Trump & His Supporters Believe He is Above the Law – THEY ARE WRONG !!!

Trump & His Supporters Believe
He is Above the Law –

© David Burton 2022

President Biden

     Early in August of 2022, the FBI FBI executed a search warrant at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, as part of an investigation into the handling of presidential documents, including classified documents, that may have been brought there.
     The search of the home of a former president raised the stakes for the Justice Department and came as Trump's legal problems continued on multiple fronts. At the time of the search at Trump’s Florida home, the Justice Department also had 2 known active investigations connected to the former President, one on the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the other involving the former president’s handling of classified documents. New York state also had an investigation in process concerning possible Trump business illegalitites prior to his being elected president.
     A White House official said it was not notified about the search and a senior administration official said that President Joe Biden was unaware of the search of Mar-a-Lago until after it was reported on the news.
     The National Archives, charged with collecting and sorting presidential material, previously said that at least 15 boxes of White House records were recovered from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort - including some that were classified.
     The chair of the House Oversight Committee, which is investigating Trump's handling of documents, called on the Justice Department to "fully investigate" the former President's handling of information. "Presidents have a solemn duty to protect America's national security, and allegations that former President Trump put our security at risk by mishandling classified information warrant the utmost scrutiny. Although details of {the} actions at Mar-a-Lago are still emerging, it is clear that the Department of Justice must fully investigate President Trump's potentially grave mishandling of classified information."[1]

     This new development in the story of "Donald Trump as President" may finally produce something because an FBI search of a former president's residence is no small thing. Many progressives, independents and some conservatives have long had enough with the former reality-TV-star-turned-president (turned probable insurrectionist). These “Never Trump” people had long become fed up with what they perceived as Trump's repeated, flagrant disregard for the Constitution and federal law. They hoped that the FBI searching Trump's Mar-a-Lago home might be a sign of things to come.
     For a federal judge to sign off on a search warrant there has to be probable cause. Under the Fourth Amendment, probable cause requires more than bare suspicion but less evidence that would justify conviction that a crime has been committed, or that there were specific items connected with a crime at a place. Certainly, there must be a enough evidence for the Department of Justice, the Trump-appointed head of the FBI, Christopher Wray, and a federal judge to sign off on a search warrant for a former president's house!
     To be clear: We still don't know what documents or other items might have been taken by the FBI, or which ones might be part of a Department of Justice investigation. But it does give one a sense of hope for accountability.
     Watching Trump act with impunity over and over again has tested the sense of justice and patience of many. From violations of the Emoluments Clause, the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, nepotism in the White House to the removal and potential destruction of 15 boxes of papers from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, it seemed as if Trump would never face any form of accountability for his actions.
     There is still a long way to go before we could see any official charges or a possible criminal conviction for him or anyone else close to him. And even then, the president of the United States could - and in all likelihood would - pardon Trump for any crimes he is accused of or convicted of. The DOJ and the FBI have taken big political risks. America and the world are watching, closely.[2]

     How many times have you heard it? “No one is above the law.” Yet that aphorism of American democracy has been largely a myth when it comes to presidents. Fortunately, few presidents have shown such a penchant for criminality as Donald Trump. And none have done so to a more heinous end: threatening our very system of government. To stay in office, he worked to overturn a historically free and fair election and to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. But, even in failing, Trump undermined democracy - to this day, many millions of Americans wrongly believe that President Biden stole the 2020 election.
     The United States Congress, along with the Department of Justice Department (DOJ), should take all the time it needs to build a case against Donald Trump for his central role in the insurrection of January 6, 2021 - one that is strong enough to persuade a unanimous jury beyond a reasonable doubt of Trump’s guilt.
     Presidents - current and former - inarguably enjoy a higher bar to prosecution, and not without reason: the national interest. For sitting presidents, the Justice Department has held since Richard Nixon’s time that criminally indicting an incumbent “would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.” Thus, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III didn’t indict Trump in 2019 despite detailing 10 damning instances suggesting he’d obstructed justice in the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
     For former presidents there aren't constitutional restraints to prosecution, but there are practical, political red flags, especially for Trump. But letting a president get away with treasonous activities is a “much graver constitutional threat” than prosecuting him. The evidence that we’re aware of - and there’s most certainly more - argues for charges of fraud, seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct a government proceeding (Congress’ January 6 session to certify Biden’s victory) or all of the above.
     From election night on, Trump insisted he was defrauded of reelection although top advisors told him otherwise. He pressured Justice Department officials to confirm such fraud despite their denials of it - “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen,” he said.
     He urged Republican officeholders in states Biden won to back bogus pro-Trump slates to the electoral college. He summoned his MAGA (Make America Great Again) army to Washington for Congress’ January 6 session and then, knowing some supporters were armed, urged them to march on the Capitol. For three hours he did nothing to stop the rampage. Instead, he called Republican senators to goad them into trying to illegally block Biden’s election certification.
     Since the resignation of Richard Nixon and President Ford’s pardon of the disgraced ex-president, we’ve come full circle. But, had Nixon been prosecuted for his crimes, we wouldn’t be without a precedent for bringing Donald Trump to trial. Instead we would have proof that, indeed, no man is above the law.[3]

     Back in 2019, Donald Trump tested whether he could claim immunity from the rule of law. That was the plain meaning of the announcement that his administration would not cooperate in any way with the inquiry into his impeachment by the House of Representatives. Trump was subsequently impeached by the House but not convicted by the Senate.
     Then, the letter released by the White House counsel branded the impeachment inquiry an effort "to overturn the results of the 2016 election . . . President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances." In Trump's words, the impeachment trial was a "kangaroo court."
     Nearly everything in that statement was false. The White House counsel joined a long line of sycophants who offered up their integrity on Trump's altar. "Unconstitutional"? It's hard for something to be unconstitutional when it's explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. Check Article II, Section 4. An effort to undo the 2016 election? Even in the unlikely event that Trump were removed from office, it would have been Mike Pence, not Hillary Clinton, who would have assumed office. Partisan? Half true. Some Republicans were mouthing Trump talking points, but others expressed serious concern about Trump's abuse of office. Besides, impeachments have always featured a heavy dose of partisanship. That neither delegitimizes nor explains them. Forty-three out of 45 presidents have managed to avoid impeachment (Nixon resigned) despite ever-present partisanship.
     As for the proper body to investigate presidential wrongdoing, as The Washington Post's James Hohmann noted, Trump was arguing that Congress had no authority to investigate him through impeachment. Trump argued the exact opposite in another case involving him. The Manhattan district attorney sought Trump's tax returns. There, Trump contended that the court lacked jurisdiction because "the framers" established impeachment as the sole recourse to hold presidents accountable. Obviously, consistency has never been one of Trump’s strong points. Whatever serves his personal interests at any given time will do. And, of course, in his mind, whatever Donald did or wanted could not be wrong nor questioned!
     Let's consider accountability. We hear constantly that the verdict of the voters should not be lightly overturned. True. But the founders knew power was dangerous, and elections were only one way they devised to prevent its abuse. They divided powers among the branches. They staggered senators' terms to permit some to be more insulated from transitory public passions than others. They devised the Electoral College to prevent the largest states from exercising all the power in choosing presidents. And they authorized Congress to impeach presidents and others.
     The Constitution refers to "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors," leading many to ask, "Where's the crime?" Declining to abide by lawful subpoenas is a direct challenge to the rule of law. And it is far from the first. Trump has disfigured the pardon power to reward friends. He has twisted trade law into unrecognizable shape, claiming that "national security" required tariffs on Canadian steel. He has declared a state of emergency to fund a notional wall at the southern border - flouting the explicit will of Congress - while acknowledging on the same day that the emergency was bogus. He has expanded the concept of executive privilege to apply to those who've never worked in the White House. He has demanded personal loyalty from career civil servants. He has instructed aides to confiscate Americans' property along the border, promising that if the aides run into legal trouble, he will pardon them later. He told border agents to turn away all asylum-seekers. If an inconvenience, like U.S. law, should arise, they were to say: "Sorry, judge. We don't have the room." He has suggested that guns be taken from people without due process. "Take the guns first," the Red Queen president said. "Go through due process second" - which vitiates the whole concept of due process. And he might have even thought that this was legitimate. Speaking to Turning Point USA in July of 2019, the narcissistic Trump said: " I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president.” [Emphasis mine] "
     Such level of flagrant norm-shattering and proud lawbreaking should have demanded more than tut-tutting and slaps on the wrist. Along with the shakedown of foreign countries to get dirt on opponents, Trump demonstrated that he truly believed he was above the law – he still does! A nation of laws cannot tolerate that.[4]

     On July 27, 1974, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon, saying that he had "prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice." Nixon resigned before the full House could vote on his impeachment. Twenty-five years later, after an investigation that had begun more than five years before, the United States Senate voted on articles of impeachment for President Bill Clinton, which used the same language, that he had "prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice."
     Of the 55 Republicans then in the Senate, 50 voted to convict Clinton on this charge.
     During the Trump impeachment proceedings, the New York Times published a letter from President Trump's lawyers to special counsel Robert Mueller, which includes this stunning passage:
     "It remains our position that the President's actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself, and that he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired."
     To clarify, they asserted that no matter what the president did, by definition he could not be guilty of obstruction of justice, because he was the president.
     This was being referred to as "Nixonian," because Richard Nixon said much the same thing in 1977 in an interview with David Frost: "When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal." The reaction to that statement from legal scholars, historians, and pretty much everyone else was one of horror, because if the most powerful office on earth is held by a megalomaniac who believes that he is beyond the reach of the law, then the republic is truly in peril.
     That wasn't all that was shocking in the letter from Trump's lawyers. There was a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort held with a group of Russians who, they were told, had dirt on Hillary Clinton that came from the Russian government. This new letter admitted that when the story of that meeting was about to be published in 2017, "the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr." That's significant because it directly contradicts what Trump's lawyers were saying on his behalf for almost a year, hence. The Washington Post broke the story of Trump dictating Don Jr.'s response. His lawyers said "That wasn't written by the president," "The president didn't sign off on anything," and "The president was not involved." Those statements have now been revealed, by Trump's lawyers' own admission, to have been lies.
     The statement that Trump dictated, furthermore, was not "accurate" - it claimed that the Trump Tower meeting was just about adoption of Russian children and had nothing to do with the campaign. The president personally directed an attempt to mislead the public. Incredibly, the letter said, "This subject is a private matter with the New York Times. The President is not required to answer to the Office of the Special Counsel, or anyone else, for his private affairs with his children." In other words, according to Donald Trump, lying to the public in order to cover up collusion with Russia was just a private affair with his children, so butt out.
     If there's a single legal or constitutional scholar anywhere - or even a lawyer not in Donald Trump's direct employ - who takes the position that the president can't be guilty of obstruction of justice because he's the president, I'd be shocked. The fact that some have argued about whether Trump obstructed justice is faintly ridiculous. Not only did he take multiple actions intended to impede the investigation, he didn’t even try to hide his intent to do so.
     Consider the anger Trump repeatedly expressed at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation (which, it should be noted, Sessions absolutely had to do given that he was a high-ranking official on the 2016 campaign and himself misled Congress about his contacts with the Russian ambassador). What displeased Trump about this recusal? Was it that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had been arriving to work late and Trump would have liked someone more punctual overseeing the probe? No. The reason was that Trump wanted Sessions in place so that Sessions could protect him from the investigation. In other words, he would have liked to have Sessions there obstructing justice on his behalf.
     That's just one corner of this whole lurid scandal, one that doesn't even reach questions about Trump's businesses.
     That was (and still is) one of the biggest problems in confronting the Russia scandal: There was so much involved, and so many people doing so many things that were so obviously wrong, that it can be difficult not to be overwhelmed. When people say about Trump "This is not normal," they aren't wrong, but they're not going nearly far enough. This wasn't just “not normal”, it was an abomination, a threat to the foundations of the American democratic system.
     No one with half a brain and open eyes should act surprised that this is what we had come to. The last several years have been leading to the point at which Donald Trump can proclaim that he is above the law, and he dares us to do anything about it.[5]

     On the 9 August 2022 edition of MSNBC's "The Beat," former President Donald Trump's one-time attorney and fixer Michael Cohen assessed the implications of the FBI search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago estate. One of the key things to consider, argued Cohen, was that Trump was still so arrogant that he believed he would not face any consequences for removing classified information from the White House.
     Asked if he believed that Trump thought the situation would get worse, Cohen said, "No he does not. He's such a narcissistic sociopath he does not believe - he thinks he's going to beat all of this. He does not believe documents do not belong to him. You're not permitted to destroy documents, you're not permitted to take documents. They don't belong to him. Now, do I think some of the documents may be love letters from Kim Jong-un or a letter from the queen and he's just holding it so he can brag to somebody at Mar-a-Lardo while chowing down on a burger and ice cream? Absolutely."
     "I will ask you this," said Cohen’s interviewer. "He {the president} is the ultimate declassifying authority. He did have four years to learn the job, and it is a big job. But had he figured out by January 19th he could have declassified virtually all, if not all, of this stuff by declassifying it. He could have legally taken it back to Florida. I know I'm pushing. We have had these conversations before. Am I to understand that someone who just tries to make sense of the news that by the end of the term he didn't know he could use that power that way to avoid this entire search?"
     "Absolutely," said Cohen. "They were busy thinking who they were going to pardon for money. Who knows what's really in that safe? Who knows what's in the information that the FBI now has their hands on? And again - I said this - I say gleefully, because everything that he did to people like myself, it's now a karma boomerang. He's now experiencing the full effect of the federal government and the weaponization, as he likes to call it against him. He is the ultimate weaponizer."[6]

     The book by President Trump’s Former National Security Advisor, John Bolton, is officially out. One of the more interesting things that Bolton said in the book was that the Democrats absolutely screwed up with their impeachment of the former president and, because they screwed up so badly, they left Trump feeling like he could get away with anything. Bolton said that limiting the inquiry to Ukraine and trying to produce a result too quickly actually reinforced Trump’s own political agenda to keep it narrow and move it fast. He said that the impeachment inquiry failed at teaching the president a lesson about seeking help from foreign powers for his own re-election.
     When Trump was acquitted in the Senate, he learned that he could get away with his wrong-doing and he wasn’t wrong. Bolton was 100% correct in his analysis. There was never a chance that the Republican controlled Senate would have convicted Donald Trump unless of course they had evidence that he murdered a dozen wealthy Republican donors. At that point, they might have convicted him. They might have convicted him for that, but literally anything short of killing the people who funded their campaigns, wouldn’t have convinced them to convict Trump. They would not have done it.
     The Democrats said that they were going to focus only on Ukraine because it was simple. They weren’t going to get into all the possible banking issues and the financial issues and the obstruction of justice and all of that, it was just too darn complicated. And because of that, they screwed up. Not because it would have led to a conviction, but because it would have exposed it all. It would have let Donald Trump know that when you do something bad, we’re going to uncover it and we’re going to tell the public and we’re going to do our best to hold you accountable. And we’re going to make sure everybody remembers that as they headed into the next election. They didn’t do that. That is the biggest failure of the Democrats during the Trump years. They didn’t go hard enough. They didn’t fight hard enough.
     The Democrats in Congress failed to show the public that they tried and that they cared about the rule of law - even if that man in the white house didn’t. Even if Trump’s Republican cronies didn’t care about his malfeasance, the Democrats should have demonstrated that they did and that they were going to do something meaningful about it.
     Today, the Democrats – and others – can look back and say, ‘It sure as hell looks like Trump committed a lot of crimes. Why didn’t we go after him for those?” To all the Democrats in Congress who didn’t launch a serious investigation into all those crimes which they now charge that Trump committed, it can be said: “You look just as complicit as his Republican lackies.”[7]

     Former President Donald Trump did not answer questions from the New York attorney general’s office about his business dealings during a deposition on Wednesday, 10 August 2022, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
     The deposition came as part of an ongoing probe into the former president’s businesses launched by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The New York attorney general’s office had been conducting a civil investigation into the Trump Organization for “fraudulent or misleading” business practices, including knowingly providing inaccurate valuations of assets to benefit the company.
     An October 2018 report in the New York Times found that Trump had participated in a series of tax schemes related to his father’s real estate empire. In 2019, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen had discussed these business tactics during testimony with the House Oversight Committee.
     Trump had previously said that invoking the Fifth Amendment was a sign of guilt. While campaigning for the presidency in 2016, he noted that some staffers for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had used the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions from a House committee investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. “So there are five people taking the Fifth Amendment,” Trump said in Council Bluffs, Iowa. “Like you see on the mob, right? You see the mob takes the Fifth. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
     This was not the first time Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment, however. In 1990, he refused to answer 97 questions during a divorce deposition.
     Trump’s deposition came 2 days after FBI agents searched his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. The raid stemmed from an investigation into whether he had removed classified documents from the White House.
     Trump was still under scrutiny for his role in the violence of Jan. 6, 2021, which was being investigated by the Justice Department and a House committee. Additionally, a Georgia district attorney was investigating his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state, which voted for Joe Biden.[8]

     Trump and his unwavering supporters have attacked all attempts at discrediting the former president – all of which has been continuously fueled by Trump’s blind fury, their misrepresentations of the search of his Mar–a-Lago estate and their unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that the FBI planted incriminating evidence at the home of the former President.
     The pro-Trump media machine was in meltdown mode. Several of the most pro-Trump lawmakers and pundits who previously excoriated liberal “defund the police” rhetoric were now demanding the defunding of the FBI. This was quite a change for those conservatives that prided themselves on supporting law and order. It could portend serious damage to the bureau under a potential future Republican Congress or president – not to mention the neutering of the country’s capacity to fight foreign espionage, violent crime, drug trafficking and domestic extremism.
     In using terminology like “raid” and “siege” to describe the legally sanctioned search, Trump and his allies again painted him as a victim - that of political persecution.
     In the face of the relentless assault, the FBI and the Justice Department – both of which Trump sought to weaponize for his own political ends in office – are relearning one of the truisms of the Trump era. Playing by the rules and observing legal and protocol norms – like not publicly speaking about open investigations – might be the foundation of sound governance and impartial justice. But it’s ineffective as a public relations strategy when the ex-President and his acolytes obliterate all perspective in a gusher of chaos and falsehoods designed to obscure the facts. Given Trump’s power over his supporters and the right-wing media furor, the DOJ’s investigation was tainted in the eyes of millions of people – however it turns out.
     Trump adopted exactly the same playbook he used in his campaign against the Russia investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller, who mostly stuck by his code of working behind closed doors and pursuing justice quietly. (Mueller did not find that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to win the 2016 election but he unearthed multiple odd contacts with Russians and plentiful evidence Trump may have obstructed justice.)
     Trump could publish the search warrant himself if he wanted. The fact that he has failed to do so and the increasingly unhinged tone of his attacks on the Justice Department only deepened the impression he had something to hide.
     GOP attacks continued to suggest that they believef Trump was above the law. But the whole point of the rule of law is that the law applies equally to everyone.
     Some of the most remarkable, and yet characteristic, features of the Republican criticism of the Justice Department were the wild claims of political persecution that were being made by those with no apparent knowledge of whatever potential crime Trump may have committed. All that mattered to GOP politicians, who saw their own political fortunes tied to him, was that Trump was under attack.
     The top House Republican, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, for instance, accused Democrats of abuses of power and told his members in a Facebook post, “NOW is the time to speak up and be LOUD.” His comment suggested that the volume of the outrage was more important than the factual issues at stake – showing how deeply the possible future speaker had learned the lessons of Trumpism. This kind of reaction also helps explain why even if the Justice Department were to ease its policy on discussing an ongoing investigation, it wouldn’t help quell the GOP outrage. It wouldn’t matter what was said, since it would be manipulated, taken out of context and discredited by Trump’s propaganda machine anyway.
     Another extraordinary feature of the GOP uproar over the Mar-a-Lago search was the claim, made without evidence, that the DOJ specifically targeted Trump simply because he was a former President and a potential 2024 candidate who could take on Biden. Such claims ignore how Trump used the power of the presidency to try to fix elections, for instance, in leaning on Ukraine to investigate Biden and later in seeking to overturn the result in 2020.
     That does not just amount to the politicization of justice. It’s a recipe for the collapse of the rule of law, which is supposed to apply to everyone - and that includes presidents and ex-presidents in the United States of America. [9]

  1. FBI executes search warrant at Trump's Mar-a-Lago in document investigation, Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak, Katelyn Polantz, Sara Murray, Evan Perez, Gabby Orr and Dan Berman, CNN Politics, 9 August 2022.
  2. The truth? A lot can still go wrong, but FBI search on Trump's Mar-a-Lago was cathartic., Carli Pierson,
    yahoo! news, 9 August 2022.
  3. Donald Trump is dangerously close to proving that presidents are above the law, Kevin Cullen, yahoo! news ,
    29 July 2022.
  4. Trump Thinks He's Above the Law, Mona Charen, yahoo! news , 11 October 2019.
  5. Inevitably, Trump Declares He Is Above the Law, Paul Waldman, The American Prospect, 3 June 2018.
  6. 'Narcissistic sociopath' Trump believes he's above the law — and it hasn't hit him that it's serious: Michael Cohen, Matthew Chapman, Raw Story, 9 August 2022.
  7. Trump Really Believes He’s Above The Law, John Bolton Says, Farron Cousins,, 10 August 2022.
  8. Trump takes the 5th, refuses to answer questions in probe of his business dealings, Christopher Wilson,
    Yahoo News, 10 August 2022.
  9. The Justice Department is in a no-win situation as Trump's fury rages, Stephen Collinson, CNN, 11 August 2022.

  25 August 2022 {Article 542; politics_75}    
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