The DOJ needs to prosecute the Malignant Orange Polyp

It is certainly frustrating waiting for justice to be applied to our former (and future, and present, if you ask him) president. We are a nation of laws, we are told, and most laws are absolute for most of us. Obstruction of justice, which the law-is-for-chumps Mr. Trump did at virtually every turn, is a federal crime that he needs to be prosecuted for and convicted of.

I’m not sure what is taking the Fulton County DA so long about prosecuting the former president for his clear violation of Georgia criminal law. If you listen to the tape of Trump’s 18th post-election call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, with the Georgia law in front of you, it is hard to imagine how any lawyer would be able to defend Trump against the charge that he committed every illegal act listed in the law in his attempt to influence election results, using threats, cajoling, joking, personal appeals to convince the fellas to find him a lousy, stinkin’ 11,780 votes, one more than needed, to give him the state. The search “status of Fulton County, Georgia criminal case against Trump update” brings up March 2021 “updates”, as does every related search. Nothing since then. WTF, y’all?

Since childhood, Trump has never been held accountable for anything, which is why he behaves the way he does. He has never paid a price for anything that wasn’t immediately forgiven or reimbursed by somebody else. His numerous bankruptcies, for incompetent management of a string of business ventures, did not harm his gold-plated luxury brand or his personal fortune. The tax avoidance schemes of his father, of Trump himself, though brazen, are perhaps typical of plans used by the super-wealthy to avoid the payment of taxes. There may be nothing criminal about what appears to be a long history of Trump tax fraud. There may be tax-related criminal charges coming, assuming the Manhattan DA, who let Trump and his children off for their apparent fraud in connection with the Trump SoHo a few years back, makes good on getting an indictment and conviction this time.

We are a nation of laws, and you violate them at your own risk. I know that I am paying about as much in penalties as Trump paid to the IRS in total tax for 2017. I’m being punished for being a year late filing my 2019 taxes. The fine, about the amount of tax I owed (and paid) is on an income perhaps one hundredth of what the former president’s was. Unlike Trump, I have no appeal of that fine under the law. Interest is being added for every day I am late paying the full amount. I can argue all I want, I just have to pay the outrageous, disproportionate (it’s as large as the tax bill I paid — a 100% penalty rate) non-negotiable fine. Fair or not, it’s my punishment for breaking the law and an indelible lesson to me going forward. It is a mistake I don’t plan to make again.

As for Trump, since he never learned a lesson like this, he knows as much now as when he was an out of control five year-old bullying his mom.

Here are some selections from the Boston Globe series making the case that we cannot ensure democracy going forward unless we prosecute our norm, rule and law busting former president (who claims to still actually be the president, Biden is a cheating liar, as illegitimate as the Birther President, Biden’s radical pal, ask any of the tens of millions of the base who believe this). The short Boston Globe series approaches the corruption and irregularity of the troubling Trump presidency from several angles, asking some basic questions along the way.

Is a president, deep in debt ($400,000,000 of it coming due very soon, from Mr. Trump) who continues to operate his businesses (having his sons run them), while fighting to hide all financial records, an obvious target for crafty foreign manipulators to take advantage of? The Globe gives a few examples:

Take Saudi Arabia’s payments to the Trump Hotel, which totaled $270,000 between November 2016 and February 2017. Those payments came just a few months prior to Trump finalizing one of the largest arms deals in US history with the kingdom. He also later went on to protect the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, after the brutal killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. “I saved his ass,” Trump bragged to the journalist Bob Woodward, in reference to bin Salman. “I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop.”

source

To avoid these kinds of conflicts of interest (Saudi Arabia is also a longtime tenant in Trump Tower) the Globe advocates for two laws (you listening, Kyrsten? Joe? Dianne Feinstein? [1]). One is a law requiring a sitting president to divest from all of her businesses when taking office (generally done, but not by Trump). The other is the mandatory production of tax returns for all candidates for the presidency (another tradition Trump ignored). Pretending to be under audit for five years would no longer be a lawful excuse for a presidential candidate refusing to produce tax returns. The tax returns would show who the candidate got paid by, who he owes money to and whether it is likely he is a crook.

Nepotism, a mark of autocracy and monarchy everywhere, while technically illegal for US government appointees, arguably does not apply to appointments by the president and vice president. It can be accomplished if one finesses the law a little, for example, by not paying wealthy appointees a salary for their public service, even as that service may also enrich them in many other ways, as Ivanka and Jared’s experience as public servants illustrate. Loss of salary is the current penalty for violating the anti-nepotism law, so if you forgo a salary to make a lot more money while in office, well… nobody’s business, under our current laws. The reason for a stronger anti-nepotism law is clear.

That distrust [of officials appointed by nepotism] would be justified. Filling up key government posts with close relatives of the president, for example, will probably result in a staff that’s more loyal to the president than they are to government institutions, or even to democracy itself. Nepotism is also unlikely to produce the most competent government; Kushner, for example, was profoundly unqualified for his wide-ranging role, and the American people paid the price when he took a leading role in the Trump administration’s coronavirus response. . .

. . . When Trump hired Kushner, some legal scholars argued that the president does not have to abide by the federal anti-nepotism statute. That’s why, in order to ensure that this degree of corruption does not take place, Congress should pass a bill to make explicit that the president cannot appoint a relative to any official government post, even if they forgo a salary. In the event that a president’s relative is widely perceived to be the best qualified for a certain role, that appointment should require a waiver from Congress so that the candidate can be evaluated on their merits. Appointments of family members should be the exception, not the norm.

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Obstruction of Justice while in office, anyone? Protected, as Mueller concluded, by an Office of Legal Counsel memo, from the days of Nixon, that advises the DOJ against indicting a sitting president for any crime. So, even if you can’t exonerate him in the face of an impressive amount of evidence, you also cannot accuse him of obstruction either, since that would be unfair to the guy who wouldn’t be able to defend himself until out of office. What’s a law-abiding Boy Scout Special Counsel to do?

Right out of the gate, Donald Trump appeared to break the law and brazenly admit it to the entire nation — not with remorse but with pride and conviction. Within four months of being sworn in, Trump fired FBI director James Comey, which the White House insisted was a decision rooted in Comey’s mishandling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server. But Trump rebuffed his Department of Justice’s line of reasoning in a television interview with NBC, saying that he was planning on firing Comey because of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. . .

. . . It might sound reasonable to say that indicting a sitting president could pose political problems — and potential national security risks — because a criminal trial would effectively incapacitate a president. But an indictment does not necessarily mean that the president has to sit through a criminal trial. That could always be postponed until a president leaves office. In that 1973 memo, the rationale for not indicting a sitting president, even if all proceedings are deferred until they are out of office, rests merely on the perceived damage the image of the office of the president might endure. “The spectacle of an indicted president still trying to serve as chief executive boggles the imagination,” the memo said.

A greater spectacle, however, is a reckless, authoritarian president who is seen on the world stage bending the rule of law to his will. That’s why presidents should be indicted for crimes that they commit, with their trials postponed to when they leave office. Had Mueller been able to operate under a guideline that allowed for Trump’s indictment, the former president probably would have faced legal accountability for his early acts of obstruction of justice. That, on its own, could have deterred him from obstructing justice later in his presidency, as he did during his first impeachment inquiry.

So while presidents should not, for logistical reasons, be required to be a part of a criminal trial while in office, they should not be immune from indictments. Because until presidents can be indicted, they will always be, by definition, above the law.

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Corrupt presidential pardons given as part of a quid pro quo, a dangled pardon in exchange for lying to protect the president from criminal or civil liability, need to be overturned, and explicitly outlawed. The pardon power has generally been used to correct injustices, Trump wielded his pardon power in a characteristically “transactional” way, arguably to obstruct justice in several famous cases (Stone, Manafort, Flynn, Bannon, etc.).

But Donald Trump has proved that a president can use his pardon power not as a corrective for injustice but in exchange for political and personal favors — or even as a tool of coercion or manipulation — and get away with it. In stark contrast to his immediate predecessor, Trump granted clemency to only 237 people. And though some of those acts of clemency included commuting unjustly long sentences for minor offenses, over 100 of them, according to the Lawfare Blog, were granted to people who either had personal connections with the former president or advanced his political cause. Trump was hardly the first president to use his pardon power nefariously, but his blatantly corrupt use of it should be a wake-up call to lawmakers of both major parties that executive clemency must be reformed to limit its potential for abuse.

Boston sucks! Boston sucks!

[1]

The senior senator from California, on why she sees no need to fix the filibuster rule:

“If democracy were in jeopardy, I would want to protect it,” she told Forbes on Wednesday. “But I don’t see it being in jeopardy right now.”

source

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