Last year, the Justice Department was investigating whether to bring criminal charges against Andrew McCabe, then the FBI's deputy director. President Trump repeatedly tried to influence the prosecutors, denouncing McCabe as a "disgraced" liar. Trump was said to have felt "very strongly that action should be taken" against McCabe, as the Washington Post reported.
Federal District Judge Reggie B. Walton warned prosecutors to resist those pressures. In recently released comments, Walton said: "I just think it's a banana republic when we go down that road, and we have those types of statements being made that are conceivably ... influencing the ultimate decision. I think there are a lot of people on the outside who perceive that there is undue, inappropriate pressure being brought to bear.
"I think as a government and as a society, we're going to pay a price at some point for this," Walton concluded.
McCabe was eventually cleared, but as a nation based on the rule of law, we are already paying a huge price for Trump's actions. And this is what Bernie Sanders and his terminally tendentious "Bernie Bros" do not seem to understand. Elections have consequences.
Hillary Clinton was far from a perfect candidate, but by relentlessly focusing on her flaws and failures, Sanders & Co. helped elect Trump, who has seriously politicized the administration of justice. To date, Trump has appointed 192 federal judges, including two to the Supreme Court. If he wins reelection, his abuse of the legal system will only get worse, and his judicial appointees will shape the courts for a generation or more.
And yet Bernie and his buddies are at it again, attacking any moderate as a heretic and justifying James Carville's description of his campaign as an "ideological cult." As a result, they are setting up the Democrats for an impossible choice.
Sanders has opened up a clear lead in national polls. If he actually wins the nomination, this 78-year-old socialist with a heart problem, who doesn't even belong to the party, could well lead Democrats to a devastating defeat. Even their House majority, the one bulwark against Trump's trampling of legal norms, could be jeopardized. And if Sanders loses the nomination, his disdain for pragmatism and compromise could fatally cripple the winner's ability to unify the party in November.
No wonder Rep. Tom Cole, a shrewd Oklahoma Republican, told the Associated Press that Sanders' ascendancy is "every Republican's dream come true."
The stakes could not be higher. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg turns 87 next month, and November's winner will almost certainly get to pick her successor. Stephen Breyer, Ginsburg's fellow liberal justice, is 81, and also likely to leave the bench during the next four years. So are a plethora of lower court judges; a Republican-controlled Senate would jam through their right-leaning replacements.
Moreover, Trump's trashing of the legal process will only accelerate. His stonewalling of legitimate subpoenas for witnesses and documents will get even more adamant. He is already trying to influence federal cases against two former confederates -- Roger Stone and Michael Flynn -- and Attorney General William Barr is setting up a system that reviews and revises criminal decisions made by professional career prosecutors.
That's why more than 1,100 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials wrote a letter urging Barr to resign, stating: "Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies."
Barr essentially believes in unlimited presidential power, which would place a reelected and revenge-minded Trump above and beyond the reach of the law. As Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe told the New Yorker, "If those views take hold, we will have lost what was won in the Revolution -- we will have a chief executive who is more powerful than the king. That will be a disaster for the survival of the republic."
This is the possible future that Sanders and his supporters need to take seriously. They insist that their hero will energize enough young and marginalized supporters to win the White House, but demographer Ruy Teixeira, writing in the Post, calls that "magical thinking" that fails to consider the number of voters that Sanders could alienate.
If the Berniecrats keep doing what they did four years ago -- if they demand ideological purity and denounce anyone who deviates from their rigid orthodoxy -- they will help reelect a president who has called himself "The King" and "The Chosen One."
They have to understand that elections have consequences. Before it's too late.