This weekend my column on the Trump pardon controversy ran in the Washington Post. Notably, while the article did not say conclusively that a President can issue a self-pardon, the title (which authors do not approve) said that he could (the print version title refers to pardoning aides which is the thrust of the column). As I have stated in the press, I consider this one of the most difficult questions in the Constitution. I wrote that there is nothing in the Constitution that says that a president cannot self-pardon and that this was a very close and unresolved question. The same day, a column ran that said conclusively that the self-pardon are clearly and textually barred by the Constitution. That column was written by Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe, Minnesota Professor Richard Painter, and Brookings Institution fellow Norman Eisen. I must respectfully disagree despite my respect for the prior work of all three of these men. While I believe that it would have been better for the Framers to expressly bar self-pardons, they did not do so. What is left is a difficult interpretive question that is not answered by the arguments made in the column. Indeed, some of the arguments are challengeable on either a historical or legal basis. This is an issue that could easily go either way in the courts. In the meantime, President Trump this morning fueled greater speculation with a tweet referring to his “complete power to pardon.”
For an Administration that has long complained about the effort of “the deep state” to undermine President Trump, the most recent leak detailed in the Washington Post will confirm an openly hostile intent by people within the intelligence community. The Post published accounts of how Russia’s ambassador to Washington Sergey Kislyak told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters with then Sen. Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race. If true, the account would conflict with Sessions earlier denials.
The media is reporting that President Donald Trump’s legal team is investigating possible conflicts of interest by former FBI Director Robert Mueller. Today I ran a column in USA Today on those conflicts of not just Mueller but Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. I have great respect for Mueller but I believe it was a mistake of Rosenstein to select him given his history with Comey and his reported interview with Trump for Comey’s job. Nevertheless, as I have stated since this story broke this morning, I am very concerned with any concerted effort to investigate the investigators. Such an approach is less evidence of a strategy as a spasm. Clearly, defense counsel has a right — if not an obligation — to raise any known conflicts of interest with the Justice Department. Yet, such investigations can easily get out of hand and can trip legal wires if aides are too aggressive in investigating the investigators.
Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on how critics of Donald Trump have been calling for radical extensions or interpretations of criminal provisions against core figures. The implications for such interpretations of crimes like treason need to be considered by critics.
The Chinese government is searching for a plump counter-revolutionary with a taste for honey and irony. Yes, the Communist regime has banned Winnie the Pooh who is apparently a running dog exploiter bent on turning workers against the one and true Party. The regime learned that the image of Pooh was being used as a surrogate for Xi Jinping as a way of getting around censorship laws (Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo is portrayed as Eeyore). As a result, Pooh and presumably his capitalist overlord Christopher Robin are no longer welcomed in China.
President Donald Trump gave a bombshell interview with the New York Times on Wednesday in which he said that he would not have appointed Jeff Sessions to be attorney general had he known Sessions would recuse himself from the Russian investigation. It was a highly disturbing interview since Sessions recused on the advice of ethics experts at the Justice Department and the overwhelming view of the bar.