Tag Archives: indictment

Rebuttal to “The case against indicting Trump”

 

It’s fair to say that I mostly agree with positions taken by Randall D. Eliason, who is an adjunct faculty member and teaches white-collar criminal law at George Washington University Law School. Some of his WAPO articles are listed at https://wapo.st/3nKdvDc

Nevertheless, having addressed the subject of pardons/indictment of Donald Trump (https://bit.ly/3m32c8L),  I feel compelled to respond to this latest set of arguments as to why the U.S. government should let Trump and his family walk away unscathed from the wreckage he has wrought on the country and the treasure he has stolen. https://wapo.st/39fwOk1 So, I plunge ahead.

Eliason’s first argument is,

“Launching criminal investigations into an outgoing president would set a dangerous precedent. In this country, we don’t use the criminal justice system to punish political opponents.”

This is a problematic framing of the issue. The purpose of criminal actions would not be to “punish political opponents.” First, the issue is crimes committed in office, not “punishing political opponents” for being opponents or for pursuing policies with which we disagree. Second, it’s far from clear that Donald Trump will remain a “political opponent” once he is out of the presidency. There is speculation, of course, that he has tasted the drug of political power and, like every addict, will be unable to resist going back for more. But there are a multitude of obstacles to his being a serious political force once he is not commanding the news cycle all day and night every day and night. [For clarity, I am fully aware of my assumption that the media will cease amplifying every stupid and outrageous thing Trump says and does and that it will pay most of its attention to the actual government and what it is doing for the country].

Eliason anticipates my position to some degree, in noting that Trump’s supporters will see criminal investigation as an effort to silence Trump in anticipation of his next run for the presidency. No doubt that is true. The “minds” of politicians like Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and the Grim Reaper Mitch McConnell will explode with endless invective as occurred when Trump was impeached, and Republicans became hysterical even though they knew they would not admit relevant evidence or witnesses of the crimes Trump had committed in the Ukraine affair.

The question on this issue, I respectfully suggest, is not what Republican sycophants will say but whether what they say is worthy of consideration and continuing influence in the nation’s public affairs. Catering to them, I believe, will have the effect of validating Trump’s rhetoric in a way that is fundamentally inconsistent with the core of the country’s reason for existence, it’s “soul,” if you will.

Eliason also argues that many of Trump’s actions are not “actually criminal.” Fine, I have no objection to giving him a pass on those, no matter how offensive his views and behaviors may have been. There are still plenty of grounds for indictment, including the ones that the Democrats, for reasons I have never understood and railed against at the time, failed to bring in the impeachment articles. I refer the ten (minimum) instances of “obstruction of justice” established by the Mueller Investigation. No indictment was brought on those very strong cases only because Department of Justice policy (dubiously) forbad indictment of a sitting president. See https://bit.ly/3768GNI  https://bit.ly/372xCG3 https://bit.ly/35YyjB5  https://bit.ly/35WpnMg https://bit.ly/2UUurKR

There are likely many others, some of which will only be discovered when the documentary record of Trump’s White House is available for inspection (assuming, of course, that they don’t destroy the key documents before exiting). For example, there are the original notes of the call with Ukraine President Zelensky that we were told had been stored in a secure White House server and have never seen the light of day. The records related to the policy of caging kids at the southern border will also make interesting reading. Because Trump was known to destroy documents he created and given other propensities of White House aides to do whatever Trump demanded, there is a high risk that many documents have been destroyed and, if so, there is the question whether such conduct should go unpunished because Republicans don’t care about such niceties as federal record retention laws or the Hatch Act that was deliberately violated repeatedly by Trump’s staff.

Eliason addresses the obstruction of justice issues but resists criminal enforcement because “the Democratic House of Representatives did not even see fit to impeach the president over those alleged crimes.” To that, I retort, “so what?” That was a political decision, one that was terribly misguided in my view, but, in any case, it was not a creditable judgment that a criminal case could not be based on obstruction. I simply don’t understand Eliason’s conclusion that the “book appears largely closed on Trump’s obstruction.”

Eliason then turns to the “other punishments” of Trump’s misconduct, noting that “the country saw his behavior and booted him.” And Eliason is likely right that “Trump is destined to go down in history as an impeached, disgraced president.” Trump won’t care much about the judgment of history, however. He will spend his remaining years in luxury, denying the truth, interfering in political issues solely for attention and generally being disruptive to keep attention on himself.

That leads nicely into Eliason’s final argument, that “criminal investigations would guarantee that the next few years continue to be all about Trump.” My answer is that even if Trump is allowed to just walk away, he will do everything in his power to keep the media attention on himself. And he will be aided in this by the same collection of spineless, traitorous Republican politicians that have been too cowardly to stand up to him for the past four years.

So, while there are respectable arguments that the United States should just write Trump’s presidency off as a terrible mistake and focus entirely on repairing the damage, I continue to believe that such focus will be impossible and will in fact be continually impaired by Trump’s arrogant interference. If he is under criminal indictment, his attorneys will almost certainly advise him to shut his mouth, stop tweeting and behave responsibly for once in his life. He may resist. So be it. But any way you look at this, Trump is going to be around and will refuse to be ignored.

Finally, I observe that in his closing, Eliason acknowledges that grounds may well exist to pursue a former president. He mentions one who “sold our most sensitive intelligence to an enemy.” I remind us all that there were multiple instances in which Trump gave intelligence information to Russian diplomats and in which he destroyed notes or otherwise prevented record-keeping of conversations with leaders such as Vladimir Putin. In these types of cases, Eliason admits that “it would be unimaginable to say that president is immune from prosecution” While he thinks Trump’s record in this regard is not egregious enough, I contend we don’t know enough at this time to reach that conclusion. There are plenty of grounds for concern in the cases I have mentioned. This goes well beyond “norms” and other traditional practices that Trump savaged.

The solution to the problem of “appearances of weaponizing” the Department of Justice is not to do it. President Biden can make clear, and live by his word, that prosecutorial decisions will be made solely by prosecutors and that he will stand by whatever decisions they make. Republicans will scream like stuck pigs, of course, but we have heard more than enough of their false moralizing and false equivalencies for many lifetimes. The republic’s best move, then, in my opinion, is to put Trump on the legal defensive by aggressively pursuing well-founded, sharply focused criminal indictments for his worst crimes in office.

 

Mueller’s Indictment of Russia Hackers

I have plowed through the entirety of the indictment, which is full of details about the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Campaign Committee and related bodies. I only have a few observations to offer.

First, the indictment makes clear beyond a doubt both the sophistication of the U.S. intelligence apparatus in discovering these remarkable details about the hacking operation. It also explains in part why the Mueller investigation is taking so long. An extraordinary amount of work must lie behind the allegations in the indictment.

Second, the indictment has no direct bearing on the issue that Trump and his enablers are so obsessed about – to wit, the issue of collusion. As a result, the assertions of the Republican National Committee and other Trump sycophants that it is now “clear” that there was no collusion by the Trump campaign is preposterous on its face. These repeated claims of innocence are candy for his base, but Trump shows every sign of someone deeply guilty of serious crimes.

Third, the indictment contains a remarkable statement in paragraph 43(a). I must have missed the reporting on it. It states that a “candidate for the U.S. Congress” asked for, and received, stolen emails from the Russia hackers posing as Gucifer 2.0. The information related to the candidate’s opponent. The indictment gives no hints whether this was a candidate for the House or the Senate, nor any other potentially identifying details. But, whoever it was, that person must be sweating bullets tonight. And deservedly so.

So, on this Friday the 13th, the scary stuff is over for now. But not for long. I suspect this is just one small part of the muck that Mueller’s people are exploring.

Indictment of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States

BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION
& EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL

THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES
                        v.
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

INDICTMENT FOR HIGH CRIMES & MISDEMEANORS & ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT

COMES NOW, THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES,

Who have declared that all men are created equal in the eyes of the law and entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and

Who have adopted a Constitution and amendments in the belief that thereby a more perfect union could exist with a government of the people, by the people, for the people, and

Who, having considered the manifest and mounting evidence of incompetence and dishonesty repeatedly demonstrated by the sitting President and his appointed officials (hereafter sometimes referred to as “Trump”),

DO HEREBY DECLARE that Trump has violated his oath office by consistently failing to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and failing to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States by engaging in the acts set forth below, among many others:

  1. Knowingly violated Article I, Clause 8 of the Constitution forbidding receipt of foreign-sourced emoluments by failing to separate himself from management of, and financial rewards from, his many private business interests which he and his family regularly promote to and receive from, at least indirectly, financial benefits originating with foreign business and government interests;
  2. Repeatedly signed Executive Orders found to be blatant violations of the Constitution (a) regarding immigrants/refugees from Muslim-majority countries without evidence that they would accomplish any meaningful security purpose and (b) threatening the withholding of federal funds from Sanctuary Cities;
  3. Repeatedly signed Executive Orders designed to permit uncontrolled air and water pollution while denying the validity of scientific method and rejecting without basis in fact or reason the multiply authenticated findings of climate scientists around the world;
  4. Lied repeatedly about important matters bearing on his credibility, including, but not limited to, his claim that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower in New York;
  5. Repeatedly lied about his intention to release his tax returns for public scrutiny and refused in fact to release them;
  6. Lied about his intention to appoint highly qualified people to his Cabinet, instead awarding Department Head positions to manifestly unqualified persons such as Betsy Devos at Education, Ben Carson at HUD, Scott Pruitt at EPA, Rick Perry at Energy and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as Attorney General;
  7. Attempted to undermine the independent news media by attacking professional journalists, and the media companies that employ them, as purveyors of “fake news” and labeling them as “enemies of the people;”
  8. Wasted millions of dollars of taxpayer funds on unnecessary trips to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida where he plays golf almost every weekend and conducts serious public business in non-secure facilities;
  9. Personally visited on a frequent basis hotel/resort properties bearing his name, thereby continuing to promote his business interests and encouraging private firms to use such properties for their business and his and his family’s ultimate enrichment;
  10. Falsely claimed that Department of Justice data proves that the majority of domestic terrorist attacks after 9/11 were committed by those from abroad, thereby facilitating hostility of Americans toward Muslims and toward foreign countries with significant Muslim populations to the detriment of American foreign policy and relations with those countries and their people;
  11. Repeatedly falsely asserted responsibility for private company decisions in matters such as the price of the Lockheed Martin F-35 and the Toyota investment in Kentucky;
  12. Falsely asserted that he has accomplished more in his first 100 days in office than any president in history, thereby undermining the trust of the people in the office of the president;
  13. Lied about his knowledge of the operations of WikiLeaks and repeatedly lied about his knowledge of the attempts by Russia to influence the 2016 election, including Russians collaborating with members of Trump’s campaign staff;
  14. Covertly interfered with the congressional investigations of the connections between the Trump election campaign and Russia;
  15. Misrepresented statements by political leaders, such as Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, whom Trump claimed had said Trump “will be the greatest president in the history of this country.”
  16. Repeatedly lied about the size of attendance at his inaugural ceremony;
  17. Repeatedly misrepresented the share of the Electoral College vote he received and falsely claimed that he would have won the popular vote but for 3 million “illegal” votes cast;
  18. Demonstrated a thorough-going failure to understand history or geography, making such claims as that “Korea actually used to be a part of China;”
  19. Falsely attributed NATO’s anti-terrorism activities to his personal criticism of NATO for not fighting terrorism;
  20. Lied about the length and extent of his pre-election relationship with Steve Bannon;
  21. Demonstrated a serious lack of knowledge about international trade, falsely claiming, for example, that the trade deficit with China was more than $150 billion larger than in reality;
  22. Gave aid and comfort to authoritarian leaders around the world, including Vladimir Putin and Rodrigo Duterte;
  23. Repeatedly supported changes in law and federal policy to deprive elderly, infirm, disabled, poor and foreign-born persons of equal protection of the laws and due process of law, in violation of the Constitution of the United States.
  24. Threatened to shut down the federal government to get his way on budget cuts that will endanger the lives of Americans.

WHEREFORE, for good cause shown, proceedings for impeachment of Donald J. Trump should be commenced forthwith in accordance with the Constitutional provisions pertinent thereto, or in the alternative, removal proceedings should be commenced forthwith in accordance with Amendment 25 to the Constitution.

So it is written, so let it be done.

This Indictment and Articles of Impeachment are subject to amendment as additional facts are forthcoming.