Sunday, May 14, 2017

Laurence Tribe: Trump must be impeached - Here’s why

ModLaurence H. Tribe is Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. The following appears today in the Washington Post.

Trump must be impeached - Here’s why (Washington Post link): The time has come for Congress to launch an impeachment investigation of President Trump for obstruction of justice. The remedy of impeachment was designed to create a last-resort mechanism for preserving our constitutional system. It operates by removing executive-branch officials who have so abused power through what the framers called “high crimes and misdemeanors” that they cannot be trusted to continue in office.

No American president has ever been removed for such abuses, although Andrew Johnson was impeached and came within a single vote of being convicted by the Senate and removed, and Richard Nixon resigned to avoid that fate.

Now the country is faced with a president whose conduct strongly suggests that he poses a danger to our system of government.

Ample reasons existed to worry about this president, and to ponder the extraordinary remedy of impeachment, even before he fired FBI Director James B. Comey and shockingly admitted on national television that the action was provoked by the FBI’s intensifying investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia.

Even without getting to the bottom of what Trump dismissed as “this Russia thing,” impeachable offenses could theoretically have been charged from the outset of this presidency. One important example is Trump’s brazen defiance of the foreign emoluments clause, which is designed to prevent foreign powers from pressuring U.S. officials to stray from undivided loyalty to the United States. Political reality made impeachment and removal on that and other grounds seem premature.

No longer. To wait for the results of the multiple investigations underway is to risk tying our nation’s fate to the whims of an authoritarian leader.

Comey’s summary firing will not stop the inquiry, yet it represented an obvious effort to interfere with a probe involving national security matters vastly more serious than the “third-rate burglary” that Nixon tried to cover up in Watergate. The question of Russian interference in the presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign go to the heart of our system and ability to conduct free and fair elections.

Consider, too, how Trump embroiled Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, despite Sessions’s recusal from involvement in the Russia investigation, in preparing admittedly phony justifications for the firing on which Trump had already decided. Consider how Trump used the vice president and White House staff to propagate a set of blatant untruths — before giving an interview to NBC’s Lester Holt that exposed his true motivation.

Trump accompanied that confession with self-serving — and manifestly false — assertions about having been assured by Comey that Trump himself was not under investigation. By Trump’s own account, he asked Comey about his investigative status even as he was conducting the equivalent of a job interview in which Comey sought to retain his position as director.

Further reporting suggests that the encounter was even more sinister, with Trump insisting that Comey pledge “loyalty” to him in order to retain his job. Publicly saying he saw nothing wrong with demanding such loyalty, the president turned to Twitter with a none-too-subtle threat that Comey would regret any decision to disseminate his version of his conversations with Trump — something that Comey has every right, and indeed a civic duty, to do.

To say that this does not in itself rise to the level of “obstruction of justice” is to empty that concept of all meaning. Obstruction of justice was the first count in the articles of impeachment against Nixon and, years later, a count against Bill Clinton. In Clinton’s case, the ostensible obstruction consisted solely in lying under oath about a sordid sexual affair that may have sullied the Oval Office but involved no abuse of presidential power.

But in Nixon’s case, the list of actions that together were deemed to constitute impeachable obstruction reads like a forecast of what Trump would do decades later — making misleading statements to, or withholding material evidence from, federal investigators or other federal employees; trying to interfere with FBI or congressional investigations; trying to break through the FBI’s shield surrounding ongoing criminal investigations; dangling carrots in front of people who might otherwise pose trouble for one’s hold on power.

It will require serious commitment to constitutional principle, and courageous willingness to put devotion to the national interest above self-interest and party loyalty, for a Congress of the president’s own party to initiate an impeachment inquiry. It would be a terrible shame if only the mounting prospect of being voted out of office in November 2018 would sufficiently concentrate the minds of representatives and senators today.

But whether it is devotion to principle or hunger for political survival that puts the prospect of impeachment and removal on the table, the crucial thing is that the prospect now be taken seriously, that the machinery of removal be reactivated, and that the need to use it become the focus of political discourse going into 2018.

Is it time for Trump staff to lawyer up? (Politico link): Veterans of past White House scandals from Watergate to Plamegate have an important message for Team Trump: It’s time to think about lawyering up.

In the past week, a Senate committee began issuing subpoenas in its investigation into Russian contacts with President Donald Trump’s staff and other associates during the 2016 election campaign and transition, while the FBI continues its own criminal investigation. Trump himself fired FBI director James Comey, and then said in the aftermath of that decision that the Russia probe was “made up” and appeared to threaten Comey on Twitter.

“There’s obviously a risk here,” said Washington white-collar defense attorney Robert Luskin. “And that’s not any kind of judgment on [Trump’s] personal integrity or absence of it, but the apparent fact he doesn’t seem to be very sensitive about norms and about risks.”

It’s an axiom of Washington scandals that the cover-up tends to be worse than the crime—and it’s lower- or mid-level people who wind up getting caught in the worst legal trouble, usually for tangential offenses like perjury or obstruction of justice.

The ancillary stuff, like a forgotten meeting or a discarded document, can cause the most serious problems for staffers navigating the unfamiliar, expensive and high-stakes world of grand juries, subpoenas and congressional hearings, where the prospects of perjury or obstruction of justice charges can be filed for both unintended slip-ups or intentional attempts to cover up for a superior.

“The thing you worry about in a process like that is you just make a mistake and it appears more than it is,” said Rep. Sean Maloney, a New York Democratic lawmaker who served as staff secretary for President Bill Clinton during his final two years at the White House amid congressional impeachment proceedings. “We’re all human beings. If someone asks you questions for two or three hours it’s easy to make a mistake.”

Mod: The rest of this article is available at the link.


  1. Kind of like NixonMay 14, 2017 at 7:26 AM

    Former Employees of Donald Trump Say They Saw Him Tape Conversations

    A tweet from President Donald Trump on Friday suggesting that he might have taped phone conversations from the White House made waves in Washington, but some former employees and a former associate said it wasn’t a surprise to them that he would mention taped conversations.

    As a businessman, Mr. Trump sometimes taped phone conversations with associates and others from his Trump Tower office in New York, according to three people who say they have direct knowledge of the recordings.

    Mr. Trump had one or more recording devices that he used to tape his phone calls from his office, the three people said. All are former high-level employees who worked for Mr. Trump over a span of three decades. They said they saw devices in use recording phone calls.

    A fourth person said he knew that Mr. Trump had recorded a phone conversation with him because it was later entered into evidence in a lawsuit.

    1. It's said that Nixon would get drunk and wander the halls of the WH at night, raving to the portraits of dead presidents. Trump probably just tells them his inauguration crowds were bigger than theirs.

  2. Trump has never recorded any phone calls-with some exceptions.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Gracias. Half asleep this morning.


  5. Trump is a bigger threat to this country than any president we have ever had.


    “It’s been about Russian collusion from the beginning,” Fox & Friends host Pete Hegseth complained. “His critics have tried to make him look not legitimate. And five days after the firing of Comey, the media is still chomping at the bit with hysteria.”

    Wallace agreed that some of the rhetoric had been “overblown.”

    “But I do take exception to the idea that this is hysteria,” Wallace cautioned. “There are some cases there that I shake my head and think that’s over the top. Yes. This is a big story. The fact that we’re continuing to talk about it a week later.”

    “This is the first time in history that a president has fired an FBI director who was conducting an investigation that was directly investigating him and his associates,” the Fox News host added. “It’s a big story and I think it’s a legitimate story to cover.”

  7. The impeachment process must begin now. We can't wait. Our country and our institutions are under attack by Trump.

  8. We've never been here before, so there's no saying how this will proceed. Especially since we can be pretty sure important classified information is unknown to us. But, based solely on current info "out" and patterns of past impeachment attempts, we are nowhere near impeachment time. Rump has an 87% approval rate among Republicans: Big power congress would be very afraid to cross. We are only 3 months into this presidency and Republican voters are on his side. Any attempt to remove him will be seen as a conspiracy against the people. It seems probable that a compelling case must be brought after Rump's popularity has dwindled farther. Perhaps info not yet released could turn them on Rump within days, but they ignored all his flirting with treason, swindling, and mental problems; and barring nuclear-grade ammo, they're probably not going to turn on him for some time, perhaps after the building up what they see as a combination of failures and betrayals. Btw, that Russian woman who writes on living under authoritarian government said authortarians hate thinking they are supporting a loser. They want a strong man.

  9. Poll: 78 Percent think Russian investigation should be independent

    A growing 78 percent of Americans believe an independent commission or special prosecutor should handle the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election moving forward, according to a new poll.

    The NBC NEWS/Wall Street Journal poll asked Americans whether they would rather see the an independent investigation or Congress handle the probe going forward.

    Just 15 percent picked Congress, while 78 percent supported an independent commission or special prosecutor.

    1. Can't get any higher than 78% considering that only 21% of Republicans concede that Obama was born in the U.S. and only 22% believe that Ted Cruz was born outside the U.S. You can't reason with stupid.

    2. Then there are those folks that believe Donald's election was the will of God.

  10. Do a combination. FBI and an Independent Commission investigating with all sharing the same information. Internal FBI investigations are the bases of the way the FBI functions. Giving information and telling you where it comes from are 2 different parts of the process. Our National Security is under attack as I see it. A soldier's job is to put away their personal views and protect the country in accordance to the Constitution and the laws of our country.

  11. Sacked FBI chief Comey plots strike at Trump in congress

    Although Mr Comey has declined to appear before the Senate intelligence committee at a closed hearing this Wednesday, he has made clear via friends that he wants to strike back against Mr Trump in an open session that could be one of the most-watched events in US political history.

    Mr Trump’s “tape” comment was a reference to conflicting ­accounts of a one-on-one dinner he had with the FBI chief on January 27, a week after inauguration. Mr Comey, a Republican who cherishes his image as an independent, measured and lawyerly figure, was nervous about the ­encounter with the blustering property billionaire.

    Holed up in his mansion in McLean, Virginia, last week, with photographers camped outside, Mr Comey told friends he ­believed his fate had been sealed at the dinner, though it was three months later that Mr Trump finally dispensed with him.

    According to Mr Trump, Mr Comey’s account of the dinner is fabrication. The President has claimed it was Mr Comey who asked for the meeting, and during the meal he begged to be kept in his job, which he began in July 2013 and which traditionally carries a 10-year term.


    1. I saw that and I was actually going to post it, but there are a lot of people who say it isn't true. Plus no major news organization has gone with it. Going to wait and see if something breaks.

    2. Oh that it were true, but I fear this will be long and painful.

  13. Writing on his own blog, University of Berkeley professor and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich said that is will now be up to Democrats in the House, and any Republicans possibly brave enough to join them, to initiate serious inquiries into whether or not the president should face impeachment proceedings. The key issues, argues Reich are these:

    (1) The illegality of a President of the United States seeking to intimidate a potential witness in a congressional investigation.

    (2) The illegality of a President potentially intimidating current FBI personnel who are investigating that president or his aides, by firing the former FBI head who was leading such an investigation and now threatening retaliation against him.

    "These illegal acts cannot be ignored," argued Reich. "We are facing a constitutional crisis potentially larger and more significant than Richard Nixon's 'Watergate.' As long as Donald Trump remains president, our governing institutions are threatened."

    1. Just as big a theat tonour government institutions are the gutless pols who know Trump is a crook, but are too gutless to perform their constitutional duty.

    2. He's 100% right now, but where were the Dems when Clinton committed perjury? I believe that Trump is a grave danger to the republic who has, at a minimum, obstructed justice and violated the emoluments clause. Unfortunately, the pols in DC treat criminal behavior as a political issue, and now the GOP has the votes.

    3. Where are the Republicans on Trump's treason? It would be nice if you could concentrate on the present. Clinton has nothing to do with it.

    4. Typical ignorance - no surprise- just a sheep with no real facts spreading fake news

    5. You can step back from the mirror now.

  14. One of the biggest problems in our national political milieu is that there is no real downside for Trump supporters at the highest levels of government.

    Even if they ignore clear evidence of Trump collusion with the Russian interference in the election, and even if Trump is eventually impeached and his elected and appointed supporters lose their positions, they will recycle back to Washington as much more highly paid lobbyists and consultants. In fact, the notoriety they achieve may even benefit them, giving them greater name recognition.

    America needs the survivors--the elected and other government officials who fight to uphold the Constitution and rid the country of its homegrown Russian colluders--to take a pledge NEVER to allow those new colluder-supporting lobbyist and consultants to have ANY access to Congress, federal agencies, the military, and etc. Those who support colluders must be shown that there is an economic downside to supporting or ignoring treachery.

    And the American people need to let corporations know that if they choose to hire lobbying firms who give shelter to the supporters of colluders that their products will no longer be desired.

    Money can be an impetus to the disease of treachery, but it can also be part of the cure.