Trump’s Lawyers Argue the President Is Above the Facts and Above the Law.
On June 2 the New York Times published a remarkable letter from Trump’s attorneys to Mueller’s Office of Special Counsel.
A Trump tweet suggested Mueller’s office leaked the letter. There is no evidence the leak came from the Special Counsel. In the past Trump has made similar allegations and it turns out the leak was from Team Trump. Trump has hired and fired a veritable circus of lawyers, and anyone of them could have leaked it.
Trump has a legitimate gripe. The press getting this letter is inappropriate. The late January of this year letter spells out to Mueller’s team the President’s case and why Trump’s lawyers believe he should not have to be interviewed. I agree these things should be kept confidential. No matter who gave the letter to the New York Times, it was extremely unethical.
With that said the substance of the letter should disturb every American. In addition to asserting that the President can’t obstruct justice because he is justice, the letter includes an open admission of dishonesty by Team Trump with longterm deliberate deception of the American people.
I. Admission That Trump Dictated A Deceptive Letter
This focuses on the initial administration response to the disclosure of the June 9, 2016 meeting between Trump Jr., Kushner, Manafort and Russians.
On July 8, 2017 the NYTs reported on the existence of the meeting. The next day the White House gave the Times a letter with the misleading cover story that the meeting was only about adopting Russian orphans. That story quickly unraveled because the NYTs already had emails showing Trump Jr., arranged the meeting hoping to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians.
This initial deceptive letter became the subject of further scrutiny when it was reported that President Trump himself dictated the letter. The White House has to this very day been coy about that, dodging the question, while tending to distance the President from any involvement and flatly denying the President dictated it. The President’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, directly told CNN:
”I wasn’t involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the President.”
Similarly, on Meet the Press Sekulow said:
“The president was not involved in the drafting of the statement and did not issue the statement.”
Notably, White House Counsel Mark Corallo, from the beginning, urged a more forthcoming response arguing the emails between Trump Jr, Kushner and the Russians would eventually come out. In a conference call Hope Hicks said the emails “will never get out.” This left Corallo with the belief that Hicks may be obstructing justice or destroying evidence, so he made contemporary notes about it and resigned less than two weeks later. Team Mueller is known to have interviewed Corallo.
Well guess what we find in the letter from Team Trump to Team Mueller? A flat out admission that President Trump “dictated” that deceptive letter. Trump’s lawyers wrote to Mueller:
“You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.”
Trump’s lawyers go on to argue that lying to the press is not a crime (it’s just “a private matter with the New York Times”) and cannot be obstruction of justice. It should be noted that the draft impeachment articles against Richard Nixon disagree (see below). Given Trump’s duplicity towards the Times, it should also be remembered how many times Trump has called the Times “fake news.”
Trump Junior in testimony before Congress, on September 7, 2017, said he didn’t know if his father was involved in drafting the deceptive letter, saying “I never spoke to my father about it.” He acknowledged the President could have contributed edits or comments through Hope Hicks. Read pages 59–61 of the transcript, then recall that Trump’s attorneys now say the President personally dictated the letter. The dishonesty is undeniable.
On August 1, 2017 White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders directly told the American people:
“He [the President] certainly didn’t dictate, but he — like I said, he weighed in, offered suggestions like any father would do.”
Sanders said President Trump did not dictate it, now Trump’s attorneys directly admit that is exactly what Trump did. Put simply, Sanders lied. This is the same Sarah Sanders who constantly smears the media for its supposed “fake news.”
Here’s the real issue. The White House has been misleading YOU, to include just flat out lying to you, about this for all this time. Even if not a crime, it goes to the President’s credibility today. It also proves President Trump was personally involved in early efforts to cover up his campaign’s involvement with Russians. Now why would he do that?
II. Claim the President Is Constitutionally Immune From Charges of Obstructing Justice
Trump Counsel’s letter to Mueller asserts it is impossible for the President to obstruct justice because:
“by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself.”
This is not a new argument. It’s a restatement of Nixon’s notorious line “When the president does it, that means [by definition] it’s not illegal.”
Nixon’s argument was that the President is the law, and so he can’t break it. Trump goes even further than Nixon did. Trump’s argument amounts to the “the President is justice” and so he cannot obstruct it.
The President is not justice. The President is charged with administering justice, but he is not justice. I suppose one could argue that if the President is fulfilling his Constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws of the nation, that his argument might be true. However, if the core allegation includes that the President failed in this duty it follows that the President can obstruct justice.
Trump’s letter then goes on to say:
“he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired.”
This statement is even more concerning as the very next day Trump “attorney” Rudy Giuliani declared that Trump has the power to pardon himself, because supposedly, “that’s what the Constitution says.”
Under this approach the President could terminate an investigation as a political favor and it would be legal. Presumably he would also be free to order such investigations as political retribution. He has, in fact, attempted to do so.
The investigation of “Spygate” has found it to be just another Trump scam, unsupported by credible facts, much like his claim that millions of illegal votes were cast in the election.
I do not believe Constitution of the United States endorses Presidential corruption. Precedent is on my side. From one of the Articles of Impeachment for Bill Clinton.
“In his conduct while President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice, and has to that end 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.”
“In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice.”
For the record, one of the specifically listed means by which Nixon obstructed justice was:
“making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States.”
“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, and Congressional Committees.”
“approving, condoning, and acquiescing in, the surreptitious payment of substantial sums of money for the purpose of obtaining the silence or influencing the testimony of witnesses, potential witnesses.”
Are you listening Stormy Daniels? Another included:
“endeavoring to cause prospective defendants, and individuals duly tried and convicted, to expect favored treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony, or rewarding individuals for their silence or false testimony.”
Could “favorable treatment” include pardons? Well, there’s not much more favorable treatment a President can do. The statement above in the President’s letter to Mueller that he could terminate the investigation by exercising his pardon power is rather concerning. Did the President have the letter leaked just so potential witnesses could see that statement? With this dishonest man, it’s certainly possible.
Precedent establishes a President can be impeached for obstruction of justice, one has been so impeached, and another was pending, interrupted only by his resignation.
Obstruction of justice can include false and misleading statements intended to deceive the American people, interfering with investigations of himself, payola to silence witnesses, and using a pattern of pardons to communicate to potential witnesses that they may receive similar treatment from a grateful President.
The President is not above the law or justice. He is not himself law or justice, he is just charged by our Constitution to faithfully administer these core American values. When the President does not faithfully execute these core values any criminal acts he commits are not shielded by his office or the Constitution.
Presidential corruption is not a Constitutional principle. Impeachment, for corruption, is.