Abuse of Power

Journamalists, Pundits, and Bloggers are getting this all wrong.

Breaking news on the most significant legal scandal to hit this White House since the report that Donald Trump tried to fire Bob Mueller. This is truly a bombshell. President Donald trump tried to order the Justice Department to prosecute not one but two of his biggest adversaries, Hillary Clinton and James Comey. The story is that in the spring, Donald Trump told his White House counsel, Don McGahn, that he wanted the DOJ officials to explicitly prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey. So that right there is a potentially illegal act. And that is quite important, given that obstruction is still under investigation in this White House.

What happened next is also important. Don McGahn, according to this New York Times report, refused and then went on to try to show Donald Trump in detail why this was, potentially an impeachable bad idea. White House lawyers wrote this memo described in the Times saying if they went forward, the consequences would be damaging and, yes, would include, quote, possible impeachment. Now that right there is a big deal.

It is usually Donald Trump’s critics and adversaries who are talking about his potential impeachment. We don’t use the “I” word because it is an extreme constitutional remedy. According to the New York Times it was his own lawyers, his chief counsel, Don McGahn, saying, “Mr. President, if you do this, you could be impeached.” That’s not all. The Times reporting that Donald Trump would go on to continue to privately agitate for these investigations of Hillary Clinton, obviously his chief rival in politics, and James Comey, his former FBI director.

This news I want to be clear is a scale way beyond anything else we have seen in legal controversies with Donald Trump. And that’s saying something. …This is a report tonight for the first time that the President of the United States actively and explicitly tried to prosecute Hillary Clinton, a political opponent, and James Comey, the key witness in the obstruction probe. That request, if it happened, that order, if it was given, is blatantly unconstitutional.

(h/t Red Painter @ Crooks and Liars)

Obstruction of Justice?! Not at all. It’s an Abuse of Power. Allow me to explain.

While Trump’s attempt to pressure the Department of JustUs to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey is indeed heinous it’s not an Obstruction of Justice. There is no ongoing Judicial process. These are innocent people (well, legally) and what Trump was going to do was force the JustUs Department to charge them with invented criminal activity because they were his political opponents.

This is the exact equivalent of Richard Nixon attempting to use the IRS to punish his political enemies. Different Government Agency, same act and motivation.

Nixon also attempted to use the National Security apparatus (the Alphabet Agencies) to do the same thing and the only reason Trump hasn’t tried that is because they despise him as the Traitor he is.

But they’re all Government Agencies reporting directly to him. He can order them to do what he wants theoretically but some orders are illegal (violating Constitutional Rights for instance).

Since there is no ongoing Judicial process against Clinton or Comey Trump can hardly be charged with obstructing it. Instead he can rightly be charged with using his Supervisory Authority to direct the Full Power of the Federal Government against individuals that vex him, an activity that left unchecked could be directed at any random Twitter user who doesn’t follow or like him.

That is Abuse of Power.

Lest you think it not such a big deal let me remind you that it was the second Article of Impeachment against Richard Nixon (the first being Obstruction of Justice and the third being Contempt of Congress).

Trump Wanted to Order Justice Dept. to Prosecute Comey and Clinton
By Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, The New York Times
Nov. 20, 2018

President Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

The lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution. Mr. McGahn said that while he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power. To underscore his point, Mr. McGahn had White House lawyers write a memo for Mr. Trump warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment.

The encounter was one of the most blatant examples yet of how Mr. Trump views the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies. It took on additional significance in recent weeks when Mr. McGahn left the White House and Mr. Trump appointed a relatively inexperienced political loyalist, Matthew G. Whitaker, as the acting attorney general.

It is unclear whether Mr. Trump read Mr. McGahn’s memo or whether he pursued the prosecutions further. But the president has continued to privately discuss the matter, including the possible appointment of a second special counsel to investigate both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Comey, according to two people who have spoken to Mr. Trump about the issue. He has also repeatedly expressed disappointment in the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, for failing to more aggressively investigate Mrs. Clinton, calling him weak, one of the people said.

Mr. Trump repeatedly pressed Justice Department officials about the status of Clinton-related investigations, including Mr. Whitaker when he was the chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversations. CNN first reported those discussions.

In his conversation with Mr. McGahn, the president asked what stopped him from ordering the Justice Department to investigate Mr. Comey and Mrs. Clinton, the two people familiar with the conversation said. He did have the authority to ask the Justice Department to investigate, Mr. McGahn said, but warned that making such a request could create a series of problems.

Mr. McGahn promised to write a memo outlining the president’s authorities. In the days that followed, lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office wrote a several-page document in which they strongly cautioned Mr. Trump against asking the Justice Department to investigate anyone.

The lawyers laid out a series of consequences. For starters, Justice Department lawyers could refuse to follow Mr. Trump’s orders even before an investigation began, setting off another political firestorm.

If charges were brought, judges could dismiss them. And Congress, they added, could investigate the president’s role in a prosecution and begin impeachment proceedings.

Ultimately, the lawyers warned, Mr. Trump could be voted out of office if voters believed he had abused his power.

Mr. Trump stoked his enmity for Mrs. Clinton during the campaign, suggesting during a presidential debate that he would prosecute her if he was elected president. “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation,” Mr. Trump said.

“It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country,” Mrs. Clinton replied.

“Because you would be in jail,” Mr. Trump shot back.

During the presidential race, Mr. Whitaker, a former United States attorney, also said he would have indicted Mrs. Clinton, contradicting Mr. Comey’s highly unusual public announcement that he would recommend the Justice Department not charge her over her handling of classified information while secretary of state.

“When the facts and evidence show a criminal violation has been committed, the individuals involved should not dictate whether the case is prosecuted,” Mr. Whitaker wrote in an op-ed in USA Today in July 2016.

Whittaker? He deserves a place in History (and Hell) next to John Mitchell, Richard Kleindienst, and Robert Bork.

Except of course he was never Senate confirmed and his very appointment is an Obstruction of Justice.