DAHLIA LITHWICK REVIEWS NEW BOOK “AMERICAN NERO” ON THE DISINTEGRATION OF THE RULE OF LAW AND AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS UNDER THE TRUMP REGIME!  — Echoes Of Germany In 1939 — “[J]udges, prosecutors and democratically elected officials formed the very backbone of Nazi Germany.”

Dahlia Lithwick
Dahlia Lithwick
Legal Reporter


Dahlia writes in the WashPost:

There are, to vastly overgeneralize, two basic types of books written by critics of the Trump presidency: One class of books tells us things we never knew, such as how tyrannies arise or how Deutsche Bank operates outside meaningful scrutiny or control. The other tells us what we already know and seem to have forgotten. “American Nero,” by Richard W. Painter and Peter Golenbock, is very much in that latter category and serves to remind us, in icy, granular detail, of what has happened to constitutional democracy in three short years, and all that we have absorbed, integrated and somehow moved beyond. In some sense, then, it stands less as a unified argument than as a scrapbook of things that no longer horrify us.

The fact that it went to press just before the Senate impeachment trial, and thus cannot account for the near-collapse of an independent Justice Department, the capitulation of Senate Republicans who believed that President Trump had inappropriately sought Ukrainian election interference but who felt somehow helpless to hold him to account, and recent lawsuits against opinion journalists in major newspapers, actually only highlights the fact that even when one believes the situation cannot get worse, it always gets worse, and often in the span of mere weeks.

Painter, who served as White House chief ethics counsel under George W. Bush, and Golenbock, the author of several New York Times bestsellers, seek to chronicle the erosion of the rule of law in the Trump era, and in some ways, the most chilling parts of the book are not the descriptions of Trump’s lawlessness, whether in the form of attacking the press, benefiting financially from his presidency, obstructing the Mueller probe or fawning over despots. Much of this will be familiar to anyone who has tried to keep up with the events of recent years. But set against the context of historical precedent, the case becomes crisper. In their descriptions of the Salem witch trials, the internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, the Palmer Raids and the pointless waste of the McCarthy era, the authors remind us that each of those actions was taken under color of law, effectuated by presidents, congressmen and lawyers.

Indeed they are quick to remind us, in a terrifying chapter on the rise of the Third Reich, that judges, prosecutors and democratically elected officials formed the very backbone of Nazi Germany. And that the transformation of Germany from democratic republic to bloody dictatorship took place in less than three months. In urging Americans to stand up for the rule of law — and its bulwarks of religious tolerance, guarantees of due process, truth, a free press and freedom from corruption — Painter and Golenbock archly make the more complicated case that law itself is often deployed to break the rule of law. As was the case in Nazi Germany, the breakdown can be progressive and can come in the guise of statutes, codes and court cases; these trappings do not make descent into autocracy lawful, they merely make it invisible.

. . . .


Read the rest of Dahlia’s review at the link.

Not to quibble too much, but Dahlia, like many liberals who aren’t immersed in the ongoing immigration disgrace under this regime, doesn’t really “get” the essence of Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions, ascribing to him some minimum sense of ethics. No, despite his pretenses of great religiosity, Sessions, one of the most dangerous and committed White Nationalists of our time, has no discernible morality or ethics.

What he does have, however, is a driving racist commitment, combined with a mean streak of pure misogyny, to strip brown-skinned migrants, particularly vulnerable abused female refugees, of every vestige of their Constitutional and legal rights and to demean and dehumanize them: “Dred Scottify” if you will.

His “mistake,” was to put carrying out his White Nationalist program in front of the personal interests of the Trump Family. That’s how he found himself out of a job and on Trump’s “enemies list.” 

Perhaps “Gonzo,” never the brightest bulb in the pack, actually thought that going “above and beyond” in carrying out Trump’s assault on migrants and their humanity would “compensate” for his lack of demonstrated public personal loyalty to the corrupt interests of the Trump Family. If he did, he was wrong.

Sessions saw himself as the attorney for White Nationalist Nation, first and foremost. And, to give him credit, he did as much damage to our Constitutional institutions and the rule of law in his relatively short tenure as anyone, including Barr, although Barr now perhaps has an opportunity to overtake his predecessor.

Additionally, Sessions probably realized that backing off on his promise under oath to Congress to follow the attorneys’ ethical code and disqualify himself from the Clinton investigation and his public commitment to follow DOJ Ethics advice and recuse himself from the Trump/Russia investigation could 1) lead to his eventual disbarment, and 2) might even subject him to criminal prosecution. 

At a minimum, within the Department of Justice itself, acting against the ethics advice of DOJ Ethics’ Counsel deprives the actor of any “safe haven defense” based on following such advice. Consequently, self-preservation, rather than sensitivity to some moral code, was probably also a driving factor for Gonzo.

It’s also not like Gonzo didn’t unethically help Trump behind the scenes on both the Clinton and Mueller investigations. He clearly did, but got away with it. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/04/who-can-stop-jeff-sessions-from-breaking-his-recusal-pledge-probably-no-one/. 

In line with observations in American Nero, accountability has all but disappeared from our crumbling Government institutions where Trump and his toadies are concerned. That’s why it’s probably going to be up to the “court of history,” especially where the role of Article III Judges like Roberts and his crew are concerned, to establish at least some moral and historical accountability for the unraveling of democracy and human values in the face tyranny. 

“American Nero.” Yeah, that’s a really “spot on” description of Trump and the dangerous  and immoral toadies surrounding him in the Kakistocracy.

In reality, judges were among those inside Germany who might have effectively challenged Hitler’s authority, the legitimacy of the Nazi regime, and the hundreds of laws that restricted political freedoms, civil rights, and guarantees of property and security. And yet, the overwhelming majority did not. Instead, over the 12 years of Nazi rule, during which time judges heard countless cases, most not only upheld the law but interpreted it in broad and far-reaching ways that facilitated, rather than hindered, the Nazis ability to carry out their agenda.


United States Holocaust Museum, Law, Justice, and the Holocaust, at 8 (July 2018)

How soon we forget!

Due Process Forever!



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