How Democrats claim ‘trumpunity’ to abandon their federal restraints

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As Washington prepares for the administration of Joe Biden, Democrats in Congress are discovering they cannot live without Donald Trump. In many controversies that range from federal investigations to executive orders, they are invoking him to justify abandoning the same principles they used against him for four years. There is a sense of immunity from the need to be consistent or coherent. Call it trumpunity. This is the right to adopt the exact practices you once denounced, all because you are not Trump. The mention of his name relieves a duty to follow past ideas.

So it was no problem when incoming White House deputy chief of staff Jennifer Dillon heralded Biden as ushering in a new “sense of unity” while calling Republicans a “bunch of f—–s.” While Dillon said sorry, figures like Hillary Clinton publicly backed her vulgar attack as perfectly fine because of the rhetoric from Trump. There is a license to engage in the very same behavior as he did. But this is little more than the juvenile “he did it first” defense. Washington floats on a sea of hypocrisy, but leaders have set aside the need for pretense because they have Trump.

After they called out Trump for unilateral actions with executive orders, Democrats now ask Biden to do the same. Just a few months ago, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer denounced the relief mandate from the White House as an unconstitutional method to circumvent Congress. But now he wants Biden to circumvent Congress with such executive orders as wiping out $50,000 in loan debt for each student, which would be a massive federal subsidy without the vote of lawmakers.

Democrats and legal experts denounced Trump for dismissing the Russia collusion investigation as a hoax. They insisted on a special counsel and described his rhetoric as criminal obstruction or witness tampering. Now Biden has dismissed federal investigations of his son as just another form of political foul play. Various Democrats, including Schumer, have called for the Justice Department not to investigate the Hunter Biden allegations, and leaders such as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff called for the end of the investigation by John Durham.

With the confirmation of investigations into Hunter Biden, Democrats and the media dropped their claims that such allegations were disinformation from Russia. Now the influence scheme is treated as true but dismissed as no worse than what the family of Trump did. If his kids cashed in on their father, then Hunter Biden can do so on his. It does not matter if there were financial crimes, or if Joe Biden lied about his role. The same people who demanded investigations of the business deals of the children of Trump cite them to denounce any investigation of Hunter Biden.

Trump has had a similarly distortive impact on legal analysis. The media and experts abandoned traditional views on criminal justice to endorse broad meanings of provisions to justify charging or impeaching Trump. The flawed theories that have been rejected by the Supreme Court were declared to be perfectly plausible when used against Trump. With only a few weeks left in office for Trump, there continues to be some sense of abandon in the use of constitutional claims related to him.

Consider the issue of pardoning himself. While long viewed as debatable under the Constitution, various legal experts have declared that Trump cannot pardon himself. One academic, Ken Gormley, went even further in proposing that not only can Trump not pardon himself but that Biden can “unpardon” him if he does. One would have to unlearn the constitutional text, which not only does not limit the pardon power, but does not create any power to rescind the pardons of prior presidents. Indeed, such a view would run counter to the history and purpose of pardons.

Even constitutional terms seem to have no discernible notion in the same sentence as Trump. Senator Jeanne Shaheen said lawmakers who doubt the election results border on “sedition and treason.” So over 70 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of Democrats in the country are potential traitors for believing Trump won. This is the same position taken recently with the Supreme Court by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who called a legal challenge to the election results seditious. The use of Congress or the judiciary to raise objections is actually the opposite of sedition, which is an effort to overthrow the legal system.

Indeed, Democrats did not accuse their own of treason or sedition when they sought to block the certification of the electoral votes from Ohio in Congress in 2004. They did not call Hillary Clinton traitorous for advising Biden not to concede any Trump victory on election night this year. They did not describe members of Congress or the media as traitors for often declaring Trump unfit for office over the last four years.

Napoleon once said treason is a matter of dates. The day appears to be November 7, when the media declared Biden the presumptive winner. It also seems to be the day that millions of Americans became presumptive traitors for doubting the election results, according to the Democrats who once legitimately denounced Trump for saying his critics are “traitors” and “enemies” of the people. It seems Trump remains useful to hold onto since without him, critics would be forced to live according to the values they claimed to defend for the last four years. Why be civil or constitutional if you can be like Trump? After all, you have trumpunity.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates online @JonathanTurley.

Tags Business Constitution Democrats Donald Trump Election Politics President

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