Guatemalan Justice For Schiff? Trump Draws Fire Over Wanting A “Tougher” Judicial System

I have previously criticized President Donald Trump for his attacks on the media and references to “tough” measures in dealing with protesters or immigrants. Yesterday, President Trump made a disturbing comment to the visiting Guatemalan President about House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. Trump stated that Guatemala would know how to get “tougher” with Schiff over his controversial speech where he pretended to read from an exchange between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart — a mocking speech that made up incriminating lines. The remark suggested that Trump would prefer a system where legislators and critics could be arrested for such political commentary. No president should express a preference for such abusive legal measures. Trump’s own State Department has documented abuses in the Guatemalan legal system, including mistreatment of political opponents.

Trump lamented that it is unfair that Schiff couldn’t be prosecuted over his conduct during the impeachment inquiry: “When you have a guy like shifty Schiff go out and make up a statement I made – He said this is what I said but I never said it, he totally made it up,” Trump said. “In Guatemala, they handle things much . . . tougher than that and because of immunity . . . he can’t be prosecuted.”

Putting aside the inappropriate use of this state visit for such political venting, the suggestion that President Trump would prefer a system where members could be prosecuted is unnerving and irresponsible. Legislative immunity is a tradition going back to early English law and one of the touchstones of the system created by the Framers. Moreover, it would invited authoritarianism and destroy free speech if the government could arrest people for such political commentary. We have defamation laws to protect against knowingly false statements. However, President Trump is equally unhappy with those laws. In this case, Schiff can claim that he was engaging in political speech that was undeniably mocking and parody. It would not make for an actionable case even under torts.

Members can legitimately support Trump in this impeachment without supporting such statements against another member — and against fundamental aspects of our legal system. Indeed, such statements only make matters more difficult for Senators who want to support the President but do not wish to associate with such statements.

45 thoughts on “Guatemalan Justice For Schiff? Trump Draws Fire Over Wanting A “Tougher” Judicial System”

    1. Actually, the President has been Impeached and nothing can ever make that go away. If it’s any consolation, Bill Clinton was also Impeached, although not convicted. It’s highly unlikely Trump will be convicted, although if the next few months is like any three months in his Presidency. We’ll learn more about related and unrelated crimes that the Republican Senators won’t acknowledge.

      1. Actually, the President has been Impeached and nothing can ever make that go away.

        In a year, Anon1 will still care. Normal people will not.

        1. Trump will care, deeply. While he has no shame he’s full of pride and he’s taken a hit. Of course, maybe he can convince more of his followers he hasn’t really been impeached? He had at least one person believing that.

  1. The House of Representatives has overreached and abused its power with this faux impeachment. Impeachment must be deemed partisan if it is not bipartisan. This impeachment is obviously partisan and not what was intended by the founding fathers.There has to be some way to prevent individuals like Pelosi, Schiff, and Nadler from initiating such nonsense and there must be accountability. “Legislative immunity” must have some limits!

  2. Professor Turley, please! Shall we engage some perspective?

    If President Trump is “tough,” what was Abraham Lincoln who, being elected with 38.9% of the vote (a la Hitler), seized power, neutralized the legislative and judicial branches, denied constitutional secession, prosecuted an unconstitutional war against a sovereign foreign nation, suspended Habeas Corpus with extreme brutality, confiscated private property, issued an unconstitutional proclamation with no legal basis or authority (the national condition was secession not rebellion), committed heinous and atrocious “total war” on women, children,homes, farms, industries and cities in seceding states and promoted the perversion of the amendment process improperly ratifying the unconstitutional “Reconstruction Amendments” at gunpoint under the duress of brutal, post-war, military occupation?

    If President Trump is “tough,” what was Abraham Lincoln who nullified constitutional American freedom and commenced the progressive movement into dictatorial communism by first eliminating “classes” from society per Karl Marx’s dictum?

    If President Trump is “tough,” what was “Crazy Abe?”

    1. George you make a good point about Lincoln. He certainly was a dictatorial leader who ignored the constitution. History is crystal clear on that point. Among the other measures, he also ordered or at least condoned the deliberate targeting of non-combatant civilians, ie Sherman’s march to the sea, which was explicitly pursued by General Sherman as a terror operation.

      Moreover, the modifications to the constitution, after the war, were imposed on the losing parties, not by “democracy” but by the organized violence of war. That’s 13 and 14 and 15th amendments.

      They probably don’t teach that in schools anymore because the truth is so racist. or whatever.

      1. Mr. Kurtz, you speak the truth. The phenomenon you refer to is the dirty little secret that the victors write the history books. America was forced to present the brutal tyrant “Crazy Abe” as a hero. Blacks have no idea that Lincoln was the quintessential racist. There is a Lincoln statue and memorial in Wash D.C. just like the statue of Stalin in Moscow. The victors wrote the history; their history. It’s absurd but it all serves the goals of the communists who have “progressively” nullified just about the entirety of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. BTW, both documents should be understood as the 2nd Amendment states, “shall not be infringed;” every right, freedom, privilege and immunity of Americans “…shall not be infringed.” Period.

  3. This is one reason why he got elected and why he will win reelection. He says what everyday Americans think. The fact he is powerless (and for good reason) to actually enforce these opinions seems to be lost on the anti-Trumpers. Constitutional conservatives have never and will never support such an abuse of power. Contrary to what many on the Left believe, we don’t blindly support this president. He is on a short leash and if actual evidence (not feelings) exists of impeachable crimes, then there will be bipartisan support for his removal from office. Until then, I will expect this president will continue to use his bully pulpit more effectively than the likes of Schiff, Nadler and Pelosi use theirs.

    1. Facts, evidence and witnesses are “not feelings”. Constitutional conservatives are right, Trump has and will abuse the office of POTUS. Trump supporters have pledged their loyalty to a man, and not to the laws of this country’s laws and constitution. They wanted their own dictator that hated the same people that they themselves hate. And Trump proves without doubt, that he is effectively unfit for the office everyday. Schiff, Nadler and Pelosi have proven their oath to defend and protect the constitution, has Trump?

      1. Fishy:

        “Facts, evidence and witnesses are “not feelings”. Constitutional conservatives are right, Trump has and will abuse the office of POTUS. Trump supporters have pledged their loyalty to a man, and not to the laws of this country’s laws and constitution. They wanted their own dictator that hated the same people that they themselves hate. And Trump proves without doubt, that he is effectively unfit for the office everyday. Schiff, Nadler and Pelosi have proven their oath to defend and protect the constitution, has Trump?”

        ****************************

        Just loving the “that’s just obvious” reasoning fallacy. Wanna raise an ad hominem or another ad populum? Ooops, you already did!

      2. They aren’t defending anything more than their own narrow advantage.

        I will admit and say I want a real leader of flesh and blood. I am loyal to people not to papers.

        We know Democrats never have been too worried about the constitution. Certainly they weren’t in the 1930s when FDR forced major changes on American central government and relationships to the states and people, that were hitherto forbidden.

        Or LBJ for that matter.

        Dems: tyranny is ok when their guy does it. Just remember that folks.

      3. Facts, evidence and witnesses are “not feelings”.

        Well Democrats went 1 for 3; which is not bad for a major league hitter. And no, his average doesn’t go up if tells the umpire he feels that 3rd strike was a ball when there is no evidence. But if you’re going to impeach the president, it would have been better if those witnesses had facts and evidence as witnesses.

    1. Another abuse of his office.

      Benson,
      On a different thread you stated: No role for the courts is specified in the Constitution. So where in the constitution does it say the President cannot make these statements?

  4. There’s no way you can defend the now indelible schiff stain upon our history, uour core values, or the American Way. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the president to defend the People against all enemies foreign and domestic. Be thankful Trump has chosen to merely excoriate because if left to the electorate to resolve these issues, or this matter, believe me, those who derive their living from words on a page are NOT going to like the outcome if, in fact, we are forced to relive history in Thomas Hutchinson fashion.

  5. Good suggestion but desaparecida is even more appropriate and you get that by charging Pelosi under the Patriot Acts provisions for terrorists.

    Funny ha ha the left voted for that and it didn’t exclude Citizens NOR Congress.

  6. Good suggestion but desaparecida is even more appropriate and you get that by charging Pelosi under the Patriot Acts provisions for terrorists.

  7. Every day for the last 2 years I’ve watched Democrats and the Press publicly air and demonically scream their hatred of the US and our President. Democrats have mocked, demeaned, and encouraged international derision of our country and president. Now Democrats are encouraging foreign corruption in areas like the Ukraine.

  8. As hard as they tried, Putin’s asset in the White House, and the GOP “Gang Of Putin” could not make Trump the dictator that they wanted.

  9. While I have a distinct distaste for Trump’s comments, many of them, I believe there should be a limit to legislative immunity when it involves outright lies and fabrications. Schiff’s incitement of the Left through outright lies amounts to screaming FIRE in a theater. While Trump verbally attacks people, the Democrats attack with the power of the State. Who prosecuted reporters? Who used the FBI and the surveillance powers of the government to lie, omit and fabricate? Wasn’t Trump.

    1. I agree.

      On Sunday with Chris Wallace, Schiff stated that, in hindsight looking back two years ago, he would have supported a thorough review of the FBI’s conduct in the submission of the FISA application. Another blatant lie as he contradicted every claim of the Nunes memo with own inventions but the IG report confirmed those claims by Nunes, so he was aware of the FBI malfeasance. There should be some serious sanction, at a minimum, when a person in an authoritative position (e.g. head of a committee) uses his position to intentionally mislead the American public. He also repeatedly lied to the American public the he had “clear evidence” of Trump-Russia collusion that he never presented.

      1. My frustration with Schiff is immense. I, too, think there should be a way to call him, or any other person in authority, to account for their lies.

        1. Well, Beth, let’s start with Trump. CNN keeps count of his lies, which he tells every single day, and it’s in the thousands.

  10. How long has Schiff had a spy “whistle blower” leaking President Trumps conversion with foreign leaders? i.e. Prime Minister of Australia? Instead of leaking Ukraine President conversation to embarrass Schiff lawyers weaponized it in form of WhistleBlower to concoct a narrative of what Trump meant & was thinking on phone call & Schiff becomes leftist darling that impeached President Trump with unconstitutional articles @SCOTUS would overturn on Constitutional violations if it reached the court

  11. Well I doubt Trump was being serious about actionable changes.. He just wanted to take a shot at Schiff, which will be a political winner for him for some time. If you can show me concrete actions, as University Presidents have done in actually banning speakers, then I would give it attention.

  12. JT, I have been trying to show you that Trump is one of the main destroyers of freedom of speech. This destruction is bi-partisan and the will to end freedom of speech is shared on the left and the right. Yes, this is horrifying.

    The Trump administration is right now involved in the utter destruction of the First Amendment through its case against Assange. Here you will see the ability to subvert not only US courts, but the courts of other nations, such as the UK. This is a man who is being tortured and will likely end up dead for the “crime” of exposing US war crimes.

    The absolute ability to subvert justice and to control multiple jurisdictions of courts for the purpose of destroying freedom of speech is clear and I have been dismayed that you will not look into this case nor speak out about something which will render our Constitution null and void. I thought that was the very essence of being a professor of Constitutional law.

    However, I’m glad you will finally admit to this government’s attempts to destroy the courts and freedom of speech in this particular case. It is disturbing and Trump supporters, like the Obama supporters before them, refuse to reckon with the destruction of their rights because they can’t see this unless it is done by the “other” party. Time to start seeing things much more clearly and oppose that which should be opposed by virtue of ethics/commitment to justice, party be damned..

    1. jill

      you are correct on all counts. the rich, and their cheerleaders prefer dictatorships, not democracy. that’s why they felt we should have aligned with Hitler against the Soviet Union.

  13. “In Guatemala, they handle things much . . . tougher than that and because of immunity . . . he can’t be prosecuted.”
    ************
    Indeed, in all of Central and South America, they do. So would I support Schiff with a Columbian necktie? Hummm … Where’s Lee Bailey when you need him?

  14. There must be limits and boundaries for elected officials. They say things and do things with impunity. For example we have Comey, Strozk, Page, Ohr, McCabe to list a few, who conspired to oust our president, lied to FISA court and none of them has lost their license to practice law. That’s disgraceful.
    We have Brennan and Clapper walking tall and free. These people and countless others have destroyed lives with their hatred and and continue disgraceful attempts to destroy our President.
    We’ve had enough. What recourse do the American people have? A class action suit against these individuals would send a message: we’re fed up our tax dollars are used against us because they disagree with our vote!
    I’m fed up!
    There should be consequences for Schiff’s actions and his lies. He’s unable to differentiate truth from lies.
    I’m fed up. I can’t say it enough!

  15. I am going to cut the President some slack on this one. The Democrats spent all of yesterday calling him a criminal and a traitor. He get a freebie.

      1. bill – there is no evidence he is either. And even if he were, he has done more for the country in 3 years than any other President.

      2. Bill, McWilliams,
        I missed the words “traitor” and “criminal” in the Articles of Impeachment.
        They must have overlooked the “evidence” that you claim is there.

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