STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Trump's legal strategy is all about impeachment

Monday morning, President Trump...

Posted: Jun 5, 2018 11:55 AM
Updated: Jun 5, 2018 11:55 AM

Monday morning, President Trump tweeted, "I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?" Among other tweets, this latest outburst spurs talk of pardons at a time when the New York Times has published a 20-page letter to special counsel Robert Mueller from Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow and former lawyer John Dowd.

With this stunning missive now a part of the public record, we can add Trump's misleading, "dictated" statement about his son's now infamous June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with admitted Russian "informant" Natalia Veselnitskaya to the dizzying list of obstructionist behavior he's displayed while in office. This obstructionist behavior includes, but is not limited to, his asking then-FBI Director James Comey for a loyalty pledge, urging him to drop his investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and his subsequent firing of Comey, citing a controversial memorandum written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which we now know was merely a pretext. The reasoning stated in the memorandum -- Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal -- was quickly belied by Trump's bald-faced assertion on national television that the actual reason he fired Comey was, quite simply, "this Russia thing."

We've known for a while that Trump likely had some involvement in drafting the July 8, 2017 press statement that said that that the participants in the meeting had "primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children," when -- in fact -- it was later revealed by Trump Jr. in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he went forward with the meeting because he was told that "someone had official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary Clinton and her dealings with Russia and that the information would be very useful to the campaign." When asked if he knew if President Trump had provided any "edits" to or "input" on the statement, Donald Jr. said "(h)e may have commented through Hope Hicks."

This latest revelation, admitted to by Trump's own legal team in their letter to Mueller, proves that the President lied to the press. There is no criminal statute prohibiting such behavior (just as there is no crime associated with lying on Twitter). But those lies do inform Robert Mueller's investigation insofar as they are evidence of state of mind, which is a key element in any criminal prosecution.

And this is where the leaked letter sheds important insight into Trump's legal team's strategy when dealing with the special counsel -- it isn't a legal strategy at all, but actually a PR strategy, with an eye toward the possible end result of impeachment proceedings.

We already know that Robert Mueller is operating under the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel stance that a sitting president cannot be indicted, which means that the investigation, as it pertains to the President, will lead to a report by the special counsel, which may or may not lead to impeachment.

This is where it is important to remember that criminality is not impeachability, and vice versa. If you drew a Venn diagram, with one circle representing criminality and the other representing impeachable offenses, you would have a lot of non-overlapping space.

And, cynical though it may be, Gerald Ford was correct when he famously said in 1970 amid the Nixon era that an impeachable offense "is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history."

Trump's legal team, as illustrated through their often-strained logic presented in this letter, is using this political reality to its advantage.

It is clear that the President's legal team is not actually concerned with whether or not the President's actions meet the requirements of an obstruction of justice charge. So unconcerned, in fact, that they actually cited an outdated obstruction statute in their hand-delivered letter to special counsel Robert Mueller.

Adding to all of this news Trump's recent pardoning spree, which in my opinion is an undeniable message to Michael Cohen and others that Trump will bail them out of federal crimes (like lying to federal investigators) if the going gets rough, and you have a pretty solid case for obstruction of justice. A pretty solid legal case, that is. But, for the reasons stated above, that may be largely irrelevant, practically speaking.

The big takeaway from that letter (and from Rudy Giuliani's recent medial blitz) is that his legal team is ultimately gearing up not for a legal battle to be waged in court (although they may have to duke out in court the issue of whether or not a sitting president can be subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury, and I predict they will lose), but an impeachment battle waged in Congress. And they are therefore starting by waging the war in the court of public opinion. After all, who do you think leaked the letter to the Times?

Due to an editing error, a sentence in an earlier version of this op-ed used "Nixon impeachment" instead of "Nixon era" in referring to Gerald Ford's statement in 1970. The piece has been updated with the correct word.

Huntsville
Scattered Clouds
89° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 97°
Florence
Few Clouds
91° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 100°
Fayetteville
Few Clouds
88° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 88°
Decatur
Few Clouds
89° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 99°
Scottsboro
Broken Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 102°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6030162
Mobile4418137
Montgomery4339109
Tuscaloosa254448
Madison19078
Marshall186611
Shelby150924
Lee149437
Morgan12205
Baldwin111410
Walker105127
Elmore98919
Dallas9639
Franklin92216
Etowah88214
DeKalb8416
Chambers65727
Russell6570
Autauga65313
Butler64328
Tallapoosa61669
Unassigned58626
Limestone5741
Houston5526
Cullman5395
Lauderdale5376
Lowndes48022
St. Clair4692
Colbert4656
Pike4595
Escambia4528
Calhoun4365
Coffee4074
Covington39911
Jackson3742
Bullock37010
Barbour3672
Dale3621
Talladega3497
Hale33722
Marengo33011
Wilcox2968
Clarke2946
Winston2893
Chilton2872
Sumter28512
Blount2731
Pickens2556
Monroe2492
Marion24514
Randolph2449
Conecuh2277
Perry2091
Bibb2081
Macon2069
Choctaw20212
Greene1928
Henry1433
Crenshaw1273
Washington1277
Lawrence1170
Cherokee1127
Geneva920
Lamar811
Fayette781
Clay742
Coosa621
Cleburne411
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 57591

Reported Deaths: 710
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby12842214
Davidson12549138
Rutherford332638
Hamilton308837
Sumner180256
Williamson159115
Trousdale15055
Knox14719
Out of TN125610
Wilson109917
Putnam9897
Bradley8894
Robertson88213
Sevier8633
Unassigned8372
Lake6970
Tipton6746
Montgomery6587
Bledsoe6251
Bedford5959
Macon5466
Hamblen4224
Maury4203
Hardeman3814
Fayette3463
Madison3402
Loudon3081
Rhea2940
Blount2803
Dyer2743
McMinn25718
Cheatham2522
Dickson2430
Washington2120
Lawrence2026
Cumberland1964
Anderson1782
Sullivan1782
Lauderdale1723
Gibson1581
Jefferson1571
Monroe1466
Smith1392
Coffee1340
Cocke1260
Greene1232
Hardin1207
Obion1182
Haywood1112
Warren1060
Franklin1043
Marshall1042
Wayne990
Hickman980
McNairy911
Marion904
Giles801
Lincoln800
White803
Hawkins792
Carter771
DeKalb760
Roane750
Weakley691
Overton681
Campbell651
Grundy652
Henderson620
Claiborne610
Unicoi560
Chester530
Carroll511
Polk510
Grainger500
Crockett483
Henry480
Cannon450
Johnson440
Sequatchie430
Jackson410
Humphreys382
Meigs350
Perry350
Morgan291
Decatur280
Stewart260
Fentress250
Scott220
Union200
Houston190
Clay180
Moore170
Benton151
Hancock100
Lewis100
Pickett70
Van Buren70

 

 

Community Events