How Trump could be prosecuted after the White House

Renato Mariotti writes:

With Congress enmeshed in a fraught debate over whether to impeach President Donald Trump, Robert Mueller’s brief and dramatic news conference provided a sharp reminder that impeachment is not the only option for addressing the president’s alleged misdeeds.

The outlines of a potential civilian prosecution of a former president Trump are already emerging. While there are reports of tax dodges, illegal campaign contributions, and improper foreign contributions to his inaugural committee—among other things—investigations into those claims are ongoing. There is, however, an overwhelming case that the president engaged in obstruction of justice—his effort to stop the special counsel’s office from probing his campaign’s ties to Russia.

In the second volume of his 448-page report, Mueller sets forth evidence of obstruction of justice that any competent federal prosecutor could use to draft an indictment. And Mueller made it clear himself that his detailed report was intended, in part, to “preserve the evidence” because “a President does not have immunity after he leaves office.”

Although it’s impossible to know exactly what a prosecution of Citizen Trump would look like, or who would conduct it, it’s already possible to project some paths a likely prosecution would take. In the eyes of a seasoned former federal prosecutor looking only at the evidence we have so far, here are the likely routes—and what Trump has to worry about next. [Continue reading…]

Democrats, in California, confront deep divisions over how to handle increasing calls for Trump’s impeachment

The Washington Post reports:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was just moments into her speech Saturday when a man shouted out from the back of a convention hall stuffed with thousands of delegates to the state Democratic Party convention.

“Impeach Donald Trump!” he screamed, uttering a battle cry Pelosi has rebuffed, despite growing demands from her party’s activist wing.

“President Trump will be held accountable for his actions,” she said. The I-word never left her lips.

Less than an hour later, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) stepped to the same podium to deliver a very different message. “We need to begin impeachment proceedings!” the presidential candidate bellowed. The crowd roared.

The party’s deep divisions, refreshed when last week’s remarks by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III raised new questions about whether Trump had committed impeachable violations, played out time and again during the first full day of the weekend convention as they have across the nation. [Continue reading…]

Kids suing the U.S. over climate crisis are getting global support

Quartz reports:

In 2015, when a group of 21 children and teens first sued the US government over climate change, their claim in Juliana v. US was not totally new—youth in Uganda and the Netherlands had filed somewhat similar environmental suits—but it seemed a little strange. Shouldn’t these kids be playing video games or something, doing pretty much anything but litigating to save the planet?

Now, the plaintiffs in Juliana v. US are part of an increasingly vocal global movement of young environmental activists leading the fight against climate catastrophe, most visible among them Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, who has chided world leaders for failing to take action. And they are banding together. In March, Thunberg inspired a worldwide protest, with kids skipping school to make the point that their future is on the line because of climate change. On June 1, youth activists will host nearly 100 coordinated press conferences across the US and worldwide announcing new local actions to fight the climate crisis in a show of solidarity with the American plaintiffs who have a hearing before the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on June 4.

The young Americans, some of whom are now adults, argue that they have a constitutional right to a stable climate that sustains life on Earth. While this right is obviously not enumerated in the US Constitution, they say that it is implied by the document. By adopting policies that promote fossil fuel use, leading to the emission of carbon dioxide at rates that change the climate, despite knowing these energy sources are warming the planet, the federal government violates “the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property,” they wrote in their 2015 complaint (pdf). The plaintiffs also contend that the government is failing to protect essential resources held in trust for the public. [Continue reading…]

Good Samaritan faces 20 years in prison for giving food and water to migrants

No president is above the law

Elizabeth Warren writes:

When Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released on April 18, I sat down and read it. All 448 pages of it. I started reading it that afternoon, and I read all through the night and into the next morning. And when I got to page 448, three things were clear to me.

First, a hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election to help candidate Donald Trump get elected. Second, candidate Donald Trump welcomed that help. Third, when the federal government tried to investigate, now-President Donald Trump did everything he could to delay, distract, and otherwise obstruct that investigation.

That’s a crime. If Donald Trump were anyone other than the President of the United States right now, he would be in handcuffs and indicted. [Continue reading…]

The case for impeachment

 

Mueller’s punt keeps looking worse

Andrew Prokop writes:

Robert Mueller’s report makes the stirring claim that “a fundamental principle of our government” is that no person, not even the president, “is above the law.”

But the special counsel’s ultimate legacy may well be the exact opposite — because of his controversial decision not to say whether Trump committed criminal obstruction of justice.

“We concluded that we would not reach a determination, one way or the other, about whether the president committed a crime,” Mueller said in his statement Wednesday, reiterating his report’s explanation.

It was the punt heard around the world. It may have been the crucial turning point in the saga of the special counsel probe, and perhaps the decision most likely to have ramifications for future presidents. It effectively “removes the president from the scope of generally applicable criminal laws,” Cornell law professor Jens David Ohlin recently told my colleague Sean Illing.

Essentially, Mueller has laid out a model that federal prosecutors can investigate the sitting president for crimes, but that they should not make any conclusion about whether he committed a crime. In a sense, this does seem to place the president above the law. [Continue reading…]

Neither Congress nor the press did enough to tell the American people what they needed to know about the Mueller report

Quinta Jurecic writes:

Mueller has remained silent for two years, and his first public statement was always going to be a significant event. Likewise, the underlying information communicated in both Mueller’s remarks and the report itself is appalling—and further discussion of its meaning can only be good. The question is why it took so long to happen.

The difficulty in communicating the substance of the Mueller report began even before the report itself was released. When Barr first released his letter describing Mueller’s top-line conclusions weeks before the report itself became public, the press struggled to respond to the spin campaign mounted by the president and his allies. Some publications reported uncritically on the president’s claims of “Complete and Total EXONERATION,” though Barr’s letter stated that Mueller had not exonerated Trump. The New York Times and The Washington Post both said a “cloud” had been lifted from over the White House.

This was weeks before any members of Congress or the press had seen the actual text of the report—which differed dramatically from the relatively rosy version of events communicated by Barr. The attorney general, it soon became clear, had plucked supposedly exonerating phrases from the report while leaving out often-damning context. Barr’s summary gave the president and his allies two crucial weeks to portray the contents of the report in the most favorable light.

The report, when it arrived, was a forbidding 448 pages and dense with legal terminology. It was not user-friendly. And so, perhaps predictably, a CNN poll from early May indicated that 75 percent of Americans have not read the report at all; 24 percent said they had read some of its contents, and only 3 percent said they had reviewed the entire document. The result is that most people, lacking the time to pore through almost 450 pages of text, were dependent on the press and on political figures to communicate the significance of the document.

But the reaction to Mueller’s press conference suggests that those institutions have fallen down on the job. [Continue reading…]

In first and only statement after completing his investigation, Mueller points towards impeachment

Announcing his resignation, Robert Mueller said:

The order appointing me special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation, and we kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of the progress of our work. And as set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.

The introduction to the Volume II of our report explains that decision. It explains that under longstanding department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited. A special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider. The department’s written opinion explaining the policy makes several important points that further informed our handling of the obstruction investigation. Those points are summarized in our report, and I will describe two of them for you.

First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president, because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could be charged now.

And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.

I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple, systemic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American. [Emphasis mine, continue reading…]

 

What the Mueller report actually said

David Frum writes:

Robert Mueller has advised Americans to go back and actually read his report if we want to understand what happened in 2016. “We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself,” he said on Wednesday morning, speaking publicly for the first time since his appointment.

But the words of the report are damning.

“The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion,” Mueller wrote. This help “favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”

The Trump campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” and it “welcomed” this help. [Continue reading…]