Former New York congressman Michael Grimm is a felon who has admitted to hiring undocumented workers, hiding $900,000 from tax authorities and making false statements under oath. To hear him tell it, that’s a reason Staten Island Republicans should vote him back into office.
“It’s almost identical to what the president has been going through,” Grimm says of the federal investigation that led to his imprisonment. “It’s not an accident that under the Obama administration the Justice Department was used politically. And that is all starting to come out.”
Grimm has uncovered a new reality in the constantly changing world of Republican politics: Criminal convictions, once seen as career-enders, are no longer disqualifying. In the era of President Trump, even time spent in prison can be turned into a positive talking point, demonstrating a candidate’s battle scars in a broader fight against what he perceives as liberal corruption.
In a startling shift from “law-and-order Republicans,” Trump has attacked some branches of law enforcement, especially those pursuing white-collar malfeasance, as his allies and former campaign officials are ensnared in various investigations.
Following his lead, Republican Senate candidates with criminal convictions in West Virginia and Arizona have cast themselves as victims of the Obama administration’s legal overreach. Another former Trump adviser who has pleaded guilty to a felony has also become an in-demand surrogate, as Republicans jump at the chance to show their opposition to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Here’s a general rule of thumb: Lawmakers should not be law breakers,” said Susan Del Percio, a New York GOP consultant who advised Grimm in 2010 but opposes his candidacy. “I guess it’s a different political norm we are facing today.”
No Republican can be guilty of a crime because it was all an Obama/Clinton plot to discredit them, and you can bet Donald Trump will be using that same excuse the second anything remotely resembling recommended charges from Mueller appear.
This is what I mean when I say Trump is a symptom of the utter rot of the Republican party, not the cause of it. It's not Trump who believes he is above the law, it's the entire party that now believes laws and convictions no longer apply to them.
Republicans are proudly running for Congress while having been convicted of serious criminal charges and they are boldly declaring their criminal records to be meaningless politically-driven shams. I disagree that Republicans have changed from being "the party of law and order" at all, they simply believe they are legally and morally righteous because no Republican could ever be convicted except by kangaroo courts run by those people.
And you can be damn sure Republicans want laws to apply to everyone besides them to boot. It's not a change, it's an apotheosis.