Comparing America: Reflections on Democracy across Subfields

Trump: Causes and Consequences (the Sequel)

by Michael BernhardUniversity of Florida and Daniel O’Neill, University of Florida

Since the first installment of our exploration of the causes and consequences of the Trump presidency, the Mueller Report has been, in part, made public. It did not resolve as much as either the president’s supporters or detractors had hoped. The former seized on it as a full vindication, echoing the president’s ceaseless claims of “no collusion, no obstruction!” in the wake of Attorney General Barr’s exculpatory summary and subsequent unalloyed defenses of the nation’s chief executive. For the latter, it meant anything from disappointment, to a need for further congressional investigations, to the evidentiary record for impeachment on charges of obstruction of justice. Many Democrats have been wary of the new attorney general, not least because he had earlier penned a memo outlining an extraordinarily expansive view of executive power that cast doubt on whether he believed a sitting president could even commit obstruction of justice in the first place, and because he had also presided over the pardons of a number of Reagan-era officials convicted as a result of the Iran-Contra investigations earlier in his career. Emboldened by the actions of Barr and Republican support in Congress, President Trump has subsequently decided that “fighting all the subpoenas” issued by House Democrats aimed at any legislative oversight of his administration and claiming blanket executive privilege over the Mueller report is the best way forward for the republic, thereby creating a fundamental battle over separation of powers and raising the specter of a constitutional crisis. Given the unprecedented pace of news in the past two plus years of the Trump presidency, no doubt by the time this issue comes to press there will be an entirely new set of heretofore unthinkable political actions to discuss.