Is Trump an Illegitimate President?

Max Boot proclaims "Trump is an illegitimate president whose election is tainted by fraud."

Erstwhile Republican Max Boot takes to the pages of the Washington Post to proclaim “Trump is an illegitimate president whose election is tainted by fraud.” His argument is not persuasive.

[Trump’s personal lawyer Michael] Cohen’s admission under oath that he violated federal campaign laws by arranging illicit payments to adult-film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy playmate Karen McDougal “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.” For the first time since Watergate, the president is now an alleged co-conspirator in the commission of a federal crime. As Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, said, his client “testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”

And Cohen may only have begun implicating the president. Davis said on MSNBC that Cohen would be happy to share other incriminating information with the special counsel, including “knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.” This would seem to vindicate an earlier leak that Cohen may be able provide the “smoking gun” evidence showing that Trump himself gave the go-ahead to collusion with the Kremlin.

In short, there is growing evidence that the president is, to use the word favored by Richard Nixon, “a crook.” Even buying the silence of his reputed playmates could by itself have been enough to swing an exceedingly close election decided by fewer than 80,000 votes in three states. Trump certainly would not have authorized the payments unless he thought it was politically imperative to do so. There is also considerable evidence, as I previously argued, that Russia’s intervention on Trump’s behalf affected the outcome. Even more than Nixon, Trump is now an illegitimate president whose election is tainted by fraud.

While Trump has not been charged with, much less convicted of, a crime in connection to the Daniels and McDougal payments, I agree with Boot and Doug Mataconis that Trump is essentially an “unindicted co-conspirator” and have little doubt that Trump knew about and approved of the payments.

I’m inclined to agree with former Federal Elections Commission chairman Bradley Smith on the matter:

If a candidate for public office decided to settle a private lawsuit to get it out of the news before Election Day, would that be a campaign expenditure? If a business owner ran for political office and decided to pay bonuses to his employees, in the hope that he would get good press and boost his stock as a candidate, would that be a campaign expenditure, payable from campaign funds?

Under the theory that then-candidate Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen violated campaign finance laws by arranging hush-money payments to women accusing Trump of affairs, the answer would seem to be yes. We should probably think twice before accepting that answer.

Smith persuasively argues that the fact Cohen pled guilty to the campaign finance violation in exchange for dropping of charges carrying heavier penalties is not dispositive.

Moreover, regardless of whether paying hush money to cover up embarrassing but perfectly legal activities is a violation of the law, I don’t buy the theory that having done so renders the election illegitimate. That some unknowable number of people may not have voted for Trump had they known about two additional examples of his boorishness is not only speculative but is the slipperiest of slopes. There’s a near-infinite number of secrets that candidates for high office manage to conceal from the voters.

Boot is on more solid ground on the Russia matter. There’s sufficient circumstantial evidence of collusion with a hostile foreign power to disturb any honest observer. Perhaps Cohen will deliver a silver bullet in the Mueller investigation. And Mueller may well build a case that leads or should lead to Trump’s impeachment. But we’re not there yet. (As I’ve noted in previous postings, I’ve long thought Trump should be impeached on grounds related to the Emoluments Clause and his obvious daily corruption. But that’s a separate issue.)

In my judgment, were Trump proven to have colluded with the Kremlin to hack into the DNC and Clinton campaign email servers, he should be impeached and removed from office for that crime. But, given my current understanding of the nature of the Russian interference in the election, I wouldn’t consider the election itself illegitimate.

Legitimacy is an elusive concept in political science.  A common definition is “the belief that a rule, institution, or leader has the right to govern.” This is a “fundamentally subjective and normative concept: it exists only in the beliefs of an individual about the rightfulness of rule. It is distinct from legality, in that not all legal acts are necessarily legitimate and not all legitimate acts are necessarily legal.”

In my mind, it’s possible to both commit a crime worthy of impeachment and removal from office in the process of winning the election and for the election itself to remain legitimate.

As I currently understand it, Russian interference was limited to illegally tapping into various private accounts to dig up embarrassing information on Hillary Clinton and other Democrats as well as exploiting social media algorithms to target “fake news” to people in key states in an effort to influence potential Clinton voters to switch to Trump or at least stay home. That wouldn’t render the results illegitimate anymore than garden-variety campaign “dirty tricks.”

On the other hand, were the Russians to have interfered more directly in the outcome of the election, say, by disrupting the power grid in key Democratic strongholds on election day or hacking the electronic voting machines, the legitimacy of the outcome would be far more suspect. But, by that measure, widespread Republican efforts to make it harder for Democratic-leaning constituencies to vote did more to undermine the legitimacy of the 2016 election than the actions taken by Moscow.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Donald Trump, Presidency, Russia Investigation, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. The accusation of presidential illegitimacy probably rings more clearly in the case of George W. Bush in 2000 – not because of anything that Bush did, but because of the way the election was decided.

    Trump’s election, despite the payoffs and the popular vote, was legitimate.

    12
  2. Kylopod says:

    I wonder whether you would define Nixon’s 1972 election victory as “illegitimate.” Since he won by such a substantial margin, few argue that the outcome itself was questionable. But there’s no question that the Watergate crimes were an attempt to influence the outcome (in particular, to make sure that his opponent was George McGovern), and whether they actually did or not is less relevant than the fact that that was the goal. Attempted murder is still a crime.

    5
  3. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    Most people that voted did not vote for Trump. That’s why many people feel that the election was illegitimate.

    15
  4. Kathy says:

    Since there is a formal procedure for deciding elections, and clear rules and requirements attached to it, we can say the Cheeto’s election was legitimate.

    But that’s what the bulk of the population scoffs at as a technicality. Largely because Trump’s actions in the campaign and after the election show he has no qualifications at all for the position he won (with help and with cheating), and has been very damaging to the country and the international order.

    Legitimacy is not something you buy or win once, and then it’s yours to keep forever. It has to be maintained by actions and words. Trump has singularly failed to do so, and this makes him illegitimate.

    12
  5. gVOR08 says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa: Many people felt the election of Obama must be illegitimate as he was obviously unfit because he’s black. Many people feel the election of Trump must be illegitimate because he’s obviously unfit because he’s obviously unfit.

    7
  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    Yours truly, January 30, 2018:

    “Trump is legally president, but is not legitimate, he will never be legitimate.”

    It’s nice to see the official pundits start to catch up. A mere seven months gap! Max Boot is right, and so was/am I.

    Trump conspired with a hostile foreign government to commit crimes in order to win election. If that ever becomes tolerable to the American people, we no longer have a country. I am not proposing any solution but the legal one: impeachment. But clearly Trump should be removed from office, and the failure of Republicans to do their duty makes the entire party complicit and illegitimate.

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  7. JKB says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    You mean the election that was decided by the rules written into the Constitution from it origination?

    Even the popular vote was only split by 2% of those who voted, but then the popular vote has never been how the President is chosen, even as state legislatures have adopted the popular vote as the means to select the Electors defined in the Constitution.

    5
  8. Kylopod says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    Most people that voted did not vote for Trump.

    I hate to be that guy, but that would make A LOT of past presidents illegitimate, including Bill Clinton, JFK, Woodrow Wilson, even Abe Lincoln.

    Of course, his getting fewer votes than his opponent is more unusual (it’s only happened four previous times in US history)–but I’m not ready to suggest that alone makes the election illegitimate. For better or worse, the EC is the system we have, and winning a majority of electoral votes while losing the popular vote is considered “legitimate” under our system. It’s understood from the start that you win through the EC, not the popular vote. That’s how campaigns are structured, it’s how they coordinate which states to visit. Now I don’t like the EC, and I’d be happy to see it abolished, but as long as it’s in place, we can’t just declare every president who happens to win the EC while losing the popular vote “illegitimate.” There’s nothing illegitimate about playing by the rules, however dumb those rules may be.

    17
  9. Kathy says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    Most people that voted did not vote for Trump. That’s why many people feel that the election was illegitimate.

    That is true, but it also brings up another matter: most of the people who voted in 1992 and 1996 did not vote for Clinton. Had Hillary won in 2016, she’d have had the same issue.

    One can argue that Perot disrupted the 92 and 96 elections, that the 2000 election was a rare near-tie fluke, and one can argue that Stein and Johnson filled the role of Perot in 2016.

    But the fact remains that in four of the last seven elections, the winning candidate did not get a majority of the popular vote.

    I know this is still by the rules, and how the Electoral College works, but the whole system has to be unsatisfactory for a great many people. Especially when the person who wins the EC gets fewer popular votes than the losing candidate, as happened twice in the last 7 elections.

    I’d recommend pressuring state legislatures to pass the Interstate Popular Vote Compact, but I’m not sure it could be implemented even if all terms are met. For sure it will spend years in court.

    9
  10. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Kylopod:

    For better or worse, the EC is the system we have, and winning a majority of electoral votes while losing the popular vote is considered “legitimate” under our system.

    That’s not my point. My point is that any political system that does not reflect the will of the people will be seen as illegitimate, and that’s extremely dangerous. Not only the EC, but distortions of representation both in Senate and House.

    Brazil also has lots of distortions on representation and politics, that is taking a pretty dangerous turn.

    11
  11. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: Abolishing the EC would not, of course, take away the problem of getting presidents who win with less than 50% of the vote. Indeed it might even increase the likelihood of it by encouraging more third-party candidates (who are largely shut out of the EC system due to the winner-take-all format in most states). You’d need runoff elections or ranked-choice ballots to prevent that outcome.

    7
  12. Kylopod says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    My point is that any political system that does not reflect the will of the people will be seen as illegitimate, and that’s extremely dangerous.

    Agreed–but perceptions of legitimacy are very tied to perceptions of what people are used to. Some people did question Bill Clinton’s legitimacy due to his getting merely 42% of the vote and the (mistaken) belief that Perot was responsible for his victory. But it wasn’t as great a sense of a fundamental failure of the system as when Dubya and Trump lost the plurality (not just the majority) of the popular vote. And the fact that even Dubya’s EC victory was tainted by the vote-count controversy in Florida made it worse than simply if he’d lost the popular vote but won the EC decisively. The point is, there are gradations to these things.

    3
  13. An Interested Party says:

    Trump’s election, despite the payoffs and the popular vote, was legitimate.

    So Russian interference counts for nothing? Illegally breaking into and releasing information about Democrats leaves the election as “legitimate”? Uh huh…

    5
  14. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Kylopod:

    The point is, there are gradations to these things.

    There are. I think that a winning candidate that’s actively rejected by voters is a nightmare scenario, and that what’s happened with Trump. Many people that voted for Perot were OK with Clinton. But there are distortions with the Senate, with the House, these distortions are pretty dangerous. Really dangerous.

    Besides that, what do we have here? Two Presidential elections in five where the least voted candidate won?

    2
  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    Of course we should abolish the EC, it’s a stupid idea meant to impede democracy, and relies on disenfranchising voters from populous states. California has one elector for every 727,000 of its citizens, while Wyoming has one elector for every 191,000 people. The American people don’t like or trust or understand the EC and commenters upstream talking about the importance of voters believing the system is fair, are entirely correct.

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  16. Kylopod says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    Besides that, what do we have here? Two Presidential elections in five where the least voted candidate won?

    And that’s yet another reason why we need to get rid of the EC. But I feel it’s going too far to automatically call any candidate who wins the EC while losing the popular vote “illegitimate.” There was a period in 2012 where Obama appeared to be trailing in the national polls but leading in the states he needed to win the EC. (It led Trump at the time, in good broken-clock mode, to declare the EC as a “disaster for democracy.”) If he’d actually won the election in that way, would you be calling him illegitimate? I doubt most Dems would.

    The point is, the EC is a crappy system but as long as we have it, if both candidates follow the rules properly and it happens that the EC winner loses the popular vote, that doesn’t make the winning candidate “illegitimate.” Indeed, I think that calling Bush or Trump “illegitimate” on those grounds is a distraction from the far more damning facts regarding the Florida recount controversy in 2000 and the Russian scandal of 2016. Bush and Trump didn’t just benefit from a crappy system, they essentially cheated their way into power. We should work to get the EC abolished, but as a separate matter from combating those who cheat.

    6
  17. TM01 says:

    Why did Doug delete his article?

    Or did the Nazi Russian Electoral College hack it?

    Too bad. Because it was full of thoughtful, insightful ana… HAHAHAHA!!! Sorry. I most typed that out without laughing.

    Now I have milk on my monitor.

    Damn Russians.

    1
  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    @TM01:
    Promise me you’ll come back when the proof is irrefutable. I look forward to your explanation that it’s perfectly fine to conspire with enemy nations to rig the election. And you will say that.

    10
  19. gVOR08 says:

    Lets see:
    – He didn’t win the popular vote.
    – He violated campaign finance laws. (Which we knew last week.)
    -Individuals in the campaign cooperated with a hostile state.
    -His campaign likely received foreign money, including from said hostile state. (Maybe the NRA is it, maybe it’s the tip of an iceberg.)
    – He is publicly violating the emoluments clause every day.
    – He has failed to put his business interests in a trust.
    -Republicans have successfully suppressed votes.
    -He lied more than even Mitt Romney.
    —Which means his supporters were defrauded.
    —And it’s clear to everyone else that he is morally unfit and incompetent.

    That said, The election appears to have been legally conducted, so one can’t say he’s illegitimate. Nor does the above strike me as legally, or politically, grounds for impeachment. But, James, where is your redline? Would you agree he’s illegitimate and should be impeached if:
    -He received large sums from foreign entities?
    —Hostile foreign entities?
    -If he actively participated in failed attempts to collude?
    —Successful attempts to collude?
    -If the Russians did, after all, hack vote tallies in small numbers?
    —In unknown numbers?
    —In sufficient numbers to have thrown the outcome?
    -If the campaign, Trump, a Trump company, or anyone else associated with Trump actively coordinated with Russian hackers and/or trolls?
    —If they paid Russian hackers?
    —If someone associated with Trump, the Mercers, or others provided voter data to Russian trolls?
    -If Trump is subject to Russian blackmail for a non-criminal act?
    —For a criminal act?
    -(What have I missed?)
    When does this cross the line?

    9
  20. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    It’s nice to see the official pundits start to catch up.

    Boot might be engaging in a little “zeal of the convert” here. Trump is legitimately president, as in…works in the White House, flies on Air Force One, nominates judges, pardons jerks, types on the Official Government Twitter machine. He will always be the president legitimately elected in 2016.

    Don’t do the Republicans any favors. They picked Trump. They elected him legitimately. And they’ll have to answer for him too.

    4
  21. george says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    Most people that voted did not vote for Trump. That’s why many people feel that the election was illegitimate.

    Clinton got 48%, Trump got 46%. Neither of them got most (50% + 1) of the votes. Using your standard, Bush Jr, Bill Clinton, Nixon, JFK, Truman, Wilson were also illegitimate.

    The reason for arguing Trump is illegitimate rests on how he got his votes, not that he got less than a majority.

    Though it does occur to me, that given how many people say that vote for Stein or Johnson was a vote for Trump, maybe their totals should be added to his? More seriously, I can see why people say Stein stole votes from Clinton. But Johnson’s voters were conservatives, he took votes from Trump. Democrats should be applauding every conservative who voted Johnson instead of Trump – if there’d been 50,000 more of them in a few states Clinton would be President.

    1
  22. Kylopod says:

    @george:

    But Johnson’s voters were conservatives, he took votes from Trump.

    Not according to exit polls:

    “The exit polling asked voters they would have cast ballots for if there were only two candidates (Clinton and Trump). A quarter of Johnson voters said Clinton, 15 percent said Trump, and 55 percent said they would not have voted. Numbers were similar for Stein voters, with about a quarter saying they would have chosen Clinton, 14 percent saying Trump, and 61 percent saying they would not have voted.”

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cbs-news-exit-polls-how-donald-trump-won-the-us-presidency/

    I admit this threw me the first time I saw it. I actually know a young Bernie voter who told me he was thinking about supporting Johnson in the general election (I don’t know whether he did or not in the end). My working hypothesis, though, is that Johnson voters consisted disproportionately of Republican-leaning voters who preferred Clinton to Trump. Imagine a Never-Trump type like Max Boot who’s willing to support Clinton over Trump in a two-way race, but who’s comfortable supporting Johnson as an alternative. That’s what I’m guessing happened here.

    The bigger picture, though, is that the vast majority of both Johnson and Stein voters said they wouldn’t have voted at all in a two-way race. That needs to be kept in mind before just assuming they were responsible for Trump’s victory.

    4
  23. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    And that’s yet another reason why we need to get rid of the EC.

    Imagine in the period between the adoption of the constitution until 1865 at least, the EC votes included very few, if any, votes by black people, who were nevertheless counted for purposes of electoral votes.

    This was much worse than being disenfranchised. In effect, white people voted for them, not taking their desires into account. In the South, moreover, whites voted for them against their interests.

    Much the same went for women, though to a lesser extent, and for a while even for whites who didn’t own property.

    the upside is that the franchise was expanded until now it is almost universal, in spite of having an EC rigged against it. So it should be possible, in time, to get rid of the Electoral College altogether.

    The way these things go, though, there will be some attempt to reform it first.

    1
  24. James Joyner says:

    @Kylopod: It’s an interesting question. Nixon attempted to steal an election that by all accounts didn’t need to be stolen. I view it much like Trump’s case: the election was more-or-less legitimate but impeachment was warranted.

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa: But that’s a very separate question. Those are the longstanding rules of the system that all agreed to going in.

    @Michael Reynolds: We’re in agreement on impeachment. The disagreement is really on a technical/normative one about what constitutes a legitimate election.

    @Michael Reynolds: The Electoral College was the result of a compromise to get the Constitution ratified, having to do with the political concerns of 1787 and the fact that the states under the Articles of Confederation were sovereign equals any of whom could have vetoed ratification. The problem is that it’s just long past its prime, not one of original sin.

    @gVOR08:

    The election appears to have been legally conducted, so one can’t say he’s illegitimate. Nor does the above strike me as legally, or politically, grounds for impeachment.

    I think several of the things you cite are grounds for impeachment

    But, James, where is your redline? Would you agree he’s illegitimate and should be impeached

    I think those are separate questions.

    if:
    -He received large sums from foreign entities? No
    —Hostile foreign entities? No
    -If he actively participated in failed attempts to collude? No on illegitimate/Yes on impeach
    —Successful attempts to collude? Depends what collude means/Yes on impeach
    -If the Russians did, after all, hack vote tallies in small numbers? Quite possibly/Depends on Trump’s connection
    —In unknown numbers? Not enough to go on
    —In sufficient numbers to have thrown the outcome? Quite possibly/Depends on Trump’s connection
    -If the campaign, Trump, a Trump company, or anyone else associated with Trump actively coordinated with Russian hackers and/or trolls? Almost certainly happened but no on illegitimate/Possibly on impeach
    —If they paid Russian hackers? Not if all the hackers did is what I described in the OP/Possibly on impeach.
    —If someone associated with Trump, the Mercers, or others provided voter data to Russian trolls? No/No
    -If Trump is subject to Russian blackmail for a non-criminal act? No/Not enough info
    —For a criminal act? No/Quite possibly. I tend to be dubious of impeachment for pre-official acts.
    -(What have I missed?)
    When does this cross the line?

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I hate to be that guy, but that would make A LOT of past presidents illegitimate, including Bill Clinton, JFK, Woodrow Wilson, even Abe Lincoln.

    In fairness, a lot of people did think those past presidents (possible exceptions for Wilson and JFK) were illegitimate.

  26. MarkedMan says:

    @James Pearce: I see, Pearce. Your sage advice is that at all costs we must not question Trump’s legitimacy, must not even discuss it or we will be playing into his master plan. Got it.

    6
  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Of course we should abolish the EC…

    Enough pontificating about it. Move on to the next step and figure out how you’re going to get it done.

  28. Gustopher says:

    Legitimacy isn’t a simple yes or no — its a floating point value rather than a boolean — and depends as much on the observer as the observed.

    Donald Trump was elected
    – without a popular vote plurality
    – after engaging in campaign finance shenanigans
    – benefitting from Comey violating FBI policy disclosing the Clinton emails
    – benefiting from a foreign government campaign to influence the election
    – possibly conspiring with that foreign government
    – with campaign officials definitely trying to conspire

    Since winning the election he has
    – ignored any evidence of Russian involvement in the election
    – violated the emoluments clause
    – filled his government with his family
    – represented only his base, rather than all Americans

    Trump’s election is tainted — it’s entirely non-democratic, and influenced by outside powers. Trump, assuming that he did not actually conspire with Russian government representatives, could have regained legitimacy through his leadership — but he hasn’t.

    5
  29. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce: No one is questioning the legitimacy of Trump’s nomination. He’s definitely the Republican choice.

    4
  30. Warren Peese says:

    Clinton lied his way into the White House, too, and he didn’t have a majority vote either. I think Boot overreacted. BTW, I have never and never will vote for Trump. Ever.

  31. teve tory says:

    Lindsey Graham

    Verified account

    @LindseyGrahamSC

    If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed…….and we will deserve it.

    2:03 PM – 3 May 2016

    https://twitter.com/LindseyGrahamSC/status/727604522156228608

    5
  32. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:

    Legal and Legitimate are related but not identical concepts.

    Legitimacy is a wider idea, encompassing more than the letter of the law. For example, under the law in the 3rd Reich, it was legal to murder Jews. But a law formulated to allow genocide cannot be considered legitimate. For a law to be legitimate it has to arise from the consent of the governed. You’ll note that both the Declaration and the US Constitution make this point. In fact it’s pretty much the DNA of the USA.

    Was Trump elected with the consent of the American people? No. He was elected by subverting the election.

    The electors acted legally, and thus Trump is legally president. But he is not legitimate, he does not hold office due to the consent of the governed, he holds office because there is a gap between legality and legitimacy that does not cover a circumstance where a POTUS is a traitor.

    Laws are imperfect tools, which is why we have other concepts like justice, fairness, integrity, you know, all those things Trump lacks.

    9
  33. Mister Bluster says:

    “Those whom God wishes to destroy he drives mad.”
    Rapper Leo T.

    “this whole thing about flipping — they call it. I know all about flipping. For 30, 40 years I have been watching flippers. Everything is wonderful, and then they get 10 years in jail and the flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It almost ought to be outlawed.”
    Tickle Me Trump

    4
  34. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    Laws that allows people that voters DON’T want to win elections are bad laws. There is an issue when the runner-up to the popular vote is elected in two of five elections. People want their votes to matter, and that can endanger the trust in institutions.

    9
  35. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    Back in the day I’d have heartily agreed with a law to ban flippers. But since I quit the criminal life I’ve altered my view on that. No flip = no conviction. The end of a criminal justice system in the US. The streets would run red with blood.

    1
  36. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:
    Absolutely right. We either have government by the consent of the governed or we don’t. The details we can debate, but you succinctly stated the underlying truth.

    2
  37. James Pearce says:

    Your sage advice is that at all costs we must not question Trump’s legitimacy, must not even discuss it or we will be playing into his master plan.

    Does he even have a master plan?

    I think you shouldn’t question Trump’s legitimacy because he’s legitimately president, won the election and everything. “Questioning his legitimacy” has always had this whiff of fantastical thinking. Like if you close your eyes and wish hard enough, maybe when you open them, someone else will be president.

    Man, I wish…

    He’s definitely the Republican choice.

    For now. I’ve been wondering how they’ll react after he’s gone. They might agree that tax cuts and judges weren’t worth it after all.

    Trump is legally president. But he is not legitimate

    I dunno, man. This strikes me too much as “legitimate means whatever I want it to mean.”

    In this case, “legitimate” means that he was legally elected president and has served in the position for a couple years now. I mean, can you impeach an “illegitimate” president?

    1
  38. Scott O says:

    I don’t consider Trump to be a legitimate human being.

    4
  39. An Interested Party says:

    I’ve been wondering how they’ll react after he’s gone.

    He’ll fall down the same memory hole that swallowed George W. Bush…

    3
  40. al Ameda says:

    @John E. Bredehoft:

    Trump’s election, despite the payoffs and the popular vote, was legitimate.

    Strictly speaking, it was legitimate, but …

    From the standpoint of: (1) the popular vote count, (2) the president’s campaign consort with various Russians, and (3) the fact that Trump, for about 4 years, headed up a (yes, it was racist) Birther investigation of the previous president that was intended to call into question the legitimacy of the previous president (who just happened to be Black), I’d say it is no surprise that many see Trump as not legitimate. Legally legitimate for now, however that does not seem to matter to many people.

    2
  41. Michael Reynolds says:

    @An Interested Party:
    He’ll be Nixon but dumber and more vulgar. Nixon had a comeback of sorts by positioning himself as a foreign policy expert. Ten years from now, if he lives that long, he’ll be selling his signature for ten bucks at Comic-Con. Fallen leaders of cults of personality don’t do well, they get stale real fast.

  42. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Trump conspired with a hostile foreign government to commit crimes in order to win election.

    Just a question to consider: Trump and Pence ran as a team. Crimes committed by the Trump/Pence team (if they be judged to be serious enough to set-aside the election or invalidate the election) are equally assignable to both Trump and Pence.

    If impeachment were to be based ONLY on campaign crimes, it would follow that both candidates should be impeached.

    4
  43. Mister Bluster says:

    …Fallen leaders of cults of personality don’t do well, they get stale real fast…

    Sometimes it is a lot worse than that.

    1
  44. Jax says:

    So I have a question…as it stands right now, should Trump and Pence both be impeached, Paul Ryan would be President? Manafort pushed for Pence, I do not see how he is not implicated. What happens if impeachment comes AFTER this “blue wave”, and a Democrat is Speaker of the House? The Democrat becomes President? Ehrmagerd…..Bunge, TMwhatever, Lava would lose their #$%^. Not to mention Hannity, Rush, the entire conservative bubble would blow up.

    2
  45. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Fallen leaders of cults of personality don’t do well, they get stale real fast.

    Good point. As an example see the half term governor, Sarah Palin. What is she doing nowadays, aside from getting in drunken brawls with here entire family at various Alaskan birthday parties they happen to crash?

    1
  46. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan:

    As an example see the half term governor, Sarah Palin. What is she doing nowadays, aside from getting in drunken brawls with here entire family at various Alaskan birthday parties they happen to crash?

    I actually brought up Sarah Palin the other day at another forum, in a discussion about whether Republicans will ever abandon Trump. I argued that it will depend heavily on right-wing media, and I pointed to Palin as an illustration of how that might occur. Right-wing media never waged outright war on her, they just sort of subtly isolated and marginalized her cult into irrelevance. It’s easy to forget that originally many of her staunchest backers were conservative elites like Bill Kristol, Matt Continetti, and Jen Rubin, all of whom eventually abandoned her.

    The difference of course is that she never became president or even vp. The trajectory of her career is not that different from what I imagine would have happened if Trump had lost the election, though his greater wealth and fame might have enabled him to stay somewhat entrenched. In any case, Trump winning the presidency changed everything–the party is now locked in with him simply due to the partisan incentives. And right-wing media (which it should be remembered was not universally in his pocket when he first appeared in the presidential race in mid-2015) is committed to amplifying whatever he says and defending him at all costs. This situation won’t necessarily last forever.

    3
  47. Guarneri says:

    “Trump conspired with a hostile foreign government to commit crimes in order to win election.”

    I don’t suppose you’d like to provide messy details, like proof. You might also like to write Mr Mueller. He seems to have lost his Russian mojo, content to prosecute ancient bank fraud cases for ancillary characters. It reminds one of a recent joke:

    2016 Russia! Russia! Russia!
    2017 Russia! Russia! Russia!
    2018 I knew we’d get’m on bank fraud…..

    Oh, and what with your obvious heartfelt concerns over truth, justice and the American Way – and cavorting with ferners – you might want to ask Mr Mueller about the Clinton campaign paying a washed up Brit spook (or is it Mr Ohr?) to consort with Russian agents to concoct a bizarre dossier.

  48. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    29 rounds from an AK-47. That’s gotta hurt.

  49. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:
    NSA chief Flynn: Felon.
    Campaign chair Manafort: Felon
    Vice chair Gates: Felon
    FP advisor Papadoupolos: Felon
    Trump’s personal lawyer Cohen: Felon.

    Trump’s #1 guy at the corp: granted immunity
    Trump’s pal at National Enquirer: granted immunity.
    Trump’s ‘charitable’ foundation: under subpoena pursuant to criminal investigation.

    The first Congressman to endorse Trump: Indicted.
    The second Congressman to endorse Trump: Indicted.

    Stop kidding yourself, Drew: the entire stinking Trump Crime Family is going down. If you want to keep playing your bassoon while the deck tilts ever upward and the boats are going over the side, cool by me, buddy. Maybe Rose will have room for you on her raft.

    A little tip here: You aren’t winning this debate; I am.

    7
  50. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Bob@Youngstown: Okay. But it seems that you will have to do it in succession. Apparently Veeps can be prosecuted for crimes while in office

  51. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    ” the entire conservative bubble would blow up.”

    You say that as if it were a BAD thing… oh… wait… you’re talking figuratively, aren’t you?

    1
  52. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: I just read someplace that she had a guest starring gig on Teen Mom OG welcoming her daughter to the cast.

    They seem to be like cats that way–always managing to land on their feet.

  53. Jax says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I gotta tell ya, I’ve been quite enjoying the prospect of it. 😉

  54. al Ameda says:

    @Guarneri:

    I don’t suppose you’d like to provide messy details, like proof. You might also like to write Mr Mueller. He seems to have lost his Russian mojo, content to prosecute ancient bank fraud cases for ancillary characters. It reminds one of a recent joke:

    You may have noticed, the Mueller team does not leak, therefore no one knows exactly how much Mueller has with respect to the Russian part of this investigation.

    Also, notwithstanding your narrow focus of being dismissive of ‘Russia’ and ‘Collusion’ the fact is it may or may not matter because we’ve just learned that Trump appears to have ordered Cohen to violate federal campaign finance laws.

    Help me to recollect:
    Did Ken Starr’s investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton expand
    beyond the Whitewater Land Deals?

    5
  55. george says:

    @Kylopod:

    Interesting exit poll; I think you’re right about it being mainly GOP voters who preferred Clinton to Trump, which is why so many Trump supporters were saying a vote for Johnson was a vote for Clinton (ie they considered the votes part of the normal GOP base, so a vote for Johnson was a vote taken away from Trump).

    How are exit polls done? Are they secret ballots, or are they done face to face? If secret they might well be valid (though polls in general have done pretty badly lately), if face-to-face I suspect they’re likely to fall into the ‘tell the asker what they want to hear’ category.

    I recall a poll that showed 25% of Clinton supporters in 2008 voted for McCain rather than Obama, something I find hard to believe. This poll seems similar. But if these numbers are correct, then its pretty normal for 20% or so of a losing party nominee to vote for the opposition (presumably out of spite), which doesn’t say much for the nominating process.

    1
  56. JohnSF says:

    @Guarneri:
    Jokes?
    Well, I think a

    “washed up British spook”

    may be having the last laugh.

    Weisselberg and Pecker (juvenile snigger) have immunity deals.
    Cohen is flipping like an Russian Olympic gymnast.
    Trump is now a dead man walking.

    Mueller’s only problem is to obtain evidence admissible in court that can prove what is already known but not admissible/presentable.

    When you give the All Seeing Eye cause to look in your direction, best to be wearing clean underwear.

    1
  57. JohnSF says:

    @Guarneri:
    P.S. from a cavorting ferner (well, it is a Friday evening)

    Russia! Russia! Russia!
    I knew we’d get’m on bank fraud

    Those two things are the same thing, if only you would look and see.

    1
  58. Mister Bluster says:

    @Michael Reynolds:..That’s gotta hurt.

    It’s not like I approve of the assassination of political leaders. I DO NOT!
    However I was not in Rumania in 1989.

    Only in Romania did a demand for ­democracy result in bloodshed, when ­Ceausescu personally ordered troops to fire on demonstrators.

    I was attending Sleepytown U in May of 1970 when United States Government troops killed four innocent American Citizens at Kent State University.
    I can appreciate the sentiment.
    https://cdn.history.com/sites/2/2017/09/TOPIC-Kent-State-Shooting-H.jpeg

    2
  59. Grumpy realist says:

    @Mister Bluster: well, that’s happens when you don’t have systems which can change to reflect the majority viewpoint. It all blows up.

  60. grumpy realist says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I saw a comment over at The Hill on the Trump Administration and Mueller that made me guffaw:

    It’s almost like a low budget game of thrones except with dumb people

    Nietzsche’s comment has never seemed more apropos.