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      •  Saturday Q&A

Saturday Q&A

The questions this week were, not surprisingly, heavy on questions about the insurrection and impeachment. So, guess what today's Q&A will be heavy on...

Q: I am not a great student of the Civil War, but I seem to recall reading once that John Wilkes Booth was quite surprised to discover that he was not widely considered a hero for assassinating the "tyrant" (for what it's worth, Booth's Wikipedia entry briefly supports this notion). Is there any truth to this story, and if so, does "John Wilkes Booth syndrome" help explain the motivations of the Trump crowd's attempted siege of the Capitol? I am struggling to find logical reasons for incurring federal charges and loss of employment just for the thrill of waltzing around the building for a few hours. Do you think most of the participants really believe that an overwhelming majority of citizens, law enforcement, etc., are Trump-loving "real Americans" who would support their actions rather than be appalled? Or am I just looking for logic where there is only raw emotion? S.S., Weaverville, NC

A: To start, your recollection of Booth is correct. He thought he would be viewed as a latter-day Brutus, and he wasn't. Some Southern whites might have cheered him privately, but it was an unwise time to do so publicly. Other Southern whites felt Booth had made a bad situation worse, and that whatever punishment would be visited upon them for making civil war would be much harsher. Meanwhile, most Northern whites, and all Black people (North and South) were outraged.

In short, Booth failed to assess the situation correctly. This was partly due to his emotional state, and partly due to how fully he had convinced himself of his own delusions. We think it is fair to say that the same is true of many of the Capitol rioters. Clearly, emotion and the herd mentality were a big part of what happened. At the same time, many of these folks live in a bubble where their ideas are reinforced by like-minded folks, and where they are often told things like "sometimes true patriots have to get violent" and "Donald Trump is all-powerful," and "the federal government is incompetent" and "REAL Americans support Trump." So, they sold themselves on the delusions that: (1) their actions had broad support, and (2) there was little risk of any real consequences since the feds are numbnuts and Trump will protect his followers. They were wrong on all counts.

Q: If it's proven that there was insider help by some of the GOP congressmen and women, as has been reported on the news and you discussed in your Thursday edition, surely this constitutes textbook treason. Congressmen leading reconnaissance missions? Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, whom I abhor, live tweeting the location of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)?

What is the most likely end game if these elected officials are proven guilty of these charges? I know expulsion from Congress is obviously on the table, but how far, realistically, could the punishments go?
K.C., West Islip, NY

A: If any members are found guilty of treason—a tall order, since some believe a state of declared war must exist for treason to take place—then the potential penalty is execution. So, that's the most extreme scenario.

More likely, if the culpability of these members is proven beyond a doubt, is that they would be charged with conspiracy, or sedition, or something like that. They would certainly be tossed out of Congress, and they would spend at least a few years as a guest of Uncle Sam at the crowbar hotel.

Q: On Wednesday, Donald Trump said "no true supporter of mine would ever perform political violence." Doesn't this create a situation for the mafia Don where he looks even more guilty if his words now prevent a riot, just as his words January 6th produced an insurrection? M.C., Simsbury, CT

A: What Trump was trying to do was to cover all his bases. If there's no further violence, he will claim credit for it. And if there is, he will reiterate that the guilty folks are not "his" people. This is known as the No true Scotsman fallacy, if you are interested.

As a matter of politics, Trump's words matter not one bit. Those who blame him will blame him whatever he says. And those who do not blame him aren't changing their minds now. So, the entire point here was to give himself legal cover if he's charged criminally or civilly for what happened. "Once Mr. Trump became aware of the behavior, he did everything possible to stop it, (and he was successful)/(even if he was unable to stop some of the 'bad apples')" his lawyers will say, right before they learn that he's decided to stiff them on any money he owes them.

Q: Was Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) phone call to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley about preventing Donald Trump from exercising any nuclear ambitions, a matter of political theater or did it have some practical reasoning or expectations attached? M.O., Arlington, VA

A: Since neither she nor Milley has any direct control over the nuclear stockpile, and since news of the phone call leaked hours after it was made, you can be quite certain it was political theater. Pelosi was doing two things: (1) lobbying Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, and (2) announcing to anyone who is listening that if they stand up to Donald Trump if he tries anything rash, they will have the support of the political party that is going to be in control of both houses of Congress as of Jan. 20.

Q: Naming events has an important effect on how and how much those events are covered by the media and by historians. But I haven't seen a consensus emerge on how the events of January 6 should be named, nothing akin to "The 9/11 attack" or "The Hard Hat Riot." How do you think historians and journalists will refer to these events 5 years from now? What is the process by which those consensus names emerge? D.R.M. in Newton, MA

A: The two entities that play the biggest role in establishing names for historical events are political elites and the media (especially headline writers). Multiple presidents (and presidents-elect) called the incident an "insurrection," as did nearly every major media outlet not named Fox News. Meanwhile, the focal point was the Capitol Building, so our prediction is "Capitol Insurrection" or "Capitol Hill Insurrection."

For what it is worth, a search for the phrase "Capitol Insurrection" already generates 6.2 million results on Google.

Q: Do you believe the Jan. 6. Capitol Hill riots, and the subsequent fallout that includes a second impeachment, has cemented Donald Trump as being the worst president ever in American history? R.H.D., Webster, NY

A: First of all, let us note that "Capitol Hill riots" generates only 3.1 million results on Google right now. If you want to be one of the cool kids, you'll start calling it the "Capitol Insurrection."

In any event, Trump's clear competition for the presidential basement is James Buchanan. That is something of an apples to oranges comparison (apples to orange?). On one hand, Buchanan's failures helped trigger the Civil War. It's hard to imagine that, whatever the long-term negative impact of Trump is, the next four years could plausibly be as bad as 1861-65 were. On the other hand, Buchanan's disastrous presidency was defined primarily by inaction, as he struggled to tame forces that were substantially beyond his control. By contrast, most of the black marks against Trump (Ukraine Mobilier, "good people on both sides," children in cages, the COVID-19 pandemic, the Capitol insurrection) are the product of specific actions taken by the President, and were significantly or entirely in his control.

Q: P.B. in Lille wrote "I think that Jan. 6, 2021, will join the list of infamous days in American history." Do you think January 6, 2021, is among the 10 most infamous days in U.S. history? What are the 10 most infamous days in U.S. history, and what were the consequences of these days? F.S., Cologne, Germany

A: Sorry to punt on a significant part of your question, but it's too soon to plausibly know where to rank Jan. 6. There is too much that is not known, and there's also the potential for an even worse day within the next week or two. If the National Guard opens fire on Jan. 20 in response to violent protests, and 150 people are killed, then Joe Biden's Inauguration Day would quickly outpace Jan. 6 for notoriety.

Anyhow, here is a list of the most notorious days in U.S. history, in our view, along with a brief summation of the consequences:

  1. Executive Order 9066 (Feb. 19, 1942): Japanese internment

  2. Choctaw Removal from Georgia (November 1, 1831): Beginning of the Trail of Tears

  3. Lincoln Assassination (Apr. 14, 1865): Presidency of Andrew Johnson, Reconstruction a fiasco, impeachment, a nation mourns

  4. Joseph McCarthy's "Enemies from Within" speech (February 9, 1950): Rise of Joe McCarthy, deepening of the Red Scare, national paranoia, possibly the Korean War

  5. JFK Assassination (Nov. 22, 1963): Presidency of Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam War, a million conspiracy theories, a nation mourns

  6. September 11 Attacks (Sep. 11, 2001): War on terror/Afghanistan War/Iraq War, Islamophobia, "security state," reelection of George W. Bush

  7. Zimmermann Telegram published (Mar. 1, 1917): U.S. entry into World War I

  8. Dred Scott Decision (Mar. 6, 1857): Inflamed sectional tensions, rendered SCOTUS irrelevant for years, made the Civil War all-but-inevitable

  9. Plessy v. Ferguson Decision (May 18, 1896): Sanctioned segregation, made legal generations of bigotry, led to the Civil Rights Movement

  10. The Attack on Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941): U.S. entry into World War II

Note that "bad" or "highly destructive" does not mean the same thing as "notorious," which is why things like the Galveston Hurricane don't make the list.

As always, we are interested in hearing about any possibilities that readers think we overlooked.

Q: Was the impeachment this week the fastest one ever? S.B., New Castle, DE

A: Here are the four impeachments in U.S. history:

Impeachment Causal Event Date of Causal Event Date of Impeachment Time Lapsed
Andrew Johnson Termination of Edwin M. Stanton Feb. 21, 1868 Feb. 24, 1868 3 days
Bill Clinton Lying under oath Jan. 17, 1998 Oct. 8, 1998 265 days
Donald Trump I Improper pressure on Volodymyr Zelensky Jul. 25, 2019 Dec. 18, 2019 147 days
Donald Trump II Inciting insurrection Jan. 6, 2021 Jan. 13, 2021 7 days

So, Trump's second impeachment is the second fastest, after Johnson's.

Q: The recent vote to impeach Trump has been dubbed "bipartisan" by your site and several other sources that I've come across over the past 24 hours. That vote saw the GOP record 10 "yea" votes for impeachment vs. 197 'no' votes (4.8%).

I'm curious to learn what the criteria is for a vote to be described as bipartisan. Does a single vote from the 'same' side meet the threshold? A certain percentage? Other?
K.B., Madison, WI

A: Bipartisan just means "with votes from both parties." So, just one Republican or just one Democratic vote is enough to clear the bar. That said, when "bipartisan" just barely applies, we usually add a qualifier, like: "The vote to convict Trump was bipartisan, in the sense that one Republican senator—Mitt Romney (R-UT)—joined with the Democrats."

Q: Would it be possible for the impeachment trial to be a quick affair, or does it have to take a certain amount of time? L.B., Boise, ID

A: There is no set length for an impeachment trial; the whole thing could be concluded in five seconds if the majority party decides that is what it wants to do.

As a practical matter, the senators will want some time to posture, and perhaps create a meme-worthy moment. Further, the Democrats will want the process to look "by the book," so that if they convict, they can say the conviction was legitimate and that Donald Trump's side was heard and considered.

Q: I realize it may be easier to guess which two teams will play in the 2035 Super Bowl, but can you give an educated guess at this point as to how the Republican senators will vote in the impeachment trial? S.H., Chandler, AZ

A: The 2035 Super Bowl matchup is easy to predict: The Green Bay Packers vs. some team that is going to lose. Perhaps the Steelers, quarterbacked by Ben Roethlisberger Jr.

As to impeachment votes, here are our predictions for the 50 Republican senators, in groups:

  • Likely to vote for conviction (5): Collins (ME), Murkowski (AK), Romney (UT), Sasse (NE), Toomey (PA)

  • More likely to vote for conviction than not (4): Grassley (IA), McConnell (KY), Sullivan (AK), Tillis (NC)

  • Will do whatever McConnell does (15): Blunt (MO), Burr (NC), Capito (WV), Cassidy (LA), Cornyn (TX), Cotton (AR), Daines (MT), Ernst (IA), Fischer (NE), Lankford (OK), Lee (UT), Moran (KS), Portman (OH), Rubio (FL), Thune (SD)

  • Unlikely to vote for conviction (16): Barrasso (WY), Boozman (AR), Braun (IN), Cramer (ND), Crapo (ID), Hagerty (TN), Hoeven (ND), Inhofe (OK), Kennedy (LA), Lummis (WY), Paul (KY), Risch (ID), Rounds (SD), Shelby (AL), Wicker (MS), Young (IN)

  • No chance of voting for conviction (10): Blackburn (TN), Cruz (TX), Graham (SC), Hawley (MO), Hyde-Smith (MS), Johnson (WI), Marshall (KS), Scott (FL), Scott (SC), Tuberville (AL)

Q: Am I misreading the 2/3 requirement for conviction in the Senate impeachment trial? My understanding is that it is 2/3 of the senators present, so if Mitch McConnell wanted to convict (to rid the GOP of Trump) he may "allow," say, 20 of his caucus to be absent. 2/3 of the remaining 80 = 53.3. Round up to 54, and that is all the Democrats, and Independents plus McConnell, Mitt Romney (R-UT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Ben Sasse (R-NE). D.G., Los Angeles, CA

A: You are reading it correctly. Art. I, Sec. 3 of the Constitution says:

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

If the fellows who wrote the Constitution wanted the requirement to be 2/3 of all members, they would have excluded the word "present" from the end. The fact that they included that word makes clear their intent. So, Trump could be convicted with mostly/entirely Democratic votes if a bunch of Republicans stay home.

Q: I have seen people online saying that the president cannot offer pardons related to the crime they are impeached for. Is this true? P.R., Arvada, CO

A: That is a misreading of the Constitution. The limit on the pardon power is that the president cannot save someone from the impeachment itself. There is no limit on pardoning the crime(s) that triggered the impeachment.

Q: If Donald Trump is not convicted by the Senate, is there a procedure in which a simple majority vote can still be taken to ban him from future office? Katie Couric, on the latest episode of "Real Time with Bill Maher," suggested this.

How long does it take to put together a 6,000 word post? Wow, and three in one week. It takes me a week to do 1500 words (before I'd let anyone read it).
N.E., Anchorage, AK

A: We did not see that program, but Couric was presumably referring to the scuttlebutt that is going around that Trump could be disqualified under the 14th Amendment, which says:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.

So, the general idea here is that a majority of each chamber could pass a bill decreeing that Trump had aided in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, and that he is therefore disqualified from future officeholding.

There is a wee problem with this, however. A decree that someone is guilty of a crime is called a bill of attainder, and Art. I, Sec. 9, which covers limitations on the powers of Congress, says "No Bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed." That's pretty clear; some legal scholars argue that the 14th Amendment implicitly repealed the prohibition on bills of attainder, but that is a minority position that seems to us to be on shaky footing.

The way Congress got around this after the Civil War was by passing the Enforcement Act of 1870, also known as the First Ku Klux Klan Act, which empowered the Department of Justice to bring suit against people who may have disqualified themselves from officeholding under the terms of the 14th Amendment. Then, it was up to a judge to make a finding. So, if the current Congress wanted to pass a new Enforcement Act, or to renew the original one, then they could go after Trump that way. But it's probably not so simple as Couric suggests.

As to the latter portion of your question, we can produce 1,000-1,200 words/hour when writing at peak efficiency. The prep work can vary widely, depending on how complex the event is and how long it takes to fully unfold. For the original insurrection piece, (Z) watched TV/took notes/read news coverage for 8 hours and then wrote for another 5. For the two impeachment pieces, it was more like 2 hours of prep and 5 hours of writing.

Q: If a president is impeached and convicted, do his pardons still stand? L.G., Thornton, CO

A: Yes. An impeachment is a "going forward" action, and has no bearing on what has already happened. If an impeached and convicted president's actions were retroactively nullified, then it would open many cans of worms. Were all the laws they signed illegal? Their budgets? Were the people they appointed to office illegitimate? Were the actions of those folks, while in office, invalid? It would be quite a mess.

Q: Several presidents of late have used the 25th Amendment to give the reins of the office to the vice president while undergoing surgery. But the vice president is not numbered as a president. I assume that if Donald Trump is impeached and convicted before his term ends then Mike Pence will be the 46th president. Where is that line and who decides? K.B., Venice, FL

A: Anyone who succeeds to the presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment is considered an "acting president," and thus a temporary holder of the office. Anyone who succeeds to the presidency under the terms of Article II becomes president (no "acting"), is administered the oath of office, and enjoys the full powers of the office until they die, resign, are impeached/convicted/removed, or reach the end of term they have assumed.

Q: I know, morbid question. But I bet I'm not the first one to ask. What happens if, between now and January 20 at noon ET, both President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris die? The election is official, but Trumplethinskin can't stay in office. J.B., Denver, CO

A: In that circumstance, Nancy Pelosi would assume the presidency as acting president. One of her first acts would be to submit the name of a new vice president to Congress for their consideration. As soon as a VP was confirmed, that person would succeed to the presidency. Pelosi would be out of the White House (and out of Congress, for that matter), and the new VP-instantly-turned-president would submit the name of yet another new VP to Congress for their consideration. Once that person was approved, then the line of succession would be intact again.

Q: My son asks the following: "In most other presidencies we don't even impeach once; why, during this presidency, do we impeach twice?" B.B., St. Louis, MO

A: There are two reasons. First, the United States is unusually divided and partisan right now. If that was not true, Trump likely would not have survived his first impeachment and, further, people wouldn't be unhinged enough to do things like invade the Capitol. Second, Trump is an unusually unethical and clumsy politician. It's not easy to get impeached once, but it happens. But to be impeached twice, with the second coming when you have less than 10 days in office? It takes a very poor president to pull that off.

Q: Given how divided America currently is, I can't help but wonder how long it might take for us to get back to a sense of unity. Approximately how long did it take after the Civil War before there was a prevalent sense of a United States of America again? J.T., Denver, CO

A: Well, there's been a social, cultural, and economic divide between the South and the rest of the country for 400 years. There's never been a time where that divide was not palpable. That said, the answer to your question is 1898. By then, the generation that fought the Civil War was either old or dead, and the country pulled together to defeat the Spanish in the Spanish-American War.

Q: It seems there are currently a lot of holes in the executive branch of our government (and may be more over the next couple days). Can Joe Biden immediately appoint acting cabinet members to serve until his preferred nominees are considered by the current Senate? R.R., Wilmington, DE

A: He can, choosing from (1) "the first assistant to the office," (2) anyone who occupies any Senate-confirmed position, or (3) a senior officer or employee who is from the same executive agency and who is a GS-15 on the federal pay scale. Biden isn't likely to pick a lot of people from categories 1/2, since those will mostly be Trump people, but the folks in category 3 are mostly careerists whom the President-elect will be happy with as a stopgap.

Q: Merrick Garland's nomination for AG didn't get a lot of attention, what with a coup happening at the same time. But could you help explain why this isn't a completely boneheaded move on Biden's part? The only thing any member of the public knows about Garland is that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked his SCOTUS nomination. That means that if Garland ever investigates any Republican (say, one Donald Trump), Republicans will immediately scream to high heaven that it's nothing but politically motivated revenge for not getting to sit on the Supreme Court. Whatever Garland's qualifications, didn't Biden just ensure that he will never be able to investigate or prosecute Republican malfeasance? R.F., Providence, RI

A: Joe Biden could pick Jesus H. Christ for that post, and if he goes after Trump, some sizable segment of the Republican electorate is going to claim the whole thing was a sham, and then call for the AG to be crucified. The President-elect does not care about those people, because they are lost to him. There are three things he does care about, however. The first is picking someone who can get through the confirmation process. As a distinguished, long-serving federal judge, that should be no problem for Garland. The second is finding someone with the experience and wisdom to deal with all the hot potatoes that the next AG will have to handle. Garland is a person like that (as was Robert Mueller). The third is choosing someone who will give Democrats/Independents/Never Trump Republicans—the voters that Biden does care about—confidence that, whatever happens, these various matters were handled properly and competently. Garland will give those voters that confidence.

While Garland is primarily known as a judge, during the Carter administration he was a special assistant to AG Benjamin Civiletti. After that he was in private practice for 8 years. In 1989 he became the assistant U.S. attorney for D.C. In 1993, Garland was appointed deputy assistant AG and later principal deputy associate AG. Among other cases he handled were prosecuting Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) and the Atlanta Olympics bombings. So he has had plenty of experience as a prosecutor in addition to his career as a judge.

Q: We've had a solid week and a half of horror and anxiety, so how about something upbeat? What do you think will be some of the top Democratic actions this year given that they soon will control both houses of Congress and the White House? M.S., Pittsburgh, PA

A: We will give you three lists of five:

Almost Certain:
  1. Big COVID-19 relief bill
  2. Rejoining the Paris Accord
  3. Reviving the Iran nuclear deal
  4. Shoring up/Improving on Obamacare
  5. Improvements to election security
  1. Infrastructure bill
  2. Marijuana legalization
  3. Repeal or revision of 2017 tax cut
  4. Further trimming of the filibuster
  5. Rural Broadband Act
  1. Revived Trans-Pacific Partnership
  2. D.C. Statehood
  3. Young, liberal replacement for Associate Justice Stephen Breyer
  4. Increased minimum wage
  5. A new Voting Rights Act

Q: You had an item about Joe Biden's economic plan, the "American Rescue Plan." You wrote that Biden can achieve most of the plan through the budget reconciliation process. What part or parts of the plan cannot be pursued through budget reconciliation? My assumption is raising the minimum wage to $15/hour. S.L., Irwin, PA

A: The limits on reconciliation are the product of the Byrd Rule, which tries to keep extraneous things out of the process. In simplest terms, "extraneous" is defined as "anything that does not affect federal revenues or expenditures."

The minimum wage is, far and away, the part of the Biden plan that is least likely to pass Byrd Rule muster. That is because the minimum wage is about money flowing to/from employers and employees, and not about money flowing to/from the federal government. So, a higher minimum wage, on its face, does not affect federal revenues or expenditures. The Democrats could try to get around this in three ways. One, they could argue that higher wages for employees means higher tax revenue, and thus a higher minimum wage would affect federal revenues. Two, they could try to pass the minimum wage increase as a punitive tax, something along the lines of "Any employer who pays less than $15/hour to their employees must pay $1/hour in federal tax penalty for every $1/hour less than $15/hour paid to employees." Then the argument would be that of course a tax affects federal revenues. Three, they could argue that raising the minimum wage increases federal expenditures because some lower-level federal employees would be getting a raise, thus costing the government money. If the Democrats attempted any of these things, it would be up to Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough to rule on whether they violated the Byrd Rule.

Q: Are former vice-presidents afforded the same post-office benefits as former presidents? In particular, are they entitled to lifetime Secret Service protection? Mike Pence may want to check into this. C.M., Ottawa, Canada

A: No. Former VPs get six months of USSS protection, which can be extended at the discretion of the Dept. of Homeland Security (but rarely is). They also get a pension, but their pension is actually based on their service as President of the Senate, and not as VP per se, so it's calculated using the complicated rules that govern congressional pensions. Joe Biden gets about $250,000/year, but much of that is because he was a long-serving member of the Senate. Pence, with fewer years as VP, and fewer years as a member of Congress, will get far less (about half). In addition, anyone with five years' federal service can get lifetime health insurance (so yes for Pence, no for Donald Trump). None of the other benefits extended to former presidents (office space, travel budget, etc.) are extended to former veeps.

Q: The Eisenhower Memorial in D.C. has been complete for many months, but the pandemic put the kibosh on a formal dedication ceremony. Trump's name is emblazoned in marble on a cornerstone. But since he never got the chance to actually dedicate the memorial, could his name be replaced on that stone by Joe Biden's? P.G. in Arlington, VA

A: Possible, with an act of Congress, but highly unlikely. Those markers indicate the name of the president who "launched" the project, either by laying the cornerstone/shoveling the first shovelful of dirt, or by giving their support from the Oval Office. This is why the Hoover Dam is named after Herbert Hoover; construction began during his term (in 1931) even if it was concluded during his successor's term (in 1935). The Eisenhower Memorial broke ground on Nov. 2, 2017, and so by tradition, it should bear Trump's name, which surely has Ike rolling in his grave. On the other hand, when Trump talks about making America great again, the period he is referring to when America was great is generally believed to be the Eisenhower administration, so Ike may be smiling while rolling over.

Q: Your item about the "soft" perks of being an ex-president got me wondering. When Trump's time is finally up, will he get a state funeral? Hard to imagine he wouldn't want one, given his fragile ego. But what's the protocol for (possibly) convicted heads of state when they reach the end of the line? M.C.A., San Francisco, CA

A: Generally speaking, and for the past 60 years or so, the offer is extended to all ex-presidents, and then it's up to them to accept or decline (since 1960, only Harry S. Truman and Richard Nixon declined). It is entirely possible the offer would not be made to the Trump family, and it almost certainly wouldn't be made if he was convicted in impeachment trial 2.0. It's also possible his family might reject the offer; one reason to do so is modesty (Truman's reason), but another reason is to forestall the possibility of thousands of protesters showing up to remind everyone of how much they hated the dead president (Nixon's reason).

Q: When you say that Twitter's Trumpunishment was to "cut him off for life", do you think that it will be much like the penalty that Yankees owner George Steinbrenner received from Major League Baseball? Steinbrenner was banned permanently from day-to-day management (but not ownership) of the Yankees on July 30, 1990, and on July 24, 1992, his reinstatement was announced effective March 1, 1993. How long do you think that Trump's lifetime untweeting will remain in effect? S.Z., New Haven, CT

A: As you point out, Steinbrenner remained a business partner of MLB, not to mention owner of its most prominent franchise (outside of the Los Angeles Angels). A lifetime ban was never especially practical, and was never really intended. On the other hand, Trump is not a partner of Twitter, and it does them little harm to not have to deal with him. Meanwhile, it would look very bad for them if they welcomed him back. And finally, he may not have so many years left. Add it up, and we think "lifetime" will really mean "lifetime."

Q: I understand that Twitter is not the government and is not subject to the 1st Amendment. However, a bakery was sued for not making a wedding cake for a gay couple. I remember cheering for the gay couple, but now that the world is safe from Trump tweets, I'm not so sure that government should force a business to provide services to everyone. Can you distinguish between the two cases? C.P., Santa Cruz, CA

A: The distinction is easy. Twitter offers its services to everyone, subject to rules that all users agree to on signup. Trump agreed to the rules, broke them, was warned, repeated that cycle many times, and finally got banned.

On the other hand, the baker withheld services from the gay couple, and did so on the basis of their sexual orientation. In Colorado, sexual orientation is a protected class (since 2008; the cake thing was in 2012), which made the discrimination illegal. If the baker had said "I don't bake cakes for people taller than me," it probably would have been ok, legally speaking.

For the situation of the gay cake buyers to parallel Trump's, it would require something like this: They ordered a cake, didn't pick it up or pay for it, and then were denied the opportunity to order a second cake. In that case, they would be getting excluded from future service for their behavior as customers (flaking on an order and sticking the baker with the cost) as opposed to their sexual orientation.

Q: While I realize that Donald Trump's presidential library will initially be filled with lies and falsehoods, do you think there will come a time where the truth about his presidency is told inside the actual library? If so, when do you think that will be? P.S., Arlington, TN

A: We think you might be misunderstanding how presidential libraries work. To start with, the libraries tend to have a museum, open to the members of the general public. The museum portion definitely tends to be celebratory, though even there we see at least some acknowledgment of the president's missteps (for example, the Nixon library has a big room dedicated to the Checkers speech, and a giant room dedicated to his meetings with foreign leaders, and a smallish display dedicated to Watergate).

The actual library portion, as a general rule, is not accessible to the general public. Usually, you have to demonstrate you are a working scholar, or otherwise have some good reason to be there. And it's a vast collection of documents (tens of millions of them), pieced together and curated by NARA, that endeavor to provide as complete a record as possible of the subject's presidency. We're talking letters sent and received by the president and his staff, inter-office memos, drafts of speeches, news articles about the administration, (presumably) copies of tweets, etc. The library portion (as opposed to the museum portion) has little or no input from the (former) president, and has no interpretative skew. So, it will be possible to discover "truth" from the day the library opens.

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