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How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Tag: Richard Nixon

Watergate Reporter Bernstein: No Modern President Has Lied As Often As Trump

Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein on CNN.

By Steve Neavling

Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporter who helped expose the Watergate scandal under President Nixon, is skeptical that Donald Trump will agree to an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller because of the president’s “compulsive, continual lying.”

“I think many of us will believe it when we see him sit down with Mueller. Look, we have no reason to believe almost anything that [Trump] says. What is so extraordinary about him and his presidency is the incessant, compulsive, continual lying,” Bernstein said on CNN

“We’ve never had a president who lies like this, certainly in the modern era. Even Nixon,” he added.

Bernstein’s comments follow news that Mueller, who is investigating Trump, his campaign and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, wants a sit-down interview with Trump, who boasted two weeks ago that he has nothing to hide and will answer questions under oath.

But White House officials, including his attorneys, are urging the president to avoid the interview because they fear he will lie and be charged with perjury.

Trump has not yet made a final decision on the interview, which has not been scheduled yet.

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

Donald Trump

By Steve Neavling

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?’”

Cummings, Conyers: Congress Must Act to Avoid Unchecked Powers of Trump’s Presidency

Rep. Elijah Cummings

Rep. Elijah Cummings

By Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings and John Conyers
Op-Ed, Baltimore Sun

On Saturday, Oct. 20, 1973, President Richard Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox because he refused to back down from his pursuit of the Watergate tapes. Nearly a half century later, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because of, in the president’s own words, “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia.” And Wednesday, the president complained about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation; Mr. Trump said he “would have picked someone else” to run the Department of Justice has he known that was coming.

How Congress responds to moments like these matters. The differences between Congress’ response in 1973 and our response today are stark — and, frankly, disappointing. In 1973, the House Judiciary Committee had a serious and bipartisan response, subpoenaing and eventually releasing the Watergate tapes. The current Republican response has been tepid at best; they have not issued a single subpoena to the White House, and Speaker Paul Ryan defended Mr. Trump’s interference in the Russia investigation by assuring us that “he’s just new to this.”

As the senior Democrats on the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, we believe it is critical that Special Counsel Robert Mueller be given the independence, time and resources to conduct a thorough investigation and report his findings to Congress. At the same time, as a co-equal branch of government, Congress must fulfill its constitutional duty to investigate the full range of Trump administration and Trump campaign actions.

Successful congressional investigations develop a comprehensive, fact-based record to form the basis for further action. The House and Senate Watergate investigations led to Nixon’s resignation and adoption of the Ethics in Government Act. It was serious, deliberative, bipartisan, transparent and operated in parallel to law enforcement investigations.

In the absence of any meaningful investigation by House Republicans, Democratic members have sent requests for information on our own. Our efforts have been met with months of stonewalling. The Trump White House recently told government agencies “not to cooperate [with any oversight] requests from Democrats,” and issued a contrived Justice Department legal opinion that such queries are “not properly considered to be oversight requests.”

We will continue to press for answers because the information we seek goes to the central question of the Trump presidency: Is the administration acting in the public interest, or merely to benefit the private interests of President Trump?

To read more click here.

Trump, Nixon Both Described Obstruction of Justice Probes As ‘Witch Hunt’

Illustration of a witch hunt, via Wikipedia.

Illustration of a witch hunt, via Wikipedia.

By Steve Neavling

President Trump continues to insist he is the victim of a “witch hunt” in attempt to discredit the numerous federal investigations targeting him and his inner circle.

But he’s not the first president to claim he’s the victim of a political witch hunt.

photo-jun-15-1-18-34-pmFormer president Richard Nixon used the same phrase to describe the Senate Watergate hearings that led to his resignation. A Washington Post headline on July 22, 1973 read, “Nixon Sees ‘Witch-Hunt,’ Insiders Say.” 

Like Trump, Nixon was accused of obstruction of justice for trying to disrupt the investigation.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted, “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”

Here’s a look at Trump’s other tweets in which he insists he’s the victim of a witch hunt:

Weekend Series on Crime History: Nixon Defends Against Watergate Allegations

Parker: Trump’s Early Influence on the Criminal Justice System and Law Enforcement

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.

Donald Trump, via Wikipedia

Donald Trump, via Wikipedia

By Ross Parker

President Trump is a media magnet, for better or worse. Debates on public policy and personal peccadilloes whirl so fast that it seems fair to step back and try to ignore the daily sensations and make a preliminary assessment of his successes and failures in the law enforcement and criminal justice arenas.

Relations with Law Enforcement Agencies

Candidate and now President Trump often voices an intention of becoming a supporter and partner with police and federal agents. He vocally repeats the warnings from the War on Drugs contingent and openly chose their tenets over Black Lives Matter. He promises more support, financial, executive, and legislative, and he declares new policies and priorities.

The jury seems to still be out on whether these promises are going to be implemented but law enforcement seemed at least open-minded after their general ambivalence for Obama. But Trump’s “buddy” plan took a serious hit in the last few days when he abruptly fired the well respected head of the largest and most influential law agency in the nation, if not the world.

Last week Trump fired James Comey, the Director of the FBI. In the Bureau’s almost 100 year history this had occurred only twice previously:  President Richard Nixon fired the director while the nation was in the throes of Watergate, and President Bill Clinton fired William Sessions in 1993, shortly after Clinton took office.

Ross Parker

Ross Parker

Although Comey had drawn some criticism by his disclosures a few days before the election that the Bureau was re-opening and then re-closing the investigation on candidate Hillary Clinton, most thought that, however misguided, the comments were not intended to affect the election or have any other ill intent. Whether they did or did not doom her election hopes is another subject.

Contrary to Trump’s protestations, Comey was and continues to be highly regarded by other law enforcement agents, Congress, and the public at large. With the men and women of the FBI, the issue is personal.

It was also the way it was done, its peremptory quality, the prevarication and confusion among Trump, his staff and spokespersons. The Director found out he’d been terminated on a TV news program. It was the kind of Amateur Hour we have come to expect from this Administration.

Ironically ,Trump’s firing resulted in the disclosure of his meddling/obstruction of the investigation of fired National Security Coordinator Michel Flynn. Trump’s remarks to Comey about closing the Flynn investigation would probably never have seen the light of day absent the firing. Not the first time Trump stepped on an important part of his anatomy.

The flare-up of violent crime statistics, concern about increasing assaults on police, general ambivalence toward Obama policies—all of these factors provided an atmosphere in which President Trump could have cemented relations with law enforcement. But the Comey affair and Trump’s meddling in several other DOJ cases and policies seem to have made this a lost opportunity for him to build an alliance with law enforcement.

Supreme Court and the Judiciary

Another potentially positive area was in his judicial appointments. From a law enforcement perspective, if the measure of the value of Justices and judges is their tendency to rule for the government in criminal cases, then the selection of Justice Gorsuch to fill Justice’s Scalia’s seat was a big win for Trump.

But the win came at a price. The absence of a Justice for a year meant that the Court was stuck in third gear and could not resolve some important questions which have split the lower courts.

Then, too, the politicization of the selection process and the abandonment of the 60 vote rule in the Senate will impact the process negatively for decades. The emphasis on broad-based excellence has been de-emphasized a notch for a candidate’s predicted loyalty on a few hot-button issues. The fact that we appeared to have gotten a Justice of excellence and integrity in Justice Gorsuch does not entirely absolve the methods and intentions of the selection process.

Read more »

Firing Comey: 10 Strong Reactions from Congress on FBI Director’s Ousting

congress copyBy Steve Neavling

President Trump’s sudden and brazen decision to fire FBI Director James Comey drew immediate and fierce criticism from both sides of the aisle Tuesday, with some comparing the bombastic Republican to Richard Nixon.

Here are 10 reactions from elected officials:

  1. “This is Nixonian,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania. 
  2. “The only way the American people can have faith in this investigation is for it to be led by a fearless, independent special prosecutor,” said the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
  3. “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Jim Comey’s termination,” said Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C. 
  4. “What happened during the Nixon period, there were people of principle who stood up against some of then-President Nixon’s actions,” Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee. “I’m hoping in the coming days that we’ll see either out of the administration, and frankly from a lot of my colleagues, a willingness to rise above partisanship.”
  5. “The President’s sudden and brazen firing of the FBI Director raises the ghosts of some of the worst Executive Branch abuses,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in a statement. “We cannot stand by and watch a coverup of the possible collusion with a hostile foreign power to undermine American democracy.”
  6. “Not since Watergate have our legal systems been so threatened and our faith in the independence and integrity of those systems so shaken,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut.  
  7. “I have long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “The president’s decision to remove the F.B.I. director only confirms the need and the urgency of such a committee.”
  8. “We are careening ever closer to a Constitutional crisis, and this development only underscores why we must appoint a special prosecutor to fully investigate any dealings the Trump campaign or administration had with Russia,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts.
  9. “The inescapable conclusion from the circumstantial evidence here is the President wanted to stop or stifle this investigation,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told ABC News.
  10. “Russia attacked our democracy and the American people deserve answers. President Trump’s decision to make this move tonight is an attack on the rule of law and raises more questions that demand answers. Firing the FBI Director does not place the White House, the President, or his campaign above the law,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

Weekend Series on Crime History: Nixon, Ehrlichman, Haldeman Talk About John Mitchell’s Watergate Involvement