…if if if there’s evidence to convict him of a crime, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock says in the clip below. He’s not promising to jail Trump no matter what — that’s why there’s an asterisk in the headline — but he is making a noteworthy promise here.
Namely, he’s promising not to pardon Trump if the DOJ decides to pursue him for whatever reason after he leaves the presidency.
Has there ever been a presidential ad like that before? There was lots of “lock her up” chanting at Trump rallies in 2016 but I don’t recall any ads in which Trump made Hillary Clinton’s personal freedom a key part of his pitch. Then again, Trump led the Republican field in polling practically from the day he entered the race in 2015. Bullock is polling at, well, asterisk levels. This is the sort of eye-grabbing stunt a candidate in his position is forced to resort to, and which a candidate in Trump’s position could afford to forgo. Which says a lot about the Democratic Party in 2019: On paper, a twice-elected red-state governor like Bullock would be ideal as nominee to appeal to the sort of working-class white voters whom Trump dominated in 2016.
But he’s not ideal in appealing to women, lefties, young adults, and nonwhite voters, all of whom are pillars of the modern Democratic coalition. Basically, Bullock’s 20 years too late for his national star turn.
He’s not the first Democratic candidate this year either to vow not to pardon anyone from TrumpWorld after Trump returns to private life. Elizabeth Warren said this in February about the Russiagate probe:
So let me be perfectly clear, in the way that everyone who might be President next should be: If I’m elected President of the United States, there will be no pardons for anyone implicated in these investigations.
Everyone who might succeed Donald Trump as president should adopt the same policy. Starting with Vice President Mike Pence.
This means no pardons or commutations for anyone who is prosecuted and sentenced as part of the Mueller investigation.
No pardons or commutations for any other person implicated as part of a federal criminal investigation into illegal activity related to Donald Trump.
And no pardon or commutation for Donald Trump himself.
“The pardon and clemency powers are supposed to be about granting mercy to the powerless — not immunity for the powerful,” she added. Trump himself does not agree.
If the moderators at the next Dem debate ask for a show of hands on the Warren/Bullock question, i.e. whether the candidates will pledge not to pardon Trump if he or she becomes president, no doubt every hand would go up (including Tulsi Gabbard’s). It’d be a basic litmus test for Democratic voters of how vehemently each candidate repudiates Trumpism. Do you believe the president is above the law or don’t you? Whether they’d keep that promise is a separate matter, as once a new prez is sworn in he or she wants to get cracking on the agenda, not getting bogged down in revisiting the sins of the previous administration. Doubtless some Dems would argue that dropping any investigations of Trump would serve the party’s self-interest, since it would avoid the sort of partisan bitterness that might make it harder for the Susan Collinses and Lisa Murkowskis and Mitt Romneys to compromise on legislation.
But that’s silly. Even in the Democrats’ best-case scenario next fall, they won’t be anywhere near the 60 votes they need to beat a filibuster even if they get help from the handful of centrist Republicans in the chamber. And since nuking the filibuster appears to be impossible in the near term, they’ll be roadblocked legislatively either way.
Might as well send Trump to prison to keep the base happy, President Warren might reason.
One last weird detail about Bullock: There’s a Senate seat on the line in Montana next year (held by Republican Steve Daines) and a two-term governor like him would obviously be a top-top-top flight contender. Dems are still holding out hope that he’ll quit the presidential race and run that race instead, but Bullock has told reporters that he won’t do it because the hectic back-and-forth travel from Montana to D.C. and back again would be hell on his family life. That seemed like an excuse to keep his presidential hopes alive, that he might ultimately be open to persuasion on Senate, but after watching this ad I think he must be telling the truth. A candidate who was thinking of running in a state as red as Montana wouldn’t be running “lock him up” ads about Trump, now would he?