Below is my column in the Hill on the increasingly divisive rhetoric and actions taken on Capitol Hill. Rather than plot a course to between greater unity, many are seeking to muscle through extreme measures that will only further aggravate and deepen our divisions. The media from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times have run editorials encouraging aggressive moves to secure control of the Senate, including the ending of the filibuster. That move would make every vote a muscle play — producing sweeping changes in a country that is clearly divided and seeking political compromise.
“I can pardon everybody’s mistakes except my own.” Those words of Cato of Elder have long been the principle guiding presidents who have resisted the temptation of issuing themselves self-pardons. There have been ample abuses of this power, but that is one dishonor that presidents have spared the country. Despite predictions by many in the media, Trump left office without adding that ignoble distinction. He did not grant clemency to himself, his family, or close associates like Rudy Giuliani. What is so telling is that we are so shellshocked from the last four years that this act of restraint was a reason for celebration and praise. Notably, the lack of the self-pardon might not be a welcomed by critics as it may appear. There is now no impediment to a charge for incitement, a much-touted possible charge that some of us believe would fail ultimately in the courts on either the trial or appellate levels.
Some of the crimes committed in the Capitol riot are truly breathtaking. One of those was the alleged theft of the laptop belonging to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). That alone is extraordinary but now federal officials are alleging that Riley June Williams not only took the laptop but tried to sell it to the Russians. That allegation would ratchet up charges already including knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, violent entry, and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Williams, 22, is a health care worker.Continue reading “FBI: Woman Who Stole Pelosi’s Laptop May Have Tried To Sell It To The Russians”→
Former FBI Director James Comey declared yesterday that he believes Joe Biden should consider granting clemency for President Donald Trump “as part of the healing of the country.” Just as I have long opposed self-pardons as an abuse of presidential power, I also have long opposed such pardons by their presidential successors. Comey is echoing the Ford rationale used in the Nixon pardon, which I continue to view as the wrong decision. Impeachments go to the status of presidents as the officeholders. Indictments go to their status as individuals. Indeed, I have long believed that presidents can be indicted while in office, including both President Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump. Continue reading “No, Joe Biden Should Not Pardon Donald Trump”→
With the entry of the 217th vote, the House of Representatives have impeached President Donald Trump for a second time. As I have previously stated, my primary objection to this action is the use of a snap impeachment that dispenses with the traditional hearing or inquiry of impeachment. There was no opportunity to debate the language or the implications of the language. Indeed, the House gave the President a threshold challenge based on this process. With the addition of a possible trial after Trump leaves office, the rush to judgment could become a parade of constitutional horribles. The use of impeachment to “remove” a president who has already left office is ripe for challenge on the Senate floor and even later in the federal courts.
As reported by Newsweek, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D., N.J.) has gone public with an extraordinary allegation against some of her colleagues that they conducted secret surveillance in a conspiracy with rioters at the Capitol. If true, those members could be criminally charged and expelled from the House. Conversely, if Sherrill has no such evidence, she could (and should) face a resolution of censure or resolution.
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine has declared that he is considering arresting President Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks with inciting the violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol. He noted that, while the Justice Department does not believe you can charge a sitting president, he can do so in a matter of days. Ironically, I believe Trump can be indicted immediately as a constitutional matter but that his prosecution would ultimately collapse on free speech grounds.
Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on my concerns over the planned “snap impeachment” this year. In my view, impeaching on the speech alone would raise serious concerns over the use of impeachment in the future. Many Democrats, including members of Congress, refused to accept Trump as the legitimate president when he was elected and refused to do so as rioting broke out at the inauguration. Many of the same members have used the same type of rhetoric to “take back the country” and “fight for the country.” The concern is that this impeachment will not only create precedent for an expedited pathway of “snap impeachments” but allow future Congresses to impeach presidents for actions of their supporters. The point of this column is to call for greater caution and deliberation before we take this step to consider the basis and implications of this impeachment. As with the calls to use the 25th Amendment, there are real dangers to any opportunistic or hurried use of this option. There is also the alternative of a joint and bipartisan condemnation of both houses, which would be both justified and unassailable.
As I have said, there could be evidence to support impeachment on the proposed incitement article but it would have to be found before or after the speech to show an intent to spark rioting or to allow it to continue. As with the 25th Amendment claim, such evidence would be found from within the White House and through a traditional impeachment inquiry.
On January 7th, an attorney representing President Donald Trump filed a one-page motion of withdrawal from a case filed shortly after the election. That is hardly remarkable with attorneys entering and leaving cases every day in federal court. What is remarkable is the reason. Philadelphia-based attorney Jerome Marcus told the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania that he was withdrawing because President Trump used him, and his election challenge, to “perpetuate a crime.” The filing raises some troubling questions regarding the alleged criminal conduct as well as the necessity of making such an allegation in a simple motion to withdraw from representation.
For many legal analysts, President Donald Trump remains a type of criminal Midas figure: everything he says or does turns instantly into a crime. Over the last few years, the media has published a long line of unfounded criminal theories by experts claiming that a tweet or a meeting or a statement established a clear prosecutable case. It is a popular and profitable take with the media which has been feeding an insatiable appetite for such reassuring views. Law has become a recreation and legal analysts have become part of the legal entertainment. Continue reading “Trump’s Midas Touch: Legal Experts Line Up To Declare The Georgia Call As The Latest Crime By Trump”→
We have been discussing curious Covid-related offenses this year, but a Wisconsin controversy raises a particularly challenging such question. Advocate Aurora Health has admitted that an employee intentionally removed 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine from refrigeration. The intentional act, originally claimed to be accidental, resulted in the destruction of 500 doses of the potentially life-saying vaccine. Advocate Aurora Health said the employee was fired. However, an intentional destruction of the doses would seem the ultimate product tampering case: either compromised vaccines would be given patients or 500 people will have to wait longer for the protection from Covid-19.
We have previously discussed attorneys arrested in attacks with Molotov cocktails during protests. One of the individuals charged in the firebombing of police cars during Black Lives Matter protests in Arkansas turns out to be a former public radio reporter, Renea Goddard, 22. She is one of four charged in the slashing of police car tires and burning them with Molotov cocktails.
President Donald Trump has been criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike for his recent spate of pardons, including corrupt ex-congressmen and the father of Jared Kushner. I was one of those who immediately criticized those pardons as manifestly unjustified and inimical to our legal system. However, none of that makes the comments of senior U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt of the Southern District of Iowa any less troubling. Judge Pratt gave an interview slamming the pardons in a departure from judicial ethics rules barring jurists from engaging in such political commentary.