Saturday, July 22, 2017

Pardon Me

"While all agree the U. S. President has the completely power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us. FAKE NEWS" Trump Tweet, 22, 2017
There’s little question about how Donald Trump feels about anyone’s challenging his edicts or investigating him and his family for just about anything. Subtle, he’s not. From firing the director of the FBI to directing his legal team to find justifications to challenge special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s assemblage of lawyers, perhaps giving Trump reason to order the relevant official (currently Deputy AG, Rod Rosenstein) in the Office of the United States Attorney General to fire Mueller and/or members of his team. If Trump even needs a reason beyond his own constant derision of those efforts as part of a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.” His rather open slap in the face to one of his earliest and most trusted cabinet appointees, Russia-investigation-recused AG Jeff Sessions who gave up a Senate seat to join the Trump administration, is pretty classic “Trump” as well.
Even as the country may be tiring of the Russia thang, Congress people from both sides of the aisle are appropriately and deeply disturbed at what is, to them and most members of our intelligence teams, an obvious litany off efforts by the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election here. And most likely future such elections. Fake news supported by robotic twitter and other social media feeds, trying to tap into state voter registration rolls and the voting machines themselves, constant hacks into political file servers looking for dirt (or the ability to manufacture false dirt based on uncovered facts) and meetings with Trump campaign officials and family members with manipulation in mind. The nexus of international banks, private wealth lending and potentially significant connections with Trump business ventures everywhere have wisps and hints of deeper ties to major Russian financial sources. And Donald wants to cut those inquiries off before… well, we aren’t really sure… yet.
The potential of Trump’s family/associates criminality in this litany of connective tissue increases as additional information comes to light, as disclosures under “penalty of perjury” are proving to be false (some filing amendments in the hope of skirting the potential of a federal indictment), and the efforts to “obstruct justice” seem to mount. But wait! The President of the United States has a constitutional right to pardon people of violating federal (but not state) statutes even if they have not yet been charged or convicted of any crimes! After all, as you can see from the above document, one of the first things Gerald Ford did when he ascended to the presidency was to issue a blanket pardon to former President Richard Nixon for any crimes the latter may have committed while in office. So?
Relax person-whose-daddy-bought-sonny’s-way-into-Harvard (purportedly a Kushner-family $2.5 million donation opened that door). Fret not, Trump boyz who truly believe that “everybody does it” is a bona fide exoneration for just about anything. Stop yer sweatin’ campaign officials even if you did make tons of money representing Russian interests and just forgot to disclose those troublesome little facts. Give yourself a high-five, Trump officials who may have lied to a federal agency. Take a deep breath Trump organization financial miscreants. You is about to gets a “get outta jail free” card that really works! Here’s how that process might be implemented… and some of the risks to Trump if he plays those cards.
“The Constitution gives the president ‘power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.’ The framers had sound reasons for bestowing that authority. As Alexander Hamilton explained, criminal law in the late 18th century was so severe that without the pardon power to soften it, ‘justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel.’
“Consistent with the framers’ design, the Supreme Court has interpreted the president’s pardon power broadly. The president can pardon anyone for any crime at any time — even before a suspect has been charged. Congress cannot withdraw presidential pardons, and prosecutors and courts cannot ignore them.
“But could a pardon be a criminal abuse of power? Some would argue that would contradict the founders’ vision of unlimited pardon authority. If a president sold pardons for cash, though, that would violate the federal bribery statute. And if a president can be prosecuted for exchanging pardons for bribes, then it follows that the broad and unreviewable nature of the pardon power does not shield the president from criminal liability for abusing it.
“The Justice Department and the F.B.I. proceeded on this premise in 2001 when they opened an investigation into possible bribery charges arising out of President Bill Clinton’s pardon of the fugitive financier Marc Rich, whose former wife had donated $450,000 to Clinton’s presidential library. The investigation lasted until 2005, though no charges resulted.
“Of course, bribery would not be the relevant crime. No one thinks that Donald Jr. or Jared Kushner — or anyone else involved in the Russia scandal — would pay the president for a pardon.
“Yet federal obstruction statutes say that a person commits a crime when he ‘corruptly’ impedes a court or agency proceeding. If it could be shown that President Trump pardoned his family members and close aides to cover up possible crimes, then that could be seen as acting ‘corruptly” and he could be charged with obstruction of justice. If, as some commentators believe, a sitting president cannot be indicted, Mr. Trump could still face prosecution after he leaves the White House.
“There is strong support for the claim that the obstruction statutes apply to the president… In 1974, when the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President Richard Nixon, members on both sides of the debate acknowledged that presidential obstruction of justice was not only impeachable but also criminal. A quarter century later, the Senate split 50-50 on whether to remove President Clinton from office on obstruction charges, but senators from both parties agreed that the obstruction laws applied to the president.” New York Times, July 21st.
Okay. One more question leaps to mind. Can Donald Trump pardon himself? And even if he could, wouldn’t he just be begging to be impeached? Well, there’s no absolute and definitive answer to that self-pardoning question, but as the July 22nd Los Angeles Times notes, “Reports [in the Washington Post] indicate that President Trump has inquired about pardoning family members and whether he could pardon himself…
“No president has attempted to give himself a pardon, and the views among constitutional law experts are mixed… ‘The language of the Constitution embraces the idea that there is one person who grants a pardon and a different person who accepts that pardon,’ said Jessica A. Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. ‘There is also a principle of so-called natural law, which provides that no person should stand as her or his own judge.’
“Even so, Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School, said a ‘textual reading of Article II would support a president asserting the right to pardon himself.’… Turley added: ‘There is nothing in the text and little in the historical record to contradict that assertion of power. There are good-faith arguments on the other side, however, that the natural reading of the power excludes such self-dealing.’
“Turley said, however, that a president pardoning himself would raise serious questions ‘of an abuse of power…. It is also important to keep in mind that such a pardon would not protect against either an impeachment or state charges… It would also not stop the investigation.’…
“Is accepting a pardon an admission of guilt?... Some say yes… ‘In my view, I think the president can pardon [him-] or herself, but should expect to get impeached and removed from office for doing so,’ said Susan Low Bloch, professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University Law Center. ‘Accepting a pardon is an admission of guilt. And even if the president can pardon [him-] or herself, it can only be for federal offenses.’ The president, she noted, would ‘still be subject to prosecution by states for any state offenses.’
“She added: ‘It’s likely that the only way we will get a definitive answer is if a president pardons [him-] or herself and then, after leaving office, gets indicted by federal officials. Then the former president would challenge the indictment in court, and the court would rule on the validity of the pardon. Until then, we will all just keep debating the question.’” Donald Trump seems to feel that not only is he above the law but, given the massive number executive orders and hirings/firings he has fomented, reinforced by bizarre tweets,s that he actually is the law. Maybe he should just go back to his safety fallback distraction – criticizing Hillary Clinton. Oh, he has? Hmmm…
I’m Peter Dekom, and being President of the United States has to be some heady stuff… but you’d think even a president would know that his or her powers are not exactly dictatorial and unlimited… you’d think.

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