Legal, ethics, and political experts are responding to President Donald Trump stunningly calling on China to investigate his top political opponent, Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter. Thursday morning from the White House South Lawn Trump said “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”
Trump also re-upped his call on Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
“If they were honest about it, they would start a major investigation into the Bidens,” Trump said, in a somewhat threatening manner.
Trump’s remarks were rambling and he repeatedly called on China to investigate the Bidens.
How damning was it?
“Speaking on trade with China moments before recommending that China investigate the Bidens, President Trump said that ‘I have a lot of options on China, but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power,'” NBC News reports.
“This is like the Ukrainian phone call but he just did it in the driveway,” historian and MSNBC contributor Meacham just said.
Here’s what other experts are saying.
Former Director of U.S. Office of Government Ethics:
The man just renewed his solicitation of a foreign attack on our election and added a second country. This anti-American behavior is not something we can tolerate from a sitting President. His job — his sworn duty — is to defend America, not betray it. Enough. https://t.co/bkra6bYfzS
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) October 3, 2019
Former federal prosecutor:
1/ Trump just committed a felony violation of law by soliciting something of value in connection with a US election from a foreign gov’t on national TV. 52 U.S. Code § 30121. Violating the law isn’t necessary for Impeachment but it certainly warrants it. https://t.co/MqvdkAniTR
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) October 3, 2019
Political scientist at University College London:
This is impeachable and it’s no longer just about a call or a whistleblower. He’s saying it from the White House lawn. He must be removed from office. Trump is tying US foreign policy to his political interests. https://t.co/l2wPIdtG7D
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) October 3, 2019
Washington Bureau Chief, HuffPost:
Just like in 2016… it’s right there in the open. https://t.co/Wybfj6EOFb
— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) October 3, 2019
Attorney and blogger:
I’ll say this much for Trump. Unlike Nixon, who committed his crimes behind the scenes, Trump commits his in public while the news cameras are rolling.
— Doug Mataconis (@dmataconis) October 3, 2019
New Republic journalist:
This is an impeachable offense. https://t.co/lRStZH7aVG
— Matt Ford (@fordm) October 3, 2019
Democrats should add this to the articles of impeachment. Just because Trump is saying it on camera doesn’t change the fact that it’s impeachable conduct to demand that a foreign country interfere in our election. https://t.co/fG8jrlDZ81
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) October 3, 2019
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Trump’s Whistleblower Rant Wasn’t Just Disgusting — It’s Also ‘Potentially Criminal’: Former Acting Solicitor General
Speaking at a United Nations event in New York City on Thursday, President Donald Trump angrily railed against the whistleblower in the federal government who came forward with information about his July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump implied to the audience that in the past, that whistleblower and those who helped the whistleblower would have faced execution for treason. And some prominent Democrats, along with legal and national security experts, are asserting that Trump’s words amount to threatening a witness.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Trump told the UN audience, “I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart, right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”
Thanks to that whistleblower, Trump is now facing an impeachment inquiry for trying to pressure Zelensky into digging up dirt on a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, during former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, was adamantly opposed to impeachment — she was the most prominent anti-impeachment voice in the Democratic Party. But Pelosi found the whistleblower’s allegations so troubling that earlier this week, she came out in favor of an impeachment inquiry.
Attorney Neal Katyal, who served as acting solicitor general under President Barack Obama, told “Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC on Friday morning that he considers Trump’s whistleblower-related comments at the UN event “potentially criminal” because they could amount to “threatening” a government witness.
Katyal said, “I was so disgusted by that…. It is the last thing we should expect from the president of the United States.”
Katyal is hardly the only well-known Democrat who is speaking out. In a joint statement, three prominent House Democrats — Rep. Eliot Engel (chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee), Rep. Adam Schiff (who chairs the House Intelligence Committee) and House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings — asserted, “We condemn the president’s attacks, and we invite our Republican counterparts to do the same because Congress must do all it can to protect this whistleblower and all whistleblowers. Threats of violence from the leader of our country have a chilling effect on the entire whistleblower process, with grave consequences for our democracy and national security.”
On Thursday night, Sen. Kamala Harris (a former prosecutor) told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, “He sounds like a criminal — ‘who snitched? Who gave up the goods?…. It sounds like it’s straight out of some bad drama, but the fact is: this is the president of the United States.” And another presidential candidate, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, told MSNBC, “It’s not surprising that Donald Trump doesn’t know the difference between patriotism and treason. If there’s any treasonous actions here, it is coming from the White House.”
Ian Bassin, a former associate White House Counsel under Obama, tweeted, “The president just implied that numerous public servants and high ranking officials who he deems as disloyal to his personal interests perhaps should be executed.” And attorney Bradley P. Moss, a national security expert, said of Trump, “Someone explain the extortion and intimidating a witness laws to this guy.”
Trump is receiving some blowback from the right as well. Attorney George Conway, an outspoken anti-Trump conservative, tweeted, “Threatening actual and potential witnesses, of course, constitutes obstruction of justice.”
Someone explain the extortion and intimidating a witness laws to this guy https://t.co/aFD3nN6SBk
— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) September 26, 2019
The President just implied that numerous public servants and high ranking officials who he deems as disloyal to his personal interests perhaps should be executed. If these Senators don’t speak up soon and publicly, we will be in an even darker place as a country and world. https://t.co/xmO07AflFK
— Ian Bassin (@ianbassin) September 26, 2019
Threatening actual and potential witnesses, of course, constitutes obstruction of justice. https://t.co/cgOPxOXOCl
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) September 26, 2019
Legal Experts: Trump’s Promise of Pardons to Aides for Breaking the Law to Build His Wall Is Impeachable
Overnight The Washington Post published a bombshell report: President Donald Trump, in an effort to ensure his re-election, has been directing aides to break the law to get his border wall built. Trump has ordered White House aides to “fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts,” and “aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules,” according to the Post, so he can fulfill a campaign promise.
To make matters worse Trump “also has told worried subordinates that he will pardon them of any potential wrongdoing should they have to break laws to get the barriers built quickly.”
Legal experts are weighing in n the news and they agree: Trump’s actions are illegal and impeachable.
The White House, in an effort to minimize the damage, has said the President was only joking when he told aides to break the law so he could cinch re-election.
Joking or not, Trump is “directing them to violate law,” as Georgetown Law Professor Marty Lederman notes:
Allegations by “several” witnesses that Trump directs officials to act unlawfully to increase his electoral prospects & implies he’ll pardon them. WH spokesperson response is that the pardon bit was a joke–i.e., he’s directing them to violate law *without* a prospect of pardon.
— Marty Lederman (@marty_lederman) August 28, 2019
Don Moynihan, a professor at Georgetown and visiting professor at Oxford notes that “Trump preemptively promising public employees a pardon makes clear that he knows what he asking them to do is illegal.”
Trump preemptively promising public employees a pardon makes clear that he knows what he asking them to do is illegal. Not a consitututional scholar here, but that seems pretty impeachable behavior. https://t.co/Pkp7gbjNHP pic.twitter.com/zIZgpKW60q
— Don Moynihan (@donmoyn) August 28, 2019
Ryan Goodman, a Chaired Professor NYU Law and a former Special Counsel at the Dept.of Defense offers a one-word response: “Impeachable.”
“When aides have suggested that some of his orders are illegal or unworkable, Trump has suggested he would pardon the officials if they would just go ahead….
‘Don’t worry, I’ll pardon you,’ he has told officials in meetings about the wall.”https://t.co/UlYhMVFhVf
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) August 28, 2019
Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College says this is “How the rule of law dies.”
How the rule of law dies: the President “has told worried subordinates that he will pardon them of any potential wrongdoing should they have to break laws” https://t.co/IYfrq2Pj2N
— Brendan Nyhan (@BrendanNyhan) August 28, 2019
Jonathan H. Adler, a law professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law looks back to America’s founding and adds:
This was actually why the pardon power was controversial and opposed by some Anti-Federalists https://t.co/zcPRs9IeN8
— Jonathan H. Adler (@jadler1969) August 28, 2019
Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe offers a two-word description: “impeachable bribery.”
Trump’s offer to pardon lawbreaking aides who seize property illegally to build his wall by Election Day is impeachable bribery. He says it’s a big joke. The joke’s on him. @SpeakerPelosi @RepJerryNadler @RepRaskin https://t.co/eXqx5tbx0K
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) August 28, 2019
Former Nixon Nixon White House Counsel John Dean gets very specific: “conspiracy to defraud the government and obstruct justice.”
If Trump’s telling aides to break the law, he will pardon them, it’s a conspiracy to defraud the government and obstruct justice in violation of 18 USC 371 not to mention an impeachable violation of his oath of office. Congress should pass a RES saying NO! https://t.co/2HgknKNOpT
— John Dean (@JohnWDean) August 28, 2019
Trump Personally Spoke to Border Patrol Agents and Told Them to Break the Law and Lie to Judges: Report
“The President refuses to understand that the Department of Homeland Security is constrained by the laws.”
Last Friday during President Donald Trump’s visit to the Southern border he held a roundtable during which he appeared to read what he said was a new “statement,” which he directed to migrants wanting to come to the U.S. from Central America. That new policy was to tell them the United States is “full.”
TRUMP: “This is our new statement- the system is full. We can’t take you anymore. Whether it’s asylum or anything you want – illegal immigration – we can’t take you anymore. Our country is full. Our area is full. The sector is full. Can’t take you anymore, I’m sorry. Turn around” pic.twitter.com/W1Bjnnf7UR
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 5, 2019
Of course, that’s false, there is plenty of room in the U.S., and in fact the current birthrate is 16% below “replacement.”
But as CNN reports, not only did Trump publicly proclaim the U.S. is full, he held private conversations “behind the scenes” with Border Patrol agents during which “the President told border agents to not let migrants in.”
That is illegal, especially if they are seeking asylum, as Secretary Nielsen had told Trump two weeks prior. The White House counsel had supported Secretary Nielsen’s reading of the law.
The President appeared to not care, as he coached the Border Patrol agents on committing an apparent illegal act.
“Tell them we don’t have the capacity, he said,” CNN reports Trump said. “If judges give you trouble, say, “‘Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room.'”
That would be a lie, and judges obviously would know it was a lie.
Once the President “left the room, agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the President said they would take on personal liability. You have to follow the law, they were told.”
“At the end of the day,” a senior administration official told CNN, “the President refuses to understand that the Department of Homeland Security is constrained by the laws.”
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