SPECIAL COUNSEL MUELLER IS CONSIDERING WHETHER TO INDICT TRUMP FOR OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE, AND HE SHOULD DO SO

SPECIAL COUNSEL MUELLER IS CONSIDERING WHETHER TO INDICT TRUMP FOR OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE, AND HE SHOULD DO SO

As the Special Counsel’s investigation picks up steam, with the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates already filed and the guilty pleas with now cooperating witnesses Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulis publicly disclosed, Mueller’s team has amassed a wealth of information regarding President’s heavy-handed attempts to obstruct justice.

The avalanche of damning evidence of Trump’s obstruction of justice started with the firing of FBI Director James Comey on May 9, 2017 after direct attempts by Trump failed to extract from Comey a pledge of loyalty and a commitment to drop the FBI’s investigation of his former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. There is also evidence that Trump pressured Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to urge Comey to end his investigation into Flynn and his Russian connections, which was eerily reminiscent of former President Nixon’s attempt to use the CIA to derail the FBI investigation into Watergate and which ended up being included as part of the Articles of Impeachment against Nixon.

Despite the White House’s initial disinformation campaign to persuade the public that Comey was fired for other legitimate concerns, Trump could not resist telling NBC’s Lester Holt during a live interview on May 11, 2017 — two days after the firing — that Comey’s firing was due to “the Russia thing.”

If there was any doubt whatsoever that Trump fired Comey in order to try to quash the FBI’s and the Justice Department’s investigation of possible collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russian intelligence operatives to interfere with the 2016 election and to swing it in Trump’s direction, those doubts were dispelled when Trump told Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, in the Oval Office on May 10, 2017,  the day after the firing of the FBI Director, that he had discharged “Nut Job” Comey in order to take “pressure” off the Russian investigation. Only Trump, the two Russian officials, and a Russian news representative were permitted to be in the Oval Office during this critical discussion, which also involved the disclosure of highly sensitive and classified information that the U.S. had obtained from Israeli intelligence about the Islamic State.

Two months before he fired Comey, Trump ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia investigation, saying that he needed Sessions to provide active oversight over the Russia investigation in order to “protect him” and “safeguard” him. Mueller can persuasively argue that the only possible reason why Trump would be so desperate for Sessions to “protect” him was that Trump had something to hide from the federal prosecutors, and that he was desperately afraid that the investigation would lead into troubling areas regarding the underlying “collusion” investigation, or into collateral areas such as the Trump Organization’s heavy reliance on Russian money of suspicious origin in possible violation of U.S. money laundering laws.

After Comey was fired and replaced by Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who corroborated Comey’s testimony regarding Trump’s repeated requests for a “loyalty oath” from Comey, Trump pressured FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire McCabe, causing Wray to threaten to resign, according to news reports. Trump continued to berate McCabe in a barrage of twitter rants, until McCabe finally capitulated and announced his abrupt and early retirement from the FBI.

Trump is also reported to have ordered White House Counsel McGahn to fire Special Counsel Mueller, only to back down – at least for the time being- when McGahn threatened to resign.

The question being pondered by the Special Counsel’s office is what to do with all of this evidence of criminal obstruction of justice by Trump himself. Although the Justice Department issued two legal opinions in 1973 and 2000 during the investigations of Presidents Nixon and Clinton, concluding that a sitting President could not be indicted, there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution itself that explicitly says that. All that the Constitution says about the prosecution of the President is that, in Article I, Section 3, he (or she) is subject to prosecution after being impeached by the House of Representatives, and then convicted and removed from office by a two-thirds vote of the Senate.[1] It is silent on the issue of whether a President can be indicted before being impeached, or whether the two proceedings can take place simultaneously.

Legal memos prepared in 1973 for the Watergate Special Prosecutor and for Kenneth W. Starr, the Independent Counsel investigating allegations against President Clinton, reached the conclusion that a sitting President could be indicted if the evidence warranted it, which put both of these special federal prosecutors at odds with official Department of Justice policy.

Special Counsel Mueller, in consultation with Deputy Attorney Rosenstein, may well decide that the evidence of President Trump’s violations of the criminal obstruction of justice statutes is so compelling that the Grand Jury should be asked to return an indictment against him. President Trump’s lawyers will make an inevitable motion to dismiss the indictment on constitutional grounds, and that question will then finally have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the alternative, if the Special Counsel merely ask the Grand Jury to issue a Report laying out the evidence against President Trump, or name President Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in an Obstruction of Justice indictment, then they will be violating the sacred principle that “No man is above the law,” even a sitting President. Passing the buck to Congress to consider impeachment of the president is not a good option, since impeachment is, at its core, a political decision as to whether a sitting president who has demonstrated that he is unfit to fulfill the duties of the office should be allowed to complete his term or not. That decision (whether to impeach or not) may have little or nothing to do with the issue of whether a president has violated the criminal laws, and whether he should be prosecuted for violations of those laws “without fear or favor,” just like every other citizen.

[1] Article 1, Section 3 states: “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States; but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.”

IN PRAISE OF THE 70s CROWD

hey used to refer to us behind our backs as “the over-the-hill” crowd. Adults in their 70s started “forgetting” their birthdays, and even fudging their ages on resumes for fear that they would be passed over for jobs due to “ageism,” the implicit bias against old people.

Not so much anymore. People in their 70s seem to be ruling the world, or at least much of it. Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to perhaps the most important job of his life after he hit the age of 70, and his senior, Bernie Sanders, seemed driven through the Presidential primary campaign by a near-boundless source of energy at the ripe young age of 73. If only the DNC had not wanted to play it so safe, deciding to go with Hillary (no spring chicken herself). Who decided that a 73-year old unabashed Socialist couldn’t get elected as President? If a reality show star who apparently (according to Michael Wolff) can’t read and has the attention-span of a 6-year old with ADD on Ritalin can make it to the White House, then anyone can!

  1. To be sure, we are on the “back nine,” but that does not mean that we should be sidelined or counted out of the game. I recently went to see my orthopedic surgeon for a hip X-ray. I had been avoiding making an appointment for months – perhaps years – since I was in deep denial of the increasingly obvious reality that I needed a hip replacement. After all, I had run over 24 New York Marathons and completed some of them under 3 hours, which is fairly respectable for an aging amateur. But in recent years, I had joined the Achilles Team of disabled runners, where I would act as an informal “guide” to one or more of my permanently disabled running colleagues, who did not have the same surgical options as I did to “cure” my growing disability.

My orthopedic surgeon specialized in sports medicine. A large poster in his waiting room urged his patients to “Get Back In the Game.” When he informed me of the obvious, that I had been running with “bone on bone” for years, I asked him if a could still run marathons with the new hip. He just looked at me and slowly nodded. Not in a good way. But who knows. I may surprise him yet. You can no longer count us “old codgers” out!

No one reacts much anymore when they learn that I have a 10-year old son. A generation ago, I would have been shunned or whispered about as a “dirty old man.” But not anymore. One of my closest colleagues and contemporary has an 11-year old son. No big deal. In fact, did you know that Medicare will pay us, seniors, a bonus for raising a minor child? I didn’t know it at the time, and it wasn’t part of my financial planning for my “golden years,” but it certainly came as a pleasant surprise.

I also have several other children running up to the age of 38, which also is not that unusual these days. Of course, it usually takes two plus marriages, which is what happened in my case. My wife is somewhat younger, which you may have already surmised, but she got her hip replaced before me. Nothing to do with age, though. She had always been an avid skier and competitive tennis player. “Better to wear it out than rust it out,” she is fond of saying. Now we will have something else to share; yet another bond between us (new hips). In fact, with a new hip, doesn’t the average age of your body parts go down?

Our next youngest is 23, and he just completed his Marine basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina. These days, it is not unreasonable for me to expect actually to be around and functioning reasonably well (albeit in my 90s) if he spends his full career as a Marine and retires in 20 years.

And that brings us to Donald J. Trump, who seems to be giving all of us 70-somethings a bad name. Steve Bannon apparently told the author Michael Wolff that Trump “had lost it,” or words to that effect. The rest of the White House staff and close family members seem to concur. Sad as he often tweets, since he has never learned the fine art of emailing. There is an exception to every rule. Maybe someone should take that “big nuclear button” away from him before he hurts himself, and blows up the world in the process. If he were in a senior living facility, they would probably have already taken any real silverware away from him and issued him a spork. How could the American people have been so thoughtless as to have given an increasingly deranged man the nuclear codes?

Won’t somebody do something? After all, I wrote up a 20-year plan for myself on New Year’s Day, and I would like to be permitted the opportunity to execute that plan. Thank you very much.