The Filthy Air

Trump gives Roger Stone his Get Out of Jail Free card.
July 10, 2020
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(Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Of course Donald Trump would have preferred to wait until November 3 to commute Roger Stone’s sentence. But Stone had let it be known that he might talk if he had to set foot in prison for even a short time. And so he received his get out of jail card on July 10, four days before he was to report to the federal penitentiary.

Stone lied under oath, was convicted by a jury of his peers, was sentenced by a judge—and will never serve a day in prison.

Two days before this event, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman retired from the U.S. Army, under assault from Donald Trump and his supporters, with the prospect of an uncertain future in the Army because his superiors were not willing or able unambiguously to stand up to Donald Trump. So Trump’s desire for revenge against a military officer who had served his country honorably and who had testified truthfully, under oath, to Congress, went unchecked.

Stone freed, and Vindman bullied. That is Donald Trump’s America, where

Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

And yet. To return to Macbeth, “we still have judgment here.”

The people will make a judgment on November 3.

But in between election days the people judge through their representatives. The president is their foremost representative and there is no recourse or solace to be found there. But there are other representatives, who now sit in a co-equal branch of government.

It is true they can do little to contravene the president’s use of a power that is his, and his alone.

But the people’s representatives need not be mute.

Democrats certainly will not be.

But what of Republicans?

Will they cower? Probably.

Or will some—a few, a happy few—step forth now, in light of this extraordinarily corrupt exercise of presidential power, and say: No second term for this president.

Will some elected Republicans make clear that Donald Trump’s America is not their America, not our America, nor the America of patriots, not the America of our future?

A healthy Republican party would feature dozens of members of Congress stepping forward to say this. After all, not all, not most, but six—not a negligible portion—of the seventeen Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 voted for an article of impeachment against Richard Nixon that included the charge of

[E]ndeavouring to cause prospective defendants, and individuals duly tried and convicted, to expect favoured treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony, or rewarding individuals for their silence or false testimony.

Republicans had their chance a few months ago to vote to impeach, and then convict, Donald Trump. With one (one!) honorable exception, they chose not to stand up for the rule of law. Now Trump has carried through on promises even Nixon never had the nerve or opportunity to carry out.

Trump has gone further than Nixon ever did. Will no elected Republican now stand up and say to the president: You chose Stone; I choose Biden.

William Kristol

William Kristol is editor-at-large of The Bulwark.