Donald Trump has already asserted, over and over again, that there should be no checks on his power. His administration has openly defied Congress, a co-equal branch of government vested with the power to provide oversight of the Executive by the Constitution.
That includes his pet toad of an attorney general, William Barr, whom House Democrats have moved to hold in contempt for his flouting of legally-binding subpoenas. Barr, as head of the Justice Department, may also be tasked with disrupting law-enforcement investigations into Trump. The president has started a hate movement against the free press, attempting to destroy its legitimacy as a source of information that's independent from the government-and thus, unlike his communications staff, does not always serve his interests.
Now we know The Mueller Report concluded that there was insufficient evidence to charge him for conspiracy with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election, but that there were numerous instances where he abused his power to meddle in the investigation and obstruct justice. We also know it spawned 14 spin-off investigations-some of which, again, his toady AG will be tasked with overseeing-into his conduct in private business as well as public life. He is in peril, and his response has been to try to reverse the situation by demanding investigations into his political opponents and those who began the Russia probe initially.
It seems he added another plank to this new backlash strategy this weekend: floating trial balloons about extending his term in office, which is set at four years by constitutional amendment. He retweeted this message from his buddy Jerry Falwell, Jr., the head honcho at Liberty University:
Needless to say, this is not accurate. The Report did not make a determination on "collusion," which is not a legal term, and it certainly did not say there was "no obstruction." Trump's claim that the Obama administration was "spying" on him has not been proven. But yeah, the economy is good.
Later on, via Politico, Trump seemed to echo the message in a pair of tweets that appear to have been subsequently deleted:
Despite the tremendous success that I have had as President, including perhaps the greatest ECONOMY and most successful first two years of any President in history, they have stolen two years of my (our) Presidency (Collusion Delusion) that we will never be able to get back. The Witch Hunt is over but we will never forget. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
Nothing like an assault on the Constitution between friends, complete with pathetic spelling. Falwell, you might remember, is the charmer who leads a Christian university where, after the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, he told the students to arm themselves because, "I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in." You know, like Jesus said. Falwell later told the Washington Post he meant terrorists, not all Muslims.
More importantly, of course, the president just shared a message calling for the entirely unconstitutional-that is, illegal-extension of his term because of the WITCH HUNT by 18 ANGRY DEMOCRATS that TOTALLY EXONERATED him. Don't think too hard about why this shadowy Deep State cabal launched a two-year "coup" attempt-as the president has so dangerously suggested elsewhere-and concluded it by not attempting to remove him from office. Mueller left that to Congress because current Justice Department policy holds that a sitting president cannot be indicted, and because the Founders vested the power to remove the president in Congress as the voice of the people.
Never mind all that, though. Even if this is just another absurd trial balloon, it is the latest sign that the president may have little intention of leaving office no matter the circumstances. He has already been named-albeit as "Individual-1"- in one federal indictment, which led to his longtime fixer, Michael Cohen, going to prison this Monday morning. The evidence he abused his power and obstructed justice is damning, as even the Fox News Judge was ready to admit without equivocation. He faces 14 more probes, spanning the Trump Organization and the campaign and the inaugural committee and the administration, because there is little evidence that Donald Trump has ever run an honest shop.
Democratic leaders in particular must come to grips with the fact that he probably won't leave willingly. He can't afford to-it could land him in jail. He will fight like hell to prevent that happening. He will continue to drag this country towards authoritarianism and kleptocracy so long as it serves him to destroy democratic institutions. His party was mostly on board before, suppressing Certain People's votes and rigging electoral outcomes through ruthlessly gerrymandered maps. The Republican belief that power is itself a virtue and anything is justified to hold it-a pillar of authoritarianism-predates Trump. They've only gotten more bold since, stripping governors' offices of their powers when they lose the seat to a Democrat. Meanwhile, the president already deployed active-duty U.S. military forces on American soil ahead of the last election in response to a trumped-up "invasion" at the southern border. What excuse will he use next time? What forces will he deploy? We must all consider the possibility that the next election won't be free and fair.
Donald Trump is continually probing for norms and laws of our democracy to test and, if he is allowed to, destroy. Why would he stop at the concept of a peaceful transition of power at the end of his term? One suspects that Democrats know, deep in their hearts, what they will have to do. The question is whether they have the stomach for the fight. The republic depends upon it.