Above the Law?

The headline in the New York Times reads:

Trump Tweet Asserts an ‘Absolute Right’ to Pardon Himself

“Trump declared Monday that the appointment of the special counsel in the Russia investigation is “totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” and 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.”

The first thing that comes to mind, of course, is that his very statement is an admission of guilt.  If he were not guilty, if he had nothing to hide, then why not sit down and shut up? Why even stir the already-muddy waters with such a foolish, bombastic statement?

Two things last week set the tone for this morning’s tweet and gave every indication that, no matter what evidence Robert Mueller’s investigation turns up that Donald Trump broke the law, that he knowingly and willingly colluded with the Russians to affect the outcome of the 2016 election, he will not be found guilty of a crime.  The first was a 20-page letter by Trump’s team of attorneys, the second an interview by Rudy Giuliani on This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

Both of these could be viewed as just more of the same rhetoric that we have been hearing for a year now, but I sense something more ominous.  If, as I believe, there is ample evidence that Trump and his campaign advisors did collude with Russia, did break the law, then Donald Trump ought to be removed from office.  But, if he isn’t, if Congress allows his team of lawyers to spin it in such a way that the president cannot be convicted of a crime because the president has unlimited power, then the United States will no longer in any sense of the word be a democratic republic.  If, as Giuliani suggests, the president can simply pardon himself of any and all crimes against the nation, then we will have become a dictatorship without recourse.

First, a bit about the letter.  Apparently lawyers are poor communicators, for it should not have required 20 pages to say what they had to say.  I actually did read the letter in its entirety on Sunday morning, and for some reason it took me a couple of hours, for I kept falling asleep.  I have included the link to the entire letter, if you’re interested, but there are a few salient points.  First, the position that the president cannot break the law, simply because he is the president – he IS the law …

“It remains our position that the President’s actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself, and that he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired.”

Then an attempt to delegitimize the investigation …

“This encumbrance has been only compounded by the astounding public revelations about the corruption within the FBI and Department of Justice which appears to have led to the alleged Russia collusion investigation and the establishment of the Office of Special Counsel in the first place.”

They place Trump above the law, hinting that he cannot be subpoenaed …

“As you know, under our system of government, the President is not readily available to be interviewed. The records and testimony we have, pursuant to the President’s directive, already voluntarily provided to your office allow you to delve into the conversations and actions that occurred in a significant and exhaustive manner, including but not limited to the testimony of the President’s interlocutors themselves. In light of these voluntary offerings, your office clearly lacks the requisite need to personally interview the President.”

There is an attempt to justify Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, which Trump already admitted was an attempt to shut down the FBI investigation into collusion …

“As you know, and as Mr. Comey himself has acknowledged, a President can fire an FBI Director at any time and for any reason.  No President has ever faced charges of obstruction merely for exercising his constitutional authority.”

And then they come to the point, that Trump has the right to shut down any investigation at his own will (or whim) …

“A President can also order the termination of an investigation by the Justice Department or FBI at any time and for any reason.  We remind you of these facts simply because even assuming, arguendo, that the President did order the termination of an investigation (and the President, along with Mr. Comey in his testimony and in his actions, have made it clear that he did not) this could not constitute obstruction of justice.”

Discrediting Comey …

“The circumstance in which this memo arose — several months after the conversation and only after Mr. Comey was fired in disgrace — raises serious doubts about its veracity, if indeed it even exists.”

And finally, 20 pages later, these verbose lawyers conclude with …

“As recognized by the Framers in Article II and as articulated in jurisprudence, the President’s prime function as the Chief Executive ought not be hampered by requests for interview. Having him testify demeans the Office of the President before the world.”

Allow me to correct that last statement.  Having him IN the office demeans the Office of the President before the world.  (I’ve been trying to hold back the snarky … really I have!)

As you can see, the entire tone of the lawyers’ letter is that Mueller is wasting his time, Trump is too important to be bothered with such a silly little thing as testifying, and that if he chooses, he can call off the entire investigation and give himself a blanket pardon.  But then came Rudy Giuliani’s interview on This Week, and it became even more clear that the goal of the legal team is to discredit and disavow the investigation and the evidence.

If you wish to watch the segment, it is just over 14 minutes, or you can read the transcript.

Rudy’s answers were long-winded and sometimes confusing, but the gist of what he said was that he doesn’t think it’s right for Trump to have to testify before the Special Counsel, but if they promise to be fair and keep it short, to about 5-6 points, then maybe.  He also said he’s pretty sure that if push came to shove, Trump could simply pardon himself.  And there is one snippet I must include here, for it is mind-blowing:

“Look, for every one of these things he did, we can write out five reasons why he did it. If four of them are completely innocent and one of them is your assumption that it’s a guilty motive, which the president would deny, you can’t possibly prosecute him. Or recommend impeachment.”

To me, Rudy’s tone came off in two ways:  1) Heh heh heh … boys will be boys … heh heh heh.  2) Let’s hurry and get this over with so we can go back to subjugating the American people!

Giuliani said he wants Mueller to wrap up this investigation by September 1st so that it doesn’t interfere with the midterms and so “to get this long nightmare over for the American public”.  The American public is not the one having the nightmare … we support the investigation fully, for we want the truth, and we want all those, including Donald Trump, to pay for their crimes against us.  And I hope it does interfere with the midterms, for Congress has too long been protecting a criminal, licking his boots, at the expense of We The People, and we need to be reminded of that as we head to the polls on November 6th.

Legal experts appear to have no definitive answers for us either, for this entire fiasco is without precedent.  Neal Katyal, a former acting solicitor general, said, “The idea that a president can’t obstruct justice died with King George III, with a brief attempt at revival by Richard Nixon.”

Jed Shugerman, a Fordham University Law School professor, said, “There is a real practical consequence for the republic if Trump is able to win the silence of other defendants with the use of these pardons,” Shugerman said. “If he’s making an implicit threat that he could escalate this with pardons, there’s nothing in the letter to indicate that he’s not willing to pardon himself.”

I could go on, but this post already exceeds what I consider an appropriate length, so I leave you with one thought:  If Donald Trump is above the law, if he cannot be punished for crimes against the nation, for election-tampering, for collusion and obstruction of justice, then can we still call ourselves a ‘democracy’?  I think you all know the answer.

43 thoughts on “Above the Law?

  1. Pingback: Above the Law? – DoseOfLaw

  2. I read about it in the news here and started rubbing my eyes. The really scary thing is that he fully believes in what he says … he thinks he stands above everything and can do what he wants. I guess that is why he wanted the “job” in the first place. SCARY. But I still think that this lunatic scenario won’t happen. (But of course, we all thought that about many things over the last few months and were proven wrong.) This whole presidency is nothing but an ordeal. Or a nightmare. Or both.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s true that he is so delusional as to fully believe he is all-powerful and un-touchable, and while that is scary, it is even scarier that far too many are willing to allow him that belief, that power. If Obama had made the same claim, what do you think Congress and the citizens would have done? He has somehow cast a spell over his followers and has some hold on the republicans (the majority) in Congress, and our saner voices are being drowned out here.

      I agree that common sense and precedent tell us this will not, can not happen. But sadly, common sense flew out the door about halfway through Trump’s campaign and isn’t likely to return anytime soon, it would seem. Early on I recall saying that he wasn’t running for the presidency, but was running to be king. Well, at least one of my predictions was spot-on!

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  3. You did a wonderful job of this, Jill, but your conclusion, that America is no longer a democracy is technically incorrect: the fact of the matter is, and the whole world knows this except Americans and sycophantic politically ignorant others, that America has never, not for one moment, been a democracy. The concept of democracy was fed to the numbties so they would believe that America was not, so obviously, a plutocratic dictatorship from day one. So all you are losing is an illusion of democracy, not an actual democracy. Then I have to ask… where are the Democrats during this “critical” time when Trump and his cronies are vulnerable? Hoping that Trump will self-destruct without their help? May I, once again, make a parallel with the anti-Hitler ignoring and mocking from the Weimar republic elected representatives? The clown doesn’t have a chance to become head of an industrially and militarily revived Germany after all.  History repeats itself endlessly because people are ignorant and refuse to remember.

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  4. I have just read about it in the French press. Couldn’t believe my eyes.
    “If he wished”? Excuse me? He can do anything he wishes and pardon himself?
    I was thinking of writing a post called “America: the Lady and the Tramp”. (But my new visa might be denied…)
    🙂
    Or a suggestion: the G7 is convening these days after the Tramp has put tariffs on all its allies. I suggest his (former) allies remove him (as they did when they removed Putin from G8) and just keep a G6 until the man comes to his senses. “If he wishes”.
    (Apalled)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Your perspective, from across the pond, is so much clearer than that of many here! Trump’s followers, for the most part, are still enamoured of him and the more he rants, the more they adore him. Congress could so easily step in, but they refuse. We are truly between a rock and a hard place, as they say. I have a question. You mentioned you were considering writing a post titled America: The Lady and the Tramp. Would you have any interest in writing that, or a different post, as a guest post for my blog? I think it is important to see how we are viewed by others, especially our allies. If you aren’t interested, that’s fine … no hard feelings. It was just a thought that came to me as I read your comment.

      I wrote another post yesterday proposing the very same thing about the G7, that they ‘un-invite’ the tantrum-throwing madman and rename it the G6! He has nothing of value to offer, and has already interfered with the agenda.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A meeting of minds. hear! hear! for G6. 😉
        I wouldn’t mind writing a post. (Lemme get my visa renewed first!) 😉 One never knows.
        It may take a while though, as I’m preparing my annual summer trip to Paris. Yes, though from across the pond, I live “South of the border”, in Mexico.
        Just let me think beyond the title and write when the general idea is et in my head. Thanks for the invite. Take care.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ahhhh … For some reason I thought you were in France … apologies! I envy you the summer trip to Paris! I was there once, about 26 years ago, and I fell in love with the city! If you decide you would like to do a guest post, just say the word! Have a great week!

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Of all the posts you’ve written about Trump, this is perhaps the scariest because, indirectly, it details /how/ the great dictators of history came to power. In a word, they snuck in, little by little. First people get used to X. Then, along comes XX, and they get used to that as well. By the time the big guns come out, the big /threats/, everyone thinks it’s just more of the same. Like the frog in the pot, no one notices that the water has been getting progressivly hotter.

    I believe Putin did it, with ease, because he had so much precedent in Russia. Trump is merely doing it in the public eye.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. At the end of this 20 page “lawyerly” letter, I still can not comprehend the how or why Trump is above the law. I could not stomach listening to the shell of the former Guiliani try to be coherent. In order to pardon there must be a crime to pardon, am I misunderstanding something? Is he answerable to no one? If this is true, then why investigate anything concerning Trump? If any other person connected with his alleged misdeeds is found guilty, he can just pardon them? THIS is a democracy in action? Thank-you for your patience in the midst of my confusion.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You are right … which is why i say that his threat to pardon himself is, in and of itself, an admission of guilt. Legal scholars are scratching their heads, conflicted about what he can or cannot do, but it gives me no comfort knowing that there is no definitive answer, for he is determined to fight to keep the keys to his kingdom, and it’s a proven fact that he will not fight a clean fight nor play by the rules. He has committed crimes. He knows he has committed crimes, but he believes his followers will support him and that his legal team will sort it all out so that he does not pay for his crimes. If that happens, if he stays in office despite his crimes, then we no longer have a representative government. Worst of all is having 535 men and women in Congress who refuse to apply the rule of law to him. No, this is not democracy in action. This is plutocracy in action. Sigh. 😥

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    • Well, yes they see, but will they act? NO. They have shown no propensity to object to anything he’s done so far, so I have no reason to believe they will suddenly find a conscience along with the coins in their pockets.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. He rules (intentional word which really means bullies) by the old flustered-caught-out parent edict of ‘because I said so’. It won’t necessarily end well, but I hope it ends well and soon.

    Liked by 4 people

    • You are quite right. He fancies himself a king, and the evidence was there during his entire campaign, but the masses either did not see it, or did not care. Well, they have their bloomin’ king, but so, unfortunately, do the rest of us. No, it cannot end well unless it ends very soon, before he does more damage. While I am not typically a cruel or violent person, I admit that the idea of somebody shooting the man appeals to me. Sigh. See what he is turning us into?

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      • It is unfortunate all around. It is the Tibetan Buddhist concept of ‘wrathful’–there are considered 48 peaceful deities and 52 wrathful ones–and wrathful is a form of compassion that can seem cruel, like taking drastic action like disabling or killing someone doing harm to prevent more harm. It is only done in the most serious situations, and out of compassion. There was a story about the Buddha in a previous life knowing that a robber was planning to kill 500 people on a boat and steal it, so he killed that badguy, thus taking the bad karma of killing someone upon himself and sparing the badguy the bad karma of killing 500.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. I am not a jurist but when I read ‘ In light of these voluntary offerings, your office clearly lacks the requisite need to personally interview the President.’ I read, we’ve given you enough, you don’t need and won’t get more. I’m sure there are jurists out there who would argue their statement as this is an investigation into a possible crime.
    It’s not possible that a Democracy set up the post of President without leaving a way out if the man in the role proved to be a criminal and I doubt there is anything set up for self-pardoning either, or Tricky Dicky would have done it himself.
    Since this letter was not written in legalese, I assume it was created more for leaking and further confusing the public. Is it possible they’re reaching panic mode now?
    Cwtch

    Liked by 3 people

    • You are quite right that there is an escape clause to get rid of an abominable president … a couple of them actually. BUT … they are reliant on the legislative branch, Congress, determining the need and implementing the process. It is not up to We the People, except through our vote to place conscionable people in Congress. Sadly, we have not done that, and I’m not convinced we will in November, though I surely hope we do. I also hope that November doesnt come too late.

      The difference between Tricky-Dicky and Trump? A couple of things. One is the political climate of the day … the populist movement has changed the landscape significantly and opened the door for more tolerance of immorality, for lack of a better word. In Nixon’s day, any politician who openly admitted to sexual abuse would have been run out of the political scene post haste, but today, it is becoming the norm. In Nixon’s day, people were horrified to think our president had lied and cheated, but today it is fast becoming the norm and people take the attitude of “oh well, everybody expects some corruption among politicians”. But the other thing, and I’m sure many will disagree with me, but I stand by it, is that Richard Nixon was both intelligent and cared about the nation and its people. He was far smarter than Trump, and his foreign policy wins will remain legendary. And at the end of the day, when impeachment was a certainty, he was unwilling to put the nation, and likely himself and his family too, through the trauma of an impeachment. He, unlike Trump, had a conscience.

      Cwtch

      Liked by 2 people

    • I forgot to add one thing. Yes, I do believe they are in panic mode, and have thought so for several months now. I made a reference long ago to how a wild animal reacts when it realizes it is trapped, and cautioned that he will likely become even more of a madman once he realizes he is caught in the headlights. What I didn’t predict is that his followers would still hang onto his coattails.
      Cwtch

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  9. Dear Jill,

    I’m at the point that I hate the word collusion. Collusion is not a legal term by which any one can be convicted. But yes, the president’s son, his son in law and his campaign manager did collude with Russian operatives when they took part in that June 2016 Trump Towers meeting in order to collect some negative information on HRC. They did not call the FBI as normal folks would have done. They did their best to hide the significance of this meeting with the president going as far as the president dictating a letter for his son to describe the meeting as a discussion about adoptions. This is collusion 101.

    The reason why the president and his crony Mr. Giuliani are leaking this poorly written 20 page memo while Rudy Giuliani does his dog and pony shows, is that they know what’s coming and it will not be pretty.

    I am so disgusted with the GOP, the president and the right wing media for their full throttle attacks on the “rule of law”, the FBI and the DOJ, that I am spitting angry.

    Fortunately. the FBI’s Special Counsel Mueller is not buying any of this B.S.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 5 people

    • I agree with you on the word ‘collusion’ … instead, we should call a spade a bloody shovel and call it “conspire to cheat and deceive”, for that is the reality. And there have been so many crimes committed by Trump and family that I cannot understand how anybody can defend him. I am so sick and tired of it … our once-respected, once-respectable government has been turned into a three-ring circus and the damn republicans in Congress do not seem to care one bit! I’m sure Mueller is smart enough to see through all this smoke and mirrors, but I am losing confidence that even if he presents solid, incontrovertible evidence, Trump will be convicted and removed. I do hope rule of law trumps Trump (pun intended)
      Hugs, my friend!!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    ‘Drumpf Tweet Asserts an ‘Absolute Right’ to Pardon Himself’ … I sure as hell hope that the beloved institutions of the ‘beloved US of A’ can withstand the persistent attacks coming from the ‘Fool on the Hill’ and his spineless minions!!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks so much, my sweet friend! I, too, hope that the institutions, the foundation of our government, can hold against this autocrat. More important than ever that we take out the trash in November! Hugs!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I would like to make one point, then shut up. When Donald “the Dickhead Trashslinger” Trump was colluding with the Russians, he was not yet President of the United States. He was a regular citizen, and quite capable of being brought to justice. The fact that he is now President of the US should have absolutely no bearing on his being taken to trial.
    And, once he is found guilty of collusion, or any other crime he committed BEFORE he was elected,it gives him the right as President to pardon himself, but I am thinking there is some Claus in the constitution that if the person elected to the presidency is found to be a convicted felon, or even someone arrested for committing a felony, he is impeachable as a disgrace to the very office itself. ‘Nuff said.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Dickhead Trashslinger … good one! Well, first, even the Constitutional Law scholars are not sure on this one, for there is no precedent on which to base a definitive answer. But it seems that he could be tried and convicted once he is OUT of office, but it’s questionable whether he can while in office. Similarly, there is debate among the scholars whether he can actually pardon himself or not.
      To your point that a convicted felon cannot hold office … apparently that is a fallacy also, for there are a couple running right now who are convicted felons, including the one I wrote about yesterday, Nathan Larson. One would think we wouldn’t want convicted felons running the country, but in this reign of Trump, it seems that nobody really places any value on morality or integrity anymore. A move to somewhere outside the U.S. is holding more and more appeal.

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      • Remember, I invited you to Canada almost two years ago. That offer is still on the table.

        But let me get this straight, and I may have my info wrong, but: convicted felons do not get the right to vote after they are released from prison in a lot of states. BUT THEY CAN RUN FOR OFFICE?
        What space/time warp did I just go through? Please explain, before I end up in the looney bin… My apologies to all looney. ..

        Liked by 1 person

        • I do remember, and believe me, daughter Chris and I have been considering it. I appreciate that the offer is still open, and while I admit to being intimidated by the thoughts of the process, not to mention clearing out a home that we have lived in for 20 years, and leaving friends behind, there may come a point where I just decide I cannot bear to live here any longer. It is looking more and more likely.

          Now, my answer is just as likely as not to send you to the looney bin, so brace yourself.
          “The Constitution allows a convicted felon to be a member of Congress, even if in prison. It’s up to the Senate or House to decide who may serve. As for state offices, different laws apply in different places.” And …
          “The Constitution is the sole source of eligibility for President of the United States and it does not preclude felons.”
          Your question was a good one, and I wasn’t 100% sure how it worked either, so I went in search of answers. I was dumbfounded by both of the above answers, as I imagine you are.

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          • I, who am a firm believer that prisons do nothing to change criminal behaviour, ant that convicted felons as people is the best way to help rehabilitate them, cannot believe that a society that punishes criminals long after they have “paid their debt” to that society, would let convicted felons run for office. This is the most oxymoronic situation I have ever heard in my life.

            Liked by 2 people

  12. * speechless* I don’t know anymore what kind of government we have….. authoritarian, I guess, where the leader can do pretty much whatever he or she wants, legal or illegal, and there’s nothing the people can do about it. He is the law. It’s now imperative that we vote out all those Trump supporters in Congress , and then proceed to impeach this person , once and for all.

    This will not happen, I’m afraid.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think we are teetering on the brink, and what happens over the next few months will be crucial to defining our system of government. It is not, at the moment, a representative system of government, for we are not being considered, our voices neither heard nor heeded, in the decision-making process. At present, I would say we are headed toward a plutocracy, where only a few of the wealthiest control all the power. It can be stopped, if we make wise choices in November, but if we fail to replace the detritus in Congress, then all bets are off, and I suspect we will end up with nothing short of a dictatorship. The world is no longer one I recognize and it makes me feel, some days, as if I was dropped into an alien world to which I do not belong. Let us hope to make a difference with our voices between now and November 6th!

      Liked by 2 people

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