SERVING THE FILIPINO COMMUNITY SINCE 1993
JULY 6, 2019

COVER STORY

COVER STORY

Calls for Trump Impeachment...(cont.)

 

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As a matter of principle and Constitutional duty

Other Democrats (mainly in the Senate) are calling on impeachment proceedings to begin as a matter of principle.

Senator Elizabeth Warren said: “This is not about politics. This is about the Constitution of the United States of America. We took an oath not to try to protect Donald Trump. We took an oath to protect and serve the Constitution of the United States of America. And the way we do that is we begin impeachment proceedings, now, against this president.”

Warren said, “The only reason Mueller did bring an indictment is

because Mueller was following the Justice Department of the Trump administration saying that a sitting president cannot be criminally indicted. But he (Mueller) served up on a silver platter all of those facts to the United States Congress because in our checks and balance system, it’s up to Congress to ensure that the president is not above the law.”

Mueller report findings

A group of 636 former Justice Department prosecutors who served under both Democratic and Republican administrations issued a letter titled “Statement by Former Federal Prosecutors.” In it, prosecutors rebuked Attorney General William Barr’s interpretation of the Mueller report that it cleared the president of any wrongdoing. Instead prosecutors assert that Trump would be indicted for obstruction of justice if he were not the sitting president.

The bipartisan letter stated: “Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”

Three points the prosecutors say satisfied elements for an obstruction charge:

  • The President’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort;
  • The President’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; and
  • The President’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign

A few specific examples of obstruction: The trail of evidence starts with Trump’s attempt to get Comey to drop an investigation into National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn.

When he refused, Trump fired James Comey, the FBI director responsible for overseeing the investigation into Trump’s relationship with Russia during the 2016 election.

Trump made two more attempts at stopping the investigation by trying (unsuccessfully) to fire Robert Mueller.

“In our system, every accused person is presumed innocent and it is always the government’s burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” the letter states. “But, to look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not probably sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice — the standard set out in Principles of Federal Prosecution — runs counter to logic and our experience.”

Senator Warren, a former Harvard law professor, framed the case for obstruction in one of the clearest and simplest ways anyone has. She said the Mueller report showed:

  1. A hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 elections to help Donald Trump get elected.
  2. Donald Trump as a candidate welcomed that help.
  3. When our federal government tried to investigate parts 1 and 2. Donald Trump did everything he could to derail, push aside, and otherwise obstruct that investigation.

She said the concept of a sitting president being beyond prosecution is not seated in any law or legislation. It’s a rule, a guideline set by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

 

Republicans stand by Trump

Since Atty. General Barr said the special counsel’s office would not be pursuing obstruction after the Mueller report’s release, Republicans believe the President has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “it’s time to move on.”

He called the ongoing investigations in the House partisan paralysis and “breathless conspiracy theorizing.”

“With an exhaustive investigation complete, would the country finally unify to confront the real challenges before us,” said McConnell.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, “How can you impeach somebody over not having broken any rules for impeachment? I believe it’s wrong to do... they have no basis for impeachment but they want to do it for a political reason.”

Only one Republican, Rep. Justin Amash, said the President has engaged in impeachable conduct and supports impeachment proceedings.

Local reaction

Lorraine Vega, a Democrat from Kunia said, “Trump is the worst president in my lifetime. He’s done so many bad things. He’s not a moral leader. I disagree with what he does all the time, but it’s not about that. Other presidents I also disagreed with what they stood for, but Trump should be impeached because he broke the law. That is plain for all to see.”

Reynaldo Domingo, an Independent from Ewa said, “Trump is doing a good job. Of course he shouldn’t be impeached. All of this stuff is a witch hunt, like Trump says. People don’t like him. That’s why they want him out. But that’s not how it works. Wait for the next election and vote him out if you want. That’s the way to do it.”

Marilyn Cabuslay, a Democrat from Kapolei said, “Congress must act and do what their constitutional duty requires of them. They shouldn’t be playing politics and worry about how impeachment will affect the 2020 presidential race. If you do that and do nothing, Democrats going to lose anyway because the people don’t like weak politicians.

“We want strong leaders who can fight and do the right thing. Come on Nancy, do your job. If the situation was the opposite way, guarantee the Republicans would already have started impeachment. Democrats always are too nice. They lose that way.”

New standard set should Congress fail to act

Some Democrats believe should Congress fail to step up to follow on the facts given to them in the Mueller report, it would change the relationship between the president and Congress for years even after Trump. Inaction would embolden future presidents to assert more executive power over Congress and undermine balance of power set under the Constitution.

The framers of the Constitution created three branches as a design of equal power-sharing. One branch would always have a check on the other two, a distribution set up to avoid tyranny. If any one of those three parts fails to do its job, then we have a problem.

Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, gave examples of Trump already violating separation of powers.

“By issuing a blanket refusal to respond to any congressional subpoena, Trump is saying Congress has no constitutional authority to oversee the executive branch. He’s telling America that Congress is a subordinate branch of government rather than a co-equal branch. Forget separation of powers.”

Reich adds, “By spending money on his ‘wall’ that Congress explicitly refused to authorize, Trump is saying that Congress no longer has any constitutional authority over spending. Goodbye, checks and balances.”

Most recently, the President’s stonewalling Congress’ investigation – this could be setting precedence for future presidents to not cooperate with Congress on potentially any investigation deemed to be a threat and on any issue.

For any president, shaking up the establishment in often unconventional ways is fair. But there are limits. Political historians will not be kind on this very moment if it resulted that the United States Constitution had been weakened because Congress failed to put a check on a president who broke the law.

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