“Imagine if it had worked,” Katyal suggests. “Imagine if our president had leveraged his role as commander in chief to convince a foreign power to open an investigation into his political opponent. Imagine if the president’s rival lost the primary because news broke that he was under investigation. Imagine if that meant the president faced a weaker candidate in November 2020 — and won re-election as a result.”

The foreign country could then blackmail our president by threatening to expose the corruption, gaining leverage over our foreign policy. Meanwhile, the president might abuse presidential power in other ways in the belief that impunity was complete. If all this eventually became public, and truth does have a way of trickling out, this would have devastating consequences for the legitimacy of American elections.

This thought experiment perhaps isn’t so far-fetched.