Do we tolerate people in power breaking laws just because they can? Looking for a way around the law is an American pastime that I've taken part in. I like to get there fast, but the law lacks a certain tolerance for individual opinions. Yet justice is a very important consideration for me. But for some, like Trump, it seems to be just a personal tool.
In more weighty matters of law, should we quote Charles Dickens, "the law is an ass–an idiot ...?" should we say that if you have enough money or power you can feel entitled and ignore the law and do what you want?
Trump seems to believe the law is an ass. He began his term saying, "It is not surprising terror attacks happen because the way the United States punishes terrorists is a laughingstock."
The counterpoint is, from antiquity it's been said about justice that it grinds slowly, but exceedingly fine. The guilty are held accountable and the punishements fit the crime. That applies to terrorists and presidents alike.
Contempt for the law seems perfectly okay in Trump's view. One of his first actions was to pardon Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court.
Arpaio was noted for a long reign of racial profiling and unusually harsh methods and deaths, which fits with Trump's seeming worldview of forgive my friends, but bring wrath on those we don't like.
With regard to immigration, Trump stated, "We are a nation of laws." But when Judge Jon S. Tigar disappointed Trump by ruling against a new immigration policy, Trump said, “That’s not law. This was an Obama judge.” Apparently in Trump's view we can pick and choose which laws we want to observe.
When trial Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel irritated Trump with a ruling of civil fraud against Trump University, Trump called the Indiana born judge a "Mexican judge" who shouldn't have been permitted to hear the case because Trump was building the wall.
Oversight doesn't stop Trump-oversight that might expose Trump's illegal activity. It is quickly dealt with. When Inspectors General look into sensitive areas such as the Saudi arms deal, which is their job, he replaces them. So far he has conveniently "lost confidence" in five.
Those who choose to allow the legal system to work independently, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are soon replaced with Trump lackeys like Attorney General William Barr. Barr is viewed by many as Trump's personal lawyer there to do his bidding.
Barr strongly opposed the Mueller Report and wanted it not just dead but maligned. But over 800 former federal prosecutors signed a letter stating the conduct of Trump described in the Mueller Report, for any other person would "result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice."
Trump wasn't exonerated, as he claims. His loyal Senators failed to try him. As feared, he was emboldened by their failure to do more brazen crimes.
With no legal jeopardy in sight, Trump and Barr set their sights on the The Southern District of New York, which investigates Trump and is known for its independence. They fired lead US Prosecutor, Geoffrey Berman, then like guilty criminals shifting blame, Trump and Barr blamed each other.
Should we tolerate presidents giving his friends a get out of jail free card? The Justice Department, under Barr, recently moved to dismiss a case against former Trump administration member Michael Flynn. Flynn had taken a deal, pleading guilty to lying to the FBI to avoid being charged with the crime of failing to register as a foreign agent. Apparently lying to the FBI is okay with the Trump administration if you feel you have a good reason to lie.
Getting friends out of jail is an expected pattern apparently by both those who have committed crimes for Trump, and by Congress and the people who know what's coming. When Barr recommended the court have leniency for Trump's friend, Roger Stone, many in Congress and the legal system objected.
Barr's conduct is not just objectionable, it's legally unacceptable. Four of the prosecutors on the case resigned.
When Barr removed Berman. This prompted the faculty of Barr's law school, GW Law, to write an open, six page letter reproving Barr.
Trump apparently has long experience defying the law. Investigations have revealed that Trump and his family businesses have a long history with this. The Federal Southern District of New York has kept Trump and his friends in its sites, indicting two of Trump's associates. Additionally the New York State Manhattan prosecutor is investigating the Trump organization.
Attorney General Barbara Underwood accused the Trump Foundation of "a broad pattern of illegal activity," particularly regarding a veterans fundraiser. The suit was settled by dissolving the foundation and his children undergoing training. No more using charities as a personal ATM.
Money laundering may be a specialty of Trump properties. The Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower earned Trump $13.9MM in management fees and royalties in three years. Brazilian Alexandre Nogueira, was responsible for between one-third and one-half of advance sales.
Nogueira is under investigation in Brazil for international money laundering. He said some partners and investors were criminals and Russian Mafia. Many believe Trump may have had connections with the Russian Mafia and their shell companies in the 1990s. Trump is noted for having long experience with shell companies, whose primary purpose is noted by prosecutors as most generally for moving money illegally. Trump has a mafioso boss memory for people he's worked with and things he's done. He has no memory of them.
Trump treats his friends and those who squeal on him very differently. One person Trump has not tried to get out of jail was his actual personal attorney, "fixer" Michael Cohen, who was also an executive in some of Trump's businesses. Cohen is providing information in several cases to prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. Trump loyalty only goes so far, but lack of it will be punished.
Similar to Cohen, Col. Vindman was punished for telling the truth about Trump during the Mueller investigation. Vindman has now resigned, his lawyer says due to a "White House campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation."
Thumbing his nose at the law apparently is a lifelong pursuit for Trump and his family. One suit alleges that Trump and his children "illegally profited from promoting doomed products and services to unsophisticated investors across the country."
John Bolton, former National Security Advisor, who had daily sustained contact with Trump, stated that he saw "obstructing justice was a way of life for President Donald Trump." Mary Trump recently said, Trump is a toxic bully who practices "cheating as a way of life."
Is any of this really important? Corruption destroys countries and undermines citizens' confidence in the law. It breeds more corruption. But what can be done? It's late in Trump's term to begin another impeachment investigation that the Senate would refuse, even though the Supreme Court recently affirmed that presidents are not above the law.
The law has a long arm. The endless kerfuffle over Trump's tax returns may indicate that he told banks one thing about his income to secure loans, while understating income to the IRS. There is no statute of limitations on IRS fraud. Inquiring minds want to know what other reason would Trump have to hide his tax returns?
Several New York cases potentially could follow Trump and his family for years after he leaves office. The SDNY is tenacious and can investigate any lead on criminal activity. No wonder Trump changed his residency to Florida. He can run, but he can't hide.
The US has statutes against "crimes against justice." The crime of Obstruction Of Justice is considered a crime against justice itself, since it undermines the validity of the legal system.
"Contempt of court generally refers to conduct that defies, disrespects, or insults the authority or dignity of a court." These are prosecutable offenses, and Trump's activity must come face to face with the justice system.
The "legal intent" of these statutes is clear: our system of justice must be respected. Trump's and Barr's behavior in office must be confronted by the law. A contempt charge ending with a Supreme Court ruling, with opinions in favor of this interpretation of crimes against justice laws, would go a long way toward stopping this kind of behavior. It would send a warning to future corrupt presidents and Department of Justice officials.
What can we tell our children? That Trump is revered? No, Trump should not be revered with other presidents, or even absolved like Nixon. He should be reviled as a bad example.
How about we say Trump and Barr were prosecuted for their crimes. We are a nation of laws, and no one is above the law. Let's put the blindfold back on Lady Justice so position and power aren't entitlements. It's not up to the system, it's up to "we the people" to demand justice. Let justice wash across this nation like a mighty flood, removing hypocrisy and injustice.
Facts cited are believed correct, and this opinion is not a legal opinion.
Curiel, Tigar: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/trump-independent-judiciary/607375/
Nation of laws: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-donald-j-trump-7/
STATEMENT BY FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTORS: https://medium.com/@dojalumni/statement-by-former-federal-prosecutors-8ab7691c2aa1
"I'm in constant contact with the Southern District regarding on-going investigations." -Michael Cohen: https://patch.com/new-york/midtown-nyc/southern-district-greater-threat-president-trump-mueller
Stone prosecutors resign: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/roger-stone-prosecutor-aaron-zelinsky-congress-justice-department/
Trump and Barr blame each other: https://lawandcrime.com/high-profile/barr-and-trump-cant-get-their-stories-straight-about-who-wanted-u-s-attorney-geoffrey-berman-fired/
More Than 80-Percent of Faculty at Bill Barr’s Law School Call for His Censure and Resignation: https://lawandcrime.com/high-profile/in-scathing-letter-more-than-80-percent-of-active-faculty-at-bill-barrs-law-school-call-for-his-censure-and-resignation/?fbclid=IwAR07bh4ULE9dJbW3kncP_JGTybpJJlH3aEDQZz3F97DFPrk-x0v60SdiTbY
Bolton quote "obstructing justice was a way of life for President Donald Trump" https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/bolton-doubles-down-trump-obstruction-claims-amid-bipartisan-backlash-n1231670
Inspectors Generals fired: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-inspectors-general-internal-watchdogs-fired-list/ and https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/may/19/trump-has-pushed-out-5-inspectors-general-april-he/
Flynn charges dismissed: https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/24/politics/michael-flynn-dismiss/index.html
Flynn takes deal, pleads guilty to lying to the FBI: https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/05/newly-released-transcripts-show-michael-flynn-betrayed-the-united-states/
Trump's attack on judiciary: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/trump-independent-judiciary/607375/
Mary Trump on Trump's cheating: https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-mary-trump-book-president-trump-20200706-ttbg3kkxkvh5lnebtvuhbvacfa-story.html
Trump's associates indicted: https://www.forbes.com/sites/charlestiefer/2020/06/19/trumps-reason-to-oust-the-head-of-the-southern-district/#73e99a8547ce
Trump Foundation dissolved: https://www.npr.org/2019/11/07/777287610/judge-says-trump-must-pay-2-million-over-misuse-of-foundation-funds
Trump organization investigation: https://www.propublica.org/article/prosecutors-investigating-the-trump-organization-zero-in-on-trump-cfo-allen-weisselberg
Lawsuit against Trump Core (Trump family): https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/2020/04/09/trump-and-family-cant-force-arbitration-in-fraud-suit-sdny-judge-rules/?slreturn=20200618163319
New York cases to follow Trump for years: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/feb/09/new-york-southern-district-donald-trump-inauguration-prosecutors
Trump Panama project criminal partners and money laundering: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-panama/lawmakers-question-trump-ties-to-panama-project-linked-to-laundering-trafficking-idUSKCN1GD5B4 and https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/17/trump-ocean-club-panama-money-laundering-reports