Greg Lance – Watkins
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although it may well be that the USA has a a liar, a braggart, a philanderer, a mysogynist, a fraudster, a crook, a bully and a buffoon as a President, one who has blatantly abused his office, the electoral laws and the Madison Doctrine of 02-Dec-1823 made it a breech of electoral law to involve a foreign government in the electoral process!
That an American President can, together with his family and placemen milk the system for all its worth to fund his own election and then abuse his office for profit for his businesses makes a mockery of the law making it seem that the President is above the law and that the legal structure does nothing to indict such a criminal makes the prosecution of other ceriminals an obvious breech of morality, thereby undermining the entire American code of morality and law.
Can a president be indicted while in office?
Donald Trump faces mounting legal pressure—but it is unclear whether and how he will be held accountable
NOW that Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and confidant is headed to prison for crimes related to paying off two of the president’s paramours, a vexing question takes on new salience. What happens if prosecutors think that Mr Trump may have broken campaign-finance laws by directing Michael Cohen and American Media Inc (publisher of the “National Enquirer”) to send hush-money cheques in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election? And what will the special counsel, Robert Mueller, do if he finds evidence that the president is implicated in crimes having to do with Russian interference in the election? Can a grand jury indict a sitting president for a criminal act?
Mr Trump is not the first president to wade into trouble. Twice in the past half-century executive misdeeds have spurred the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), a unit of the Department of Justice charged with giving legal advice to the president, to weigh in on whether such indictments are valid. Both times—in 1973 when Richard Nixon was on the ropes and in 2000 after Bill Clinton’s impeachment—the OLC insisted they were not. Although America’s constitution is silent on the question, the Watergate-era memo observed, a president subjected to an indictment would trigger “a traumatic event” both “politically and constitutionally”. It would “interfere with the president’s unique official duties”, too. This theme was reiterated in the memo of 2000, when the OLC argued that Congress’s impeachment power was the sole legitimate way to discipline presidents for bad behaviour. To indict a president via “an unelected grand jury and prosecutor” is “inconsistent” with the framers’ “carefully considered judgment” that it is impeachment or bust. Indictment in office would subvert the “underlying dynamics of our governmental system in profound and necessarily unpredictable ways”.
It is not particularly surprising that executive-branch officials serving at the pleasure of the president would oversee an office that comes to these conclusions. But there are rival views. In a 56-page memo from 1998 uncovered last summer by the New York Times, Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who investigated Mr Clinton, argued that nothing immunises sitting presidents from indictment and possibly even imprisonment. If a president were to slug “an irritating heckler”, for example, he should be “prosecuted for violating the criminal laws”. Saying otherwise is to put presidents “above the law”. Laurence Tribe, a law professor at Harvard, agrees. It is “crazy”, Mr Tribe writes, that “even the most criminally corrupt president” may be immune from indictments while in office. The OLC position is not just bad policy, he argues, it’s unconstitutional.
What’s a prosecutor to do? Legal scholars divide over whether the OLC memos are binding on Special Counsel Robert Mueller or on prosecutors from the Southern District of New York (the lawyers sending Mr Cohen to prison). One option is to give it a go and pursue indictments while Mr Trump is in office, letting the DoJ decide on their propriety and whether potential trials would have to wait for the president to leave office. If the DoJ balks and Mr Trump wins re-election, criminal charges will be hard to pin on the president after he leaves office because, under the five-year statute of limitations for campaign-finance violations, those charges will expire in 2021 and there is no legally established way to stop the clock in the interim. Another strategy is to bypass the OLC and have state attorneys general pursue charges under relevant state laws. Then there is the alternative to criminal charges: impeachment. The constitution assigns the power of impeachment to the House of Representatives, which may rebuke a president by a simple majority, as it did to Andrew Johnson in 1868 and to Bill Clinton in 1998. But an impeached president is only sent packing from the White House if 67 senators should vote to remove him. Given how dutifully most GOP senators seem to line up behind Mr Trump, it may be difficult to find 20 of them to join 47 Democrats and, for the first time in American history, remove a president from office.
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