Thursday, November 02, 2023


I wasn't surprised to read this yesterday:
Close allies of Donald J. Trump are preparing to populate a new administration with a more aggressive breed of right-wing lawyer, dispensing with traditional conservatives who they believe stymied his agenda in his first term.

... in a striking shift, Trump allies are building new recruiting pipelines separate from the Federalist Society.

... after both the legal policy fights inside the Trump administration and the refusal by the group’s most respected luminaries to join Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, the phrase “Federalist Society” became a slur for some on the Trump-aligned right, a shorthand for a kind of lawyerly weakness.

Hard-right allies of Mr. Trump increasingly speak of typical Federalist Society members as “squishes” too worried about maintaining their standing in polite society and their employment prospects at big law firms to advance their movement’s most contentious tactics and goals.
I called this in 2021:

The quoted story, from Jonathan Swan, Charlie Savage, and Maggie Haberman at The New York Times, says that the Federalist Society is out of favor in Trump World because of affiliates' reluctance to endorse MAGA policies. That may be true for the people who shape Trump's policies, like Stephen Miller, but for Trump himself, I think it was just the election. He thought his court picks owed him a favor, and they didn't come through.

That's why I question this read on the Times story from Hunter at Daily Kos:
This may be the most dodging, deflection-riddled, and cowardly political piece the Times has published in the last decade....

The piece is titled "Trump’s Allies Want a New Style of Lawyer if He Returns to Power," and it is blunt enough about what sort of lawyer Trump's allies are trying to find....

Among the named allies are Stephen Miller, John McEntee, and Russell Vought. The goal is to rid any future Republican government of conservative enemies who are unwilling to help Trump commit acts they believe, based on their own legal research and expertise, to be criminal.
... They want lawyers in federal agencies and in the White House who are willing to use theories that more establishment lawyers would reject to advance his cause. This new mind-set matches Mr. Trump’s declaration that he is waging a “final battle” against demonic “enemies” populating a “deep state” within the government that is bent on destroying America.
Fascism. The word the Times is looking for but cannot find is "fascism." This is not a loaded word but a plainly descriptive one. It refers to a movement of supposed national "rebirth" that believes a nation's existing laws are too hindering and a nation's internal enemies too entrenched and devious to dislodge except by national purge, legal or not.
I know that Miller, McEntee, Vought, and many others Trump and Trump-adjacent operatives want to radically remake the federal government, but I think there'll be tension between them and Trump, whose sole interest will be forming a government made up of thug loyalists dedicating to protecting him. Thoroughly politicizing the Justice Department will help both Trump and his ideologue allies accomplish their goals, but I'm not sure whether Trump will sign on to the allies' other plans. I don't think he'll have a problem with them, but if they don't help him directly, they won't be a priority for him.

There's a difference between Trump and, say, Ron DeSantis, who would genuinely understand the project of handing over increasing power to the chief executive and would make every aspect of it a priority if he were president. A President DeSantis, I think, would leave the country a lot more fascist than a second-term President Trump would, although I think Trump would move us in that direction.

Ultimately, Trump cares only about himself. He'll get bored with aspects of the project that don't aggrandize him. I don't even think he cares about leading "a movement of national 'rebirth'" -- he just knows that crowds cheer when he says, "Make America great again," so he leaves that line in his speeches and he puts it on hats. He might passively allow Miller et al. to remake the government, but he'll focus much more on ensuring that the Justice Department and the courts quash any legal cases that threaten him personally. We really don't know how this tension will resolve itself if he wins again.

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