Tuesday, December 5, 2017

America’s creep toward a dictatorship - Trump’s lawyer dismisses possible obstruction charge arguing that Trump can do no wrong

OK, that’s a bit of an overstatement - but not by much. A former justice department spokesperson said “ Trump has the authority to block investigations into himself, his allies and into his friends, and nothing he does can be construed as obstruction of justice. The logical extension of all this is that Trump can try to remove Mueller and it would be entirely legitimate.” Read on for details and considerations complicating any attempt to remove Trump from office.

The Morning Joe panel in this video asks Does Trump’s tweet prove obstruction of justice?. President Trump tweeted over the weekend he needed to fire fmr. WH National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’ because he lied to VP Pence and the FBI. Does the tweet prove obstruction of justice as many have claimed? Duration: 6:31

The President’s attorney John Dowd claims that he wrote Trump’s tweet, but Joe’s panel doubts that story. Assuming Dowd is trying to cover for Trump, and that Trump wrote the tweet, then the argument that Trump did not do it fails. What other options does Trump’s team have? It seems that if they can’t prove that Trump didn’t do X, they can argue that Trump, by virtue of being President, cannot be guilty of X because X does not apply to the President.

Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) thinks It’s time to ask every Republican this question about Trump and Mueller

In coming days and weeks, we should all do whatever we can to ensure that every Republican member of Congress, in town hall meetings, via social media and during media scrums, is asked the following question:

If President Trump tries to remove special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, would you view that as an impeachable offense?

… Dowd’s new argument … doesn’t address just Trump’s previous conduct toward Comey. The notion that Trump can “express his view of any case” could theoretically be applicable as a justification for any future actions Trump might take toward the investigation.

“Dowd is basically arguing that as the chief law enforcement officer, Trump has the authority to block investigations into himself, his allies and into his friends, and nothing he does can be construed as obstruction of justice,” Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman, told me this morning. “The logical extension of all this is that Trump can try to remove Mueller and it would be entirely legitimate.”

The bottom line: Trump’s legal and/or political exposure — and that of his top advisers — appears to have grown. And given Trump’s response, so too has the possibility that he will try to put a stop to the investigation. We don’t know whether Trump will go this route. But the point is that the groundwork for this course of action has been laid, should he choose it. Trump’s lawyers have said this isn’t being discussed. But Dowd should now be pressed to elaborate on his new quote in this context.

It is plausible that Trump will hesitate before trying to remove Mueller, if only out of self-interest. But for this to be the case, Trump needs to be persuaded that there will be a serious downside to doing so. As The Post recently reported, Trump has “internalized the belief that he can largely act with impunity,” in part because no matter what he does, “Republican leaders largely stand by him.”

Multiple GOP lawmakers have said Mueller’s probe should be allowed to proceed. But that isn’t enough. We should all do our part to ensure that they are pressed on whether Trump will face actual consequences if he tries to prevent that from happening.

So far no consequences have occurred for anything Trump has done - and if there have been some, they have had little effect. Remember Trump is the guy who could shoot someone in Times Square and get away with it. He’s the Grab-em-by-the-pu$$y President. He does things just because he can.

So should we not impeach Trump? Or have him officially and psychiatrically declared as unfit to serve?

Daniel Drezner explains How Donald Trump needs to exit the White House - and why some options should not be on the table.

… some hope the Mueller investigation will bring Trump down, or that the president will eat himself into a coronary. It is certainly possible that these things will happen. As someone who has vehemently opposed Trump for years, however, I hope they do not.

… if Trump is forced out by constitutional-but-unprecedented means, I fear the repercussions. Consider the 25th Amendment. As Ezra Klein observes — in a Vox article making the case for impeachment, no less — removing Trump this way would lead to all kinds of blowback:

Imagine that Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet did compel Trump to undergo psychiatric evaluation. And imagine the psychiatrist did return a diagnosis of some kind, be it early-stage dementia or narcissistic personality disorder (plenty of psychiatrists stand ready to diagnose Trump with all manner of mental ailments, so this is not far-fetched). The vote is taken, and Trump is removed from office.

To many of Trump’s supporters — and perhaps many of his opponents — this would look like nothing less than a coup; the swamp swallowing the man who sought to drain it. Imagine the Breitbart headlines, the Fox News chyrons. And would they truly be wrong?

Of course, this also undercuts Klein’s argument for a lower threshold for impeachment. If Trump was removed from office that way, the political blowback would probably be the same. Regardless, in contrast to the 25th Amendment, impeaching and removing Trump from office remains a true hypothetical. In this polarized age, the only way Trump would be removed from office is if Democrats win 67 seats in the Senate. That is not going to happen anytime soon.

The absolute best way for Trump and Trumpism to be repudiated is through democratic and not merely legal means. If Doug Jones defeats Roy Moore in Alabama despite a presidential endorsement, that represents a blow to Trump in the same way he was humiliated by the Virginia state elections last month. If the GOP loses badly in the midterms despite a healthy economy, that is an even bigger repudiation of the head of the Republican Party. And if Trump loses bigly in his quest for reelection in 2020, such a resounding defeat might shock the GOP into repudiating white identity politics.

Electing Trump once was a fluke involving a fractured GOP, an unpopular Democrat nominee, and the Democrats having won the previous two terms. Electing Trump twice would be national suicide. If the United States has any chance at regaining its bearings as the greatest constitutional democracy in the world, the populist in chief must be revealed as genuinely unpopular. And it has to happen at the ballot box.

But here’s the catch. The next opportunity to decisively reject trump at the ballot box is 2020. None of the other things mentioned will do that. Our nation may not have the luxury of waiting for three years. We are inching along, one tweet now, another cabinet pick then, toward an all-powerful authoritarian whose behaviors cost no effective consequences.

Steve Benen’s post on the MaddowBlog (MSNBC) brings us back full circle: Trump’s lawyer argues a president ‘cannot obstruct justice’

Defense attorneys routinely have a choice in strategies. They can argue, “My client didn’t do x,” or they can make the case, “Maybe my client did x, but it shouldn’t matter.”

When it comes to the Trump-Russia scandal, the president’s allies have long struggled with this dynamic, to the point that they routinely end up making both arguments. For example, many on the right used to say Donald Trump and his campaign didn’t collude with Russia during its attack on the United States’ election, though some ended up arguing that collusion is permissible, so even if the Republican is guilty, we should all just look the other way.

Similarly, as the president faces allegations that he obstructed justice, the usual line from the right has been that he’s innocent. Now, however, Trump World is shifting its posture, suggesting that even if the president did obstruct justice, it shouldn’t matter.

John Dowd, who’s helping lead Trump’s legal defense, got into a little trouble over the weekend with a tweet he claims to have written for his client, but Dowd went much further in an interview with Axios.

John Dowd, President Trump’s outside lawyer, outlined to me a new and highly controversial defense/theory in the Russia probe: A president cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice.

The “President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case,” Dowd claims.

We are, in other words, entering a new phase of the debate. As the obstruction allegations against the president becomes more obvious, Trump’s allies are laying the groundwork for the idea that he shouldn’t, and can’t, face such a charge.

So in translation, Trump can do anything he wants and get away with it because he is the President. Richard Nixon, Benen reminds us, also had that view.

Nixon famously told David Frost, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal,” but he said this in 1977 – years after he was forced to resign in disgrace.

The Watergate special prosecutors and Congress did not buy that argument. Neither did they wait for the next election. Neither should Bob Mueller. And neither should we.

No comments:

Post a Comment