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Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

Analysis: Corruption in the Trump Administration Is Spreading

You’ve got to at least give credit to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for finding the silver lining—or the gold one, as it were.

It was late October 2017, just days before the so-called Paradise Papers, a tranche of leaked documents, would reveal that when he divested some of his holdings upon taking office, Ross had retained assets in a shipping company enmeshed in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Ross had not disclosed the investment, and apparently had no legal obligation to do so. Still, the realization that the commerce secretary held a stake in a company tied to Putin at a time of Russo-American tension was likely to be damaging, no two ways about it.

So he apparently decided to make a buck off the bad news. Three days after a New York Times reporter contacted Ross to inquire about the stake in Navigator Holdings, the company, he took a short position on it—in effect, betting the value of his investment would drop. Lo and behold, when reports about Ross’s stake were published, the stock dropped somewhat. Ross then made a profit of between $100,000 and $250,000, according to disclosures. It looks like an...

Analysis: The Invisible Melania Trump

First Lady Melania Trump may have spent 24 days out of the public eye, but it was the 33rd first lady, Bess Truman, who said: “I am not the one who is elected. I have nothing to say to the public.” Truman gave exactly one press conference as first lady, during which she replied “no comment” to each policy question.

But things were different in 1945. Public figures were seen differently, quite literally, because they were seen less frequently. The mid-century media landscape offered fewer opportunities for citizens to peer directly at the presidency.

Trump, meanwhile, entered the office following several decades of first ladies who each expanded the role in her own way; by these standards, Trump’s absences are a big and noticeable departure from the behavior of her recent predecessors. Her latest hiatus started after she accompanied Donald Trump to welcome home three American hostages from North Korea on May 10. Four days later, on May 14, her office announced that she had been admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to undergo a surgery for what they described as a benign kidney condition. Her absence stretched through June 4, when she attended a ceremony for...

No One Knows If a President Can Be Indicted

Can the president be indicted while in office? Rudolph Giuliani, at this writing one of President Trump’s lawyers, apparently wants the public to believe that there is a clear answer to that question—the one that by coincidence favors his client.

The one thing I am sure of is that there’s no clear answer.

To begin with, no one suggests that a president can never be indicted for crimes committed in office or out of it. Of course he can. The question is whether a president can be indicted while in office.

There’s no caselaw, but we have four interesting government memos dating back half a century. I reviewed them, and asked six prominent legal scholars how we should look for an answer.

Start with the memos—one issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) during the waning days of the Nixon presidency; a contemporaneous memo by the late Robert Bork, then solicitor general, advising a district court that a vice president could be indicted; a 2000 opinion by the OLC reaffirming the 1973 opinion; and, finally, a 1998 opinion by a lawyer in Kenneth Starr’s Office of the Independent Counsel investigating...

Republican Leaders Confront an Immigration Revolt on Two Sides

deepening rupture within the House Republican ranks over immigration policy has claimed another casualty: the farm bill, a far-reaching priority of Speaker Paul Ryan that would impose work requirements on recipients of food stamps.

Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus joined in an unlikely alliance with Republican moderates and the entire Democratic caucus on Friday to sink the legislation, which covers everything from agricultural subsidies to school lunches to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. Despite a flurry of last-minute negotiations with GOP leaders, members of the Freedom Caucus made good on their threat to block a bill they supported on the merits as part of an unrelated fight over immigration.

To head off an attempt by Republican moderates to force votes on bipartisan immigration bills—a formal petition drive that’s only a handful of GOP signatures away from succeeding—the conservatives had demanded a firm commitment from the leadership for a vote on their preferred immigration proposal. But when a deal didn’t materialize on Thursday night, they voted down the farm bill.

“This is all the more disappointing because we offered the vote these members were looking for, but they still chose...

Apollo 8 Helped America Survive 1968—a Year Remarkably Similar to 2018

Few years were more terrible to America than 1968.

Assassins killed Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Protests by anti-war demonstrators, students, and counter-culture activists resulted in violence at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, on college campuses, and in the streets. The Soviet Union stood as our great existential enemy. Trust in government cratered as much of the public came to believe that politicians weren’t telling the truth about our prospects in Vietnam.

At the Summer Olympics in Mexico City, two black American sprinters, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, protested against the racism they saw in their own country. Outside the Miss America pageant, at least a hundred women railed against the event, which they deemed exploitative. Young people called hippies threatened to overturn the social order.

As the year unfolded, America only grew more bitterly divided. To many, it felt like the country was coming apart at the seams.

How very familiar it all looks fifty years later.

In 2018, public violence—school shootings, bombings, and acts of terror—seem a weekly occurrence. The Soviet Union has again become a primary threat. Trust in government can be summed up by a single number—18—the percentage...