Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Lucky for Donald Trump he is a sitting president

Revised and updated: 1/4/2020
Lucky for Donald Trump he is a sitting president because the list of laws he could have been accused of breaking is long and sitting presidents cannot be charged or prosecuted for breaking them. However, he is likely never to be exonerated of wrongdoing, either. His guilt or innocence could be a question mark in history forever regardless if he is acquitted in a Senate trial..Trump has wanted to have a Senate trial, having counted on party discipline to guarantee his acquittal so he could go into 2020 shouting a claim of not guilty to the rooftop. The way the Senate trial is shaping up, it is becoming clearer that reason, logic, law, and facts will not determine the Senate vote. .Party discipline will be the determining factor. To reach a guilty verdict, a 2/3 vote is required. Twenty GOP Senators would have to cross the aisle for that to happen. It will be viewed by history as a partisan whitewash exercise unless there is to be a trial that is perceived by voters and history as fair, with witnesses called and new evidence presented that is sincerely considered, emphasis on "sincerely" . At this moment, of writing, with Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi in a standoff over the trial process and rules, it does not seem likely.

What the standoff has achieved is to give Trump media megaphone a pitch that Trump was not impeached in spite of the vote of the resolution on the record, because no trial was held that acquitted him. History is not fooled by redefining the meaning of impeachment. Nor is Merriam-Webster: " to charge with a crime or misdemeanor specificallyto charge (a public official) before a competent tribunal with misconduct in office". It is the act of charging misconduct, not holding the trial itself or its outcome. There are at least two presidents who would have liked impeachment removed from their record.. No president has ever been found guilty and removed from office by a Senate trial. They are still considered impeached. by both the public and by history.

Impeachment vote by the House is similar to criminal indictments by a grand jury but differs. In impeachment, as provided in the Constitution statutory crimes do not have to be involved or finding of guilt in a court of law does not have to happen first. Thanks to the Department of Justice rules and court decisions, no sitting president can ever be indicted for a crime, in any case. Only the House of Representatives has the power to do something like that through the impeachment process. Abuse of power is a catch-all phrase to deal with a rogue president who misuses their power to benefit himself instead of the nation. Breaking .a federal law for that, short of treason, is not in the federal statutes. Stonewalling subpoenas for witnesses and documents and lying about coverups are violations of federal statutes but a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.. That is why both Nixon in Watergate and Trump (if not by name in the Michael Cohen/Stormy Daniels case) were named unindicted co-conspirators in criminal indictments.

The President may look at acquittal in a Senate trial as a victory, however hollow. He can also count himself as lucky. As a sitting President, he will never face criminal charges while he occupies the Oval Ofice, either. because of the list of laws he has been suspected of violating or attempting to break, mostly being committed in plain sight. using his own words.. When you hear Democrats repeat time and time again no president is above the law, it means Trump is a scofflaw, misusing his powers while ignoring laws. Donald Trump has been operating under his own belief that he can never be held accountable for breaking laws so therefore he can do whatever he pleases while he is in office. He is running under the cover of DOJ rules that he cannot be charged or tried for a crime while he is president.. In short, in 19th-century terms, he is a king. In 21st century terms, he has dictatorial powers. In any case, he has gone rogue when it comes to abiding by laws.

.Here are some of the laws Trump could have been prosecuted for breaking if he were not a sitting president. Trump could have been charged with violation of campaign FEC laws for soliciting help for his re-election from a foreign government. (Russia, China, are you listening; do me a favor, Ukraine)  He could have broken the impoundment law when without cause and ignoring procedure he froze the military aid to Ukraine. Timing and testimony by those ordered to freeze the aid are damning. Then there is the emoluments clause in the Constitution and the corresponding statute that does not permit a federal official to use taxpayer money for private gain. ..and another that does not let a president use his office to make money.or .receive something of value from foreigners..hotel stays, dirt on a political opponent. Special Counsel Robert  Mueller found 10 instances of Trump's obstruction of justice, but because he was a sitting president, he could not be indicted, charged and convicted of a crime. Therefore, Mueller referred to the matter to Congress. to conduct an investigation (impeachment inquiry) and charge under the Constitution. While the House decided not to include Mueller's findings in the Articles of Impeachment, they still have the ability to indict and include them later, pending a court-ordered testimony under oath by the chief witness, Don McGahn, Trump's White House attorney at the time the alleged obstruction of justice took place.

Footnote:  More than 400 former federal prosecutors have signed a letter  that “Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice." The House debated whether obstruction of justice should have been included in their articles of impeachment, but in the end, they did not at that time since critical witnesses they subpoenaed stonewalled them.  If Don McGahn, Trump's White House attorney is ordered by the court to testify because he was the chief witness of obstruction,  it may yet re-emerge as another impeachment article.https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/05/federal-prosecutors-letter-trump-obstruction.html



.Trump's strategy has been to prevent any of those closest to him and with knowledge of his actions to testify in either the Senate trial or impeachment inquiry,.He could then claim there was no evidence he intentionally abused power or obstructed justice. He made a major miscalculation. Polls show 70% have seen enough evidence to believe Trump did something wrong in strongarming the President of Ukraine to re-open investigations into long-debunked theories to help his re-election in 2020. 50% think what he did deserves his removal from office in a Senate trial. Trump had not figured there were those who had first-hand direct evidence who were brave enough to testify under oath and defy their boss's orders, providing evidence that Trump's supporters have been unable to refute. Cries of unfairness by his supporters seem empty because, whenever given the chance by official invitation in the inquiry hearings, or so far in the Senate trial phase itself he fought and refused to provide evidence and testimony that would clear him. Trump's stonewalling itself became the article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress.
The next question is whether what President Trump did had enough factual evidence to prove "he done it" to deserve a Senate guilty conviction. The House has drawn up articles of impeachment twice in recent history and the issues involved look nearly frivolous next to what was involved in Donald Trump's case. One, Clinton, involved lying about a sexual dalliance with an intern and Nixon was charged another for dirty political tricks and lying about his role in the coverup who resigned before a House or Senate vote. This impeachment of Donald Trump concerns national security interests and the ability to maintain some of the essential principles of the Constitution that stand between us as a republic and a democracy and a dictatorship of a person instead of a rule of law. If this is not enough reason for the House to impeach and theSenate to vote to convict, what is?

Since the GOP could or would not provide witnesses to refute the House inquiry findings, they have resorted to promoting side issues regarding Joe Biden and a Russian propaganda line that Ukraine hacked the DNC, not Russia. Every testifier in the House inquiry underlined that the "cloud strike theory" was contradicted by every US intelligence agency. Russia did it. The Biden issue is a diversionary sideshow aimed at trying to shoot his candidacy down before 2020, and in spite of Rudy Guiliani's best efforts, he has failed to prove any link Biden interfered to protect his son. Even if it were true, Biden is not the person who is being impeached. He is not the sitting president. Biden is irrelevant in the Senate trial.



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