Monday, June 04, 2018

Trump's Claim of Monarchical Powers


Well before the 2016 presidential election numerous psychologists and psychiatrists warned that Donald Trump was a malignant narcissist and that giving him immense powers would be very dangerous.  Fast forward to today and Trump, through his lawyers - some of dubious professional merit - is arguing that he is a king or emperor and, therefore, above the law, the law being whatever he deems it to be.  Others would make a different analogy which leads to the same mindset: Trump is a crime boss who sees the law as only applying to others.  Either way, there is no legal precedent for the far fetched claims made by Der Trumpenf├╝hrer.  A piece in the New York Times looks at both Trump's fantastic claims and the lack of any legal merit to them.  Here are excerpts:

[Trump] The president believes he is above the law. That’s the takeaway from the confidential 20-page memo sent by President Trump’s lawyers to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, published over the weekend by The Times. And it’s the same sentiment that Rudy Giuliani expressed on Sunday when he suggested that Mr. Trump has the power to pardon himself.
The central claim of the legal memorandum is that it is impossible for the president to illegally obstruct any aspect of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling. That’s because, as president, Mr. Trump has the constitutional power to terminate the inquiry or pardon his way out of it. Therefore — and this is the key and indefensible point — he cannot obstruct justice by exercising this authority “no matter his motivation.”
This understanding of presidential power is radical and absolutist. It is also unsound and almost certain to be sharply rejected should it ever be proffered in court. Imagine, for example, that the worst version of facts proves true: that Trump fired the F.B.I. director, James Comey, tried to fire Mr. Mueller, constructed a false account of the June 2016 Russia meeting, and tried to force Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal decision that was driven by Justice Department policy, all to protect his own skin and his family’s fortune. If this were the case, the elements of obstruction — in brief, the interference or attempted interference with an official proceeding, such as a grand jury investigation — would be plainly met. Most important, the president would have acted with corrupt intent as it is well understood under the law.
No tenable account of executive power holds that a president’s purposes in exercising powers accorded under Article II, “to take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” have no import.  . . . This would very clearly violate the maxim that the president is not above the law.
If this sounds like legal theorizing, just consider the fact that Mr. Trump’s position is soundly contradicted by the Richard Nixon case. . . . Subsequent investigations into alleged abuses of presidential power — Iran-contra as well as Whitewater — took it as accepted law that the president is capable of obstructing justice. . . . . there is scant support among constitutional scholars or in the case law for the president’s drastic argument.
The second pillar of the letter submitted by Mr. Trump’s lawyers to Mr. Mueller is that he is too busy running the country to sit for an interview. . . . Here Mr. Trump’s position run completely afoul of another presidential precedent: that of Bill Clinton.
The Supreme Court rejected the argument unanimously, and Mr. Clinton was forced to testify, initiating an indecorous process that led to his impeachment.
The decision was so resounding, and the precedent so apposite, that it’s puzzling that Mr. Trump’s lawyers would even attempt to make it a main plank of their argument to the special counsel.
All three of Mr. Trump’s pillars of defense support no weight. Mr. Mueller may have practical or policy reasons for staying his hand in finding obstruction, but he needn’t worry about the proffered legal impediments. They are all losers.

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