One week ago President Donald Trump made a rare trip to California, to dedicate a plaque that falsely marks the start of construction of his border wall. During that trip the president toured an area near the Southern border, held a roundtable with some with Customs and Border patrol agents, and told the head of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency to block asylum-seeking migrants from entering the United States.
Trump, now infamously, and on-camera, told CBP agents to tell migrants – including asylum seekers fleeing violence, rape, drugs, and gangs – “illegal migration, we can’t take you anymore. Our country is full. The sector is full. We can’t take you anymore. Turn around, that’s the way it is.”
That is illegal.
But as CNN is reporting, “the President also told the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, that if he were sent to jail as a result of blocking those migrants from entering the US, the President would grant him a pardon, senior administration officials tell CNN.”
That may be illegal, especially as The New York Times just published a similar report, but describes the conversation as the President ordering McAleenan to close the border to immigrants.
“President Trump last week urged Kevin McAleenan, whom he was about to name as acting secretary of homeland security, to close the southwestern border despite having just said that he was delaying a decision on the step for a year, according to three people briefed about the conversation,” The Times notes.
The President does not have the authority to indiscriminately and secretly close the border.
And indeed, just two days later Trump fired the Secretary of Homeland Security, caused at least two other DHS officials to resign, so he could name McAleenan Acting Head of the Dept. of Homeland Security, which he did.
Attorney and former FBI Special Agent Asha Rangappa weighs in:
This is what in the old days we used to call “abuse of power.” https://t.co/te6rArdoof
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) April 12, 2019
So does MSNBC’s Joyce Vance and CNN’s Jake Tapper:
The President offered a pardon to a federal employee if the employee would violate the law to further the President’s political goals. Really (GOPs in) Congress, what more do you need to see? https://t.co/i9fFCI7tbS
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) April 12, 2019
U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu:
Dear @realDonaldTrump: Dude, you can’t tell a federal employees to violate the law and then say you will issue a pardon. That’s the kind of stuff that can get you impeached.
Also, why are you trying to eliminate pre-existing conditions health care coverage? https://t.co/DXbesW0xUm
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) April 12, 2019
Law Professor and former chief White House ethics lawyer:
Telling someone to commit a crime and promising a pardon if he does is an impeachable offense.
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) April 12, 2019
Former Senior Advisor to President Obama and current CNN contributor:
A President instructing a subordinate to break the law with the promise of a pardon is a textbook example of an impeachable offense and should be the biggest story in the country for months. https://t.co/1JXU9t9Nd2
— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) April 12, 2019
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Sen. Hawley Claims ‘Election Integrity’ Issues: ‘I Cannot Vote to Certify’ Electoral College Results
Trump Signals for Pence to Hand Him the Presidency and Overrule Electoral College
President Donald Trump has sent strong signals that he expects Vice President Mike Pence to hand him re-election when Congress meets Jan. 6 to count Electoral College votes.
The vice president will preside over that joint session, and Trump and some of his Republican congressional allies are leaning heavily on Pence to change the outcome of the Nov. 3 election won by Democrat Joe Biden, but legal experts Neal Katyal and John Monsky wrote a New York Times column explaining that his authority in that process is fairly limited.
“Nothing in either the text of the Constitution or the Electoral Count Act gives the vice president any substantive powers,” the pair wrote. “His powers are ministerial, and that circumscribed role makes general sense: The whole point of an election is to let the people decide who will rule them. If an incumbent could simply maneuver to keep himself in office — after all, a maneuver to protect Mr. Trump also protects Mr. Pence — the most foundational precept of our government would be gravely undermined. In America, ‘we the people,’ not ‘we, the vice president,’ control our destiny.”
Both Article II of the Constitution and the 12th Amendment say that the votes of the Electoral College are to be opened by the “president of the Senate,” meaning the vice president. The Electoral Count Act, passed in 1887 to avoid chaotic counts like the one that followed the 1876 election, adds important details. It provides a detailed timeline to tabulate electoral votes, culminating with the final count to take place on Jan. 6, and it delineates the powers of the vice president.
“They guarded against any pretense he might have to throw out a particular state’s votes, saying that the vice president must open ‘all certificates and papers purporting to be‘ electoral votes,” Katyal and Monsky wrote. “They further said, in the event of a dispute, both chambers of Congress would have to disagree with a particular state’s slate of electoral votes to reject them. And they made it difficult for Congress to disagree, adding measures such as a ‘safe harbor’ provision and deference to certification by state officials.”
All of the president’s legal challenges have lost, and the results have been certified by the states and electors have duly cast their ballots, so there’s nothing Trump or Pence can do to stop their re-election loss under the rules spelled out in the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act.
“[Pence] now stands on the edge of history as he begins his most consequential act of leadership,” Katyal and Monsky wrote. “The question for Vice President Pence, as well as other members of Congress, is which side of history he wants to come down on. Can he show the integrity demonstrated by every previous presidential administration? The American people accept a graceful loser, but a sore loser never goes down well in the history books.”
“Like all those that have come before him, [Pence] should count the votes as they have been certified and do everything he can to oppose those who would do otherwise,” they added. “This is no time for anyone to be a bystander — our Republic is on the line.”
Stone and Manafort Pardons: Trump ‘Could Be Prosecuted for Bribery’
Appearing on CNN Thursday, New York University School of Law professor Ryan Goodman outlined how Trump’s pardons could open him up to criminal prosecution for his obstruction of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election.
In particular, Goodman outlined how Mueller’s final report outlined an obstruction case based around communications between the president’s lawyers and Manafort indicating that the president would pardon his former campaign chairman if he refused to cooperate with the special counsel’s probe.
“The Mueller report specifically says that Manafort told his deputy, Rick Gates, that Manafort had spoken with Trump’s personal attorney, and it would be stupid to plea and they should sit tight, because, quote, ‘We’ll be taken care of,'” Goodman explained. “The Mueller team concludes that this met all of the elements and did succeed in Manafort failing to cooperate and maintaining his silence.”
Goodman also explained that while the Constitution gives the president broad powers to pardon people, he could still be prosecuted for it if that pardon was used as a reward for obstructing justice.
“If a pardon is part of a crime, then most experts would agree that, in fact, the president could be criminally prosecuted for it,” he said. “Just imagine a president exchanged a pardon for a bribe. Well, most experts agree that the president could then be prosecuted for bribery.”
Watch the video below.
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