Seth Abramson @SethAbramson Attorney. @Newsweek columnist. NYT bestselling author of a book on Trump's Iran policy, Proof of Conspiracy (Macmillan, Professor. Jul. 03, 2019 3 min read

Respectfully: un-be-f*cking-lievable. This is abject lawlessness. This is not OK. 

1/ Part of the goal here is to scare and confuse Americans into not *knowing* if there's a citizenship question on the census or not, which is again—and this is now a pattern with Trump—*information warfare* being waged against the American people. But I fear there's another aim.

2/ I worry this is an effort to run out the clock somehow, to breach first and ask permission later, putting into the field a census containing a question DOJ claims is compliant with the SCOTUS ruling and then getting sued *after the census is underway* and saying "oops," later.

3/ Because what's the penalty? If the executive branch somehow gets a census into the field that's illegal, they can be shut down in midstream but they will have sown such fear among Americans concerned about a citizenship question that they'll get the result they want, anyway.

4/ And would anyone be surprised if—after the White House loses conclusively—we find out, many months on, that because "the census documents with the revised citizenship question were already printed," some portion of the country "accidentally" got approached with *that* version?

5/ There's *zero fuzz* on what the White House can and can't do, which DOJ already acknowledged, which means they've been countermanded by a lifelong criminal who has a *demonstrated pattern* of (a) deliberately sowing chaos and (b) breaching first and dealing with fallout later.

6/ There's no way to read this about-face besides encroaching autocracy run amok, systematic lawlessness and contempt for order, a willingness to wage psy-ops on one's own people, and, most insidiously, a creeping metanarrative—authored by Trump—that maybe *he's* the "last word."

7/ This is a man who loses before SCOTUS and literally, because of some sort of emotional or mental or psychological or spiritual damage done to him as a child, can't *accept* that he *lost*. Why—I ask again—does *anyone* doubt Cohen's claim that Trump won't accept a 2020 defeat?

8/ This isn't a "the dog gets the first bite free" situation. When a president says he's defying the Supreme Court, it's game over—the legislative branch has to move forward with peacefully and legally removing the president from office. You *don't play games with fascism*. Ever.

9/ If you think I'm overreacting, you need to reread the Constitution. The only thing keeping our democratic infrastructure and rule of law from collapsing—since the 18th century—has been a) a president willing to bend to the judicial branch *or* b) a Congress willing to impeach.

10/ If you don't have a Congress willing to impeach or a president willing to bend to the judicial branch, at that point you—by which I mean "American democracy"—is down to individual executive branch officials saying "no" to the president. And tonight we learned that they won't.

PS/ And please don't fall for this "we're going to try to create a question that will comply" nonsense. That's not what Trump said. He said the question *will* be asked because it's "too important" (to him) not to. *Then* executive-branch officials, instead of telling him "no"...

PS2/ ...came up with a plan to save their jobs—instead of the country—by concocting an illegal plan to try to get the census into the field before or as they're being sued to stop their actions, thereby giving Trump (at *worst*) a psy-ops victory by terrifying some census-takers.

PS3/ Let's say you *don't* think this is the 30th step toward autocracy and the end of our rule of law Trump has taken, or the 20th, or even the 10th. How could you *possibly* argue a POTUS defying the Supreme Court in this way—knowing Congress won't impeach—isn't the *1st* step?

You can follow @SethAbramson.


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