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June 25, 2019

3/28/2019 7:30:00 AM
Our view
Gulag, interrupted

The sad saga of the Robert Mueller special investigation of the president has come to an end, for better or for worse, depending upon your point of view, but that doesn't mean the prospect of political prison for this president, or any other president, has diminished.

For that matter, our own odds of being branded as criminals and punished because of our political beliefs are as high as they have ever been, and that means it's a pretty telling time in America.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. To recap, President Donald Trump has been unequivocally exonerated of collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 election, that is, of the central charge against him.

There was also the matter of obstruction of justice, primarily for firing James Comey. But as the liberal Democrat Alan Dershowitz observed early on, Trump could not possibly be charged with obstruction for simply discharging his duties under Article II, Section 2 of the constitution, that is, the power to hire and fire officers of the United States.

Not that a president can't obstruct justice. As Dershowitz pointed out, that's exactly what Richard Nixon did during Watergate when he ordered his underlings to lie to the FBI, paid hush money, and destroyed evidence.

But Trump did none of that, and it is not obstruction to fire a subordinate, or even to tell the FBI not to investigate a particular person, Dershowitz observed.

Of course, the deeper state story here is politics. The whole collusion lie was a fantasy cooked up in the bowels of the Deep State to try and overthrow a president it detested. The media and the Democratic base jumped on the bandwagon, and off we went on an adventure to criminalize political disagreements.

And that's still the mood of Democrats and the media. There will be eternal investigations of those who win elections and of those who disagree with them. There will be more investigations of Trump.

The possibility of mushrooming criminal prosecutions of political thought has become very real throughout the current political society. We've seen it here in Wisconsin with the John Doe investigations of Gov. Scott Walker. When John Doe 1 didn't work, they launched John Doe 2. That failed, too.

Elsewhere, government bureaucrats and lawyers stand ready to launch massive prosecutorial probes of heretical political opinions when the timing is right. Writing in Ecology Law Journal in 2012, to cite just one example, William C. Tucker, a lawyer for the EPA, argued that climate change denial was a prosecutable crime.

From presidents to corporate executives, in modern America the plan is to send those who disagree with Democratic ideology to jail.

The danger and the reality is that it won't just be political leaders and corporate executives who are rounded up in the end. The people who dare to vote for those political leaders and voice support for those corporate executives will be rounded up, too.

It's all very Stalinist, to send those who disagree with your politics off to the Gulag. Stalin's KGB head, Lavrentiy Beria, once said to the dictator (a Dershowitz favorite quote): "Show me the man, and I'll find you the crime!"

Well, welcome to modern American politics. James Comey, John Brennan, James Clapper and their allies - were they America's composite Lavrentiy Beria?

Believe us, there are more of them in the woodwork.

That said, while it is Democrats trying to make criminals of their political opponents today, that has not always been the case. It is not so long ago really, in the 1950s, when Republican Joseph McCarthy terrorized the nation with his own witch hunt for communists, along the way ruining the lives of thousands of families.

Even Bill Clinton was the subject of a political inquisition. In those years, the real probe was supposed to be about Whitewater but it became about sex, lies, and grand juries.

Clinton may have been guilty of abuse, and he may have been guilty of obstruction for lying to a grand jury, but never forget that none of that prompted the investigation of him. Politics did.

Republicans went after Clinton because they detested him almost as much as Democrats hate Trump.

And even in 2016, the roaring chant of "Lock her up" at the Republican National Convention suggests that Republicans were amenable to the suggestion that the easiest path to power would be just to haul hapless Hillary away, rather than let her drag her own political corpse into oblivion.

Threatening to lock up political opponents is just scary, period. But there you have it, the face of our two-party system today.

The point is, no matter who is in power and no matter the year or party, our freedoms are under constant siege by somebody. Thankfully, we have a massive fortress called the U.S. Constitution to help protect our liberty.

Still, we, the people, have to constantly stand guard in its watch towers to protect our values and way of life.

And while it may seem like hyperbole to evoke the memory of Stalin, it is not. True, because of our constitution and because of the fierce independence of our citizens, we are very different from Stalinist Russia, and stronger.

But the Stalinist impulse always lurks, and the carnage it has already caused in our history is cause enough to sound the warnings of how easily all that we cherish can slip away.

Today, in the wake of the Mueller report, we have Gulag, Interrupted. We can take some time to celebrate. Those who have deigned to overthrow our constitution have again failed.

But tomorrow the hard work begins again. New safeguards and deterrents must be put in place because those who fear freedom and due process always try again.

For instance, it is high time to revisit the very nature of special counsel investigations and their misuse, as we did in Wisconsin with John Doe investigations.

And will those who perpetrated this injustice upon the nation be held accountable - not Mueller but those who trumped up the need for a special counsel in the first place, wasting who knows how many resources and how much time?

Probably not, but probing the probers, when their investigations are exposed as hoaxes, might be one effective deterrent to the ongoing criminalization of political thought in America.

So enjoy this moment as the fresh air of freedom rushes through. But beware the storm clouds on the horizon. The dark dungeons of the gulags are never very far away.

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