We are in the middle of 5th Avenue by @BloggersRUs

We are in the middle of 5th Avenue

by Tom Sullivan

Citizen Trump boasted, "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." As president, he walked yesterday afternoon, figuratively, into the middle of 5th Avenue and shot off a tweet as much as admitting he obstructed justice in firing former FBI director James Comey.

Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn might have faced multiple charges. The single felony plea deal strongly suggests he had much more to tell Robert Mueller's investigators about the Trump team's dealings with Russia during the presidential campaign.

Yesterday's tweet created such consternation in the White House that John Dowd, Trump's personal lawyer, told news agencies that he had drafted it, only sloppily. In the first person. In the president's voice.

After the president's digital outburst on Saturday, Democratic congressman Rep. Ted Lieu of California responded in all caps, "THIS IS OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE." Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer during President George W. Bush’s administration, tweeted that the sitting president “could be Tweeting himself into an obstruction of justice conviction.”

Jeffrey Toobin concurs at The New Yorker, writing, "In sum, on the basis of the publicly available evidence, the case against Trump for obstruction of justice is more than plausible. Most perilously for the President, Flynn may know what Trump has to hide."

The problem is one of timing, writes Aaron Blake for the Washington Post:

The day after Trump fired Flynn, on Feb. 14, Trump urged then-FBI Director James B. Comey to be lenient with Flynn, according to Comey's notes at the time, saying, "I hope you can let this go.” If Trump knew at that time that Flynn had lied to the FBI and was under investigation, the argument goes, it may constitute an attempt to obstruct that investigation.

Walter Shaub, the former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, suggested the tweet could prove a major misstep for the president and even that it might have cost any other president his job.

And there's the rub. This is not any other president. This is Dear Leader in a cult of personality that will defend him for shooting someone down in broad daylight in the middle of 5th Avenue, and whose enablers in Congress will stand behind so long as he can grasp a pen.

But after Slate's Dahlia Lithwick's asked on Friday, "What if they threw a conviction and nobody came?" it seems prudent not to put too much faith in the strength of institutions that seem toothless in the #TrumpRepublic . Lithwick wonders "whether we’re being trained to abandon our steadfast belief that the rule of law will save us, or if we’re being taught to cling to the illusory protections of the law as it becomes just another on a long list of anachronisms."

Those institutions have been eroding for some time at the hands of a ruling class that demands, as does the president, immunity from common law, from accountability for looting the commons and preying upon the weak, and from membership in the community at large. The very foundations upon which law and society have been constructed since the Charter of the Forest hang in the balance. As exemplified by Trump the First, the ruling class has, as Matt Taibbi once cautioned, trained followers to go "into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the field.... Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger." Taibbi wrote at the beginning of the T-party movement, "Actual rich people can’t ever be the target." Or blameworthy.

The sad irony, if not our salvation, is while our weakened institutions may no longer be reliable, the one thing we can count on is for Trump to be Trump.

The sitting president had the right to remain silent. Just not self-control.

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