The "high crimes and misdemeanors" that justify impeaching a president are historically open to interpretation, but even Donald Trump's supporters seem to recognize that a president could theoretically engage in conduct that justifies removal from office. But Matthew Whitaker, Trump's former acting attorney general, seems to have eliminated such pretensions – presidents, he essentially argued Tuesday night, they can do whatever they want without consequence, simply by virtue of their position.
"Abuse of power is not a crime," former Fox Police Laura Ingraham of the country said, showing a poor understanding of how the law works. "The constitution is very clear that this must be very blatant behavior and the Democrats cannot tell the American people about what this case is now."
It is hard to know where to start here, but the line with which Democrats cannot define what the investigation is is obviously false: they are investigating the president's attempt to pressure a foreign power to investigate one of his political rivals. Unlike research in Russia, which involved complex questions about who knew and did what, the question at the center is really quite simple: did Trump offer a foreign government a counterpart to interfere with the American elections?
The answer seems increasingly like a resounding yes. Which brings us to the central premise of Whitaker's argument that even a bald abuse of power would be good because "it's not a crime." In fact, abuse of power can be a crime; Rick Perry, Trump's Secretary of Energy offered his resignation after being caught in the Ukraine scandal, was indicted in 2014 for "abuse of official capacity" and "coercion of a public servant".
But such criminality issues are out of the question, as the Constitution does not require a president to be charged with an official crime to be challenged and removed from office. One of the impeachment articles raised in Bill Clinton involved an abuse of power claim. The notion that Trump is free to abuse his power, if he so wishes, is absurd, but with his allies struggling to bring down a quid pro quo with Ukraine after Trump and his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney , admitted in such a deal, they were forced to criticize the process (as people like Lindsey Graham did) or to argue that Trump is above the law.
The last defense can be understandable from the president or his personal legal team, who literally argued in court on Wednesday that Trump would not be subject to prosecution, even if he killed someone in Manhattan in broad daylight. But it's still impressive to see a guy who led the Justice Department. Whitaker, a critic of Robert Mueller whom Trump placed as acting AG to oversee the investigation in Russia, has always been a blatantly disqualified, obviously political nominee. But his assessment of executive power underscores the extent of loyalty to Trump, who with approval Retweeted Whitaker comments, expects from his cops. That's exactly the kind of defense he expected to get from Jeff Sessions during the investigation in Russia. And that's exactly what he seems to be getting from William Barr.
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. (tagsToTranslate) matthew whitaker (t) donald trump (t) ukraine