Category Archives: ABUSE OF POWER

The Four C’s Of The Impeachment Sham — Constitution, Corruption, Comity & Coup (by Wolf Howling)

The House is considering three articles of Impeachment.  The Constitution is at issue in questions of Obstruction of Justice, Contempt of Congress and the form of the Senate Trial.  Comity and Corruption are at issue as to the Bidens and Abuse of Power.  And is this is an unlawful attempted coup?

The Constitution

The House is considering three Articles of Impeachment, one of which is expected to be for contempt of Congress.  The House claims that Donald Trump refused to honor lawful subpoenas for testimony and documents as pertains to the Ukraine. Was Trump within his rights to do so?  That is wholly a Constitutional question.  It is also closely related in at least one relevant part to a likely Second Article of Impeachment, namely Obstruction of Justice as to the Russian Hoax inquiry.

The only vote the House of Representatives has held to authorize an impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump was defeated overwhelmingly in January, 2017.  In response to the Ukraine IC IG matter, Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker, unilaterally declared an “impeachment inquiry” on September 24, 2019, and the House immediately began issuing subpoenas for witnesses and documents.  As to the latest vote held a week ago to formalize the procedures being used in the ongoing Star Chamber, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was adamant that the Resolution was not an authorization of an “impeachment inquiry.

Can anything less than a vote by the entire House of Representatives to authorize an “impeachment inquiry” be considered Constitutionally valid?  As I’ve discussed before, this is far from mere form.  If the House of Representatives approves a resolution for an impeachment inquiry, the House gains a power that it, by the explicit terms of the Constitution, does not otherwise possess — the judicial power to enforce subpoenas and requests for documents on matters outside its Art. I, Sec. 8 enumerated powers.  Without that power, the White House was acting lawfully when it refused to cooperate.  Tellingly, the House, rather than take those subpoenas to a Court to enforce them — and risk having a Court declare their proceeding unconstitutional — appears to be simply rolling all but one of their refused “subpoenas” into an contempt of Congress charge.

Then there is Part II of the Mueller Report.  We can expect the House to adopt Part II virtually in toto as an obstruction of justice charge.  There is a twist on this, however, and it is where this overlaps with the Contempt of Congress charge.  Without the judicial power of an impeachment inquiry, the House has no power to subpoena the Grand Jury testimony that Mueller referenced in his report.  The House subpoenaed the Department of Justice for that information and got the matter heard before an Obama judge (yes, John Roberts, there are progressive judges who rule by ideology, not the law) who ruled that the House was authorized to receive the material — and thus that their current “impeachment inquiry” was constitutionally sufficient.  The White House made an emergency appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court, which granted a stay, and the matter is now to be heard on November 12 before the D.C. Circuit. If the D.C. Circuit affirms the lower court’s ruling, the Trump administration will assuredly bring it to the Supreme Court, but there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will take up the case.

All of this brings up a huge, core Constitutional issue:  Which branch of government has the power to determine the meaning of the Constitution — specifically in this case, when the question is whether the House may claim judicial powers without a vote of the House of Representatives to authorize an impeachment inquiry? There is no doubt that Articles of Impeachment (other than Contempt of Congress) that the House votes upon would be facially constitutional.  So this question applies only to whether the President may be validly held in contempt of Congress for failing to cooperate with an impeachment inquiry that was never authorized by a vote of the full House of Representatives.

The Judicial Branch long ago claimed for itself the power to definitively interpret the Constitution, but that right to do so appears nowhere in the text of the Constitution.  Can the Senate summarily dispense with any claim for Obstruction of Justice as to this “impeachment inquiry” because the Senators believe that the House acted “unconstitutionally?”  Can the Senate do so in the face of a D.C. Circuit Court opinion to the contrary?  Could the Senate do so in the face of a Supreme Court refusal to hear an appeal from the D.C. Circuit?  And lastly, could the Senate do so even if the Supreme Court hears an appeal and concludes that the obscene House Star Chamber proceeding meets the standards for constitutionality?  Those are all valid questions that I believe should be answered in the affirmative, but that could have long term ramifications for how our nation operates.

A second Constitutional question that touches on this and all of the Articles of Impeachment concerns whether Donald Trump will be afforded the same due process rights at trial (rules of evidence, right to bring definitive motions, etc.) that are afforded all Americans in court?  As Supreme Court Justice Story said, in 1833 when remarking on impeachment:

It is the boast of English jurisprudence, and without it the power of impeachment would be an intolerable grievance, that in trials by impeachment the law differs not in essentials from criminal prosecutions before inferior courts. The same rules of evidence, the same legal notions of crimes and punishments prevail. For impeachments are not framed to alter the law; but to carry it into more effectual execution, where it might be obstructed by the influence of too powerful delinquents, or not easily discerned in the ordinary course of jurisdiction, by reason of the peculiar quality of the alleged crimes.

Under current Senate Rules, the President does not explicitly have those protections.  Under the modifications suggested here, he would gain them.  Assuming that the Senate does adopt those changes then before trial begins President Trump should move to dismiss Contempt of Congress Charges for failing to state a legal claim — i.e., the House did not vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry, and thus the President did not obstruct a lawful process.  As to the obstruction of justice charge, President Trump should make a motion to dismiss the claim on the grounds that, even assuming all of the facts alleged in the Mueller Report to be true, it does not as a matter of law show a violation of the law or a political offense for which impeachment is warranted.  President Trump committed no underlying crime.  President Trump substantially complied with the investigation and he committed no act that resulted in the investigation being hindered.

Corruption & Comity

A third Article of Impeachment, according to Breitbart, will be for Abuse of Power.  The House’s Star Chamber proceeding is likely to result in a claim that President Trump abused his power by withholding aid from Ukraine subject to them investigating Joe and Hunter Biden for corrupt practices.

This is yet another Article that should be dealt with on a motion to dismiss.  The President’s practice and authority to negotiate with foreign countries for the aid they may receive from America is a well-established power of the Presidency, one that has been exercised by numerous other Presidents.  Thus negotiating foreign aid with the Ukraine cannot itself, be grounds for impeachment.  It is axiomatic that, to again quote Justice Story, impeachment may not be used tomake that a crime at one time, or in one person, which would be deemed innocent at another time, or in another person.  And in fact, the aid was ultimately released in full to the Ukraine in September, 2019, so there is no Constitutional concern with Congress’s power of the purse, nor any legal concern with the Impoundment Control Act of 1974.

That leads to the next question, whether what Trump was negotiating for — the facts surrounding Joe and Hunter Biden in the Ukraine and whether it involved corruption — was an improper purpose.  (It should be noted that Trump never in the transcript explicitly said that Ukraine’s receiving the money hinged on looking into the Biden matter. Indeed, it’s a stretch even to read into the transcript his having said such a thing implicitly.) As a textual matter, Article II § 3 of the Constitution requires the President to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”  So when the President looks into possible legal violations, he is acting in fulfillment of his Constitutional duties.

That leaves the last question: Did President Trump have reasonable grounds to suspect that Joe Biden violated federal rules of ethics, and perhaps American laws, regarding corrupt practices?  That is a factual matter. Trump does not need to show actual guilt.  But he needs to be able to show that, based on the facts as he knew them, a reasonable person would suspect that there was enough evidence of corruption that further investigation was warranted.

As a threshold matter, the Joe and Hunter show went far beyond Ukraine.  It was both foreign and domestic.  As to the former, when Daddy became Vice President and was given control of foreign affairs in certain countries,  Hunter Biden became Joe Biden’s little lamb.  With apologies to Sarah Hale and a hat tip to the poetess Bookworm:

Joe Biden had a little Hunter,
That filled its nose with snow,
And everywhere Joe Biden went
Hunter was sure to go;
He followed Joe to Ukraine,
Romania & China too;
He sold his daddy’s name there,
But saying so sparked a coup.

Hunter Biden’s escapades are well documented in the Ukraine, Iraq, China and Romania, for we know that he followed his father into those countries (sometimes flying into them with his father on Air Force Two) and immediately struck lucrative deals with corrupt politicians or, in the case of China, the government itself.  Standing alone, these undisputed facts stink to high heaven.  The mere appearance of corruption is an ethical problem for Joe Biden.  It becomes a legal problem for Joe Biden if he used his position as Vice President to further his son’s enrichment or to protect him from investigation. And to be clear, based on the facts as we know them, if Trump and Trump’s children had done what Joe and Hunter Biden did, the call to impeach and jail him would be deafening.

When it comes to Ukraine, we know Hunter Biden was hired to sit on the Board of Bursima, a Ukrainian energy company owned by a man who is a suspect in billions of dollars of government corruption.  We know that Hunter Biden was not qualified for such a seat beyond his familial relationship to Joe Biden.  We know that people associated with Bursima then dropped Hunter Biden’s name to lobby the State Dept. in order to quash the corruption probes targeting their client.  We know that at least one American official raised this as a problem to Biden’s office.  And we know . . .

It is in fact an open question, not yet definitively answered, whether the prosecutor whom Joe brags about getting fired had an active corruption investigation into Bursima — and perhaps Hunter Biden as well.  That was the question Trump seemed to be asking the President of Ukraine to find an answer to in his 25 July phone call.  If so, there is more to investigate, such as what did Joe Biden know and when did he know it.

But according to Democrats, it is an abuse of power even to ask those questions.  They can go pound sand.  No one is above the law, not even a Democrat candidate for office.  The only thing Trump asked for is information from an investigation.  Was that pretextual or warranted?  The first might arguably be grounds for impeachment, the second cannot be.  Thus the only factual issue to determine whether to proceed to a full impeachment trial on abuse of power grounds is whether Trump was justified in seeking an investigation of Biden’s seemingly corrupt dealings.

Bottom line, we need to hear from Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, under oath at any Senate trial, to determine whether there was sufficient appearance of corruption for a reasonable person in Trump’s shoes to investigate.  Indeed, the rule changes I suggested for the Senate’s impeachment trial are in anticipation of precisely that reality.

Democrats are going nuts over that issue.  This from the Daily Beast, warning that “comity” in the Senate would be irreparably damaged by forcing the Bidens to testify:

Senate Democrats issued stark warnings on Wednesday that Republicans would severely damage the institution of Congress if they acquiesced to a push from Trump allies to haul former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter for testimony about their actions in Ukraine.

A top Biden ally, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), told The Daily Beast that calling the 2020 presidential contender—who served for 35 years in the Senate—and his son for testimony “would be literally rolling a grenade down the aisle of the Senate” that would have “lasting consequences” on the upper chamber’s ability to work together.

“Look, Joe Biden is well known, widely respected, and frankly beloved by many in the Senate on both sides of the aisle,” said Coons. “The impeachment process is already disruptive enough. I think we should be approaching it with seriousness, not by entertaining conspiracy theories that are utterly unfounded. And I think it would be a very unfortunate move.”

Right.  As if the left overturning an election and pushing us to the brink of a second civil war over the proposition that they are above the law while the rest of us are below it is not exponentially beyond concerns of “comity” in the Senate.  Truly, screw these people.

Coup

And finally, here’s a question to pick up after what promises to be a failed impeachment attempt.  Mark Zaid, attorney for the whistle blower who orchestrated this Ukraine madness, tweeted in 2017:

#coup has started. First of many steps. #rebellion. #impeachment will follow ultimately. #lawyers https://t.co/FiNBQo6v0S

— Mark S. Zaid (@MarkSZaidEsq) January 31, 2017

Zaid has since claimed that what he meant only a “legal” coup. There is no such thing. A coup is, by definition, an “illegal seizure of power from a government.” Now, if what Mr. Zaid had in mind was an unlawful abuse of the laws of this nation to effect a coup . . . that is still not legal. It is an act of sedition punishable at law.

We certainly now have evidence of Mr. Zaid’s state of mind. We have reason to suspect that his client was likely previously involved in the leak of classified information to the press in order to damage President Trump and may have spied on Trump on behalf of the FBI, both illegal acts.  Then we have long standing ties between the whistle blower and Adam Schiff’s staff and we have Adam Schiff’s own statement that they coordinated filing a whistle blower complaint.  Lastly, we have a grossly legally deficient whistle blower complaint that should never have been filed as such, and certainly never should have been addressed to Congress as a finding of urgent concern.  The IC IG did not conduct due dillegence in his investigation.

Now, that could all mean nothing.  Or, it could mean that certain people were conspiring to effect a bloodless coup.  There is enough here to warrant an investigation to determine the truth.  And prosecution would be warranted if what we discover is in fact a seditious conspiracy rather than a series of simple errors.  That would in fact be an unlawful coup.

The post The Four C’s Of The Impeachment Sham — Constitution, Corruption, Comity & Coup (by Wolf Howling) appeared first on Watcher of Weasels.

Part I: The faux grounds for Trump’s impeachment and his perfect defenses

The Dem’s have no statutory basis to demand Trump’s impeachment — and Trump has valid defenses to charges that his Ukraine dealings were an abuse of power.

This will be a two part post.  Part I deals with the law relating to impeachment.  Part II will deal with how the Senate should handle the trial of any Articles of Impeachment that come out of the House’s Star Chamber impeachment inquiry.

Introduction

Let’s assume for argument’s sake that the Democrats running the House’s Star Chamber impeachment inquiry do in fact come up with Articles of Impeachment.  What will they be?  And will the President have any affirmative defenses?

No less a legal and historical scholar than Maxine Waters claimed in 2017:

Impeachment is about whatever the Congress says it is. There is no law that dictates impeachment. What the Constitution says is ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ and we define that.

If true, that would leave the President with no defense other than that the Democrats are wrong on the facts.  Thankfully, Waters is  wrong.  To the contrary, the parameters for impeachment are defined at law and, because of that, the Democrats face insurmountable obstacles in impeaching Donald Trump for any and all acts related to his July 25 phone call with President Zelenksyy of Ukraine.

First, the House cannot validly impeach Trump for using the same powers other presidents traditionally wielded. Thus, if it has been custom and practice for presidents to negotiate using foreign aid as a tool, then Trump’s doing so is similarly beyond a valid impeachment charge.

Second, the House cannot validly impeach Trump for asking a foreign power to aid him in the legitimate exercise of his constitutional authority. Leaving aside whether Trump might personally benefit from the investigation, no American citizen (even, theoretically, Hillary Clinton) is above the law. The fact that an election looms does not change that fact. In other words, Democrats cannot avoid criminal culpability by insisting that investigations are illegal as an election draws near.

The Law of Impeachment

The Constitution, Article II, § 6, states that impeachment is a remedy that can be used to remove “civil officers” for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Founders, writing a Constitution and not a hornbook, did not further define “high crimes and misdemeanors,” because they did not need to define it for it was a phrase well defined in British common law of the era.

Note: For those unfamiliar with the phrase, “common law” is nothing more than “judge made law,” as opposed to legislatively-created statutes. Past judicial decisions are looked to as for future decisions, a practice that, in 18th Century Britain, created most of the “law of the land” and defined many rights vested in British citizens.  Much of our Constitutional provisions and our rights as Americans come out of British law as it existed in 1787, and the “common law” is still an element of law in Britain and the United States today.

When the Founders relied upon recognized “common law” principles related to impeachment, they looked to the 500 years of British judicial history before 1787 (See John Hatsell, Precedents and Proceedings In The House of Commons, Vol. IV (Impeachment) (1796)).  It is that body of common law that defines “impeachment” as the term is used in the U.S. Constitution.  In his seminal study of the Constitution, Commentaries on the Constitution, 3 Volumes, (1833), Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story examined impeachment in Vol. II (§§ 794-96). He opened his examination by acknowledging the role common law played in understanding the doctrine:

The only practical question is, what are to be deemed high crimes and misdemeanours? Now, neither the constitution, nor any statute of the United States has in any manner defined any crimes, except treason and bribery, to be high crimes and misdemeanours, and as such impeachable. In what manner, then, are they to be ascertained?

After dispensing with commission of crimes in office as an obvious grounds for impeachment, Story addressed “political” offenses as grounds for impeachment, as well as the limitation upon those offenses:

. . . [T]here are many offences, purely political, which have been held to be within the reach of parliamentary impeachments, not one of which is in the slightest manner alluded to in our statute book. And, indeed, political offences are of so various and complex a character, so utterly incapable of being defined, or classified, that the task of positive legislation would be impracticable, if it were not almost absurd to attempt it. . . . Resort, then, must be had either to parliamentary practice, and the common law, in order to ascertain, what are high crimes and misdemeanors; or the whole subject must be left to the arbitrary discretion of the senate, for the time being.

The latter is so incompatible with the genius of our institutions, that no lawyer or statesman would be inclined to countenance so absolute a despotism of opinion and practice, which might make that a crime at one time, or in one person, which would be deemed innocent at another time, or in another person.  [Emphasis added]  The only safe guide in such cases must be the common law, which is the guardian at once of private rights and public liberties.

(At the bottom of this post, you will find a handy-dandy poster reflecting this principle, which you can share with friends on social media.)

Story then lists a wide range of offenses for which officials were impeached in Britain since the 14th century. almost all involving neglect, oppression, or exercise of arbitrary power.  Thus, contrary to what Maxine Waters claims, there are limitations on what constitute impeachable offenses. The official charged must have deviated from a historically established pattern and practice.  Democrats cannot validly impeach the President for duly exercising the powers of his office, nor for reasonably acting to advance malfeasors’ punishment for breaking the laws of the land.  Indeed, the President is bound by his office to enforce the laws of this nation.

More recently, Alan Dershowitz has also weighed in on what can legitimately constitute a charge of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”  His view is more restrictive than Story’s, but the two agree that there are outer boundaries and that simple political offenses or, as Dershowitz frames it in the language of Madison, “maladministration,” do not constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors.

There is a debate among students of the constitution over the intended meaning of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Some believe that these words encompass non-criminal behavior. Others, I among them, interpret these words more literally, requiring at the least criminal-like behavior, if not the actual violation of a criminal statute.

What is not debatable is that “maladministration” is an impermissible ground for impeachment. Why is that not debatable? Because it was already debated and explicitly rejected by the framers at the constitutional convention. James Madison, the father of our Constitution, opposed such open-ended criteria, lest they make the tenure of the president subject to the political will of Congress. Such criteria would turn our republic into a parliamentary democracy in which the leader — the prime minister — is subject to removal by a simple vote of no confidence by a majority of legislators. Instead, the framers demanded the more specific criminal-like criteria ultimately adopted by the convention and the states.

Of course, since 1789, it is U.S. History that defines impeachment in our country.  Notably, in the three past instances in which the House has impeached a president, each has been for an actual crime committed by the President.  The House impeached Andrew Johnson for violating a law of dubious constitutionality when he removed the Secretary of War. The Senate refused to convict.  The House impeached Bill Clinton when he committed a crime in a civil case by perjuring himself when asked about his having had sex with a White House intern. The Senate refused to convict.  Lastly, the House voted to investigate Richard Nixon, when he was an accessory after the fact to the criminal Watergate Hotel break-in. Nixon resigned.

The bottom line is that there are limitations on what grounds exist for impeaching a president, that a president cannot be impeached for engaging in a historically established pattern and practice, and that past presidential impeachments have revolved around criminal acts. So what have the Democrats got?

The possible bases for the Democrats’ Articles of Impeachment

I. Statutory bases for impeachment

When trying to predict the Democrats’ future actions, only three possible laws or legal conflicts come to mind — that Trump violated campaign finance laws, that he obstructed justice, and/or that he interfered with Congress’s power of the purse. As set forth below, however, none of those are applicable.

A.  Campaign Finance Law

The Whistle Blower asserted that Trump’s July 25 phone call, in which he sought information about the 2016 Russian hoax and potential corruption by Joe and Hunter Biden, broke two laws relating to election campaigns.  He cited 52 U.S.C. § 30121, which makes it illegal to accept any “contribution or donation of money or other thing of value” from a foreign national.  But no court has ever interpreted the term “other thing of value” to include mere information.  Even the highly partisan Mueller team, when explaining their decision not to prosecute Trump Jr.’s meeting at Trump Tower with Russians for the express purpose of obtaining facts detrimental to Hillary Clinton, stated at Vol. I, p. 187:

[N]o judicial decision has treated the voluntary provision of uncompensated opposition research or similar information as a thing of value that could amount to a contribution under campaign-finance law. Such an interpretation could have implications beyond the foreign-source ban, see 52 U.S.C. § 30116(a) (imposing monetary limits on campaign contributions), and raise First Amendment questions. Those questions could be especially difficult where the information consisted simply of the recounting of historically accurate facts.

B.  Obstruction of Justice

The House may go so far as to claim that Trump obstructed justice by refusing to cooperate with the House’s “impeachment inquiry” regarding the Ukraine matter.  This will not fly.

The House doesn’t normally have judicial power for the Constitution, at Article III, explicitly provides that the “judicial power” resides in the Courts.  The House can assume “judicial power” for a limited period of time only if and when the House of Representatives authorizes it.  Trump maintains that the House, which has repeatedly voted not to open impeachment inquiries against him, is operating unlawfully and his administration has no duty to comply.

Importantly, even as Trump has refused to respond to subpoenas, the House has assiduously avoided testing its subpoenas in Court.  Law professor Alan Dershowitz dealt with this issue in a recent article at Gatestone Institute, Impeachers Searching For New Crimes:

This brings us to President Trump’s directive with regard to the impeachment investigation. Under our constitutional system of separation of powers, Congress may not compel the Executive Branch to cooperate with an impeachment investigation absent court orders. Conflicts between the Legislative and Executive Branches are resolved by the Judicial Branch, not by the unilateral dictate of a handful of partisan legislators. It is neither a crime nor an impeachable offense for the president to demand that Congress seek court orders to enforce their demands. Claims of executive and other privileges should be resolved by the Judicial Branch, not by calls for impeachment.

C.  The Withholding of Aid

Aid for Ukraine was part of Public Law 116-6, which Trump signed on February 15, 2019.  Nothing in the law states specifically when the funds must be released (just as there was none in the 2016 law), with the only proviso being that the administration disburse before the fiscal year in question ends.* When it comes to Trump and aid to Ukraine, his administration transferred or otherwise made the 2019 funds available to Ukraine by September 10, 2019, well before the end of the fiscal year.

One can argue whether any president has inherent power to withhold aid permanently from a foreign country once Congress has authorized the money — something President George H.W. Bush did when he unilaterally cancelled aid appropriated for Yemen in 1991 — but that is not a question applicable to this situation.  Moreover, as David Rivkin points out at WSJ and in his blog, “Congress attempted to curtail this power [i.e., the President’s power over foreign aid] with the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, but it authorizes the president to defer spending until the expiration of the fiscal year or until budgetary authority lapses, neither of which had occurred in the Ukraine case.”  Thus, nothing President Trump did conflicted with Congress’s Constitutional power of the purse.

II.  Non-statutory basis for impeachment

Leaving the law behind, there seems to be a wide range of possible grounds for Democrats to impeach Trump (GrabieNews has so far compiled a list of 95 bases), almost all of which are ultimately nothing more than “orange man bad and we disagree with his policies.” That said, the only one that would pass the laugh test would be a charge that the President abused his power by conditioning foreign aid to Ukraine on opening investigations relating to the Russia hoax and to Joe Biden, a 2020 candidate for President.  This is the “quid pro quo” that will almost surely be in any Articles of Impeachment. Passing the laugh test, though, so that the media can relay it to a credulous public with a straight face, still does not make it a valid impeachment charge.

There are multiple problems with this quid pro quo argument, the first being that presidents have primary authority over foreign policy.  Historically, presidents have regularly used foreign aid as leverage when negotiating with foreign countries.  As David Rivkin explained:

More fundamentally, the Constitution gives the president plenary authority to conduct foreign affairs and diplomacy, including broad discretion over the timing and release of appropriated funds. Many presidents have refused to spend appropriated money for military or other purposes, on grounds that it was unnecessary, unwise or incompatible with their priorities.

Thomas Jefferson impounded funds appropriated for gunboat purchases, Dwight Eisenhower impounded funds for antiballistic-missile production, John F. Kennedy impounded money for the B-70 bomber, and Richard Nixon impounded billions for highways and urban programs. Congress attempted to curtail this power with the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, but it authorizes the president to defer spending until the expiration of the fiscal year or until budgetary authority lapses, neither of which had occurred in the Ukraine case.

Presidents often delay or refuse foreign aid as diplomatic leverage, even when Congress has authorized the funds. Disbursing foreign aid—and withholding it—has historically been one of the president’s most potent foreign-policy tools, and Congress cannot impair it. Lyndon B. Johnson used the promise of financial aid to strong-arm the Philippines, Thailand and South Korea to send troops to Vietnam. The General Accounting Office (now called the Government Accountability Office) concluded that this constituted “quid pro quo assistance.” In 2013, Barack Obama, in a phone conversation with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, said he would slash hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic assistance until Cairo cooperated with U.S. counterterrorism goals. The Obama administration also withheld millions in foreign aid and imposed visa restrictions on African countries, including Uganda and Nigeria, that failed to protect gay rights.

So, all things being equal, Congress has no right to curtail the Executive’s historic powers. Again, to reiterate what Story said, Congress may not “make that a crime at one time, or in one person, which would be deemed innocent at another time, or in another person.” Moreover, under the statute as written, Trump had authority over the timing of aid to the Ukraine at least through the end of the fiscal year.

That being the case, we are left with one remaining question: Did Trump use his legitimate power towards an end that was itself an abuse of power?

The Democrats desperately want to answer that question affirmatively. They insist that asking for any investigative assistance into crimes that may have been committed in the 2016 Russia Hoax and any crimes committed by Joe Biden are so beyond the pale as to justify impeachment and overturn an election.  Their problem is that nothing that Trump did is an abuse of the power because the Constitution imposes upon the president the obligation to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”  Indeed, it is ludicrous to suggest to the contrary, at least unless we are to amend the Constitution, explicitly or implicitly, to hold that progressives are above the law.  We will be in a shooting civil war before that happens, whether in fact or in deed.

Consequently, as Rivkin further states at the WSJ and in his blog,

Investigating Americans or Ukrainians who might have violated domestic or foreign law—and seeking the assistance of other nations with such probes, pursuant to mutual legal-assistance treaties—cannot form a legitimate basis for impeachment of a president.

Or as Andrew McCarthy states:

It is common for presidents to ask their foreign counterparts to assist Justice Department investigations. House Democrats will not acknowledge this because they seek to delegitimize the Barr/Durham probe as a Trump 2020 campaign initiative; but it is not.

The sole factual issue for this defense will be whether Trump had valid reason to request Ukraine’s assistance in investigation the Russia hoax and whether Trump had a reasonable basis to inquire further into Joe Biden’s possible criminal acts, specifically whether he violated 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-3 (Prohibited foreign trade practices by persons other than issuers or domestic concerns).

As to the former, the mere fact that the DOJ is reviewing the origins of the worst political scandal in our nation’s history, namely the attempted coup that was the Russian Hoax (let alone that it is now a criminal investigation), was a valid justification for Trump’s request for assistance from the Ukraine.  Moreover, President Trump had a predicate — i.e., a reasonable indication to believe that a crime may have been committed — to ask for assistance investigating whether, when Joe Biden demanded that the Ukrainian Chief Prosecutor be fired as a non-negotiable condition for receiving American aid, the Prosecutor was investigating Hunter Biden directly or indirectly through his Burisma ties.  Cry as the progressives might, this is a legitimate issue, one raised at the time internally during the Obama administration, one that Joe Biden proudly boasted about and, nevertheless, one that the Obama administration never investigated.

I can think of no other grounds for impeachment, though I am sure Schiff & Co. will have some inventive surprises.  In the next post, I will deal with how the trial in the Senate should proceed, given that the House has denied any due process rights, including the right to be represented at the hearings, to the President.  There are more than ample ways — fully Constitutional — in which the Senate can vindicate the rights of the President, hold a fair trial, and make the House Democrats rue their sins in the process.

____________________

*The law in 2016, which has the identical fiscal year proviso, was the law that applied when Biden was the Vice President. Thus, his threat to withhold the money did not violate the law. It was his threat to withhold the money to protect his son’s dubious business practices that raises eyebrows.

Impeachment

The post Part I: The faux grounds for Trump’s impeachment and his perfect defenses appeared first on Watcher of Weasels.

The Impeachment & The Russia Probe

The Barr/Durham Russia probe is now a criminal investigation.  The NYT reports that the investigation is without basis and that pushing for Ukrainian assistance is part of the justification for the House Impeachment investigation.

It was apparent from Nancy Pelosi’s “fact sheet” released the other day (and blogged here) that the House is looking to assert that any investigation into the criminal origins of the Russian Hoax is an impeachable abuse of power by the President.  That was confirmed by an article in the NYT today (reprinted at SFGate) discussing that “Justice Department officials have shifted an administrative review of the Russia investigation closely overseen by Attorney General William Barr to a criminal inquiry.”  Bookworm has already fisked the article in the post below this.  I’m writing to add emphasis to one portion of the article.  As the NYT reports:

The opening of a criminal investigation is likely to raise alarms that Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies. Trump fired James Comey, the FBI director under whose watch agents opened the Russia inquiry, and has long assailed other top former law enforcement and intelligence officials as partisans who sought to block his election.

Trump has made clear that he sees the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies. That view factors into the impeachment investigation against him, as does his long obsession with the origins of the Russia inquiry. House Democrats are examining in part whether his pressure on Ukraine to open investigations into theories about the 2016 election constituted an abuse of power. . . .

Do read Bookworm’s fisk of the above article.

Progressives believe themselves above the law and will rip this country apart to keep it that way.  A recent poll found that two-thirds of people surveyed believe we are near a civil war in this country.  If the House succeeds in impeaching Trump over investigations into the Russia Hoax, I have no doubts that number will go much higher.

Oh . . . and . . .

NEW: @CBSNews has obtained a letter sent to the hill today from DOJ IG Horowitz updating committee leaders on the status of the highly anticipated FISA Report. He says, “I anticipate that the final report will be released publicly with few redactions.” pic.twitter.com/DFCh7txrrO

— Clare (@ClareHymes22) October 24, 2019

(H/T AOS)

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