affiliated with the Clinton campaign through the summer of 2016. For example, on or about July 27, 2016, the conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton campaign.”

Nevertheless, Donald Trump’s brazen comment urging a foreign power to hack his opponent has always been difficult to decipher. Was it a typical Trump bluster, at a time when hacked emails and Clinton’s email server were huge news stories? Or was there something more sinister going on. The new Mueller indictment doesn’t answer that. But it sure looks like when Trump asked Russia to find Hillary’s emails, Russia heard him.

In addition, the White House’s reaction to Mueller’s new indictments included zero condemnation of Russia for interfering in a US presidential election. But instead focused on bolstering Donald Trump’s longtime assertions that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia and that interference didn’t change the 2016 election’s outcome. Apparently, calling out Russia for launching a malicious attack against American democracy wasn’t a Trump White House priority. Since it was a glaring omission people noticed immediately as one guy tweeted: “The White House statement on today’s indictment includes no condemnation of Russia. It also refers to “alleged hacking.” The fact that hacking happened is not an allegation.” Except that Russia intelligence was behind the high-profile DNC and DCCC hacking breaches during the 2016 campaign. And while the indictment doesn’t allege any American or Trump campaign involvement yet (at least knowingly), it seems that was the message the White House wanted us to take away.

Despite that the new indictments don’t prove that the Trump campaign was entirely innocent either. In fact, far from it. During the 2016 campaign, it was apparent enough that Donald Trump was unusually friendly to Russia and that the Russian interventions seemed aimed at trying to help his electoral chances at Hillary Clinton’s expense. After the election, more and more attention became devoted whether any Trump’s associates and Putin’s government coordinated to intervene in the campaign in some way. Though there’s no smoking gun yet, it’s not mere idle speculation either. As of July 2018, there are at least 6 instances in which Trump associates tried to get Russian dirt communicated with hacking and leaking figures. The FBI investigation kicked off when George Papadopoulos drunkenly bragged to an Australian diplomat about getting Russian dirt against Hillary Clinton. Then there’s the infamous Trump Tower meeting that June involving Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort meeting with Russians to discuss “adoption” through Next, we have Cambridge Analytica, Roger Stone, and Donald Trump Jr.’s contacts with Wikileaks. In addition, Roger Stone corresponded with Guccifer 2.0 while remaining in Trump’s orbit as an impromptu adviser. Last, there’s the matter of Republican operative Peter Smith trying to find the missing Hillary Clinton emails who claimed he was in contact with Michael Flynn and other Trump staff.

Nonetheless, the 12 new indictments of Russian intelligence officers come at a very bad time for Donald Trump who’s supposed to meet face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin within three days at the time. It’s more likely Mueller announced the indictments on July 13 because that’s when they were ready since they reflect months and months of work by him and his team. While the Putin meeting only materialized just weeks ago. According to Assistant Attorney General Rob Rosenstein, the timing of the release “is a function of the collection of the facts, the evidence, and the law and a determination that it was sufficient to present the indictment at this time.” But even if that wasn’t intentional, it’s extremely awkward for Trump since he’s about to meet Putin for a high-stakes diplomatic meeting in Helsinki, which they’re expected to discuss Russia’s election hanky panky among other things. While that’ll be contentious, Putin will again deny Russia interfere at all while Trump will say he believes him as a matter of course. Yet, thanks to the Mueller indictments proving that Russian spies were behind the Democratic hacking breach, Trump will find it a lot harder to say he believes Putin without looking like a complete fool in the process at best or complicit a worst. In fact, Trump will at least find it harder to avoid the topic altogether.

For in Vladimir Putin’s tightly controlled Russia, it’s nearly impossible to believe all these people operated for months to sway the US election without their boss’s green light, as 3 US intelligence concluded in January 2017. At the minimum, it stretches credulity to think Putin at least didn’t know about the efforts. Yet, with all the evidence piling up, there’s a miniscule chance Donald Trump will challenge Putin’s denial when they meet. Hell, he might even stop praising Putin and Russia as he has over the past few days despite knowing the imminent indictments days ago. If any of this happens, it’d be a huge shift in his approach toward the Russian dictator and the Mueller investigation. But don’t bet on that because admitting that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to get Trump elected will likely tarnish his victory which he likes bragging about. He could heed Democratic calls to cancel the meeting entirely.

On Saturday, July 14, 2018, Donald Trump fired off a series of tweets with, “The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration. Why didn’t they do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?….Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t the FBI take possession of it? Deep State?” Indeed, Barack Obama was president during that time. But the hacks at the DNC, DCCC, and the Hillary Clinton campaign were meant to hurt her and help Trump, which the US intelligence community has repeatedly asserted. Furthermore, why Obama didn’t act sooner is complicated but he did send Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, CIA Director John Brennan, and other administration members to look into it as soon as he knew about it. But he didn’t make a show of it due to squabbles among Democratic and Republican leaders. Vice President Joe Biden even said that during an event or the Council of Foreign Relations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to sign a bipartisan condemning Russia’s 2016 activities. And that the Obama administration worried that without a bipartisan front, it would look like they were trying to sway the election, which he didn’t want. As Biden told Politico, “Can you imagine if the president called a press conference in October, with this fella, [Trump campaign CEO Steve] Bannon, and company, and said, ‘Tell you what: Russians are trying to interfere in our elections and we have to do something about it.’ What do you think would have happened? Would things have gotten better, or would it further look like we were trying to delegitimize the electoral process, because of our opponent?” Though the Obama administration formally accused the Russian government that October, it came just a half-hour before the infamous Access Hollywood tape leaked. And we all know which story got more publicity.

In the meantime, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned of the intensifying threat of cyberattacks against US digital infrastructure, calling Russia “the most aggressive foreign” in attempts to disrupt and divide America. He told the audience at the Hudson Institute, “These actions are persistent, they’re pervasive and they are meant to undermine America’s democracy on a daily basis, regardless of whether it is election time or not. The warning signs are there. The system is blinking. And it is why I believe we are at a critical point.” Coats has been one of the more vocal voices in the Trump administration about the very real threat of Russia incursions into US digital infrastructure and its meddling to sow discord and division. He has previously warned that the 2018 midterms could be a Russian hacking target and according to the New York Times, he indicated that the federal government was working with state and local jurisdictions to secure their infrastructure. Yet, Russia isn’t the only offender for North Korea, China, and Iran are also waging cyberattacks at all fronts: federal, state, and local governments along with private entities. However, Coats stated that so far analysts haven’t seen, “electoral interference in specific states and in voter databases that we experienced. However, we realize we are just one click of the keyboard away from a similar situation repeating itself.” So it pays to remain vigilant of future Russian hacks.

None Dared Called It Terrorism

While the country was swept in the Supreme Court Justice media frenzy, Donald Trump issued pardons for two Oregon cattle ranchers whose conviction for setting fire to public lands became a rallying cry for militia groups in 2016, leading to a tense, days-long standoff with federal officials. On Tuesday July 12, 2018, Trump gave clemency to Dwight Lincoln Hammond Jr., and his son Steven, whose convictions and a court order that they return to prison, inspired the militia group standoff at Oregon’s Malheur Wildlife Refuge during January 2016. There is no doubt their pardon is Trump’s latest example using his pardon power as a cudgel in the culture war. After all, granting pardons or commuting sentences to figures waging partisan warfare or have become right-wing folk heroes.

In 2010, the Hammonds were convicted of setting 2 fires that burned on federal land. The father-son duo stated they set the fires to reduce the invasive sagebrush and juniper tree growth for wildfire prevention, thereby accelerating rangeland grasses for cattle feed. But a 2015 statement from the US Attorney’s Office read, “Witnesses at the trial, including a relative of the Hammonds, testified the arson occurred after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered several deer on BLM property. Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out ‘Strike Anywhere’ matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to ‘light the whole country on fire.’ One witnessed testified that he barely escaped the eight to ten foot high flames caused by the arson.” That fire consumed 139 acres of federal property and destroyed all evidence of game violations. As for the other fire Steven started in 2006, prosecutors stated that he set several back fires, violating a burn ban, to save his winter feed after lightning stated numerous fires nearby.

We should also note that the Hammonds had been fighting for the feds to get out of the land management business since the 1980s. The federal pursuit of these men followed years of permit violations and unauthorized fires, but they never accepted responsibility. Late in the 1980s, Dwight began trading barbs with the US Fish & Wildlife employees. Both father and son had previously been accused of making death threats against federal officials and were arrested in 1994 after trying to stop federal workers from fencing off a canal at Malheur. The elder Hammond had even reportedly “threatened to kill” the manager of the refuge that they used for their cows. As former US Attorney Dwight Holton told KGW News, “The Hammonds were serial arsonists who stole from United States taxpayers for years.”

Anyway, in 2012, since US District Michael R. Hogan said the mandated 5-year sentence under the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, he sentenced the Dwight Hammond to 3 months and Steven a year. But because that was less than the mandatory minimum sentence federal law mandated, the federal government challenged the sentence. In 2015, an appellate court ruled that the Hammonds had been illegally sentenced and had to return to prison. Such decision sparked outcry among their local community and across the rural West, with critics slamming the federal government for their aggressive tactics. However, Oregon US Attorney, Billy Williams, justified the mandatory sentencing, saying they’re, “intended to be long enough to deter those like the Hammonds who disregard the law and place firefighters and others in jeopardy.” This sparked a flashpoint in the ongoing dispute between cattle ranchers and the federal government over land-use rights.

The Hammonds’ case became a rallying cry that kicked off a tense stand-off. In January 2016, armed anti-government militias and “patriot” groups seized Malheur Wildlife Refuge headquarters. To reflect their belief the federal government has only a limited right to own property within a state, they changed the refuge’s name to Harney County Resource Center.They stayed for more than 3 weeks with the standoff only ending after state troopers shot and killed one of the militia members and arrested 6 others. The Hammonds’ importance to the standoff was mostly symbolic. They may have initially welcomed the militia’s help, only to rejected it later and told the groups to go home. In addition, the groups occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge had broader disputes with the federal government about public land use than just the Hammonds’ case. Nonetheless, the case became a focal point for armed militias that violently occupied federal land in order to achieve their goals. Nonetheless, leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy, (sons of the infamous Cliven Bundy of the Nevada standoff with feds over unpaid grazing fees) along with 5 other defendants were eventually acquitted of charges stemming from the takeover by a federal jury in Portland.

But it’s the latest example of Donald Trump using near-limitless presidential power in the service of a cause celebre for extreme segments of the right. While George W. Bush and Barack Obama relied on Office of Pardon Attorney recommendations that used a multi-step application process to determine whose cases get relief, Trump has bypassed all of that. Instead, he’s used his pardon power to commute the sentences of ideological fellow travelers such as prominent right-wing figures or folk heroes caught up in legal trouble. Before the Hammonds, it was conservative writer and conspiracy theory enthusiast, and troll Dinesh D’Souza who pleaded guilty in 2014 to violating campaign finance laws after falsely claiming he was targeted for political retribution. Before him, was Dick Cheney’s former Chief of Staff I. “Scooter” Libby who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to the FBI during an investigation into who leaked the name of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. And before him, it was ex-Maricopa sheriff Joe Arpaio known for his cruelty to anyone he suspected as undocumented immigrants and was convicted of contempt of court.

Regardless of what you think about public land use or federal overreach, as Center for Western Priorities Executive Director Jennifer Rokala said the Hammond pardon sends a, “dangerous message to America’s park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers, and public lands managers. President Trump, at the urging of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has once again sided with lawless extremists who believe that public land does not belong to all Americans.” Oregon Wild’s Arran Robertson told the AP about the pardon’s darker impact, stating, “From the Bundys to logging and oil companies, special interests are working with the Trump administration to dismantle America’s public lands heritage, and this will be viewed as a victory in that effort.” Yet, the Hammond pardons come as some federal employees in the rural American West are nervous of what they say is a high likelihood more standoffs can break out. According to NPR’s Kirk Siegler, citing soil scientists, cattle range managers, and those staffing recreation sites, “It’s also not clear yet if other ranchers who graze their cattle on public lands might decide to openly defy federal laws, [with] the Hammonds being pardoned.”

Nonetheless, the matter of the Hammonds and the armed militia takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge is one I find particularly disgraceful. It’s plain to see that the Hammonds clearly committed an act of domestic terrorism and for endangering lives in their arson crime. So, a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence for setting fire to federal land is hardly government overreach. Yet, somehow the District Court judge finds such a sentence too lengthy and harsh for two cattle ranchers who burned 139 acres of land to cover up an illegal deer hunt. As he noted, “would not meet any idea I have of justice, proportionality … it would be a sentence which would shock the conscience to me.” It just seems like the guy sympathized with them enough to let them off so easily. Despite that according to Think Progress, the prosecutors’ choice was rooted in the firefighters’ earnest belief that the Hammond ranchers have been indifferent to their lives at best and seeking to harm them at worst. In the wake of their pardon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a briefing, “The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement and farmers and ranchers across the West.” She basically describes these guys like they’re some friendly neighborhood Though mandatory minimums have their share of critics all across the political spectrum, the Hammonds were serving a sentence that was established for terrorists which they undeniably were. Besides, there are plenty of other people languishing in prison under mandatory minimums for far lesser crimes. Yet, none of them get the kind of sympathy these men received by the media, the government, or the criminal justice system.

Then there’s the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by armed anti-government militia and “patriot” groups. Despite that these guys seized a wildlife refuge carrying weapons for political purposes, somehow the media referred their clear act of domestic terrorism as a “protest.” And yet, despite holding the place hostage for about 40 days until an armed standoff with federal authorities prior to arrests, the Bundy brothers who led this takeover and 5 walked free. Look, I have no problem with protesting about public lands and use rights though I do believe that this land was made for you and me and have no problem with the federal government setting aside lands for preservation of our national heritage. But once you bring loaded guns to threaten federal employees and take over a wildlife refuge, that’s terrorism. And yet, none called it terrorism. Despite that while the locals were sympathetic with the Hammonds’ plight, they weren’t interested in Ammon and Ryan Bundy’s takeover of a federal building. The fact the Hammond case was so connected to the Bundys makes their pardon seem like Donald Trump is signaling the noxious Nevada ranchers that it’s okay to seize and destroy public lands when someone has a beef with the feds. There are plenty of ways to lawfully address grievances. Domestic terrorism shouldn’t be one of them nor should be condoned, much less pardoned. Since that undermines Americans’ rights to our shared public lands and national parks.

Nonetheless, I can’t help but imagine how different the legal system and the media would perceive this circus if the Hammonds and the anti-government militia groups at Malheur weren’t white. I’m sure none of them would’ve received the sympathy or the positive recognition for their efforts. Hell, if the Hammonds were Hispanic, I’d bet any money that Judge Hogan would’ve sentenced them to at least the mandatory minimum with no outcry other than their sentence wasn’t harsh enough. And they’d certainly not receive a pardon from Donald Trump. In fact, he’d be ranting about them at his ego-stroking, hate-filled rallies and use them as an example to illustrate how Hispanics put America to shit with their crime and violence. In addition, if those anti-government militias and “patriot” groups were all Muslims, well, you can guess they wouldn’t have held onto the Malheur Wildlife Refuge for long. Mostly because the authorities would’ve called law enforcement at all levels akin to the Standing Rock protests until all the ranchers were cuffed and put into a truck to the jail. The media and the country would universally condemn them. A federal jury would convict them while a federal judge would hand them a sentence to make sure they’d never see the light of day again. If not, then perhaps give the jury an option of instilling the death penalty. I know that implying that race was a factor in how the Hammonds and the right-wing militia groups at Malheur were treated less harshly than other terror incidents may make people uncomfortable. Yet, I can’t ignore the fact that race has been a determining factor on why the country doesn’t seem to take right-wing and white supremacist terrorism much more seriously. Another reason has to do with that millions of white conservative Americans may share their principles to certain extents and don’t want to look in the metaphorical mirror whenever a right-wing terror event occurs or take that responsibility.

However, the Hammonds’ pardon deserves special attention and more media coverage than it got because it’s an extremely irresponsible one. Not just because Donald Trump granted them clemency on partisan grounds, but because it sets a dangerous message that threatens our national security and the lives of millions of Americans. In a time of rising hate crimes and right-wing terrorism, presidential pardons to domestic terrorists are among the last things America needs right now. By pardoning Dwight and Steven Hammond, Trump not only lets them out of jail but also that the fires they lit were perfectly acceptable. These pardons mark the first time anti-government militia groups opposing federal land laws have their issues validated at the federal level. Not to mention, they speak to the ways the Trump administration is emboldening the far-right patriot movement more generally. It’s as if Trump’s signaling the radical right not to worry about facing criminal charges. Southern Poverty Law Center reporter Ryan Lenz told The Daily Beast, “This is the latest in a long string of setbacks for federal efforts to bring anti-government extremists to justice for their actions. The militia movement sees this as further vindication and further proof that their cause is just.”

The worst implications of the Hammond pardons may have nothing to do with desecrating public lands with no consequence. The rise of right-wing extremist terrorism is a threat to national security that Donald Trump and millions of Americans don’t want to acknowledge or solve. And it doesn’t help that many of these white supremacists, right-wing terrorists, and extremists comprise of a key part of Trump’s base and count among his most ardent supporters. The Hammond pardons send a glaring message that he has their back in the White House. If any of them are facing federal convictions and sentencing, Trump will make sure they get off scot free to terrorize whatever facet of America they please. As long he could use his pardon power for terrorists to outrage liberals and inflame culture war tensions, then millions of Americans’ lives could be in danger to political violence. And there’s nothing they could do about it. Nonetheless, suppose his next pardon was the man who ran over Heather Heyer at Charlottesville and he goes free. After all, Trump once called the white supremacists responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, “very fine people.” I’m sure a pardon for some of those guys will be around the corner should they have legal troubles. As former Colorado National Monument superintendent Joan Anzelmo tweeted on the matter: “This is so very wrong. No one is safe from felons with friends in high places. Terrible. Dangerous. Wrong.”

Who Will Rid Us of This Activist Judge?

In the wake of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, there is so much for Americans, particularly the Democrats to be worried about. After all, him stepping down during the Donald Trump nightmare would shift the Court to the right for the next few decades. Now that Lord Cheetohead has nominated DC Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, there is plenty of talk about how his tenure of the court might overturn Roe v. Wade, gut the Affordable Care Act, undermine labor rights, weaken environmental regulations, hurt civil rights, and give more free rein on large corporations to do whatever the hell they want. But while all these issues are very important to consider, it’s not exactly on my mind at the moment.

Before I get to the point, I must acknowledge that during the 1990s, Kavanaugh worked on an independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s extremely zealous team of prosecutors pursuing what they believed to be wrongdoing by President Bill Clinton. For those who were either too young like me or not born yet, this independent counsel investigation into Clinton began with a land deal in Arkansas and eventually ended with a report recommending his impeachment for lying under oath and obstructing justice over his affair with Monica Lewinsky. According to Ken Gormley in his book, The Death of American virtue, Kavanaugh was a particularly committed team player. Since at one point, he wrote a memo to Starr which included the following:

“After reflecting this evening, I am strongly opposed to giving the President any “break”… unless before his questioning on Monday, he either i) resigns or ii) confesses perjury and issues a public apology to you [Starr]. I have tried hard to bend over backwards and be fair to him… In the end, I am convinced that there really are [no reasonable defenses]. The idea of going easy on him at the questioning is abhorrent to me…

“[T]he President has disgraced his Office, the legal system, and the American people by having sex with a 22-year-old intern and turning her life into a shambles—callous and disgusting behavior that has somehow gotten lost in the shuffle. He has committed perjury (at least) in the Jones case… He has tried to disgrace [Ken Starr] and this Office with a sustained propaganda campaign that would make Nixon blush.”

As much as I think Clinton’s impeachment was stupid, I can see the guy’s point on the perjury part and the fact Lewinsky hasn’t been able to escape the infamy of the whole scandal since. Yet, to be fair, men in elected office publicly lie about their extramarital proclivities happens all the time and most usually don’t face any legal trouble whatsoever. Besides, perjury over an extramarital affair doesn’t seem like an impeachable offense compared to, well, making money off the presidency, firing the FBI director while under criminal investigation, ignoring the Emoluments Clause, and possibly colluding with the Russians. Kavanaugh’s memo went on to propose asking President Clinton questions like:

“If Monica Lewinsky says that you ejaculated into her mouth on two occasions in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?

“If Monica Lewinsky says that on several occasions you had her give [you] oral sex, made her stop, and then ejaculated into the sink in the bathroom off the Oval Office, would she be lying?

“If Monica Lewinsky says that you masturbated into a trash can in your secretary’s office, would she [be] lying?”

However, fast forward a decade and Kavanaugh seems to do a 180 on the topic after later working for a president from his own party. From 2001-2006, he served in President George W. Bush’s White House, first in the White House Counsel’s office and later as White House Staff Secretary. In 2006, he was confirmed to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. And in 2009, he wrote an article that would be published in the Minnesota Law Review. Now this piece addressed several issues related to the presidency and separation of powers. Yet, the most relevant section comes right after the introduction, focusing on civil and criminal investigations of sitting US presidents:

I. PROVIDE SITTING PRESIDENTS WITH A TEMPORARY DEFERRAL OF CIVIL SUITS AND OF CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS AND INVESTIGATIONS

He then opens here by describing his work for President Bush and how he learned to appreciate “how complex and difficult that job is” and continues (emphasis added):

“I believe it vital that the President be able to focus on his never-ending tasks with as few distractions as possible. The country wants the President to be “one of us” who bears the same responsibilities of citizenship that all share. But I believe that the President should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office.”
He next calls on Congress to consider passing a law that would relieve some of the burdens and expresses his doubts that investigations of a sitting president can rise above politics.

“In particular, Congress might consider a law exempting a President—while in office—from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel. Criminal investigations targeted at or revolving around a President are inevitably politicized by both their supporters and critics.

“As I have written before, ‘no Attorney General or special counsel will have the necessary credibility to avoid the inevitable charges that he is politically motivated—whether in favor of the President or against him, depending on the individual leading the investigation and its results.’”

Look, I understand that the presidency is a complex and difficult job. But while I may agree that investigations regarding sitting presidents may not be able to rise above politics, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t excuse them from “some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office.” Our country was built upon the idea that presidents must obey the laws and suffer the legal consequences like everyone else. This is especially because the presidency is the highest office in the nation and the fact they can be sued, criminally investigated, and prosecuted like everyone else is a major check on the President’s power. But while the Mueller probe may be politicized among the American public, the rationale behind it such as the FBI investigation on the Trump campaign and George Papadopoulos drunkenly bragging about Russians digging dirt on Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with politics.

Nonetheless, Kavanaugh bemoans the consequences if the sitting president was indicted:

“The indictment and trial of a sitting President, moreover, would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic arenas. Such an outcome would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national security crisis.”

Indeed, this is a genuinely unsettled legal question. While Justice Department opinions have typically stated that sitting presidents can’t be indicted, some experts have argued otherwise. The question has never been tested in the courts, but it was revived last year with the scandal over Donald Trump, Russia, and possible obstruction of justice. Special Counsel Robert Mueller seems unlikely to defy Justice Department policy with a legally questionable indictment of Trump. But if he does, the Supreme Court would surely decide on the matter. And since he’s been nominated to the Court, Kavanaugh’s 2009 article on the subject takes on a significant importance.

Kavanaugh goes on to the civil suit arena:

“Even the lesser burdens of a criminal investigation—including preparing for questioning by criminal investigators—are time-consuming and distracting. Like civil suits, criminal investigations take the President’s focus away from his or her responsibilities to the people. And a President who is concerned about an ongoing criminal investigation is almost inevitably going to do a worse job as President.”

This will also likely resonate with Donald Trump, who’s spent an enormous amount of time on the Mueller probe while plagued by other lawsuits as well. Indeed, the question on whether Trump should have to sit for Mueller’s “questioning” is a current discussion topic. If Trump should refuse questioning (which he will), Mueller could subpoena him, which will culminate in a battle likely rising to the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh concludes by briefly trying to address two possibly critiques on his arguments. First, he says that the president could always be prosecuted after he leaves office. Second, if the president does anything bad, Congress could use the impeachment process.

“One might raise at least two important critiques of these ideas. The first is that no one is above the law in our system of government. I strongly agree with that principle. But it is not ultimately a persuasive criticism of these suggestions. The point is not to put the President above the law or to eliminate checks on the President, but simply to defer litigation and investigations until the President is out of office.

“A second possible concern is that the country needs a check against a bad-behaving or law-breaking President. But the Constitution already provides that check. If the President does something dastardly, the impeachment process is available. No single prosecutor, judge, or jury should be able to accomplish what the Constitution assigns to the Congress. Moreover, an impeached and removed President is still subject to criminal prosecution afterwards.”

However, his conclusion falls short on to points. First, waiting until the president is out of office to investigate him doesn’t prevent the damage he may cause during his tenure as well as gives him free rein to abuse his power while in office. Second, while Donald Trump has done really bad things over his presidency and before then, that doesn’t mean Congress will impeach him. Because it’s controlled by the GOP who has no interest to check his power. Besides, Kavanaugh doesn’t address what happens when it’s not yet clear and hotly disputed whether not a president has done “something dastardly” like colluding with Russia to intervene in the 2016 election, or obstructing justice. It appears he’d be happy to leave that to Congress to decide, without any investigation from the executive branch. Now this is disturbing since I consider such investigation from the executive branch necessary before Congress can decide whether to impeach a president.

He concludes the section:

“In short, the Constitution establishes a clear mechanism to deter executive malfeasance; we should not burden a sitting President with civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecutions. The President’s job is difficult enough as is. And the country loses when the President’s focus is distracted by the burdens of civil litigation or criminal investigation and possible prosecution.”

Of course, the country loses when a president’s focus is distracted by the burdens of civil litigation or criminal investigation and possible prosecution. But the country loses more when a president suspected of egregious wrongdoing is allowed to abuse his power however he pleases without any way to hold him accountable. Stating that we shouldn’t “burden” a sitting president with civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecutions because the presidency is a difficult job as it is simply doesn’t cut it. Yes, such processes might be a pain in the ass but they ensure that sitting presidents must answer to the law regarding their actions. If a sitting president doesn’t want to be distracted by lawsuits, criminal inquiries, and prosecution, then he shouldn’t have done what got him there in the first place. This especially goes with a president who believes he’s above the law and can do whatever he damn well pleases without consequence.
So why did Kavanaugh change his mind? Probably because he spent 5 years working for a president from his own party who gave him a big promotion. As he admits in his 2009 article:

“This is not something I necessarily thought in the 1980s or 1990s. Like many Americans at that time, I believed that the President should be required to shoulder the same obligations that we all carry. But in retrospect, that seems a mistake.

“Looking back to the late 1990s, for example, the nation certainly would have been better off if President Clinton could have focused on Osama bin Laden without being distracted by the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and its criminal investigation offshoots. To be sure, one can correctly say that President Clinton brought that ordeal on himself, by his answers during his deposition in the Jones case if nothing else.”

I may be no legal expert. But unlike Kavanaugh, I still believe a president should shoulder the same obligations we all carry. And yes, the nation would’ve been better off if President Clinton wasn’t distracted by the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and the criminal investigation offshoots. But to say that prevented Clinton from catching Osama Bin Laden is quite a stretch. However, just because the whole Bill Clinton impeachment circus might’ve been a mistake that made nobody happy, doesn’t mean we should exempt sitting presidents from civil litigation or criminal investigations and prosecution. Donald Trump and his team have been under criminal investigation by the FBI for possible collusion with Russia long before he was even elected to the presidency. And his efforts to stop it like the firing of FBI Director James Comey have only verified suspicions that they did. Or at least saw no problem with it. Besides, Robert Mueller’s team has already either indicted or accepted guilty pleas from 4 former Trump advisers, 14 Russian nationals, 3 Russian companies, a California man, and a London-based lawyer. Furthermore, the US intelligence community and the Senate Intelligence Committee all say that Russia tried to help Trump win the 2016 election and that Russa President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to do so. The real question now is whether Trump and his team colluded with Russia’s effort to sow seeds of division through the internet and running ads to stir up racial tensions.

What Kavanaugh wrote in 2009 about executive power sounds nice to Donald Trump and may be the major reason why he chose the guy to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. It’s not too far-fetched to assume the Supreme Court may hear an element of the Russia investigation like subpoenaing a sitting president or less likely indicting one. There’s also a strong possibility that Kavanaugh can be one of the justices to decide on such matters. Sure, he advocated passing a law to protect the president from civil and criminal scrutiny but he didn’t say such notion is unconstitutional. Yet, to suggest that a president shouldn’t be subject to a civil suit or criminal prosecution while in office appears to fly in the face of decades of precedent stating that no one, including the president is above the law. While we don’t know if Trump has any criminal exposure at this point, Kavanaugh’s position could influence how he ruled on the appropriateness of any future actions by prosecutors against him. What impact that might have on the Mueller investigation remains to be seen. But should the Supreme Court rule in Trump’s favor that would neutralize the Mueller probe until he leaves office, America is in serious trouble.

Nonetheless, we must acknowledge that Brett Kavanaugh’s entire career has been in service to the Republican agenda. His old writings from the 1990s show that he was certainly a true believer in the Starr investigation before the Bush administration made him skeptical on the wisdom of litigation and investigations involving a sitting president. Donald Trump’s legal team has prepared to argue that the president isn’t obligated to sit for a Mueller interview and has limitless power to shut down the investigation or pardon anyone involved, including himself. Though this argument is basically summed as: Trump isn’t above the law, he is the law. The Kavanaugh from 20 years ago would’ve vociferously disagreed since he urged his boss, Kenneth Starr not to cut Bill Clinton any slack in his inquiry on the Lewinsky affair. When time came to help write the Starr report, Kavanaugh argued for Clinton’s impeachment for lying to his staff and misleading the American public. Had he still held that belief today, Trump would’ve never considered him for the Supreme Court. Yet, after working for George W. Bush, Kavanaugh apparently changed his tune as indicated in his 2009 article for the Minnesota Law Review. Not only did he contend that the president can’t be indicted, he also took his interpretation of executive power one step further by suggesting Congress pass a law allowing the president to defer such investigations until they’re out of office.

Still, I think it’s more likely that his awakening on presidential power during the Bush administration and his 2009 apology for the Starr report conceals more partisan motivations. Should the Russia investigation culminate in a Supreme Court battle, could we expect Kavanaugh to rule Trump’s case impartially and without favor? Or would he rationalize bending over backwards for the outcome he’d want to see? Because from my standpoint, I think he’s an activist judge willing to hold certain views that would be in his party’s favor. And I strongly believe Trump selected him to protect him from Mueller’s Russia investigation. He shouldn’t have seat on the bench of the most powerful court in the land.

“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglass

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On July 5, 1852, the famed American abolitionist Frederick Douglass delivered a speech in Rochester, New York’s Corinthian Hall. Making this speech in front of then US President Millard Fillmore and other notable figures in the country, Douglass equates the treatment of slaves of that of the Americans under British rule and persuades them to help the slaves break free like they helped themselves. Like today, the concept of oppression is a strong one for Americans everywhere, which Douglass doesn’t tread lightly. In fact, he uses the country’s rich but then short history to show Americans how badly they treat their fellow countrymen in bondage. While he reminds them they were once treated as slaves, he stresses his view that slaves and Americans are the same and they’re fighting the same fight as they did back in the 1770s. And since slaves are human beings, they should be treated as such. In addition, while Douglass doesn’t speak against religion in general, he does criticize white American Christianity and how white Christian churches deal with slavery in which he expresses outrage on many sects’ utter lack of responsibility and egregious religious hypocrisy. But he believes that the United States doesn’t have to stay the way it is. The country can progress like it did before during the American Revolution and through religion, which he sees as the problem as well as the main solution. At least once people realize that they aren’t living true to what they say they believe and what the Bible actually says. Since while white Americans may be so proud of their country while rejoicing freedom and liberty, they deny these very things to millions of its residents.

Given that Douglass was born and raised a slave and among the few who was educated and broke free, he gives this speech as a fellow US citizen and a slave fighting for freedom for everyone.While the US is said to be built on the idea of freedom and liberty, Douglass shows that it’s more than anything built on inconsistencies that have been overlooked for so long that they now look like truths. And because of these inconsistencies in the country’s way of duty, it’s made the name “The United States of America,” one of mockery and often held in contempt. But if the nation just abolished slavery and give rights to all Americans, it will no longer be the case. Nonetheless, in the end, Douglass keeps his hope and faith in humanity high since he believes slavery’s end is near and that you can’t stop progress. For knowledge is too available and appeasing to shoo away when its services are inconvenient. And he believes that Americans will soon open their eyes and see the atrocities they’ve been inflicting on their fellow countrymen.

While slavery may be over for 150 years, its appalling legacy still remains in racism, oppression, mass incarceration, and discrimination. Today, the United States is under the leadership of a contemptible man who cares nothing for the country for which he leads nor its people. With Donald Trump in the White House undermining our democracy, poisoning our public discourse, smearing our institutions, crippling our government, debasing our sacred values, inflicting terror on the marginalized and putting us through a horrifying nightmare nobody can escape from, celebrating the Fourth of July doesn’t inspire the same patriotic spirit it once had. Even worse, people I know and care about continue to support this unrepentant con artist who’ll only swindle them in the end if he hasn’t already, which only riles me with anger, outrage, and disgust. I’ve copied and pasted this speech on this post for you since it reflects the mixed feelings many Americans like myself have in regards to the present state of affairs at this very dark time.

 

Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens: He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me, quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country school houses, avails me nothing on the present occasion.

The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th [of] July oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way, for it is true that I have often had the privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall, and to address many who now honor me with their presence. But neither their familiar faces, nor the perfect gage I think I have of Corinthian Hall, seems to free me from embarrassment.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable — and the difficulties to be overcome in getting from the latter to the former, are by no means slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You will not, therefore, be surprised, if in what I have to say, I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high sounding exordium. With little experience and with less learning, I have been able to throw my thoughts hastily and imperfectly together; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence, I will proceed to lay them before you.

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the 4th of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. I am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual men; but nations number their years by thousands.

According to this fact, you are, even now, only in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the period of childhood. I repeat, I am glad this is so. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young. Great streams are not easily turned from channels, worn deep in the course of ages. They may sometimes rise in quiet and stately majesty, and inundate the land, refreshing and fertilizing the earth with their mysterious properties. They may also rise in wrath and fury, and bear away, on their angry waves, the accumulated wealth of years of toil and hardship. They, however, gradually flow back to the same old channel, and flow on as serenely as ever. But, while the river may not be turned aside, it may dry up, and leave nothing behind but the withered branch, and the unsightly rock, to howl in the abyss-sweeping wind, the sad tale of departed glory. As with rivers so with nations.

Fellow-citizens, I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. The simple story of it is that, 76 years ago, the people of this country were British subjects. The style and title of your “sovereign people” (in which you now glory) was not then born. You were under the British Crown. Your fathers esteemed the English Government as the home government; and England as the fatherland. This home government, you know, although a considerable distance from your home, did, in the exercise of its parental prerogatives, impose upon its colonial children, such restraints, burdens and limitations, as, in its mature judgement, it deemed wise, right and proper.

But, your fathers, who had not adopted the fashionable idea of this day, of the infallibility of government, and the absolute character of its acts, presumed to differ from the home government in respect to the wisdom and the justice of some of those burdens and restraints. They went so far in their excitement as to pronounce the measures of government unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive, and altogether such as ought not to be quietly submitted to. I scarcely need say, fellow-citizens, that my opinion of those measures fully accords with that of your fathers. Such a declaration of agreement on my part would not be worth much to anybody. It would, certainly, prove nothing, as to what part I might have taken, had I lived during the great controversy of 1776. To say now that America was right, and England wrong, is exceedingly easy.

Everybody can say it; the dastard, not less than the noble brave, can flippantly discant on the tyranny of England towards the American Colonies. It is fashionable to do so; but there was a time when to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men’s souls. They who did so were accounted in their day, plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right, against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! here lies the merit, and the one which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers. But, to proceed.

Feeling themselves harshly and unjustly treated by the home government, your fathers, like men of honesty, and men of spirit, earnestly sought redress. They petitioned and remonstrated; they did so in a decorous, respectful, and loyal manner. Their conduct was wholly unexceptionable. This, however, did not answer the purpose. They saw themselves treated with sovereign indifference, coldness and scorn. Yet they persevered. They were not the men to look back.

As the sheet anchor takes a firmer hold, when the ship is tossed by the storm, so did the cause of your fathers grow stronger, as it breasted the chilling blasts of kingly displeasure. The greatest and best of British statesmen admitted its justice, and the loftiest eloquence of the British Senate came to its support. But, with that blindness which seems to be the unvarying characteristic of tyrants, since Pharaoh and his hosts were drowned in the Red Sea, the British Government persisted in the exactions complained of.

The madness of this course, we believe, is admitted now, even by England; but we fear the lesson is wholly lost on our present rulers.

Oppression makes a wise man mad. Your fathers were wise men, and if they did not go mad, they became restive under this treatment. They felt themselves the victims of grievous wrongs, wholly incurable in their colonial capacity. With brave men there is always a remedy for oppression. Just here, the idea of a total separation of the colonies from the crown was born! It was a startling idea, much more so, than we, at this distance of time, regard it. The timid and the prudent (as has been intimated) of that day, were, of course, shocked and alarmed by it.

Such people lived then, had lived before, and will, probably, ever have a place on this planet; and their course, in respect to any great change, (no matter how great the good to be attained, or the wrong to be redressed by it), may be calculated with as much precision as can be the course of the stars. They hate all changes, but silver, gold and copper change! Of this sort of change they are always strongly in favor.

These people were called tories in the days of your fathers; and the appellation, probably, conveyed the same idea that is meant by a more modern, though a somewhat less euphonious term, which we often find in our papers, applied to some of our old politicians.

Their opposition to the then dangerous thought was earnest and powerful; but, amid all their terror and affrighted vociferations against it, the alarming and revolutionary idea moved on, and the country with it.

On the 2d of July, 1776, the old Continental Congress, to the dismay of the lovers of ease, and the worshipers of property, clothed that dreadful idea with all the authority of national sanction. They did so in the form of a resolution; and as we seldom hit upon resolutions, drawn up in our day, whose transparency is at all equal to this, it may refresh your minds and help my story if I read it.

“Resolved, That these united colonies are, and of right, ought to be free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, dissolved.”

Citizens, your fathers made good that resolution. They succeeded; and to-day you reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history — the very ring-bolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.

Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.

From the round top of your ship of state, dark and threatening clouds may be seen. Heavy billows, like mountains in the distance, disclose to the leeward huge forms of flinty rocks! That bolt drawn, that chain broken, and all is lost. Cling to this day — cling to it, and to its principles, with the grasp of a storm-tossed mariner to a spar at midnight.
The coming into being of a nation, in any circumstances, is an interesting event. But, besides general considerations, there were peculiar circumstances which make the advent of this republic an event of special attractiveness.

The whole scene, as I look back to it, was simple, dignified and sublime.

The population of the country, at the time, stood at the insignificant number of three millions. The country was poor in the munitions of war. The population was weak and scattered, and the country a wilderness unsubdued. There were then no means of concert and combination, such as exist now. Neither steam nor lightning had then been reduced to order and discipline. From the Potomac to the Delaware was a journey of many days. Under these, and innumerable other disadvantages, your fathers declared for liberty and independence and triumphed.

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too — great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country, is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.

They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was “settled” that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were “final;” not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.

How circumspect, exact and proportionate were all their movements! How unlike the politicians of an hour! Their statesmanship looked beyond the passing moment, and stretched away in strength into the distant future. They seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defence. Mark them!

Fully appreciating the hardship to be encountered, firmly believing in the right of their cause, honorably inviting the scrutiny of an on-looking world, reverently appealing to heaven to attest their sincerity, soundly comprehending the solemn responsibility they were about to assume, wisely measuring the terrible odds against them, your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you.

Of this fundamental work, this day is the anniversary. Our eyes are met with demonstrations of joyous enthusiasm. Banners and pennants wave exultingly on the breeze. The din of business, too, is hushed. Even Mammon seems to have quitted his grasp on this day. The ear-piercing fife and the stirring drum unite their accents with the ascending peal of a thousand church bells. Prayers are made, hymns are sung, and sermons are preached in honor of this day; while the quick martial tramp of a great and multitudinous nation, echoed back by all the hills, valleys and mountains of a vast continent, bespeak the occasion one of thrilling and universal interests nation’s jubilee.

Friends and citizens, I need not enter further into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you understand them better than I do. You could instruct me in regard to them. That is a branch of knowledge in which you feel, perhaps, a much deeper interest than your speaker. The causes which led to the separation of the colonies from the British crown have never lacked for a tongue. They have all been taught in your common schools, narrated at your firesides, unfolded from your pulpits, and thundered from your legislative halls, and are as familiar to you as household words. They form the staple of your national poetry and eloquence.

I remember, also, that, as a people, Americans are remarkably familiar with all facts which make in their own favor. This is esteemed by some as a national trait — perhaps a national weakness. It is a fact, that whatever makes for the wealth or for the reputation of Americans, and can be had cheap! will be found by Americans. I shall not be charged with slandering Americans, if I say I think the American side of any question may be safely left in American hands.

I leave, therefore, the great deeds of your fathers to other gentlemen whose claim to have been regularly descended will be less likely to be disputed than mine!

THE PRESENT.

My business, if I have any here to-day, is with the present. The accepted time with God and his cause is the ever-living now.

“Trust no future, however pleasant,
Let the dead past bury its dead;
Act, act in the living present,
Heart within, and God overhead.”

We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future. To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time. Your fathers have lived, died, and have done their work, and have done much of it well. You live and must die, and you must do your work. You have no right to enjoy a child’s share in the labor of your fathers, unless your children are to be blest by your labors. You have no right to wear out and waste the hard-earned fame of your fathers to cover your indolence. Sydney Smith tells us that men seldom eulogize the wisdom and virtues of their fathers, but to excuse some folly or wickedness of their own. This truth is not a doubtful one. There are illustrations of it near and remote, ancient and modern. It was fashionable, hundreds of years ago, for the children of Jacob to boast, we have “Abraham to our father,” when they had long lost Abraham’s faith and spirit. That people contented themselves under the shadow of Abraham’s great name, while they repudiated the deeds which made his name great. Need I remind you that a similar thing is being done all over this country to-day? Need I tell you that the Jews are not the only people who built the tombs of the prophets, and garnished the sepulchres of the righteous? Washington could not die till he had broken the chains of his slaves. Yet his monument is built up by the price of human blood, and the traders in the bodies and souls of men, shout — “We have Washington to our father.” Alas! that it should be so; yet so it is.

“The evil that men do, lives after them,
The good is oft’ interred with their bones.”

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him?

Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”

But, such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, lowering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”

Fellow-citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY. I shall see, this day, and its popular characteristics, from the slave’s point of view. Standing, there, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse;” I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgement is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less, would you persuade more, and rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man, (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgement that the slave is a moral, intellectual and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws, in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, there will I argue with you that the slave is a man!

For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and cyphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian’s God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively, and positively, negatively, and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and lo offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employments for my time and strength, than such arguments would imply.

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is past.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

INTERNAL SLAVE TRADE

Take the American slave-trade, which, we are told by the papers, is especially prosperous just now. Ex-Senator Benton tells us that the price of men was never higher than now. He mentions the fact to show that slavery is in no danger. This trade is one of the peculiarities of American institutions. It is carried on in all the large towns and cities in one-half of this confederacy; and millions are pocketed every year, by dealers in this horrid traffic. In several states, this trade is a chief source of wealth. It is called (in contradistinction to the foreign slave-trade) “the internal slave trade.” It is, probably, called so, too, in order to divert from it the horror with which the foreign slave-trade is contemplated. That trade has long since been denounced by this government, as piracy. It has been denounced with burning words, from the high places of the nation, as an execrable traffic. To arrest it, to put an end to it, this nation keeps a squadron, at immense cost, on the coast of Africa. Everywhere, in this country, it is safe to speak of this foreign slave-trade, as a most inhuman traffic, opposed alike to the laws of God and of man. The duty to extirpate and destroy it, is admitted even by our DOCTORS OF DIVINITY. In order to put an end to it, some of these last have consented that their colored brethren (nominally free) should leave this country, and establish themselves on the western coast of Africa! It is, however, a notable fact that, while so much execration is poured out by Americans upon those engaged in the foreign slave-trade, the men engaged in the slave-trade between the states pass without condemnation, and their business is deemed honorable.

Behold the practical operation of this internal slave-trade, the American slave-trade, sustained by American politics and American religion. Here you will see men and women reared like swine for the market. You know what is a swine-drover? I will show you a man-drover. They inhabit all our Southern States. They perambulate the country, and crowd the highways of the nation, with droves of human stock. You will see one of these human flesh-jobbers, armed with pistol, whip and bowie-knife, driving a company of a hundred men, women, and children, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. These wretched people are to be sold singly, or in lots, to suit purchasers. They are food for the cotton-field, and the deadly sugar-mill. Mark the sad procession, as it moves wearily along, and the inhuman wretch who drives them. Hear his savage yells and his blood-chilling oaths, as he hurries on his affrighted captives! There, see the old man, with locks thinned and gray. Cast one glance, if you please, upon that young mother, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn! The drove moves tardily. Heat and sorrow have nearly consumed their strength; suddenly you hear a quick snap, like the discharge of a rifle; the fetters clank, and the chain rattles simultaneously; your ears are saluted with a scream, that seems to have torn its way to the centre of your soul! The crack you heard, was the sound of the slave-whip; the scream you heard, was from the woman you saw with the babe. Her speed had faltered under the weight of her child and her chains! that gash on her shoulder tells her to move on. Follow this drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction; see men examined like horses; see the forms of women rudely and brutally exposed to the shocking gaze of American slave-buyers. See this drove sold and separated forever; and never forget the deep, sad sobs that arose from that scattered multitude. Tell me citizens, WHERE, under the sun, you can witness a spectacle more fiendish and shocking. Yet this is but a glance at the American slave-trade, as it exists, at this moment, in the ruling part of the United States.

I was born amid such sights and scenes. To me the American slave-trade is a terrible reality. When a child, my soul was often pierced with a sense of its horrors. I lived on Philpot Street, Fell’s Point, Baltimore, and have watched from the wharves, the slave ships in the Basin, anchored from the shore, with their cargoes of human flesh, waiting for favorable winds to waft them down the Chesapeake. There was, at that time, a grand slave mart kept at the head of Pratt Street, by Austin Woldfolk. His agents were sent into every town and county in Maryland, announcing their arrival, through the papers, and on flaming “hand-bills,” headed CASH FOR NEGROES. These men were generally well dressed men, and very captivating in their manners. Ever ready to drink, to treat, and to gamble. The fate of many a slave has depended upon the turn of a single card; and many a child has been snatched from the arms of its mother by bargains arranged in a state of brutal drunkenness.

The flesh-mongers gather up their victims by dozens, and drive them, chained, to the general depot at Baltimore. When a sufficient number have been collected here, a ship is chartered, for the purpose of conveying the forlorn crew to Mobile, or to New Orleans. From the slave prison to the ship, they are usually driven in the darkness of night; for since the antislavery agitation, a certain caution is observed.

In the deep still darkness of midnight, I have been often aroused by the dead heavy footsteps, and the piteous cries of the chained gangs that passed our door. The anguish of my boyish heart was intense; and I was often consoled, when speaking to my mistress in the morning, to hear her say that the custom was very wicked; that she hated to hear the rattle of the chains, and the heart-rending cries. I was glad to find one who sympathised with me in my horror.

Fellow-citizens, this murderous traffic is, to-day, in active operation in this boasted republic. In the solitude of my spirit, I see clouds of dust raised on the highways of the South; I see the bleeding footsteps; I hear the doleful wail of fettered humanity, on the way to the slave-markets, where the victims are to be sold like horses, sheep, and swine, knocked off to the highest bidder. There I see the tenderest ties ruthlessly broken, to gratify the lust, caprice and rapacity of the buyers and sellers of men. My soul sickens at the sight.

“Is this the land your Fathers loved,
The freedom which they toiled to win?
Is this the earth whereon they moved?
Are these the graves they slumber in?”

But a still more inhuman, disgraceful, and scandalous state of things remains to be presented.

By an act of the American Congress, not yet two years old, slavery has been nationalized in its most horrible and revolting form. By that act, Mason & Dixon’s line has been obliterated; New York has become as Virginia; and the power to hold, hunt, and sell men, women, and children as slaves remains no longer a mere state institution, but is now an institution of the whole United States. The power is co-extensive with the star-spangled banner and American Christianity. Where these go, may also go the merciless slave-hunter. Where these are, man is not sacred. He is a bird for the sportsman’s gun. By that most foul and fiendish of all human decrees, the liberty and person of every man are put in peril. Your broad republican domain is hunting ground for men. Not for thieves and robbers, enemies of society, merely, but for men guilty of no crime. Your lawmakers have commanded all good citizens to engage in this hellish sport. Your President, your Secretary of State, your lords, nobles, and ecclesiastics, enforce, as a duty you owe to your free and glorious country, and to your God, that you do this accursed thing. Not fewer than forty Americans have, within the past two years, been hunted down and, without a moment’s warning, hurried away in chains, and consigned to slavery and excruciating torture. Some of these have had wives and children, dependent on them for bread; but of this, no account was made. The right of the hunter to his prey stands superior to the right of marriage, and to all rights in this republic, the rights of God included! For black men there are neither law, justice, humanity, not religion. The Fugitive Slave Law makes MERCY TO THEM, A CRIME; and bribes the judge who tries them. An American JUDGE GETS TEN DOLLARS FOR EVERY VICTIM HE CONSIGNS to slavery, and five, when he fails to do so. The oath of any two villains is sufficient, under this hell-black enactment, to send the most pious and exemplary black man into the remorseless jaws of slavery! His own testimony is nothing. He can bring no witnesses for himself. The minister of American justice is bound by the law to hear but one side; and that side, is the side of the oppressor. Let this damning fact be perpetually told. Let it be thundered around the world, that, in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America, the seats of justice are filled with judges, who hold their offices under an open and palpable bribe, and are bound, in deciding in the case of a man’s liberty, hear only his accusers!

In glaring violation of justice, in shameless disregard of the forms of administering law, in cunning arrangement to entrap the defenceless, and in diabolical intent, this Fugitive Slave Law stands alone in the annals of tyrannical legislation. I doubt if there be another nation on the globe, having the brass and the baseness to put such a law on the statute-book. If any man in this assembly thinks differently from me in this matter, and feels able to disprove my statements, I will gladly confront him at any suitable time and place he may select.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

I take this law to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our country were not stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it.

At the very moment that they are thanking God for the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, and for the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, they are utterly silent in respect to a law which robs religion of its chief significance, and makes it utterly worthless to a world lying in wickedness. Did this law concern the “mint, anise and cummin”— abridge the right to sing psalms, to partake of the sacrament, or to engage in any of the ceremonies of religion, it would be smitten by the thunder of a thousand pulpits. A general shout would go up from the church, demanding repeal, repeal, instant repeal! And it would go hard with that politician who presumed to solicit the votes of the people without inscribing this motto on his banner.

Further, if this demand were not complied with, another Scotland would be added to the history of religious liberty, and the stern old Covenanters would be thrown into the shade. A John Knox would be seen at every church door, and heard from every pulpit, and Fillmore would have no more quarter than was shown by Knox, to the beautiful, but treacherous queen Mary of Scotland. The fact that the church of our country, (with fractional exceptions), does not esteem “the Fugitive Slave Law” as a declaration of war against religious liberty, implies that that church regards religion simply as a form of worship, an empty ceremony, and not a vital principle, requiring active benevolence, justice, love and good will towards man. It esteems sacrifice above mercy; psalm-singing above right doing; solemn meetings above practical righteousness. A worship that can be conducted by persons who refuse to give shelter to the houseless, to give bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and who enjoin obedience to a law forbidding these acts of mercy, is a curse, not a blessing to mankind. The Bible addresses all such persons as “scribes, pharisees, hypocrites, who pay tithe of mint, anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgement, mercy and faith.”

THE CHURCH RESPONSIBLE

But the church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the shield of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines. who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system. They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.

For my part, I would say, welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcome anything! in preference to the gospel, as preached by those Divines! They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny, and barbarous cruelty, and serve to confirm more infidels, in this age, than all the infidel writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Bolingbroke, put together, have done! These ministers make religion a cold and flinty-hearted thing, having neither principles of right action, nor bowels of compassion. They strip the love of God of its beauty, and leave the throne of religion a huge, horrible, repulsive form. It is a religion for oppressors, tyrants, man-stealers, and thugs. It is not that “pure and undefiled religion” which is from above, and which is “first pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” But a religion which favors the rich against the poor; which exalts the proud above the humble; which divides mankind into two classes, tyrants and slaves; which says to the man in chains, stay there; and to the oppressor, oppress on; it is a religion which may be professed and enjoyed by all the robbers and enslavers of mankind; it makes God a respecter of persons, denies his fatherhood of the race, and tramples in the dust the great truth of the brotherhood of man. All this we affirm to be true of the popular church, and the popular worship of our land and nation — a religion, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of inspired wisdom, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God. In the language of Isaiah, the American church might be well addressed, “Bring no more vain ablations; incense is an abomination unto me: the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth. They are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them; and when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you. Yea! when ye make many prayers, I will not hear. YOUR HANDS ARE FULL OF BLOOD; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgement; relieve the oppressed; judge for the fatherless; plead for the widow.”

The American church is guilty, when viewed in connection with what it is doing to uphold slavery; but it is superlatively guilty when viewed in connection with its ability to abolish slavery. The sin of which it is guilty is one of omission as well as of commission. Albert Barnes but uttered what the common sense of every man at all observant of the actual state of the case will receive as truth, when he declared that “There is no power out of the church that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not sustained in it.”

Let the religious press, the pulpit, the Sunday school, the conference meeting, the great ecclesiastical, missionary, Bible and tract associations of the land array their immense powers against slavery and slave-holding; and the whole system of crime and blood would be scattered to the winds; and that they do not do this involves them in the most awful responsibility of which the mind can conceive.

In prosecuting the anti-slavery enterprise, we have been asked to spare the church, to spare the ministry; but how, we ask, could such a thing be done? We are met on the threshold of our efforts for the redemption of the slave, by the church and ministry of the country, in battle arrayed against us; and we are compelled to fight or flee. From what quarter, I beg to know, has proceeded a fire so deadly upon our ranks, during the last two years, as from the Northern pulpit? As the champions of oppressors, the chosen men of American theology have appeared — men, honored for their so-called piety, and their real learning. The LORDS of Buffalo, the SPRINGS of New York, the LATHROPS of Auburn, the COXES and SPENCERS of Brooklyn, the GANNETS and SHARPS of Boston, the DEWEYS of Washington, and other great religious lights of the land, have, in utter denial of the authority of Him, by whom they professed to he called to the ministry, deliberately taught us, against the example of the Hebrews and against the remonstrance of the Apostles, they teach “that we ought to obey man’s law before the law of God.”

My spirit wearies of such blasphemy; and how such men can be supported, as the “standing types and representatives of Jesus Christ,” is a mystery which I leave others to penetrate. In speaking of the American church, however, let it be distinctly understood that I mean the great mass of the religious organizations of our land. There are exceptions, and I thank God that there are. Noble men may be found, scattered all over these Northern States, of whom Henry Ward Beecher of Brooklyn, Samuel J. May of Syracuse, and my esteemed friend on the platform, are shining examples; and let me say further, that upon these men lies the duty to inspire our ranks with high religious faith and zeal, and to cheer us on in the great mission of the slave’s redemption from his chains.

RELIGION IN ENGLAND AND RELIGION IN AMERICA

One is struck with the difference between the attitude of the American church towards the anti-slavery movement, and that occupied by the churches in England towards a similar movement in that country. There, the church, true to its mission of ameliorating, elevating, and improving the condition of mankind, came forward promptly, bound up the wounds of the West Indian slave, and restored him to his liberty. There, the question of emancipation was a high[ly] religious question. It was demanded, in the name of humanity, and according to the law of the living God. The Sharps, the Clarksons, the Wilberforces, the Buxtons, and Burchells and the Knibbs, were alike famous for their piety, and for their philanthropy. The anti-slavery movement there was not an anti-church movement, for the reason that the church took its full share in prosecuting that movement: and the anti-slavery movement in this country will cease to be an anti-church movement, when the church of this country shall assume a favorable, instead of a hostile position towards that movement. Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties), is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the crowned headed tyrants of Russia and Austria, and pride yourselves on your Democratic institutions, while you yourselves consent to be the mere tools and bodyguards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina. You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives from your own land you advertise, hunt, arrest, shoot and kill. You glory in your refinement and your universal education; yet you maintain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation — a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and perpetuated in cruelty. You shed tears over fallen Hungary, and make the sad story of her wrongs the theme of your poets, statesmen and orators, till your gallant sons are ready to fly to arms to vindicate her cause against her oppressors; but, in regard to the ten thousand wrongs of the American slave, you would enforce the strictest silence, and would hail him as an enemy of the nation who dares to make those wrongs the subject of public discourse! You are all on fire at the mention of liberty for France or for Ireland; but are as cold as an iceberg at the thought of liberty for the enslaved of America. You discourse eloquently on the dignity of labor; yet, you sustain a system which, in its very essence, casts a stigma upon labor. You can bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a threepenny tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard-earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of your country. You profess to believe “that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, everywhere to love one another; yet you notoriously hate, (and glory in your hatred), all men whose skins are not colored like your own. You declare, before the world, and are understood by the world to declare, that you “hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that, among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.

Fellow-citizens! I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretence, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad; it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing, and a by word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. It fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement, the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet, you cling to it, as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!

THE CONSTITUTION

But it is answered in reply to all this, that precisely what I have now denounced is, in fact, guaranteed and sanctioned by the Constitution of the United States; that the right to hold and to hunt slaves is a part of that Constitution framed by the illustrious Fathers of this Republic.

Then, I dare to affirm, notwithstanding all I have said before, your fathers stooped, basely stooped

“To palter with us in a double sense:
And keep the word of promise to the ear,
But break it to the heart.”

And instead of being the honest men I have before declared them to be, they were the veriest imposters that ever practised on mankind. This is the inevitable conclusion, and from it there is no escape. But I differ from those who charge this baseness on the framers of the Constitution of the United States. It is a slander upon their memory, at least, so I believe. There is not time now to argue the constitutional question at length — nor have I the ability to discuss it as it ought to be discussed. The subject has been handled with masterly power by Lysander Spooner, Esq., by William Goodell, by Samuel E. Sewall, Esq., and last, though not least, by Gerritt Smith, Esq. These gentlemen have, as I think, fully and clearly vindicated the Constitution from any design to support slavery for an hour.

Fellow-citizens! there is no matter in respect to which, the people of the North have allowed themselves to be so ruinously imposed upon, as that of the pro-slavery character of the Constitution. In that instrument I hold there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing; but, interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? or is it in the temple? It is neither. While I do not intend to argue this question on the present occasion, let me ask, if it be not somewhat singular that, if the Constitution were intended to be, by its framers and adopters, a slave-holding instrument, why neither slavery, slaveholding, nor slave can anywhere be found in it. What would be thought of an instrument, drawn up, legally drawn up, for the purpose of entitling the city of Rochester to a tract of land, in which no mention of land was made? Now, there are certain rules of interpretation, for the proper understanding of all legal instruments. These rules are well established. They are plain, common-sense rules, such as you and I, and all of us, can understand and apply, without having passed years in the study of law. I scout the idea that the question of the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of slavery is not a question for the people. I hold that every American citizen has a right to form an opinion of the constitution, and to propagate that opinion, and to use all honorable means to make his opinion the prevailing one. Without this right, the liberty of an American citizen would be as insecure as that of a Frenchman. Ex-Vice-President Dallas tells us that the constitution is an object to which no American mind can be too attentive, and no American heart too devoted. He further says, the constitution, in its words, is plain and intelligible, and is meant for the home-bred, unsophisticated understandings of our fellow-citizens. Senator Berrien tell us that the Constitution is the fundamental law, that which controls all others. The charter of our liberties, which every citizen has a personal interest in understanding thoroughly. The testimony of Senator Breese, Lewis Cass, and many others that might be named, who are everywhere esteemed as sound lawyers, so regard the constitution. I take it, therefore, that it is not presumption in a private citizen to form an opinion of that instrument.

Now, take the constitution according to its plain reading, and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.

I have detained my audience entirely too long already. At some future period I will gladly avail myself of an opportunity to give this subject a full and fair discussion.

Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work The downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world, and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are, distinctly heard on the other. The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen, in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. “Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God.”[13] In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:

God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o’er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign,
To man his plundered rights again
Restore.

God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end
And change into a faithful friend
Each foe.

God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
But all to manhood’s stature tower,
By equal birth!
THAT HOUR WILL, COME, to each, to all,
And from his prison-house, the thrall
Go forth.

Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I’ll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive–
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate’er the peril or the cost,
Be driven.

An Assault on Decency

While I was on my Minnesota vacation, everything in my country seemed like going to shit. Before I left Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending the family separation “zero tolerance” policy. Though tempting to hail such measure as a victory since overwhelming public pressure and outrage forced him to do it. But the notion that Trump has “ended” family separation is a questionable matter of law. Children are still in detention camps with no sign of seeing their parents again who now face criminal charges and deportation for illegal entry. Despite that most of these migrants’ choice to enter the country illegally is more akin to Harry Potter’s choice to cast a patronus against a Dementor attacking his cousin. Most of these families were desperately fleeing violence in Central America and have already gone through the legal channels for seeking asylum. Yet, border patrol agents either turned them away or told them to come another day. Sure, they knew they were breaking the law by crossing the border. But they didn’t have much of choice to do so. And as Harry later found out, these people were essentially tricked into doing so by spiteful authority figures who hated them. There is no established protocol to reunite families and sign that his administration plans to do so. Nor does Trump’s executive order ban the practice. Rather, it merely directs the Department of Homeland Security to detain migrant families together instead of separating them. Such policy also poses legality question as well. Should courts overturn it, it’s entirely possible that family separations can start again.

However, the “backlash works” analysis also skips a more fundamental political question. The disturbing truth is that huge number of mostly Republican Americans were willingly to back such separation policy. In fact, they’re even more excited about the underlying policy of arresting every undocumented immigrant crossing the border a la “zero tolerance” policy giving rise to family separations in the first place. What’s most telling about this dark and cruel incident isn’t Donald Trump stepping back in the face of public outrage. It’s the millions of Republicans willing to support an obviously cruel immigration policy. In turn, points to perhaps the deepest problem in American politics in the Trump era, which is the lethal conjunction of white identity politics and partisanship has made the Republican Party willing to sanction injustices that had previously been unthinkable in modern America. It’s as if politics seems to justify anything at this point for them. As long as they get what they want in the culture wars, they’ll sell their souls to supporting a sociopathic authoritarian demagogue who cares nothing for them regardless of whoever gets hurt, how much he undermines American values, or the damage he’s caused in these United States.

While most Americans strongly oppose Donald Trump’s family separation policy, Republicans generally support it by a significant margin despite there’s a substantial minority who don’t. After all, massive margins of them usually favor Trump. Yet, this still means that millions of Americans back a morally grotesque policy separating children from their parents for an unknown period of time, possibly permanently. The fact most Republicans seem to favor this unconscionable “zero tolerance” policy illustrates the degree to which Trump’s position and partisanship has shaped Republican moral thinking. What’s more depressing is that the debate over family separation policy in its relatively early stages. So there’s a good reason to believe if Trump returns with the idea, Republicans will be more likely to support it, not less. If there is a moral crisis in American politics these days, it’s that a large contingent of Americans are willing to support morally indefensible policies from a sociopathic and unrespectable man for the sake of “law and order” or “national security.” Despite that a moral repugnant “zero-tolerance” policy at the border achieve neither.

Yet, if you doubt such shift in public opinion will happen, consider Republican opinion on the infamous Muslim ban. When Donald Trump first announced his proposal for a “total and complete shutdown” on Muslim immigration in December 2015, scores of prominent Republicans including his future Vice President Mike Pence condemned the idea in roughly the same moral indignation some Republican leaders have used to discuss family separations. A poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC found GOP primary voters evenly split on the idea. But when it became clear Trump was likely to become the GOP standard bearer in March 2016, things changed. Exit polls from 5 states comprising of Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, and Illinois, found that Muslim ban support among 2/3 of Republican voters. When Trump actually implemented a version of the now infamous Muslim “travel” ban in January 2017, Republicans overwhelmingly backed him with 84% support according to a June 2017 poll. Hell, despite court challenges and its flagrant unconstitutionality on grounds of religious discrimination, the US Supreme Court still ruled in favor of it.

So what happened with the Muslim ban? Obviously, the clearer it became that supporting it was a core Trump position, the clearer it became that being a Trump supporter in good standing required backing the travel ban. When Donald Trump became the Republican nominee and later president, Republican partisanship became more about backing this unrespectable man. Of course, such behavior isn’t unprecedented among a president and their supporters. Since the more closely a policy is identified with the president, the more people from the president’s party are willing to support it. As Texas A&M professor George C. Edwards III told Vox, “The president’s association with a policy is an especially powerful signal to those predisposed to support his initiatives. By reinforcing his partisans’ predispositions, presidents can counter opposition party attacks and discourage his supporters from abandoning him. In addition, co-partisans appear to be resilient in returning to support after periods of bad news.” Under a normal presidential administration, this isn’t a huge deal. But when the president is a vile sociopath who only cares about enriching himself and his corporate backers while doing the minimal to convince his base that he’s on their side by enacting cruel policies that really don’t help anybody, you have a national crisis in American moral values on your hands.

Fortunately, the family separation debate didn’t actually go on for very long so far. Thus, public opinion didn’t have time to harden along partisan lines. The Trump administration sent mixed signals about what to think of it. Sometimes they claimed it’s a shame and the Democrats’ fault (despite it really wasn’t). Other times they justified it as necessary to deter more undocumented migration. Under these conditions along with the moral shock from headlines feeling fresh and some prominent Republicans like Laura Bush willing to condemn the policy, it’s easy to see why Republican voters felt comfortable opposing Donald Trump this time.

Yet, despite all that, millions of Republicans still supported this morally egregious policy of ripping children from the families and putting them in cages at a relatively significant margin. However, suppose the Trump administration resume family separations while Donald Trump provides a sustained defense in public appearances and tweets. Chances are that Republicans most likely will rally around him the same way they came to support the equally morally obscene Muslim ban. And what’s truly scary is that if Trump stayed the course on this one and allowed the media and public outrage to dissipate, he might’ve gotten away with it.

Nonetheless, if this was just a matter of partisanship and Trump support, it wouldn’t be the very assault on decency that it is. But it’s not. Rather it’s by going after overwhelmingly Latino immigrants from Central America, Donald Trump is playing on his political home turf like it’s “Mexicans are rapists” all over again. In 2015, two political scientists named Marisa Abrajano and Zoltan Hajnal published a book looking closely at the way mass Latino immigration was shifting American politics. According to Abrajano in the book’s summary, she and Hajnal concluded that the influx of Latino immigration had driven a large number of white voters into the Republican Party. This effect appears to track media coverage. When people in the news talk about the threat posed by Latino immigration such as Donald Trump talking about how Latino migrants are responsible for gang violence, Republicans benefit. Another group of researchers polled white Americans on how their view of diversity affected their likelihood of voting for Trump. They found that when whites were reminded that America was becoming an increasingly black and brown country, they were more likely to support Trump and favor immigration restrictions.

This is the crux of the moral crisis of the Trump era in a nutshell. The most Un-American and morally reprehensible parts of Donald Trump’s presidency such as his crackdown of undocumented immigrants, the Muslim ban, his shocking moral equivalence during the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia tap into the forces that are the most responsible for making him president. While stories of separated families in the media have wracked neutral observers’ hearts, Trump’s most hardcore supporters (like white supremacists and the Alt-Right) may very well have the opposite reaction. This intersects in a particularly dangerous way in partisanship for if Trump can maintain his hardcore base’s support enough to retain majority GOP support, he won’t need to immediately cave. And the longer and harder he fights for a policy, the more support for it will become GOP orthodoxy.

Disturbingly enough, it’s an established fact Donald Trump’s racial politics are genuinely popular with millions of white Americans who have significantly supported such vicious and morally inexcusable policies like the family separations at the border. It’s also a demonstrably and theoretically so that the GOP’s partisanship strength can enable Republican presidents to attract their party base’s support along with its political establishment. Both facts mean that despite the depravity of everything he says and does in the White House, Trump will always get the Republican Party to back his attacks on members of minority groups, given the time and effort. Indeed, ending family separation for now is a good thing and it’s understandable for liberals to pop the cork and call it a win. But the fact the separations happened at all and that millions of Americans were perfectly fine with them should trouble us all. This is especially since many of these children ripped from their parents will have to grapple with the traumatic implications for the rest of their lives.

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump has resorted to his race-baited fearmongering. During an event on Friday, June 22, 2018, he returned to his old argument about undocumented immigrants, highlighting families who lost loved ones to crimes committed by them. While losing a loved one to a crime is tragic, Trump held this emotionally charged event on “permanent separation” certain families have faced to undocumented criminals in an effort to shift the focus of the immigration conversation from family separations at the border. Granted there are undocumented immigrants who commit crimes. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that Trump’s event with these families is just a publicity stunt to capitalize on their tragedy. First of all, undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native born Americans and more likely to be crime victims due to their lack of protected status making them unable to call the authorities. But undocumented criminals pose no more a danger to society than their counterparts with legal status. Had many of these families experienced a loved one killed by a legal immigrant or US citizen, Trump wouldn’t be parading them for his own ends to smear an entire group of people as violent criminals to justify his morally inexcusable policies against them. As he said in the event, “We’re gathered today to hear from the American victims of illegal immigration. You know, you hear the other side. You never hear this side. These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones because they were killed by criminal illegal aliens. These are the families the media ignores.” I’m sure anyone who loses their loved ones to undocumented immigrants are featured on the local news and maybe a spot on a Fox News show since they devour stories revolving around nonwhite murderers killing white Americans, undocumented or otherwise. Yet, here Trump seems to paint undocumented criminals as a special kind of evil they’re not which is an effective way to dehumanize a vulnerable population.

Even worse, not only does Donald Trump often blame congressional Democrats for “weak” immigration laws, his hardline stance on immigration makes it practically impossible to even the most bipartisan legislation for comprehensive immigration reform. Hell, he’s even in complete disagreement with members of his own party on how to solve immigration problems that he created. This isn’t an accident. As the crisis at the border puts the Trump administration under fire from humanitarian groups, Democrats, and even many Republicans as the biggest story in the nation, there’s a belief among senior White House officials, including the dead-eyed longtime adviser Stephen Miller, that fostering controversy is a winning strategy for them and that it will galvanize conservatives ahead of the November elections. Trump’s actions regarding ending DACA while sabotaging any chance for Congress to pass a bill protecting Dreamers is a glaring example.

Yet, that’s not the worst of it. In the wake of the family separations outrage, Texas US Senator Ted Cruz introduced legislation that would halt family separations and double the number of immigration judges from 375 to 750 to process detention cases more efficiently as the system has been backlogged for years due to a judge shortage. . In response, Trump extensively and derisively laughed off the idea of expanding the immigration courts as part of a plan to end the crisis, asserting that asylum seekers’ lawyers coach their clients on what to say so they’ll be allowed to stay in the United States. He said, “We have to have a real border, not judges. I don’t want to try people. I don’t want people coming in.” On Sunday, June 24, 2018, he tweeted, “We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came.” Apparently, Trump doesn’t think the immigration backlog is a problem. In fact, he doesn’t believe that undocumented immigrants should have a right to present their cases to immigration judges at all.

Since the Supreme Court has repeatedly maintained the due process requirements of the 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments apply to everyone regardless of legal status, including undocumented immigrants. Thus, theoretically, if you deny anyone due process, you deny everyone due process. Not to mention, denying due process flies in the face of America’s basic democratic and moral values. At an immigration standpoint, this means we’re all undocumented immigrants because your documents are useless if you can’t show them to a judge while being identified as a suspect is the same as being guilty. For without due process, the government has all the power while the individual, citizen or otherwise has none.

In practice, denying due process to suspected undocumented immigrants would make all Latinos living in the US subject to the kind of hell akin to what those in Maricopa County were subjected in Joe Arpaio’s sheriff days. Except that instead of corrupt sheriff deputies putting them in a horrifying tent city jail with pink underwear, they’d be arrested by ICE and sent up on a one-way ticket to the country they at least allegedly came from. Many US citizens have already been arrested and/or detained under suspicion of undocumented immigration due to racial profiling by law enforcement. Because so many Americans already associate a Latino presence in their communities with undocumented immigration, especially where there aren’t many of them. Despite that a Spanish-sounding name and brown skin mean nothing as far as legal status is concerned. Do away with due process for undocumented immigrants and Latinos caught in ICE’s crosshairs will be unable to prove their legal status to a judge to challenge that claim. Even if they’re in the US legally or are a native-born US citizen who has lived in the country their whole lives. We should also take into account that 90% of those arrested in Arpaio’s deportation raids had legal status. But that didn’t save them for being suspected for illegal entry and having their constitutional rights violated by their local sheriff because they were Latino. But thanks to due process, Arpaio’s victims were able to prove his rampant abuse with racial profiling to get him convicted.

Nonetheless, this debacle over the family separations at the border demonstrates that supporting Donald Trump means leaving your spine and conscience at the door while having the gall to defend the morally indefensible and torching anything remotely relating to decency as “weak” or “reeking with political bias.” Though there is no question that Trump is a divisive figure, I am deeply afraid of the morally reprehensible policies his supporters are willing to tolerate and even agree with. As deeply disturbed I am about their loyalty to a man who will sell them out if he hasn’t already, I really want to believe they have some semblance of a political conscience or at least principles that they’d never be willing to compromise like the basic notion of democracy, equality, liberty, and civil rights. I want to believe that as polarized our country is that I have some common agreement with these people on key American principles. Not because I am a white woman who’s been alienated by her extended family, friends, and community by jumping on the Trump Train which almost cost me my access to Medicaid last year. But because I really find it difficult to believe that millions of Americans would be willing to sell their souls to support a vile and unrespectable man who’d put US Democracy in danger just to enrich himself with the presidency. Nor do I want to believe that the United States is so broken that the very notions of basic human decency become the source of heated political contention. However, I’m not so sure of even that anymore since Trump’s acolytes seem to stand by him despite all the morally egregious things he’s said or done, even if they previously seemed virtually unthinkable. And ideas I’ve long been taught and believe as basic principles of morality and American democracy now seem politically controversial.

There is no question that having Donald Trump as president poses a grave danger to the United States and the world since he’s a narcissistic sociopath with authoritarian ambitions who has no respect for the country he leads, its values, its institutions, or its people. Yet, what I fear most is what his presidency is doing to this country’s soul since a large contingent of Americans have embraced him as their champion because he says whatever inflammatory screeds they want to hear. And no matter what inexcusable thing he says or does as president, they loyally stand by him and enable his destructive behavior and policies against those who stand to suffer the most. But his entire presidency has been an assault on decency since Trump is an unrespectable man who has absolutely none as his moral degenerate words and policies reflect. Yet, the question isn’t whether his actions and rhetoric define who we are which they sort of do and since our country isn’t innocent from human rights violations separating families. But whether he embodies what we Americans want to be as a nation, which I fervently hope isn’t the case. For while Trump projects an image of strength, business know-how, and patriotism to his supporters, I see him as a manipulative swindler, shameless fraud, spineless coward, pathological liar, and an unrepentant bully with self-delusions of grandeur who has to surround himself with sycophants to enhance his gigantic ego and viciously rage on Twitter or settle petty scores when he doesn’t get his way. To me, Trump embodies the worst of America that it’s fair to see him as the current face of evil in the modern American life. As he stages his assault on decency along with the American values we hold dear from the White House, we must resist him at every turn as citizens. We must not normalize or legitimize his presidency. Nor let his destructive words and policies that undermine democracy with each passing day drag us through the mud. Donald Trump may be president, but he must not receive the respect his office entails him. Because he’s not a man deserving of such recognition or worthy of being referred to as “President of the United States.” His morally bankrupt character makes him only worthy of our scathing contempt and criticism that we should make known wherever he goes. And we must shame his followers to remind of our disgust over their support for such an unrespectable man they think is on their side as he stabs them in the back with his empty promises.

Do We Have Any Decency?

The more we hear about the Trump administration’s immigration policies of taking children from their parents, arresting their parents, and taking the kids into custody, the more they sound too cruel to be real. And the Associated Press has acquired internal Department of Homeland Security data covering the program from May 5-June 9. During this time, 2,342 children were taken from their immigrant parents on the border. That’s an average of 65 kids per day separated from their families and often sent to foster homes or held in detention centers. This might actually be an undercount since these numbers only reflect families separated when parents were sent to criminal custody for prosecution on illegal entry. Families presenting themselves for asylum by coming to a port of entry before being separated weren’t included.

While the family separation policy may be new, it’s nonetheless building on an existing system that attention to family separation has brought more awareness to the underlying problems within the US immigration system that have been going on for some time. For the past several years, a growing number of Central Americans have been coming into the US without papers who often are families seeking asylum. Asylum seekers and families are both accorded particular protections in US and international law, which make it impossible for the government to simply send them back. They also put strict limits on the length of time, and conditions, in which children can be kept in immigration detention. When the Obama administration attempted to respond to the “crisis” of families and unaccompanied children crossing the border in the summer of 2014, it put hundreds of families in immigration detention, a practice which had basically ended several years before. But federal courts stopped the administration from holding families for months without justifying the decision to keep them in detention. So most families were eventually released while their cases were pending. In some cases, they disappeared into the US rather than showing up for their own court dates.

As we speak, the Trump administration works to detain as many immigrants arriving in the United States without papers as possible. Even if they’re seeking asylum, which they have the legal right to do. But because a decades-long court settlement requires the government to release children from immigration detention “without necessary delay” parents taking care of them would have to be released as well. However, by sending parents into Justice Department custody for criminal prosecution, the Trump administration forces itself to separate parents from their children. Because kids can’t be detained with parents in federal jail, they’re treated as “unaccompanied alien minors” as if they crossed the border alone. Thus, as their parents are languishing in federal prison awaiting trial and sentence, the children are sent into custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services. As far as Trump’s cronies are concerned, this is a fitting punishment.

Yet, their logic overlooks the fact that when asylum seekers try to follow the law by presenting themselves at official border crossings to ask for asylum, Border Patrol agents often tell them they can’t come in. This isn’t an accident. For at multiple ports of entry in Texas to California, the Trump administration tells asylum seekers that they don’t have room to process them today which keeps people waiting outside for days on end without any indication as to when they’ll be allowed to seek asylum legally. According to reports, some asylum seekers are being physically blocked from setting foot on US soil, which would give them the legal right to pursue an asylum claim. So what choice would that leave them but to cross the border illegally and present their asylum claim to Border Patrol instead? And even families trying to seek asylum at ports of entry can’t be assured they won’t be separated anyway. While the Trump administration claims that it only separates families entering legally if they’re concerned about the child’s safety or feel there’s insufficient evidence that the adult is their legal guardian. But it’s not clear how they make that determination and there’s no proof they’re abusing that discretion either.

However, family separation is neither sudden nor arbitrary. The Trump administration claims it’s taking extraordinary measures in response to the temporary surge it’s entirely possible that this will become the new normal. From October 2017 to May 2018, it’s reported that at least 2,700 families have been separated at the border thanks to its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. Though it doesn’t seem like all families apprehended by Border Patrol get separated, the pace might be picking up. The Trump administration has stepped up detention of asylum seekers (and immigrants period). But because there are such strict limits on keeping children in immigration detention, it’s had to release most of the families caught. So their solution has been to prosecute large numbers of immigrants for illegal entry, including in a break from previous administrations, large numbers of asylum seekers. That allows the Trump administration to ship kids off to ORR than keep them in immigration detention.

In theory, unaccompanied immigrant children are sent to ORR within 72 hours of being apprehended. They’re kept in government facilities, or short-term foster care for days or weeks while ORR official try to identify their nearest relative in the US who can take them in while their immigration case is being resolved. But in practice, the system dealing with unaccompanied immigrant children was already overwhelmed, if not outright broken. ORR facilities were already 95% full with 11,000 children held as of June 7. And according to the New York Times, the government, “has reserved an additional 1,218 beds in various places for migrant children, including some at military bases.” In fact, the agency has been overloaded for years since its 2014 backlog precipitated the child migrant, “crisis” when Border Patrol agents had to care for kids for days. An American Civil Liberties Union report released in May documented hundreds of claims of “verbal, physical, and sexual abuse” of unaccompanied children by Border Patrol.

There are also questions about how carefully ORR vets the sponsors to whom it ultimately releases children. A PBS Frontline investigation found cases where the agency released teenagers to labor traffickers. ORR told Congress in April that of 7,000 of children it attempted to contact in fall 2017, 1,475 couldn’t, which led to allegations that the government “lost” children or that they’d been handed over to traffickers. Though for the most part, it’s more probable that the families the ORR wasn’t able to contact deliberately decided to go off the map. Unaccompanied children who came to the US mostly consisted of teenagers with close relatives here to reunite with. According to a 2014-2015 Office of Inspector General report, 60% of unaccompanied kids were sent to their parent and 99% went to close friends or relatives while 1% were put in long-term foster care.

However, this isn’t true of children coming to the US with their parents who don’t have to be old enough to make the journey on their own and are separated from them. For ORR isn’t used to changing diapers. In May, the New York Times wrote that the government put out request proposals for “shelter care providers, including group homes and transitional foster care,” to house children separated from parents. One organization is placing children with Maryland and Michigan foster families and plans to expand to several other states. Some have fostered unaccompanied children but they’re not used to children who’ve just been separated from their parents.

While some families have been reunited, the Trump administration is sending very mixed signals about how families could be reunited and whether it’s even trying to make that happen at all. According to one ACLU lawsuit over family separation and immigration detention, a DOJ official told the judge that, “once a parent is in ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] custody and the child is taken into the Health and Human Services system, the government does not try to reunite them, and instead attempts to place the child with another relative in the United States — if the child has one.” But ICE and DHS claim that once parents finish their criminal sentences for illegal entry or reentry, they can reunite with their children in civil immigration detention while pursuing their asylum case. Nor do they seem to have a system to bring families back together. One flyer in Texas given to parents offered a number to call to locate their children. Yet, the number was wrong and didn’t lead to ORR. In fact, it was an ICE tip line. Even if a parent can call ORR and the agency can identify their child, they may not be able to call the parent back. Since immigrants in detention don’t have phone access (though federal judges urged the government to provide them so they can find their kids). Some parents face deportation without their children while some children are getting sent back without their parents.

In response to the outcry, Donald Trump has responded to criticisms on family separations, by claiming that a “Democratic law” requires him to do it, and that if Congress doesn’t like it, it can change the law. However, that is just Trump’s way to deflect blame and avoid responsibility since that statement is simply not true. Because there’s no law requiring immigrant family separations. The Trump administration had made the decision to charge everyone crossing the border with illegal entry and the one to charge asylum seekers in criminal court rather than waiting to see that they qualify. They’ve been asking Congress to change laws granting extra protections to families, unaccompanied children, and asylum seekers since it came into office. And they’ve blamed them for stopping Trump from securing the border the way he’d like (with a big stupid wall which won’t contribute to anything beneficial whatsoever). Furthermore, these aren’t necessarily “Democratic laws” either with a law addressing unaccompanied children passed overwhelmingly in 2008 that was signed by George W. Bush. While restriction on family detentions is the result of federal litigation. In this context, the law isn’t forcing Trump to separate families but keeping him from doing what he’d really want to do like sending families back or keeping them in detention together. So he’s resorting to Plan B.

Some Trump administration officials say they’re prosecuting immigrants and separating families to stop people from illegally coming to the US between ports of entry. This argument sounds like common sense since it allows the administration to avoid awkward legal or moral questions on trying to keep people out of the country. Yet, there’s no evidence this strategy works. While rolling out the “zero-tolerance” policy in early May, they claimed a pilot program along one border sector reduced crossings by 64% but they haven’t produced the numbers backing it up. Not to mention, as I described earlier, the Trump administration’s sending mixed signals about whether it wants people to use ports of entry to seek asylum legally. Since some asylum seekers have been separated from their kids doing just that while others were encouraged not to. Though they’ve promised to prosecute anyone who submits a “fraudulent” claim, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it clear that he suspects many, if not most, asylum claims are fraudulent. The statistics the Trump administration uses to back up that there’s been a “surge” since las year sometimes count both people getting caught by Border Patrol between ports o entry and those presenting themselves without papers at ports of entry for asylum. The implication is that the current crackdown will reduce both. This implies that a point of this policy is to stop families from entering the US seeking asylum, period.

If you want to know how the Trump administration is justifying family separations at a legal standpoint, they simply claim that criminal defendants don’t have a right to have their children with them in jail. But the question is whether they have the legal authority to put asylum-seeking parents in jail awaiting trial to begin with, knowing they’re splitting them from their children. Human rights organizations including the United Nations have argued that prosecuting asylum seekers as criminals violates international law. Yet, no presidential administration has agreed with that interpretation since the Obama administration prosecuted some asylum seekers as well, just not as often or with the Trumpian dedicated zeal. However, federal courts have ruled that it’s illegal to keep an immigrant in detention in hopes to deterring others, instead of making an individual assessment on whether the immigrant needs to be detained. That might pave the way for advocates to fight back against family separation or at least force the government to start helping families get reunited after their parents have been separated. In the ACLU’s lawsuit victory in June, the judge made it clear that he believed that if the allegations against the administration were true, they might very well be unconstitutional on violation of family integrity, which courts have found is implicitly part of the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of “liberty” without due process of law. Though it has favorable odds, that doesn’t mean the case will succeed. Unless something else happens to change the policy before then, any opinion will be appealed and will likely go to the Supreme Court. Still, even if the ACLU does succeed, it won’t stop family separations at the border. The lawsuit argues that it’s unconstitutional for parents in immigration detention to be separated from their children. But not that it’s unconstitutional to charge parents with illegal entry and take them into a separate criminal court. A victory would merely obligate the federal government to reunite parents with their children once they’ve served their illegal entry sentence. Yet, whether the government can actually do that is another question. And for families, that’s less preferable than not being separated at all.

Though the Trump administration presents its crackdown as a temporary response to a temporary “surge” of illegal border crossers, it’s simply a return to normal levels of the past several years after a brief dip in 2017. To assume that the administration will be satisfied with border apprehension levels in a few months and wind down the aggressive tactics it’s started to use would be foolish. If we had a different president running a different White House, the outrage family separation has generated would result in the policy coming to a quiet end or at least curbed. Since it’s galvanizing not just progressives but also conservatives as well. But Trump’s administration rarely backs down from something because people are mad about it. More often than not, Donald Trump takes it as an indication he’s doing something right, even if he’s not. While Democrats scramble to propose bills limiting prosecution and separation, the issue isn’t inspiring the bipartisan momentum that Trump’s decision to end DACA last fall did. Thus, it’s extremely unlikely that Congress will pass a law stopping family separations at the border. And when it became clear the Trump administration was engaging in widespread family separations, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s vague and inaccurate comments on sending the kids to “foster care or whatever” were especially telling.

It’s possible that the Trump administration simply won’t have the resources to keep this many people in detention for so long or to keep prosecuting more and more people for a crime that’s already overwhelming federal dockets. Since ICE’s detention centers are already running out of space. Indefinite family separations will almost certainly overwhelm the already precarious system dealing with migrant children. Border Patrol and ORR won’t get the resources they need to address the new jobs they’re asked to take on by treating children separated from parents as “unaccompanied” kids. Yet, it’s also possible it’ll simply burn through the money it has and demand Congress for more in the name of protecting the US from an illegality invasion. The Trump administration knows it’s separating families and doesn’t believe it’s their job to reunite them.

Nonetheless, the cruelty of the Trump administration’s policies is almost impossible to imagine. Could you understand the parent separated from their child having no real sense of seeing them again? Could you comprehend the child stuck in a country whose language they don’t speak and in the care of strangers while their parents are gone? Such pain is incredible and traumatizing to experience. One Honduran man killed himself in his detention cell after Border Patrol took his 3-year-old son. CNN reported of Border Patrol agents ripping a breastfeeding woman’s infant daughter from her arms. A New York Times story tells of a boy who wouldn’t shower for 2 days or change his clothes after being separated from his parents and placed into foster care.

Yet, as much as the family separation crisis is about immigration policy and our country’s values, it’s also a health crisis. Separating parents and their children comes with considerable health risks. Every bit of a child’s health depends on a foundational relationship with a caring adult like their parents. When they’re separated, kids’ stress hormones start working overtime and are constantly on red alert. This causes disruption in the way that neural synapses connect with each other in their brain architecture. That can lead to developmental delay. Traumatized children develop speech slower, their motor skills don’t come along as quickly as they should, and they have difficulty creating proper attachments to other human beings. The younger the child is and the longer they’re in this kind of situation, the more difficult it is to reverse it. These experiences can have lifelong consequences like affecting a child’s ability to learn, being more susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse, and possibly could be at a higher risk of heart disease or cancer when they become adults. When a breastfeeding mother is torn from her infant, her breasts can be swollen and painful, which can develop to mastitis where the remaining milk can evolve into breast abscesses that must be removed via surgical drainage. Then there’s the fact that whatever children are telling social workers, doctors, or clinical psychologists at the border can be shared by ORR with DHS and federal immigration authorities. Under any other presidential administration this wouldn’t be a big deal since families were typically reunited during the Obama years. But under Donald Trump, the policy is increasingly used to detain or deport undocumented minors.

Donald Trump has implied that his justification for separating families seeking asylum, and his restrictionist ideology for even legal immigrants, is to prevent the United States from enduring what’s happening in Europe. For he falsely claims, immigrants there have brought with them a wave of violence that’s driving up the crime rate (except it’s not). He’s often referred to such outlandish claim as “politically incorrect” but that’s not it. Since he and key members of his administration are embracing what used to be a fringe theory held by the furthest of the far right. To these white supremacists, they argue that white people are being “systematically” erased by their inferiors, and thus require an influx of white babies and new white immigrants (at the exclusion of nonwhite immigrants) to survive. To some, white Americans and white culture, are threatened by a slow-running “genocide” via demographic replacement. Though this theory is just a bunch of racist bullshit with no historical basis whatsoever, it has adherents in the alt-right (which they evoked in Charlottesville with “You will not replace us”), across conservative media, and even in Congress and the White House. But such ideas are old, rooted in scientific racism and fears of interracial sex and babies once held by Woodrow Wilson and white supremacists alike. But now they play apart in creating government policy.

Donald Trump’s racism may be that of a 72-year-old man who thinks five nonwhite teenage boys should be executed for raping a jogger despite DNA evidence to the contrary. But his external racism is heavily influenced by adherents of an ideology that believes whiteness is the essential character of America (it isn’t), with direct and detrimental impacts on discussions regarding immigration policy. More importantly, Trump’s language and policies echo a worldview holding that whiteness is more valuable to participation in the American experiment than anything else, even a deep and abiding belief in American ideals.

While most of the GOP might not be comfortable using terminology like “white genocide” and “racial realism,” because many conservatives don’t share those views. They may see Donald Trump’s comments as elitist, unkind, divisive, and fly in the face of American values, even if racial issues aren’t on their priority list. But many on the right don’t see it that way as Jeff Sessions implements racist policies in the Department of Justice while Brietbart fans the flames of racial discord with “black crime” article labels and stories about imminent dangers posed by nonwhite immigrants. Nonetheless, Trump’s adoption of these racist views of the alt-right is at the core of the current immigration debate and has a direct impact on his immigration policy. In addition, it’s making the dealmaking process virtually impossible with Democrats and Republicans who desperately want to avoid any arguments racializing immigration policy. They want the debate about immigration to be about border security and genuine threats to American security, since it makes compromise imaginable even possible. But the debate over immigration is actually about a belief that nonwhite immigrants pose an existential danger to America and Americanness as a whole and that “demographics” require nonwhite immigrants to be expelled while white immigrants can be welcomed with open arms. You can’t negotiate with people who believe that an America letting in people from “shithole” countries isn’t the America they know and love. Despite that an America letting in people from “shithole” countries is exactly what America was built on for why else would millions Americans be here?

Keep in mind that Donald Trump’s core argument on his cruel and inhumane immigration policy is that reducing the number of foreign-born people living in the United States will leave native-born people richer and safer. This is full of crap which unfortunately many white people embrace. While Trump delivers concrete and material benefits to wealthy business executives in the form of tax cuts and industry-friendly regulations, what he’s offering to his white working-class backers is that cracking down on foreigners will solve their problems and that his willingness to suffer the condemnation by cosmopolitans is a token of dedication to their interests. In reality, it’s just a way for him to keep his working-class voters supporting him without doing anything to solve their real problems and possibly allowing his corporate allies to screw them over in the end. The kids held hostage are in large part, pawns in a game by which Trump is trying to coerce Democrats into backing sweeping reforms to legal immigration. The core of these reforms is to simultaneously switch the United States to what he calls a “merit-based” system, essentially raising the average educational attainment of legal immigrants while also cutting the overall number of immigrants. Yet, the net impact of this means reducing America’s GDP by about 0.3% in the long run while reducing overall GDP much more than that because the population is lower, meaning a more difficult time supporting the country’s retirement programs. Besides, immigrants contribute a lot to the American economy in way their native-born counterparts take for granted.

Then again, Donald Trump’s core pitch on immigration is always more about fear than economics, but here too, his politics are a disaster. While he often states how immigrants bring crime to this country, study after study shows he’s wrong. Mostly because immigrants legal and otherwise commit far fewer crimes than their native-born counterparts since they have a higher incentive to obey the law. Though gangs like MS-13 do exist, virtually everything Trump has done on immigration is counterproductive to addressing the problem of transnational organized crime. In its final years, the Obama administration ordered immigration services to lay off the vast majority of undocumented immigrants and target their efforts at apprehending violent criminals. Obama’s goal ultimately foiled by the courts and Trump’s election was to give work permits to millions and then have immigration law enforcement on the gangs Trump claims to be fighting. But immigration enforcement didn’t like the idea of being turned into some kind of auxiliary police force. They successfully stymied Obama’s efforts to concentrate on violent criminals, helped get Trump elected, and now we hear things like deporting 62-year-old permanent resident over a 20-year misdemeanor and a Kansas professor who’s lived here for over 30 years over a 2012 traffic violation instead of focusing on gang members. Even worse, by doing things like canceling Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of long-settled immigrants (like DACA), Trump is expanding the universe of nonviolent undocumented immigrants and making it that much less likely that law enforcement resources will be used against violent criminals.

Obviously, tearing children from their parents’ arms doesn’t poll well. But that doesn’t mean it can’t work for Donald Trump. His white working-class base sees a world where cultural elites have marginalized their concerns in favor of caring a lot more about the problems of immigrants and minorities because they see a zero-sum battle for attention and sympathy in which caring about immigrants’ problems means neglecting their own. Except that’s really not the case at all. Though such voters may not necessarily approve of the cruel treatment of Central American asylum seekers, but at the end of the day, the message that Trump is perhaps excessively cruel to foreigners emphasizes the notion he’s on their side. Except that he’s not because Trump knows how to deliver concrete wins to interest groups he cares about whether that’s letting health insurance companies discriminate against those with preexisting conditions, letting financial advisers deliberately give clients bad advice, letting chemical companies poison children’s brains, or delivering tax cuts that push profits to record levels. By contrast, nothing he’s doing on immigration will help anyone or anything. He’s got no answer to the rise of asylum seekers and is seeking broad policy changes that will lower wages and incomes. Anyone who knows a thing about Trump’s career, knows there’s absolutely nothing to suggest he has an aptitude for or interest in genuine problem solving. He’s a flimflam man who’s had to pay out $21 million for civil fraud in his fake university lawsuit before taking office and is now facing a new fraud lawsuit over his fake charity. This cruelty, too, is just a fraudulent branding scheme meant to make people who resent immigrants think he cares about them when he doesn’t. Immigrant kids will pay the highest price of all this deception. But in reality, nobody is going to gain, except Trump himself.

Yet, while Donald Trump and his administration may be bereft of common decency, ethics, or empathy, that doesn’t mean we have to be. While American history has incidents where non-white families have been forcibly separated, that doesn’t mean we have to put up with it. Nor do we have to tolerate immigration enforcement putting children in tent cities or cages. If we don’t want this family separation policy to define who we are as a nation, then we must speak out on this appalling cruelty and make our voices heard. Otherwise, do we have any decency?