The Thinker: Rich Galen


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The Mueller Report (1)

Rich Galen

Thursday February 21, 2019

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  • Sometime, over the past few days, the word went forth that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finished his work and will be issuing a report.

  • Or, not.

  • There is nothing, as far as I know, that dictates what form such a report will take, or if it will be a formal report at all.

  • There is nothing that says Mueller won't deliver to the Justice Department a series of documents describing, in some level of detail, what his team did, a list of people they interviewed (and why), a reminder of the people they have indicted and/or convinced to plead guilty, and those upon whom they opened an investigation which led nowhere.

  • Depending upon your position going into this thing you will be rooting for a Godfather Part I-type ending in which FBI agents race around New York City, Washington, DC, and Mar-a-Lago arresting members of Trump's family, friends, employees, customers, residents of condos in Trump properties, and people in line waiting for a hot dog from the vendor outside of Trump Tower who, as everyone on the block already knew, is a Secret Service Agent.

  • Or, not.

  • If you are a fan of Donald J. Trump you will be rooting for a document which says, essentially, "Nothing to see here. Move along."

  • What I do know is we will now be treated to a week or two of breathless discussions on the cable chat shows about what it will all mean, what happens to people like Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Michael Cohen.

  • We will all learn the language of Article II, Section 2, clause 1 which states, in part:
    "he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."

  • That is at the end of a long list of Presidential powers which begins with "The President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States "

  • We will be reminded, ever 12 minutes, that a President can grant pardons for "offenses against the United States" but not for offenses against the people of, say, New York.

  • Trump can pardon someone put in legal jeopardy through an investigation undertaken by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, but not for one done by the Attorney General of New York. Only Governor Andrew Cuomo can do that.

  • Then there is the whole matter of whether a sitting President can be indicted. A 1973 Justice Department memo appears to suggest that the answer is "No."

  • Article II, section 4 accounts for the impeachment and, upon conviction, removal from office for "Treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

  • Article I, Section 3 says that in the case of an impeachment and conviction, judgement "shall not extend further than removal from office " meaning the Congress cannot impose any other penalty.

  • However!

  • Later in that same clause:
    "but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgement and Punishment according to Law''

  • So, after removal the accused former public official has no more, nor fewer, protections under the law than than any other person.

  • Thinking back to Watergate, Richard Nixon was listed as an "unindicted co-conspirator" for his actions while President. He resigned rather than face impeachment, and then was pardoned by his successor President Gerald Ford thus:
    "a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974."

  • This is all speculation, of course. It is quite possible - even likely - that Mueller's team has found that Trump, as the FBI did with Hillary Clinton, did some really stupid, but unindictable, things. Here's a quote from then-FBI Director James Comey:
    "Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information."

  • So, there you have it. You can now safely watch whatever binge-worthy series on Netflix, or Amazon Prime, or whatever is on Turner Classic Movies (if and when they ever get beyond "31 Days of Oscar") and you can still participate in the chatter around the Keurig machine.

  • We can also, as of this writing, muse about where Bryce Harper will be playing baseball this year, but that, too, will be made clear this week or next.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Lots o' Links to the full text of Article II, Section 2, clause 1, to the difference between reprieves and pardons, to the 41-page memo on whether a sitting President can be indicted, and to the text of Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon.

    The Mullfoto is a great shot at sunset in Hawaii by Mullfave Tom Synhorst.

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