Yes- the President Can Obstruct Justice – The New York Times

“You know you have a problem when you’ve been president for less than 11 months and you’re already relying on Richard Nixon’s definition of what’s legal.

On Monday morning, Axios reported that Mr. Trump’s top personal lawyer, John Dowd, said in an interview that the “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer” under the Constitution and “has every right to express his view of any case.”This will come as news to Congress, which has passed laws criminalizing the obstruction of justice and decided twice in the last four decades that when a president violates those laws he has committed an impeachable offense.

In 1974, the first article of impeachment drafted by the House of Representatives charged President Nixon with “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force.”A quarter-century later, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House for, among other things, having “prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice” and for having “engaged personally, and through his subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or scheme designed to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of evidence and testimony.” ”

DL: Yes, thank you.
Here are some excellent comments, just a few of many.

Bruce Rozenblit is a trusted commenter Kansas City, MO 15 hours ago
If this is the best defense Trump’s lawyer can come up with, then Trump should get another lawyer.

This is a non-defense defense. It is an idiotic circular argument. It’s the kind of thing a person would expect Hannity to say.

Due to the weakness of this strategy, logic can only lead to the conclusion that Trump has no defense.

I don’t like to deify the founding fathers as many do. They were mere mortals like all of us. But they did the modern world a tremendous service when they set our government up with three branches of equal power. One is hopelessly corrupt, one is bought and paid for and so far at least one, the judiciary still functions. If that branch collapses under the weight of partisan politics, we are done.

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TWR New York 16 hours ago
We are the heirs of Magna Carta upon which the founders of our American republic established our constitutional democracy. Magna Carta has not only been been invoked on the floor of the U.S. Senate in response to executive overreach but also cited as legally authoritative precedent in decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. If nothing else, it stands for the principle that in Anglo-American jurisprudence and governance that “the sovereign is not above the law.” Are we now willing to allow a president to assert that he, like Louis XIV, is the state and above the law? Heaven help us if our democratic institutions agree with him.
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ChristineMcM

is a trusted commenter Massachusetts 15 hours ago

“You cannot charge a president with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional power to fire Comey and to tell the Justice Department who to investigate and who not to investigate.”

This from Alan Dershowitz whose tenured spot at Harvard Law seems to have gone to his head.

No, I’m not a lawyer, but I do know why the US fought a revolution. I also know the founders were laser focused on creating a system of 3 branches of government, with checks and balances to keep any one person from acting like a king.

If Donald Trump could instruct Justice who to investigate –or not–he’d exercise the unchecked power of a king who not only administers laws, but makes them too.

I recently heard a lawyer frame it another way: the President only supervises judicial processes, not judicial content.

Frankly, I think Trump’s lawyers are all crackpots. One’s job seems to be to tell him fairy stories to calm him down before bed. Another’s is to go on TV, gesticulate wildly, and argue with pundits, sounding increasingly incoherent. The third who wrote the tweet has been videotaped cursing and making obscene gestures to reporters as he exits court after losing a case.

Maybe if Donald Trump paid these guys more, he’d have better counsel, at least lawyers who would tell him he isn’t a king.

Or a dictator, no matter how much Donald Trump tries to act like one.

pmbrig

Massachusetts 11 hours ago

The claim is that the president is the nation’s highest ranking law enforcement officer and has the constitutional authority to supervise and control the executive branch and can make decisions about what law enforcement actions will be pursued, without any checks on that power. This is tantamount to saying that the President is above the law.

That, my friends, is called a dictatorship.

 

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Don’t Prosecute Trump. Impeach Him. – By JOHN YOO and SAIKRISHNA PRAKASH

“A wayward tweet on Saturday has set off renewed accusations that President Trump obstructed justice by impeding the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.The known facts are too weak to support any federal prosecution, not to mention one as momentous as indicting a sitting president. But even if Mr. Trump did illegally conspire to improve relations with Russia, his critics are pursuing their quarry down the wrong path. Impeachment — not criminal prosecution — is the tool for a corrupt sitting president.”

David Lindsay: What is that smell, I think it’s bullshit. Someone, please help me figure out what I am smelling?
Help is near. Bless the top commentators, for clarifying several complex issues. I endorsed all the following comments.

Rdeannyc is a trusted commenter Amherst MA 14 hours ago
The authors are probably correct that a sitting President cannot successfully be indicted. Yet, it is odd that they pit that prediction against the alternative of impeachment (which they recommend) at this point in time, since an indictment of Mr. Trump — even if moot as such — would not preclude subsequent impeachment proceedings. Odd, of course, because as the Times FAILS to note, Mr. Yoo once served in the White House counsel under President Bush, and wrote legal arguments defending waterboarding. Could it be that Mr. Yoo doesn’t like the idea that the Executive might be held accountable through a criminal investigation? And that he prefers the idea of a political opinion — as rendered by Congress — as the means of determining “corruption?”

Reply 471 Recommended

Look Ahead is a trusted commenter WA 14 hours ago
Unlike John Yoo, I am no legal expert. But also unlike Mr Yoo, I didn’t write the “Torture Memos” which have posed an extreme hazard to US military and diplomatic personnel serving in foreign countries.

We need to proceed with all available options for moving Trump and his parasitic family business clan out of the White House. Since he is harboring the delusion (among many others) that he already has a lock on the 2020 election, we can’t expect Trump to resign like Nixon.

But Trump is clearly more of a liability to the GOP brand where he is. And he is also a Right Wing White Nationalist fantasy. As much as I hate to see all of the destruction to America’s values, justice system and international leadership in the short term, it may actually stimulate the policy debate we should have had in 2016 but didn’t. (thanks to Matt Lauer and others).

And Trump is probably the best voter turnout weapon the Democrats have seen since Herbert Hoover. If we can at least keep Trump around until the 2018 midterms, we might inspire a wave of Millennials and women to show up, which could flip both State and Federal offices.

So tweet away, Mr President, tweet away!

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NYT Pick
Douglas Evans San Francisco 12 hours ago
The title of this article belies a fundamental misunderstanding of our system of government. The President has immunity from prosecution in order to maintain a separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive branches. It takes an act of the legislative branch to revoke that immunity. That’s called “impeachment.” A trial (“prosecution”) necessarily follows, in the Senate with the Chief Justice presiding. If convicted, the President is removed from office and may be sentenced for his offenses.

In other words, it’s not either/or, it’s impeachment => prosecution.

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Julie Sattazahn Playa del Rey, CA 12 hours ago
The founders clearly never imagined a president who lies like he breathes, enriches his businesses while in office and is a con artist. They also didn’t factor in a Congress with no scruples about this.
It’s not a question of one political party/ideology vs another.
It’s basic decency and love of our country vs the blatant opposite, happening before our eyes.

Reply 305 Recommended

Richard Luettgen is a trusted commenter New Jersey 12 hours ago
The authors really argue for doing nothing at all. Now, I admit that I have some sympathy for that argument, but I don’t like to have my intelligence insulted.

They argue fastidiously for not seeking an indictment, preferring impeachment of Trump. You can almost smell the legal wood burning in capacious brains as they expound their arguments. But the truth is that this House has absolutely no political incentive to impeach Donald Trump, and this Senate no political incentive to convict him on impeachment articles. So, if you buy the author of waterboarding’s legal justification that an indictment can’t happen, and you recognize that, absent a smoking gun proving that Trump IS the Grinch that stole Christmas, Congress will NOT impeach and remove Trump … then you’re really arguing for doing nothing.

But I suppose that Democrats can always seek to waterboard Trump – because Mr. Yoo told us it’s lawful.

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Jeff Sessions Clams Up in Congress – The New York Times

“How many ways are there to fail to answer a question under oath?

Ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The last time Mr. Sessions appeared before a Senate committee, during his confirmation hearing in January, he gave false testimony.

“I did not have communications with the Russians,” Mr. Sessions said in response to a question no one asked — and despite the fact that he had, in fact, met with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, at least twice during the 2016 presidential campaign. The omission raised questions not only about his honesty, but also about why he would not disclose those meetings in the first place.”

Good editorial. Here are the top comments which I support:

David California 12 hours ago

As Rep. Schiff said tonight, “there is no privilege to reserve a potential privilege later, you either invoke a privilege or you don’t.” AG Sessions should be held in contempt of Congress.

Reply 1068 Recommended

Jim PA 12 hours ago

Several Democratic Senators did an excellent job of showing how Sessions had no legal justification for not answering these questions. In his last testimony he committed perjury. Today he committed obstruction of justice. Hopefully the statute of limitations for these infractions goes out past the date where Republicans will lose control of the Senate and the White House.

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Reply 762 Recommended

Mr. Trump Goes After the Inspectors – The New York Times

“Every major federal agency and program has an inspector general, a nonpartisan, independent official whose staff investigates cases of wasteful spending, criminal activity, employee misconduct and plain bad management. These are watchdogs with real teeth.”

Sad. Here is a good comment:

Paul King

USA 12 minutes ago

What if the Gambino crime family had the power fire detectives and FBI agents investigating their many illegal activities?

What if they could have cut the budgets of police and prosecutors who served as the foot soldiers on the streets and in the court proceedings that took the stopped bad guys who undermine society?

In other words, what if they could starve away, with budget cuts, or flat out remove the watchdogs and public servants who made it hard for them, and associates who feed their pockets and maintain their criminal empire?

Well, thankfully they could not.

But the Trump Crime Family can.

In matters personal/political (think Russia investigation and the desperate act of firing Comey) or affecting friends in the energy or financial industry who can repay with riches (political cash and, who knows with these people, monetary kickbacks), they would love to systematic let the fox guard the hen houses that affect us all. Or have no guard at all.

Why would bad actors – and their cronies in high places – want anyone watching them? Especially when you can now fire people and cut budgets.

Think.

Then remove as many of these anti-American people as possible by voting in November 2018 and 2020.
Before they ruin everything.

Trump Is Insulting Our Intelligence – by Charles Blow – NYT

“It’s all just too much. We need an independent investigator. I don’t trust anything — anything! — coming out of this White House, and I don’t trust this feckless Congress to constrain Trump.This is not about partisanship, but patriotism. We must protect this country from moral corrosion, at best, and actual destruction, at worst.If this doesn’t stink to you, your nose is broken.”

The Easy Tells of Comey’s Canning – by Brett Stevens – NYT

“Still, Jim Comey’s firing now brings two points into high relief. First, the administration is not being truthful when it claims the director was dismissed for what he did last summer. Second, Donald Trump is afraid. A president who seeks to hide a scandal may be willing to risk an uproar.”

Introducing Brett Stevens, the new right wing voice at the NYT op-ed dept, formerly from the WSJ.

Rod Rosenstein Fails His Ethics Test – by David Leonhardt _NY

“Until two days ago, Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, had an enviable reputation as a straight-shooting law-enforcement official respected by members of both parties. Then he decided that he was willing to help President Trump tamper with an investigation into his presidential campaign.

Now Rosenstein’s reputation is permanently damaged, as it deserves to be. In that damage is a lesson for other subordinates and allies of Trump.”

See the post nearby, NYT editorial asking Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor. He is the only guy who can do it. It would clear his befouled reputation.

An Open Letter to the Deputy Attorney General – The New York Times

“In any case, the memo is yours, and that has compromised your ability to oversee any investigations into Russian meddling. But after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from these matters, because of his own contacts during the campaign with the Russians, the power to launch a truly credible investigation has fallen to you, and you alone.”

I second this plea. So do many readers at the NYT. Here is the lead comment to date:

Mike

Bellingham, WA 7 hours ago

I completely agree with this editorial.

I pray that Mr. Rosenstein has the courage and integrity to do the right thing and assign a special prosecutor to investigate how Russia compromised our democracy.

Americans deserve legitimate investigation. Mr. Rosenstein has the power to restore faith and credibility to our separation of powers…if he does, history will acknowledge him as an unlikely hero during a time of constitutuonal crisis.

And shame on those in congress who are complicit and not speaking out against the agregious actions of this administration.

‘Enough Was Enough’: How Festering Anger at Comey Ended in His Firing – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — By the end, neither of them thought much of the other.After President Trump accused his predecessor in March of wiretapping him, James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, was flabbergasted. The president, Mr. Comey told associates, was “outside the realm of normal,” even “crazy.”

For his part, Mr. Trump fumed when Mr. Comey publicly dismissed the sensational wiretapping claim. In the weeks that followed, he grew angrier and began talking about firing Mr. Comey. After stewing last weekend while watching Sunday talk shows at his New Jersey golf resort, Mr. Trump decided it was time. There was “something wrong with” Mr. Comey, he told aides.

The collision between president and F.B.I. director that culminated with Mr. Comey’s stunning dismissal on Tuesday had been a long time coming. To a president obsessed with loyalty, Mr. Comey was a rogue operator who could not be trusted as the F.B.I. investigated Russian ties to Mr. Trump’s campaign. To a lawman obsessed with independence, Mr. Trump was the ultimate loose cannon, making irresponsible claims on Twitter and jeopardizing the bureau’s credibility.”

Donald Trump’s Firing of James Comey – The New York Times

“Because Mr. Sessions is recused, the decision to name a special prosecutor falls to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whose memo, along with a separate one by Mr. Sessions, provided Mr. Trump with the pretense to fire Mr. Comey.

This is a tense and uncertain time in the nation’s history. The president of the United States, who is no more above the law than any other citizen, has now decisively crippled the F.B.I.’s ability to carry out an investigation of him and his associates. There is no guarantee that Mr. Comey’s replacement, who will be chosen by Mr. Trump, will continue that investigation; in fact, there are already hints to the contrary.”

Here is a comment I recommended, which also cheered me up.

Mary

Oklahoma 1 hour ago

The firing of Comey will not deter the FBI investigation. It will likely energize the agents who are doing the actual work. If Trump appoints a new director who tries to quash the investigation (think Guiliani), the FBI will leak like a colander. It’s a no-win situation for Trump. Republicans should support a special prosecutor to save themselves from the eventual splash. It’s going to be ugly.