Category Archives: Constitution

Right-wing media lays the groundwork for firing Robert Mueller

One of President Trump’s lawyers on Sunday would not rule out that the special counsel overseeing the Russia criminal investigation could get fired. President Trump lawyer won’t rule out Special Counsel Robert Mueller getting fired:

On ABC News’ “This Week,” attorney Jay Sekulow evaded a direct question about whether Trump would promise not to interfere with the probe run by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“Look, the President of the United States, as we all know, is a unitary executive,” Sekulow said.

“But the President is going to seek the advice of his counsel and inside the government as well as outside. And I’m not going to speculate on what he will or will not do.”

He added, “I can’t imagine that that issue is going to arise. But that again is an issue that the President with his advisers would discuss if there was a basis.”

Unitary executive“? We’ve heard this phrase before. The unitary executive theory “asserts that all executive authority must be in the President’s hands, without exception.” Presidential power “must be unilateral, and unchecked.” The phrase “unitary executive” is a code word for a doctrine that favors nearly unlimited executive power, from the twisted mind of Dick Cheney.

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9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously rejects Trump’s revised Muslim travel ban

Donald Trump continues to go “oh for” in the federal courts with his discriminatory Muslim travel bans.

Today a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Trump’s revised Muslim travel ban, joining the en banc Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in rejecting the revised Muslim travel ban because of unconstitutional discrimination. Read the ruling HERE (.pdf).

The San Franciso Chronicle reports, Federal appeals court in SF deals Trump another travel ban defeat:

President Trump’s second attempt to ban U.S. entry by anyone from a group of nations with overwhelmingly Muslim populations was rejected Monday by a San Francisco-based federal appeals court, which said Trump had exceeded his authority and violated a ban on discrimination based on national origin.

The 3-0 ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco follows a May 24 decision by [the Fourth Circuit] appeals court in Richmond, Va., that reached the same conclusion. The Trump administration has appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Note: “The justices have asked the challengers to file responses to the petition for review and the requests for stays of the lower courts’ rulings. Those responses are due on or before 3 p.m. on Monday, June 12. This is likely why the Ninth Circuit issued its ruling today.  Stay tuned.

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Draining the Trump Swamp: Emoluments Clause lawsuits are heating up

On Friday, the Trump Justice Department argued that President Trump’s businesses are legally permitted to accept payments from foreign governments while he is in office, and thus Trump is not in violation of a constitutional clause barring the acceptance of emoluments. Foreign payments to Trump’s businesses are legally permitted, argues Justice Department:

In a 70-page legal brief responding to a liberal watchdog group’s lawsuit, the administration said that market-rate payments for goods or services made to the president’s real estate, hotel and golf companies do not constitute emoluments as defined by the Constitution.

US Constitution

Advocates from the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) brought the suit against Trump in January, shortly after he entered office. The group asserted that because Trump-owned buildings take in rent, room rentals and other payments from foreign governments — which may seek to curry favor with him — the president has breached the emoluments clause.

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Justice Department attorneys referenced a series of Washington’s letters and speeches to support their argument.

“Neither the text nor the history of the Clauses shows that they were intended to reach benefits arising from a President’s private business pursuits having nothing to do with his office or personal service to a foreign power,” the administration argued. “Were Plaintiffs’ interpretation correct, Presidents from the very beginning of the Republic, including George Washington, would have received prohibited ‘emolument.’”

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Robert Mueller is assembling a ‘dream team’ of prosecutors

For those Tea-Publicans who have abandoned all reason for blind loyalty to the authoritarian personality cult of Donald J. Trump, and who have convinced themselves that their Dear Leader is either a naife who is innocent of any and all wrongdoing, or is above the law, I would suggest you consider the legal team that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is putting together for his investigation. If there is “nothing to see here,” as Trump apologists delusionally assert, Mueller would not be assembling a “dream team” of heavy-hitter prosecutors. He clearly believes that he is sitting on something “yuuuge.”

Politico reports, Everything we know about the Mueller probe so far:

Special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling a prosecution team with decades of experience going after everything from Watergate to the Mafia to Enron as he digs in for a lengthy probe into possible collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

His first appointments — tapping longtime law-firm partner James Quarles and Andrew Weissmann, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal fraud unit — were the opening moves in a politically red-hot criminal case that has upended the opening months of the Trump White House.

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Mueller brings a wealth of national security experience from his time leading the FBI in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Veteran prosecutors say he has assembled a potent team whose members have backgrounds handling cases involving politicians, mobsters and others — and who know how to work potential witnesses if it helps them land bigger fish.

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Quick Takes on James Comey Testimony (updated)

> Steve Vladeck, professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law, co-editor-in-chief of Just Security and co-host of the National Security Law Podcast: “A few hours after former FBI director James B. Comey finished testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, President Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, suggested that Comey had violated the law. By causing memos about conversations between Trump and Comey to become public, Comey had committed an “unauthorized disclosure of privileged information,” Kasowitz claimed.” Trump’s lawyer says Comey violated executive privilege. He’s wrong. “On a day characterized by hubris remarkable even for Washington, the blatant wrongheadedness of this “privilege” claim still stands out. In fact, executive privilege almost certainly does not cover the Comey memo. And even if it did, disclosing it without authorization isn’t illegal.”

> Matt Zapotosky, Washington Post: Comey’s sharing of notes about Trump doesn’t make him a criminal, analysts say: Prosecutors who bring charges against people for sharing information with the public can do so only when classified or other national security material is at issue. Material cannot be classified to conceal legal violations or prevent embarrassment, according to an executive order from President Barack Obama. Telling a reporter nonclassified information of public interest is not only legal, but it’s often the right thing to do.

> Phillip Bump, Washington Post:There’s no indication Comey violated the law. Trump may be about to. By threatening James Comey, Trump’s lawyer may be violating whistleblower retaliation rules.

> Norman Eisen, chief White House ethics lawyer for President Barack Obama, and a co-founder and the chairman of CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; and Noah Bookbinder, executive director of CREW and a former federal corruption prosecutor. Comey’s Case for Obstruction of Justice: “Mr. Comey’s sworn statement and answers before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee now provide strong evidence that President Trump committed obstruction of justice.” “But strong initial evidence is not the same as a slam-dunk case, and Mr. Comey’s testimony also made clear how far we have to go before the question is definitively resolved.”

> Phillip Allen Locavara, served as counsel to Watergate special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski: I helped prosecute Watergate. Comey’s statement is sufficient evidence for an obstruction of justice case. “Comey’s statement lays out a case against the president that consists of a tidy pattern, beginning with the demand for loyalty, the threat to terminate Comey’s job, the repeated requests to turn off the investigation into Flynn and the final infliction of career punishment for failing to succumb to the president’s requests, all followed by the president’s own concession about his motive. Any experienced prosecutor would see these facts as establishing a prima facie case of obstruction of justice.”
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Latest on the Trump-Putin campaign investigation

On Monday, the New York Times reported that Trump Grows Discontented With Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

Mr. Trump has grown sour on Mr. Sessions, now his attorney general, blaming him for various troubles that have plagued the White House.

The discontent was on display on Monday in a series of stark early-morning postings on Twitter in which the president faulted his own Justice Department for its defense of his travel ban on visitors from certain predominantly Muslim countries. Mr. Trump accused Mr. Sessions’s department of devising a “politically correct” version of the ban — as if the president had nothing to do with it.

In private, the president’s exasperation has been even sharper. He has intermittently fumed for months over Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people close to Mr. Trump who insisted on anonymity to describe internal conversations. In Mr. Trump’s view, they said, it was that recusal that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel who took over the investigation.

Let’s be clear, Department of Justice rules required Attorney General Sessions to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation. It is ordinary protocol and was to be expected. Trump is angry at Sessions because he abided by Justice department rules, rather than create a protracted legal dispute over recusal, and he removed himself from the ability to exert influence over the direction of the investigation, which indicates that Trump intended to exert undue influence over the Attorney General to affect the course of the Trump-Russia investigation (otherwise known as obstruction of justice).

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