|EVAN VUCCI / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS|
The big takeaway from the "bombshell" confidential memorandum that President Trump's criminal lawyers sent to Special Counsel Robert Mueller is that it is a dud. Trump's lawyers all but conceded that he obstructed justice. But because he is above the law he can do anything he wants, according to their unitary executive pretzel logic, so it is impossible for the president to illegally obstruct the Russia investigation because he has the constitutional power to terminate it.
The January 29 memo, leaked to The New York Times, exploded legal heads from coast to coast, and the clean-up was barely underway when Rudy Giuliani pressed the view on two Sunday television news shows that the president probably has the constitutional authority to pardon even himself. But has no intention to do so because the political backlash might lead to impeachment. Trump then waddled in on Monday, repeating Giuliani's argument in a tweet and adding he would have no need to pardon himself because he hasn't done anything wrong.
So there there.
It is important to pause here and note that the memo, which is without convincing legal citations, was drafted by John Dowd and Jay Sekulow back in the days when Trump had a semblance of a real legal team and there was a shadow of a chance that he could escape Mueller's ever tightening grip.
But as the instances in which Trump clearly sought to obstruct the Russia investigation have continued to pile up, that shadow has disappeared. Oh, and self-victimization is not a legal strategy.
This is not to say that the meticulous Mueller will conclude he has a legally airtight obstruction case and will recommend impeachment. We don't know. But Giuliani, who has backed into the role of lead presidential lawyer with the departure of Dowd and apparent demotion of Sekulow, is a beyond-his-prime crank whose strategy appears to be outshouting hosts on television news shows. That will not save Trump from the special counsel any more than will faux outrages like Spygate, although it will further ingratiate himself to House Vichy Republicans and his reliably clueless base.
Nor will the argument advanced in the January memo that since the president cannot be indicted while in office (which based on previous legal rulings is true enough), he also cannot be subpoenaed or hauled before a grand jury. And it should be mentioned yet again that for a man who has done nothing wrong, Trump, his lawyers and congressional helpmates are spending an awful lot of time mewling over the whole stinking mess.
There are three reasons the absolutist view that Trump has the rights and powers of a king and not a democratically elected president will go down in flames -- Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Michael Flynn.
Using Trumpian logic, Nixon would not have been guilty of obstruction for ordering the FBI to drop its investigation of the Watergate burglars or paying them off to keep them quiet. The Supreme Court disagreed. Unanimously.
Using Trumpian logic, Clinton would have prevailed when he argued he was too busy running the country to answer a subpoena in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. The Supreme Court disagreed. Unanimously.Using Trumpian logic, Trump could not have impeded the FBI's nascent Russia investigation because he did not know that Flynn was under investigation when he asked James Comey to let his pal go. The Supreme Court will disagree.Giuliani further claimed on Sunday that Trump could have assassinated Comey to end the Russia investigation and not face prosecution while in office, which recalls Trump's own infamous refrain during the 2016 campaign that "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters."
What is so frightening is less than they said these things than that they believe them.
But we are talking the Constitution and not gunplay. It's time for Maximum Bob to issue that subpoena.
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and related developments.