Team Trump to attack Justice Department investigators, explore pardons

As I posted yesterday, the Trump administration is seeking to discredit anyone in the chain of investigators investigating the Trump campaign and his financial connections to Russia in order to provide grist to the conservative media entertainment complex to wage a propaganda campaign against Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators, for the purpose of laying the groundwork for Trump’s eventual move to a “Saturday Night Massacre” and finding someone at the Justice Department to “Bork” (fire) Robert Mueller.

Trump is also working on a “get out of jail free” card by having his lawyers explore the parameters of his issuing a presidential pardon to his ne’er-do-well family of grifters and con men, and more importantly, to himself.

If Trump is as innocent as he claims, he would be cooperating with Congress and the Justice Department to resolve this matter as quickly as possible to clear his name. He would not be going to war with his own Department of Justice. Trump is plainly behaving as a man who has something to hide.

The Washington Post reports, Trump team seeks to control, block Mueller’s Russia investigation:

Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

One adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

With the Russia investigation continuing to widen, Trump’s lawyers are working to corral the probe and question the propriety of the special counsel’s work. They are actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work, according to several of Trump’s legal advisers.

A conflict of interest is one of the possible grounds that can be cited by an attorney general to remove a special counsel from office under Justice Department regulations that set rules for the job.

* * *

Trump has been fuming about the probe in recent weeks as he has been informed about the legal questions that he and his family could face. His primary frustration centers on why allegations that his campaign coordinated with Russia should spread into scrutinizing many years of Trump dealmaking. He has told aides he was especially disturbed after learning Mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns.

Trump has repeatedly refused to make his tax returns public after first claiming he could not do so because he was under audit or after promising to release them after an IRS audit was completed.

* * *

“If you’re looking at Russian collusion, the president’s tax returns would be outside that investigation,” said a close adviser to the president.

Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s private lawyers, said in an interview Thursday that the president and his legal team are intent on making sure Mueller stays within the boundaries of his assignment as special counsel. He said they will complain directly to Mueller if necessary.

“The fact is that the president is concerned about conflicts that exist within the special counsel’s office and any changes in the scope of the investigation,” Sekulow said. “The scope is going to have to stay within his mandate. If there’s drifting, we’re going to object.”

Sekulow cited Bloomberg News reports that Mueller is scrutinizing some of Trump’s business dealings, Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions, including with a Russian oligarch who purchased a Palm Beach mansion from Trump for $95 million in 2008.

“They’re talking about real estate transactions in Palm Beach several years ago,” Sekulow said. “In our view, this is far outside the scope of a legitimate investigation.”

“Trump is coming face-to-face with a powerful investigative team that is able to study evidence of any crime it encounters in the probe — including tax fraud, lying to federal agents and interference in the investigation.”

There was quite a bit of discussion of presidential pardons by the cable news jockeys last night, but they did not clarify that what they were talking about is really a “preemptive” pardon before a conviction.

Thomas Gettler, a New York lawyer, succinctly summarized the law a number of yeqrs ago:

At the Constitutional Convention of 1787 debate on this point was won by the delegates who urged that pardons be permitted before conviction (see Zimmet, ”The Law of Pardon,” 1974-75 Annual Survey of American Law, page 179; ”The Nixon Pardon,” Connecticut Law Review, 1974, Volume 7, page 56).

Accordingly, the Constitution simply provides that the President ”shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment” (Article II, section 2).

The leading Supreme Court case is Ex parte Garland (1867). Justice Stephen J. Field, writing for the Court in a 5-4 decision, held that the President’s pardoning power is ”unlimited,” and ”It extends to every offense known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken, or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment.”

In Murphy v. Ford (1975), a Federal District Court in Michigan rejected a suit for a declaratory judgment that President Ford’s unconditional pardon of Richard M. Nixon was unconstitutional. The court found that the President had the constitutional power to grant a pre-indictment pardon, citing Ex parte Garland in its support.

No president has ever sought to pardon himself. Although this option was presented to Richard Nixon, he declined to exercise it. Donald Trump appears to be the kind of man who would not hesitate to do so.

The issue has never been tested in court and therefore is unresolved. In a country that prides itself on the principle that “no man is above the law,” a president who pardons himself for “offenses against the United States” would undermine this bedrock American principle.

Chris Cillizza of CNN interviewed Brian C. Kalt, a professor of law at Michigan State University and the author of a 2012 book entitled “Constitutional Cliffhangers: A Legal Guide for Presidents and Their Enemies,” whom the Post article above relied on for comment. Can President Trump pardon himself?:

Cillizza: Finish this sentence: “The chances of a president being able to pardon himself are roughly ______%.” Now, explain.

Kalt: Ha! I have been studying self-pardons and writing about them for over 20 years now (including in Chapter 2 of my book), and I have thoroughly convinced myself that any court faced with the issue should rule against self-pardons’ validity. But “should” and “would” are two different things, and it is so hard to predict just what the Supreme Court would do that I can’t say with any precision. I’ll just say that I think it’s less than 50%, but not close to 0%.

On the president’s side is the fact that the Constitution does not expressly prohibit self-pardons.

The argument is a bit more complicated on the prosecution’s side — that’s how it would get to court; the president would have to pardon himself and the prosecutor would have to prosecute him anyway, presumably after the president had left office.

First, as I said in my answer to [your first question], there are limits in the pardon power implicit in the notion of what a “pardon” is. So the prosecutor would say that a pardon is inherently bilateral — something you can only give to someone else. “Pardon” comes from the same Latin root as “donate,” and it doesn’t make sense to speak of donating things to yourself.

Second, there is a venerable principle in the law that no one can be the judge in his own case. We would not permit a judge to preside over his own trial, for instance. So we would say here that if a president wants a pardon he has to get it from someone else, i.e., a successor. [Is there any doubt that Mike Pence would do so?]

Third, there are some historical arguments that support the idea that the framers of the Constitution assumed presidents could not pardon themselves.

One could also interpret your question more practically: What are the chances that a president would feel able to get away with a self-pardon. Given how bad it would look, how it provides grounds for impeachment, and how it could even be a crime of its own (similar to how a pardon given in exchange for a bribe could be prosecuted as a bribe, a pardon given to obstruct justice could be prosecuted as obstruction of justice), and given how it would not affect any state prosecutions, presidents have lots of good reasons not to try to pardon themselves.

Finally, a pardon must be accepted and comes with a confession of guilt. After Gerald Ford left the White House, he privately justified his pardon of Richard Nixon by carrying in his wallet a portion of the text of Burdick v. United States, a 1915 U.S. Supreme Court decision that suggested that a pardon carried an imputation of guilt and that acceptance carried a confession of guilt. (Legal scholars have questioned whether this portion of Burdick is meaningful or merely dicta).

So if Trump were to pardon himself, he would thereby be confessing his guilt “for offenses against the United States.” And this would serve as a predicate for impeachment.

25 Responses to Team Trump to attack Justice Department investigators, explore pardons

  1. Donald again…

    Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump 26m26 minutes ago

    It’s hard to read the Failing New York Times or the Amazon Washington Post because every story/opinion, even if should be positive, is bad!

    Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump 4h4 hours ago

    It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President.

    Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump 4h4 hours ago

    As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!

  2. Next clown up…..

    Anthony Scaramucci‏Verified account @Scaramucci 22h22 hours ago

    Full transparency: I’m deleting old tweets. Past views evolved & shouldn’t be a distraction. I serve @POTUS agenda & that’s all that matters

  3. Sharing this great comment I saw on another blog. I hope this comes to pass…

    July 23, 2017 at 1:26 am
    “They’re all playing each other..

    In the end Beauregard will be damned if he’s going to let anyone get in the way of all his ultimate Jim Crow power fantasies and wet dream come true…AG of this here United States..

    The buffoon – and both his and Beauregard’s Russian benefactors – are going to have to do so much more and come up with much more than a few more ‘hints’ for Beauregard…or just straight push him out in front of the fast-moving train…

    They might even have to build a fake/alternative train and build their own fake/alternative tracks if they have to..

    But it’s clear by now that Andrew McCabe and Rod Rosenstein too have a much, much clearer and better sense of things right about now…and a good idea of what Comey tasted…They know what time it is…and I have no doubt that come what may, whether in or out, they will be armed and prepared…with juicy facts..

    In the end, all these alliances formed and begotten of greed, opportunism and cold, callous ambition, will all implode…and none will be left standing…and none will escape undamaged – and permanently …for conniving and choosing eyes wide open, to play footsie with the devil..”

  4. John Huppenthal

    Trump needs to organize the firing of Mueller sooner than later – like immediately.

    • Well, that is exactly what he is trying to do, John. But he has to get rid of Sessions first because Jeffie recused himself from all things Russian. So that means Trump probably has to install a lackey AG to fire Mueller.

      So, will Jeffie resign? Maybe not. He gave up his Senate job thinking he would be a real AG which to him means decimating the Department of Justice, especially the Civil Rights Division. But Trump only needed him to decimate the investigation of Trump et al.

      It is hard to say, given that a certified loon occupies the Oval Office, but it does appear that he thinks firing Mueller saves his ass and his “presidency”.
      It appears you two are in agreement. What is it they say, “Great minds think alike and fools seldom differ”?

      • “He gave up his Senate job thinking he would be a real AG which to him means decimating the Department of Justice, especially the Civil Rights Division.”

        I wish he would decimate the so called “Civil Rights Division”. It hasn’t done it’s job in eight years. Since Obama’s AG took it over, it needed to be called the “Minority Rights Division” because they refused to even investigate a single white discrimination case during their entire tenure. Given that the basic white population (without the non-Hispanic or Latino population) is 62.6% of the nation’s total, or with the total white population (including White Hispanics and Latinos) being 77%, such an accomplishment is basically impossible to do unless it is the policy the Division NOT to provide services and support to whites. Then again, there is no surprise there because Civil Rights to the left has always meant Minority Rights. Obama’s Administration merely reflected that bigotry.

        “…but it does appear that [Trump] thinks firing Mueller saves his ass and his “presidency”.”

        This is a wonderful example of the left working itself into a tizzy with no real reason to do so. Trump made a casual reference about Mueller that the left has distorted into Trump declaring his intent to fire Mueller. Yet, so far, Trump has done nothing. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Yet with way the left has worked itself into a froth over him firing Mueller, you would think Trump had already done it. Silly!

        • Steve, you are a lost one.

          Maybe it’s time to take up painting with watercolors, maybe needlepoint or knitting.

          • “Steve, you are a lost one. Maybe it’s time to take up painting with watercolors, maybe needlepoint or knitting.”

            LOL! That was cute, Liza! And Funny!

  5. Trump has had so much to say this morning…

    Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump 3h3 hours ago
    In all fairness to Anthony Scaramucci, he wanted to endorse me 1st, before the Republican Primaries started, but didn’t think I was running!

    Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump 3h3 hours ago
    My son Donald openly gave his e-mails to the media & authorities whereas Crooked Hillary Clinton deleted (& acid washed) her 33,000 e-mails!

    Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump 4h4 hours ago
    …What about all of the Clinton ties to Russia, including Podesta Company, Uranium deal, Russian Reset, big dollar speeches etc.

    Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump 4h4 hours ago
    So many people are asking why isn’t the A.G. or Special Council looking at the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes. 33,000 e-mails deleted?

    Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump 4h4 hours ago
    While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS

    Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump 5h5 hours ago
    A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post,this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions.These illegal leaks, like Comey’s, must stop!

    Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump 14h14 hours ago
    Sean Spicer is a wonderful person who took tremendous abuse from the Fake News Media – but his future is bright!

    • Responding to Trump’s AM tweets.

      Adam Schiff‏Verified account @RepAdamSchiff 32m32 minutes ago

      Glad to see new communications director has things under control. The stream of consciousness strategy never fails, right?

      • For Sure Not Tom

        Red Don is melting down again. It’s embarrassing to be an American on days like this.

        This morning’s twitter-tantrum is especially concerning. He’s on drugs for his fake hair and his high blood pressure, and there are known side effects to them, and there have been rumors about Trump abusing diet pills going back to the early 90’s, which would explain why he only sleeps two or three hours a night.

        And there’s a good chance he’s going out with Alzheimer’s like his dad.

        Spicer quit partly over these tantrums, he was forced to lie about the silliest things. The White House ethics council quit because the Trump/Kushner crime families are too corrupt, some of his lawyers have quit recently, he can’t get his appointee positions filled because no one wants to work for him.

        Today’s he’s ranting about pardons, six months into his first and only term.

        Even if he pardons his entire family and their children for the next ten generations, he can’t protect himself and them from state charges.

        And pardoning someone for federal crimes makes getting convictions at the state level much easier.

        Way to go GOP, you wanted the White House at any cost and you got it.

        • Tom, I didn’t realize you had expanded you skill set to include being a physician! When I read your medical analysis of Trump, you spoke with such forcefulness and certainty that I assume it must be all those years of medical training paying off for you big time! Your analysis of his fake hair, high blood pressure, the side effects of treating them, the abuse of diet pills and, once again, your Alzheimer’s prediction…well, I was impressed. Trump’s a goner, no doubt. You and your medical colleagues need to keep a close eye on Trump lest he get out of control. Of course, since it is you, there is always the possibility that you are passing off wishful thinking as facts. Again.

          “Spicer quit partly over these tantrums…/…The White House ethics council quit because the Trump/Kushner crime families are too corrupt…/…some of his lawyers have quit recently…/…he can’t get his appointee positions filled because no one wants to work for him.”

          I am impressed again, Tom, that you would be privy to what many would consider “confidential” information that is not readily available to people outside the Administration. I mean, surely you aren’t substituting your personal opinions for facts, are you? You wouldn’t do that, would you? After all, Trump is not the first President to have trouble filling open positions because good candidates don’t want to take massive pay cuts to become civil servants. And many, many press secretaries have resigned because it is a high pressure job. And you really don’t know why the ethics panels quit…you are substituting what you want to be the case as opposed to whatever the real reason might be. And people change lawyers all the time.

          You know, when I think about it, maybe I am not so impressed, Tom.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      Don’t worry about the treason, the real crimes are the leaks about all the treason!

  6. Well, this is somewhat premature, but why not?

    • For Sure Not Tom

      Not too early at all, perfect actually, and by one of the best bands ever and one of the best shows I ever saw.

      Everyone should have a copy of Global a Go-Go by The Mescaleros, Strummers band after the Clash, too. A more refined anger. Johnny Appleseed is brilliant and Minstrel Boy is a gorgeous song.

      • I’m always torn whether to post the original by the Bobby Fuller Four which all the old people here would remember. But the Clash owns it now.

  7. For Sure Not Tom

    Mueller served as a Marine Corps officer during the Vietnam War, receiving the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” for heroism and the Purple Heart Medal.

    Since then he’s been busting criminals with the FBI.

    Trump did not serve in Vietnam because his foot hurt, and has since gone on to molest women and become a Russian agent.

    These Trump people are slime.

    • Are you inviting a defamation lawsuit from slime?

      • For Sure Not Tom

        I would like to apologize to my friends, my family, slime, and the character Slimer from Ghostbusters, and all the people I’ve hurt with terrible things I have said.

        Slime is in no way as disgusting as the Trump administration and I refudiate my earlier statement.

    • did he receive the vietnam victory medal?

      • For Sure Not Tom

        I gave that out myself, but it was to Muhammed Ali, in a big ceremony that was in all the papers. You must have missed it. The medal was real shiny and Connie Francis sang a song!

        Vietnam, and every war since WW2, was fought for corporate profits, I get that, but I thought trashing vets and LEO’s was a no no for the GOP.

        But watching the GOP Senators and Reps and listening to AM radio, I see I have been proven wrong, the party of “character matters” shows it has no character.

        A character assassination plot against Mueller is disgusting.

        • I got my vietnam war victory medal it shows the young woman at kent state holging up her arm with a peace sign back ground.