In 16th Century Italy, Niccolò Machiavelli was a nice enough guy until he discovered something. (Don’t let that smile fool you.)
Political philosophers believed the most successful government required leaders to be moral, upstanding citizens. However, based on his experience in government, Machiavelli saw things differently. After he was booted out of authority, he wrote a little book entitled The Prince, in which he espoused the opposite of what the virtuous philosophers believed.
A good prince, Machiavelli described, should govern by deceit, fear and if necessary, violence. (You can see where I’m going with this, right?) Machiavelli’s principles can be distilled thusly:
“Politics have no relation to morals.”
“A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.”
“The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present.”
“A wise ruler ought never to keep faith when by doing so it would be against his interests.”
While I’m sure Donald Trump never read The Prince, it’s clear that he drew his necessities for life from the same principles. A recent New York Times story reveals just how far Trump was willing to go to overturn election results.
Trump was considering firing acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen because Rosen refused to find ways to challenge and overturn the results of the Georgia election.
Trump’s actions to bend the Department of Justice to his will extended to “press[ing] Mr. Rosen to appoint special counsels, including one who would look into Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of election equipment that Mr. Trump’s allies had falsely said was working with Venezuela to flip votes from Mr. Trump to Joseph R. Biden Jr.,” The Times writes (Jan. 22).
On December 1, before leaving his post as attorney general, William Barr announced, “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
Rosen repeated his predecessor’s remarks to Trump and “maintained that he would make decisions based on the facts and the law…”
Trump “…repeatedly said that he did not understand why the Justice Department had not found evidence that supported conspiracy theories about the election that some of his personal lawyers had espoused. He declared that the Department was not fighting hard enough for him.”
However, Jeffrey Clark, a Trump loyalist within the Department, was willing to find ways to cast enough doubt on Georgia’s election to hold up the certification process in Congress.
“In yet an additional shock to the Department came when Clark… spoke to Rosen and deputy AG, Richard P. Donoghue, and said, that he spent a lot of time reading on the internet — a comment that alarmed them because they inferred that he believed the unfounded conspiracy theory that Mr. Trump had won the election. Mr. Clark also told them that he wanted the Department to hold a news conference announcing that it was investigating serious accusations of election fraud. Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue rejected the proposal.”
It gets worse.
“Mr. Clark… drafted a letter that he wanted Mr. Rosen to send to Georgia state legislators that wrongly said that the Justice Department was investigating accusations of voter fraud in their state, and that they should move to void Mr. Biden’s win there.
“Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue again rejected Mr. Clark’s proposal,” The Times continues.
“On New Year’s Eve, the trio met to discuss Mr. Clark’s refusal to hew to the Department’s conclusion that the election results were valid. Mr. Donoghue flatly told Mr. Clark that what he was doing was wrong. The next day, Mr. Clark told Mr. Rosen… that he was going to discuss his strategy with the president early the next week, just before Congress was set to certify Mr. Biden’s electoral victory.
“Unbeknown to the acting attorney general, Mr. Clark’s timeline moved up. He met with Mr. Trump over the weekend, then informed Mr. Rosen midday on Sunday that the president intended to replace him with Mr. Clark, who could then try to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College results. He said that Mr. Rosen could stay on as his deputy attorney general, leaving Mr. Rosen speechless.”
Disturbed by actions that clearly circumvented the law, “…Department officials, convened on a conference call… asked each other: ‘What will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed?’
“The answer was unanimous. They would resign.”
At the time these events were unfolding, a phone conversation between Trump and Georgia election officials had been leaked to the Washington Post. The conversation clearly revealed Trump pressuring Georgia officials to change the election results:
“So, what are we going to do here, folks?” Trump asks. “I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”
With Georgia officials refusing to follow Trump’s instructions and senior Department officials threatening to resign en masse if Rosen was removed, Trump backed down and a constitutional crisis was averted.
However, despite all these Machiavellian attempts to manipulate the system, along with a president who clearly incited insurrection, a majority of Senate Republicans have already announced they will acquit Trump at his impeachment trial due next month.
Even as the FBI continues to track down insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol; even as many have already been indicted, Donald Trump, once again, is not held accountable by most Republicans. Instead, they have now morphed into the same authoritarian regime that they’ve condemned in other countries.
And that is why Mack is smiling.
After the incident was reported in The Times, Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, opened an investigation to examine the events to possibly hold those involved accountable for their actions while Trump’s actions demonstrate unequal justice for all.