America’s only hope is for Trump to withdraw from the election race

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If he wins the presidency while still enduring these legal troubles, the US will enter a constitutional crisis

This article was first published in The Telegraph on August 3, 2023.  Click Here to read the original article.

Donald Trump’s continued pursuit of the 2024 Republican presidential nomination will damage both the party and America, particularly if he succeeds. Neutral observers might think the growing mountain of legal challenges — criminal and civil — including the one filed Tuesday in Washington, would give Trump pause, notwithstanding his current opinion-poll lead in the Republican race. And everyone not named Trump recognises the enormous risks if he becomes the first convicted felon nominated for the presidency, or worse yet elected president.

For Trump, however, staying in the race increases his chances to get the nomination and secure funding to pay his rising legal billS. If he wins next year’s general elections, as is entirely possible, he will be able to terminate the pending federal investigations and prosecutions (although not the New York and Georgia criminal proceedings) or pardon himself if already convicted.

This growing disjunction between the national interest and Trump’s personal political and economic interest is nothing new. Unfortunately, however, there is little doubt he will seek to maximise his personal well-being over the country’s. America is in uncharted waters.

For any normal person, the burden of defending against criminal indictments, as well as civil lawsuits (which could significantly damage his personal finances) would be more than enough to reorient his priorities away from politics. The time involved to prepare for multiple trials and the magnitude of the legal jeopardy Trump faces should impel him to put other matters aside to concentrate on his serious risk of criminal convictions and substantial civil damages.

But Trump is an aberration. Ironically, he sees his best strategy is to use politics as his legal defence. His lawyers will argue at every opportunity that pre-trial proceedings and the trials themselves should be delayed and delayed again, to somewhere past election day. They will file every conceivable pre-trial motion and take every appeal permissible, which follows a long history of Trump’s approach to litigation.

Moreover, given this strategy and his already extraordinarily high legal fees — estimated at roughly $56 million since departing the White House — he needs the presidential campaign to help finance his legal defence. His outlays include legal fees paid on behalf of aides, which in many cases raise ethical issues. Prosecutors have questioned whether lawyers representing witnesses whose interests may be adverse to Trump’s can properly accept compensation from him.

If Trump’s delay strategy prevails, once inaugurated he can dismiss the federal special counsel and order the cases dismissed, which is within the executive branch’s prerogative. The two state cases are a different matter, and would remain pending against Trump, though he will certainly argue that they should be stayed during his presidency. If the state prosecutions proceed, however, and Trump is found guilty in one or both, it would be very Trumpian to refuse, as president, to accept the verdicts, expecting to skate free yet again. The US would face an unprecedented constitutional crisis.

The overall effect of this abnormal turmoil on America’s confidence in the integrity of its law-enforcement and government generally makes predictions hazardous. The vital question is just how deeply divisive and debilitating the consequences would be, and low long-lasting.

Internationally, America’s adversaries would swiftly take full advantage of Trump’s vulnerability and his propensity to comingle national interests with his personal interests. For Trump, obstruction of justice seems to be a way of life, with everything seen through the prism: “How does this benefit Donald Trump?”

Trump is already making clear his governing agenda will be retribution against his political enemies. He recently asserted, erroneously, not to mention almost sacrilegiously, that “I am being indicted for you”, having proclaimed earlier, “I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.” Since Trump undoubtedly sees himself as the most “wronged and betrayed” of all, his intentions couldn’t be clearer or more dangerous.

Polls show that Americans do not want a repeat of 2020’s Biden-versus-Trump race; a majority want Trump to drop out. If someone with a rare gift of persuasion could talk sense to Trump, and persuade him to withdraw, any number of pretexts could be found to mask the real reason. There could be “health” issues, or perhaps he could argue no one should be president in their 80s, thereby also throwing shade on Biden. And Biden may yet decide to withdraw, which could lessen the zeal of Trump supporters who want a grudge rematch against the man they think stole the 2020 election.

The only real solution lies in one or more of the criminal trials taking place before November 3, 2024, which is still possible. If Trump is found guilty of one or more felonies, that may be sufficient to awaken enough of his supporters to abandon him, thereby derailing his campaign before he derails the country.

Biden hurt America AND Israel in bashing Bibi’s judicial reforms

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This article was first published in The NY Post on July 30, 2023.  Click Here to read the original article.

For both America and Israel, President Joe Biden was wrong to intervene in the contentious debate over Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms.
Biden’s spokeswoman criticized Netanyahu, saying it was “unfortunate” he pushed change through Israel’s Knesset “with the slimmest possible majority.”
Biden was mistaken for several reasons.

First, his opinions will have no effect inside Israel, except perhaps hardening already deeply divided viewpoints even further, thereby impeding formation of the “consensus” he says he wants.

This is nothing but virtue signaling, aimed more at Biden’s own domestic constituency than anything else.

And if he had bothered to consider American history, he would know that many historically significant US statutes passed with narrow majorities.
Second, facts matter. Not to be picky, but the Knesset vote was not the “slimmest possible majority.”

Netanyahu’s government has 64 seats of 120, so 61 votes is the thinnest majority, assuming all members vote. Biden’s spokesperson claimed that Israel’s reforms were being pushed through by a government “with the slimmest possible majority.”

Given Israel’s incredibly divided electorate, reflected in multiple recent elections, a 64-vote majority is quite comfortable. Government must go on.

Third, if Biden were truly interested in the security of Israel’s democracy, he should have critiqued the tactics of reform opponents.

Armed-forces reservists, openly proclaiming they were acting as reservists, threatened not to report for their military duty if ordered should the legislation be enacted.

Israel’s judicial reform of its courts’ unchecked power is not as radical as activists would have you believe. This is explicitly undemocratic.

Certainly, in free societies, reservists in their civilian capacity can hold whatever opinions they like and speak, demonstrate and petition the government to advance those views.
Invoking their reserve military status to do so, however, is deeply illegitimate. The phrase “military coup” comes to mind.

While force of arms was not present here, Israel’s precarious place in a dangerous neighborhood means that threatening to withhold military force to defend the country is just as dangerous.

It is fatuous to say, as did some reservists, that they were not advancing political views, just concerns about the future of Israel’s democracy.

The mechanisms of government are the most important political questions of all, and the reservists, acting qua reservists, behaved undemocratically.

Fourth, Biden was disingenuous. While criticizing Netanyahu on a procedural issue, the president’s real focus was the proposed legislation’s substance.

The measure prohibits Israel’s courts from deploying the “reasonableness doctrine” to invalidate government decisions.

“Reasonableness” is a long-standing common-law standard for judging fault or liability in civil or criminal cases, but it is a far different proposition when judges purport to consider invalidating government actions.

At a government-policy level, whether considering executive actions or acts of legislation, “reasonableness” is an inherently nonjudicial standard, a matter of personal political opinion.

Executive officials and legislators are held accountable to their fellow citizens through elections because they necessarily assess the “reasonableness” of possible courses of action.

It is entirely inappropriate for unaccountable judges to make such decisions.
If judges think their personal views are superior, they should leave the courts and run for elective office.

Fifth, it is no answer to say that Knesset majorities need a check because Israel’s parliamentary system does not split legislative from executive power and does not have a written constitution.

Significant, only in recent decades have its courts wielded the “reasonableness doctrine” extensively, giving rise to the inference that when founded in 1948 and for years thereafter, no one anticipated the Supreme Court would assume its current role.

Netanyahu snubs Biden, limits power of Israeli courts despite protests
The real problem, another target of Netanyahu’s reforms, is the self-perpetuating nature of Israel’s Supreme Court.

How would Biden’s US supporters feel if, starting immediately, our Supreme Court picked its own successors?

That would be undemocratic, as Israel’s judicial-selection process is.

Jerusalem’s democratic deficit can be fixed in many ways, and it turns the definition of democracy upside down to argue that affording elected legislators a greater role is undemocratic.

Besides, Israel does have a constitution, an unwritten one, much like the United Kingdom.

Today, written constitutions around the world contain flowery language about citizens’ “rights” that mean absolutely nothing.

A written constitution would not inevitably be a panacea for Israeli divisions.

Clearly, the role of Israel’s judiciary in its vibrant democracy is contentious.
US officials who are real friends of Israel should contribute their thoughts quietly, behind the scenes.

Otherwise, Israeli officials may start commenting publicly on Hunter Biden’s plea deal.