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Tag: Impeachment

Is Trump Immune from Obstruction of Justice Charges? It’s Complicated, Legal Observers Say

Donald Trump

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Donald Trump’s personal lawyer brazenly declared the president “cannot obstruct justice” because he’s the “chief law enforcement officer.”

Citing the executive powers in the U.S. Constitution, Trump’s attorney John Dowd said the president “has every right to express his view of any case.”

Dowd didn’t elaborate, but his position drew comparisons to Richard Nixon’s infamous remarks in 1977: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

Dowd’s position that Trump is legally incapable of obstructing justice  came two days after the president’s explosive admission that he knew his then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI. It’s a felony to lie the FBI. 

Many legal experts believe Trump’s admission that he knew of the alleged crime bolsters special counsel Robert Mueller’s case that the president intended to quash a legitimate criminal investigation by urging then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the case against Flynn. When Comey refused, he told investigators that Trump fired him.

Trump fired Comey, leading to claims that the president obstructed justice, a felony punishable by prison time.

But can a president be criminally charged with obstruction of justice?

Legal scholars are deeply divided on the issue, but virtually all agree that Trump, if guilty, could be impeached by Congress on the obstruction of justice charges.

Just look at Nixon and former President Bill Clinton, both of whom were accused of obstruction of justice and were impeached, but never criminally charged.

“No one in the judiciary committees during the Clinton and Nixon cases ever claimed that the president is incapable of obstructing justice,” constitutional scholar Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law told ABC.

Former President Nixon

Gerhardt insists the president isn’t above the law and said it’s “absurd” to claim that Trump couldn’t be criminally charged for obstruction of justice.

Blanket Immunity

Peter Zeidenberg, a lawyer who focuses on white collar and investigations, agrees, saying blanket immunity for a president would mean he could lie to prosecutors, destroy evidence and violate other laws.

“That assertion would literally mean that the president is above the law,” Zeidenberg told Politico.

Eugene Kontorovich, professor at Northwestern University School of Law, said it’s possible that a president’s action could constitute obstruction of justice, but added that the president may direct “inferior officers,” such as Comey, because Trump is the president of the supreme law.

“Offering advice on prosecutorial discretion cannot amount to obstruction,” Kontorovich told Politico. 

Noting the law is very unclear and has no precedent in a criminal proceeding, some legal experts said the authority to determine whether a president committed obstruction of justice belongs to the U.S. House of Representatives, which has impeachment powers.

For that reason, some legal scholars said the best way to handle obstruction of justice is through the impeachment process, not through the legal system.

“The task of determining whether Trump acted improperly ultimately falls to the House,” John Culhane, professor at Widener University Delaware Law School, told Politico.

But Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, who focuses on constitutional law, insisted Trump cannot commit obstruction of justice by “exercising his constitutional power” to terminate employees and control appointees.

“I think if Congress ever were to charge him with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, we’d have a constitutional crisis,” Dershowitz told ABC News. “You cannot charge a president with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional power.” 

Others disagree, saying the president is required to follow the law like any American citizen.

“We have a president, not a king,” said Sam Berger, senior policy adviser at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “No one is above the law, whether it be Trump or any of his close associates. It’s the sort of desperate claim that makes you wonder, ‘What exactly are they hiding?’”

Republican Lawmakers Plan to Remove AG Eric Holder From Office

attorney general/doj file photo

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

House Republicans are planning to remove AG Eric Holder from office by year’s end, Rep. Tod Yoho, R-Fla., told the Gainsville Sun.

“It’s to get him out of office — impeachment,” the Florida freshman said, adding “it will probably be when we get back in [Washington]. It will be before the end of the year. This will go to the speaker and the speaker will decide if it comes up or not.”

Among the reasons for removal is the botched “Fast and Furious” operation, which allowed guns to be placed in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

The group plans to take the plan to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, when the lawmakers return from break.

OTHER STORIES OF OFFICE


Breaking News: Ill. Senate Hears FBI Tapes in Blago Impeachment Trial

The Gov. Blago affair goes back and forth between highly entertaining and highly pathetic. And even if he’s removed from office, the show will go on. The man is an entertainer.

Fox News posts Blago-Meter

Fox News posts Blago-Meter

BY DAVE MCKINNEY, NATASHA KORECKI and CHRIS FUSCO
Chicago Sun-Times
SPRINGFIELD – Wiretaps of Gov. Blagojevich’s home phone and his former chief of staff’s cell phone allowed the world to hear for the first time this afternoon Blagojevich’s own voice allegedly discussing a shakedown of a potential campaign contributor.
Lon Monk, now a lobbyist, says on one of the tapes he got in the “face” of the potential contributor, horse racing executive John Johnston.
“I’m telling you, he’s gonna be good for it. I got in his face,” Monk tells the governor during a 9:09 a.m. call on Dec. 4, 2008.
Anticipation built in the moments before tapes were played for the first time in the Senate trial. The chamber grew quiet.
As senators listened to the four brief conversations, one senator chewed on his pen and looked ahead. Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora), smiled and shook his head as he heard the governor’s brother, Robert, tell Blagojevich that Johnston was “good for it” – an apparent reference to a $100,000 campaign contribution.

For Full Story

FBI Tape 1Transcript
FBI Tape 2Transcript
FBI Tape 3Transcript
FBI Tape 4Transcript

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

From the Vantage Point of Gov. Blagojevich’s Website, Life Still Looks Grand

One of many upbeat photos on the Gov's website
One of many upbeat photos on the Gov’s website

By Jon Perkins
Ticklethewire.com

To study Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s website is to get a clear picture of a man in denial.
On the website, the embattled governor touts his initiative to keep the state’s children safe and warm, his efforts on behalf of workers at Republic Steel who were forced out of their jobs without severance pay or benefits, his progress in getting federal funding for the state’s Medicaid program and so on and so on… Everything appears to be coming up roses.
What’s not on the website site is any indication that Blagojevich is in deep trouble and is facing mounting pressure to step down because of allegations that he tired to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat.
With political opponents and the news media turning up the heat and pushing for impeachment it may become increasingly difficult for Blagojevich to govern. But there’s no way of telling that from looking at his I’m-doing-great” website. Blagojevich returned to work a day after his arrest on corruption charges and has
stayed largely out of sight.
John Jackson, a professor of political science at Southern Illinois University, said that his everything-is-normal facade is not an unusual tactic.
“It’s clear that the message of the day is business as usual,” said Jackson, who is attached to SIU’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, named for an Illinois icon widely known for his political integrity.
He said Blagojevich has decided to play the situation as ” ‘I’m going to continue to be an aggressive advocate for the people of Illinois.’ ”
Jackson said Blagojevich, whose approval ratings have dipped below 10 percent, has avoided the news media and most state officials for the entirety of his second term. “He can probably maintain this public facade for a long time,” he said.
But the pressure will heighten as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald continues to investigate and the state legislature likely begins impeachment proceedings next week.
The fight won’t be easy. Blagojevich alienated most of the state’s power players in both parties long before the latest scandal surfaced publicly.