Monday, June 4, 2018

White House legal views assert Trump would be immune to prosecution for murder and, anyway, can pardon himself

Trump Says Appointment of Special Counsel is ‘Totally Unconstitutional’ reports the New York Times. The story also cites Trump and Giuliani on the matters of (1) whether a sitting president can be guilty of anything, and (2) whether a president can pardon him/her self. The White House legal answers are “no” and “yes.”

The main theme headlined in the Times’ report I see as another attempt to discredit Robert Mueller’s and his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, an investigation that Trump fears. Trump might try reading the Constitution before popping tweets like a rabbit’s droppings.

Here I want to focus on the other two features of the Times’ reporting.

President Trump… asserted that he has the power to pardon himself, raising the prospect that he might take extraordinary action to immunize himself from the ongoing probe.

In a pair of early-morning tweets, Mr. Trump suggested that he would not have to pardon himself because he had “done nothing wrong.” But he insisted that “numerous legal scholars” have concluded that he has the absolute right to do so, a claim that vastly overstates the legal thinking on the issue.

In fact, many constitutional experts dispute Mr. Trump’s position on his pardon power, an issue for which there has been no definitive ruling.

The president’s assertions came in tweets just a day after Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of his lawyers, told HuffPost that Mr. Trump is essentially immune from prosecution while in office, and could even have shot the former F.B.I. director without risking indictment while he was president.

Holy moly, Batman! Giuliani just advanced the legal claims that the president is completely above the law and as such can commit murder, free and clear. Remember that Trump has said the same thing: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Mr. Giuliani also said over the weekend that the president “probably” has the power to pardon himself, but said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it would be “unthinkable” for him to do so.

Doing so, Mr. Giuliani said, would “lead to probably an immediate impeachment,” adding that he “has no need to do that. He didn’t do anything wrong.”

In Blog for Arizona this morning, AZBlueMeanie provides an Analysis of Trump lawyers’ defense memo (shorter version: It’s all B.S.). The final snippets deal with self-pardoning by Trump.

UPDATE: On ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, host George Stephanopoulos asked President Trump’s chief attorney, Rudy Giuliani, about the defense memo:

Stephanopoulos: Do you and the president’s attorneys believe the president has the power to pardon himself?

Giuliani: He — he’s not but he probably does. He has no intention of pardoning himself but he probably — not to say he can’t. I mean, that — that’s another really interesting constitutional argument, can the president pardon himself.

Stephanopoulos: Do you think it’s an open question?

Giuliani: It would be an open question. I think it would probably get answered by gosh, that’s what the constitution says and if you want to change it, change it. But yes.

WRONG, this is not an open question. “The question of whether a U.S. president can pardon himself has long been settled. In 1974, shortly before President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace over the Watergate scandal, the U.S. Justice Department in a legal memo argued that a fundamental rule of justice is that ‘no one may be a judge in his own case.’ Furthermore, the U.S. Constitution’s pardon provision is clear that the president can act as a judge about someone else’s conduct, and disallows a president from pardoning himself to dodge impeachment or removal.” Giuliani steps in it, again.

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