April 16, 2018

CARL CANNON: Special Prosecutorial Abuse.

We’re supposed to be reassured that the FBI agents who raided the offices and home of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael A. Cohen, were, in Cohen’s words, “courteous” and “respectful.”

The president’s attorney was understandably grateful that the agents didn’t replicate the FBI’s tactics at the home of Paul Manafort, Trump’s onetime campaign manager. Busting in before dawn, guns drawn, with a “no knock” warrant while Manafort and his wife were in bed, the agents frisked Mrs. Manafort while she was still in her nightclothes.

Perhaps Cohen thinks if he sounds reasonable, he can appease Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who ordered Manafort’s arrest, or his other federal prosecutors behind this raid. Or maybe Cohen simply developed the quickest case of Stockholm syndrome in history. Whatever his reasons, a line has been violated. The government is going after lawyers now, as part of an investigation that feels as though policy differences and partisan politics have been criminalized.

Since the day Trump entered political life, liberals, Democratic activists, and media pundits have issued ominous warnings about the coming authoritarianism. When Trump shocked his critics by winning the presidency, this alarm became a crescendo. The “f” word was bandied about: Fascism, we were admonished, was in our future if we didn’t “resist” this presidency.

The resistance has taken many forms: marches and school walkouts; myriad lawsuits against the president; the refusal by Senate Democrats to vote in favor of administration Cabinet nominees; sustained attacks on those appointees who were confirmed; national ad campaigns demanding impeachment; showy resignations from career foreign service officers; leaks of national security information by Obama administration officials; and the suspension of journalistic objectivity by entire news organizations.

It’s as if these people don’t believe in democracy.


The Palmer Raids, as they were known, begat the ACLU. I grew up in a family where that organization was respected and where Gene Debs was a household name. My mother once described Debs to me matter-of-factly as a political prisoner. Today’s ACLU doesn’t defend Donald Trump from prosecutorial overreach. It’s now a partisan organization unconcerned with due process. On its website, you’ll be met with a solicitation: “Donate monthly to fight Trump’s attacks on people’s rights.”

Okay, but what about the FBI’s attacks on Trump’s right to legal counsel — and, by implication, the rights of the rest of us? Because if they can do it to his lawyer, they can do it to yours. Do the ends justify the means? Or do we live by rule of law? Choose one.

Oh, the ACLU has chosen.

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