Is There a Difference?

You may have read or heard that Vladimir Putin is making arrangements for his future.  Russia has, at least in theory, a constitution and term limits.  To stay in power Putin will have to put his country through some constitutional, legislative and political machinations.  Needless to say, he will get this done and become the absolute dictator for life that he has always wanted to be.  Anyone who stands in his way will be eliminated, figuratively or literally.  Considering that the only way Putin can stay alive and out of the Gulag is to stay in power, his ruthlessness will know no bounds.  


Back here on the home front, Trump is conducting his own purge.  For a recap of all the score settling thus far, see the article by Peter Baker, Alarm in the Capital as Axes Fall In a Post-Impeachment Purge (originally titled “Trump’s War Against ‘the Deep State’ Enters a New Stage”), which appeared in The New York Times of February 12, 2020.  More forced resignations came after that article and I’m sure Trump will continue to run people off until only his inner circle remains.  Doesn’t it remind you of a mafia movie?  

It wouldn’t be a true dictatorship unless the dictator could bestow favors on his friends as well as punish his enemies.  This Trump did on Tuesday, February 11, 2020, when the Justice Department withdrew its sentencing recommendation for Trump’s friend and ally, Roger Stone.  The lawyers who had been representing the U.S. in Stone’s criminal case had filed a sentencing recommendation requesting a 7 to 9 year term in prison.  Then, Attorney General Barr stepped in to ask for a more lenient sentence.  This action immediately followed Trump tweeting that Stone was being treated too harshly.  Of course, the Attorney General said there was no connection between Trump’s tweet and his actions, but what else could he say?  Barr’s pride was wounded because Trump was making him look like the lackey he is.  The four career prosecutors resigned from the case in protest and one of them resigned from the Justice Department altogether.  I applaud their integrity. 

Stone was convicted of seven offenses.  All of them involved lying for Trump.  There couldn’t be a clearer message:  if you lie for me I will help you and if you don’t lie for me there will be hell to pay. 

Then, for good measure, Trump pardoned multiple famous felons who were his friends or connected to his friends and allies.   

This is not the first and it won’t be the last time Trump has interfered with the justice system.  He has granted pardons that were in no way deserved, he has interfered in the military criminal justice system and he will continue to intervene in the civilian criminal justice system. He is even boasting that he is the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.  The cost to the integrity of our judicial system and our democracy is immeasurable.   

Putin and Trump have a lot in common.