While in office, T**mp’s alleged criminal actions, especially with regard to the obstruction of justice in the Mueller Russia probe, posed a unique challenge to the Justice Department’s policy memo of October 16, 2000.
While in office, T**mp’s alleged criminal actions, especially with regard to the obstruction of justice in the Mueller Russia probe, posed a unique challenge to the Justice Department’s policy memo of October 16, 2000. In that notable memo, Justice broadly concluded that “The indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.” https://www.justice.gov/olc/opinion/sitting-president%E2%80%99s-amenability-indictment-and-criminal-prosecution
While that may sound reasonable, consider that “special counsel Robert Mueller told lawmakers… he could not exonerate President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice and that the president’s claims that he had done so in his report are not correct.” (PBS Newshour Wednesday, July 24, 2019).
So Mueller “could not exonerate,” but the memo said that he could not prosecute, either. By that logic, T**mp, as president, had four years of virtual immunity from criminal prosecution via a memo whose framers, I daresay, never expected the habitual bad actions of a president to sink quite so low.
Ever the opportunist, T**mp has been nothing if not a quick study. His two congressional impeachments notwithstanding, T**mp understood that his popularity with toady Republican lawmakers and his extremist base, plus an arcane Justice Department guideline, might allow him the immunity necessary to turn up his attacks on democracy and quite literally seize the state.
Likely, that was a major mistake—but that is yet to be determined. Famously, despite anticipating losing an election, an emboldened, scheming T**mp moved forward to remain in power via a variety of election conspiracies and finally the desperate, failed coup of January 6.
It would be a sad footnote to history if American democracy eventually collapses via a memo that could not anticipate the overt criminality of a sitting president.
Silly me, I thought that the vice-president’s role was to step in if the president was compromised, i.e., indicted. Apparently, that possibility was never considered, neither by Mueller nor the Justice Department.
Imagine four years of immunity from prosecution for the most powerful man on the planet. That sounds more in concert with a king’s “divine right” rather than the rules governing a president in a democracy.
Perhaps more importantly, it sounds like a siren call, beckoning future unscrupulous presidential candidates with budding criminal intent to come hither. It invites them to apply here for “grifter-in-chief,” unassailable and temporarily out of reach of American law. We should fix that.
John Pace lives in Honesdale, PA.
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