HORIST: How much legal jeopardy does Trump face?
The cartoon above typifies the pre-Mueller reporting. Democrats and the allied media – the east coast bubble denizens — were so confident that Mueller would bring down the Trump ministration that they felt sufficiently comfortable to proclaim it over and over with great certainty. Oooops! Then came the Mueller Report.
Amazing as it may seem, Democrats and their media allies are now trying to convince the American public that the Mueller Report settled nothing regarding President Trump’s potential legal problems. They were not wrong. They were just … I don’t know what. What was once extensively promoted as the looming coup de grâce for the Trump presidency has been redefined as just a small step on the way to impeachment.
In an extraordinary display of humiliating hypocrisy, the #NeverTrump Resistance Movement turns their back on those thousands of hours of accusations and bogus claims that Trump colluded with the Russians, is an asset or agent of hostile foreign power, is guilty of treason and committed criminal obstructions of justice. They used and misused every bit of information and the integrity of hundreds of pundits and analysts to continuously proffer a politically invented narrative based on nothing but political enmity. They were arrogantly certain that Special Counsel Robert Mueller would deliver their much-desired payday.
Despite having their mendacious statements and dishonest reports utterly rejected, rebuffed and rebuked by Mueller, they remain uncowed. They are determined to pursue all the same issues that Mueller and his team investigated for two long, looooong years at great cost to the taxpayers and the comity of we the people.
They now see the Mueller Report as “the end of the beginning” – promising to increase their efforts to bring down the President. Democrats in Congress and Democrats holding prosecutorial offices throughout the nation have indicated their desire to produce as many investigations on as many topics as possible. Collectively, it is a continuation of a coup attempt that was launched even before Trump took office.
So, what, if any, are the legal perils facing Trump?
They say that the Mueller Report does not clear Trump of collusion, and that must be further examined by Congress where the rule-of-law and innocent until proven guilty are operative concepts. They will make specious political arguments out of those non-criminal meetings with Russians, but Mueller has killed that dead horse congressional Democrats will continue to beat. Not only is it a non-starter, pursuing criminal collusion will invite public derision.
And what about obstruction of justice?
Mueller failed to complete his task. It was his job to make a specific recommendation to his superiors at the Justice Department. We need to remember that Mueller is not an INDEPENDENT counsel, as were his predecessors. He is a SPECIAL counsel – an employee of the Department of Justice (DOJ) who reports to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and ultimately Attorney General Robert Barr. They and others were involved in the review of the Mueller Report – and have been aware of most of his findings weeks before he submitted the final Report to them.
In not coming to a conclusion on obstruction of justice, Mueller punted to the senior officials at the DOJ. The anti-Trump crowd claims that the AG had no authority to make the final judgment on whatever evidence or exculpating information Mueller provided. They theorize (without knowledge) that Mueller meant to have Congress settle the issue. That could not be the case in view of his reporting requirements. As a prosecutor within the DOJ, Mueller’s decision to not decide means that the decision goes up the ranks … period. Barr, Rosenstein and the other officials then conferred to reach the final decision.
While the Democrats and the east coast media are doing a lot of complaining about the final decision to not pursue obstruction of justice, there is damn little they can do about it. Oh yeah, they can raise it as an impeachable offense, but that is a pretty hard sell after Mueller did not reach the conclusion and the officials at DOJ made their decision.
There is also the issue as to whether to go after a person for obstruction when there is no underlying crime to obstruct. Yes, it was done in the Martha Stewart case, but a lot of legal minds saw that as an example of prosecutorial abuse. Regardless of the Stewart example, it is generally the practice of the DOJ not to indict for obstruction when there is no underlying crime – and most people would see that as a good policy.
There is another consideration. Congress is not authorized or empowered to undertake criminal investigations. That is why impeachment is not a criminal investigation but a political one. Congress cannot indict or convict a person for anything. They can hold a person in contempt – and even then they hand it over to the DOJ for adjudication, but that is it.
While Democrats will engage in a LOT of political rhetoric – mostly empty alarms to scare the public – the issues of collusion and obstruction regarding Trump and his people are over … done … closed.
Democrats in Congress and beyond are looking for any excuse to file legal actions against Trump – criminal and civil. They hope to gin up enough to re-start their march to impeachment. They are back to predicting the most dire of outcomes for Trump – although with a lot less credibility.
They are pumping up the case of Stormy Daniels into a heinous crime. It will be a difficult case to prove since paying off people to maintain their silence is not illegal. Lawyers write up contracts to do that all the time. Didn’t Colin Kaepernick get a big settlement from the NFL on the condition that no one reveal the details? Wealthy people often pay off their one-time lovers to buy silence.
The issue with Trump is whether it was an illegal campaign contribution. To establish that, they would have to determine that Trump knew it was an illegal contribution to his campaign. His intent – as in the collusion and obstruction cases – would have to be proven. And … the money had to serve that one purpose only. Trump can credibly claim that the payment was to keep it secret from his wife … or even to save his business reputation. In fact, he has a record of making such payments in the past that were not remotely related to a campaign,
And even if it was determined to be campaign related, such offenses are generally considered a civil infraction and settled with a fine – as was the case with President Obama. I say that case goes down faster than Stormy Daniels.
The Trump Foundation is being investigated by the New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is on a political fishing expedition. That case has already been adjudicated, Trump paid a fine and the Foundation was closed. James is rummaging through the bones of that case in the hope of finding something … anything … to pin on Trump. Even if it does not result in a conviction, James would be more than happy to generate bad publicity for the President.
Then there is the investigation into the Inaugural Committee. If there were any shenanigans involving the donated money, they are not likely to involve Trump personally. Whether there is a potential problem for “the kids” is an open question. That would certainly be a heartbreaker for Trump but would not necessarily hit him directly.
Finally, there is the Trump Organization. If Trump has a serious legal problem – and that is an “if” – that is the most likely place to uncover it. Operating an international real estate enterprise, plus entertainment businesses on the side, it is possible that Trump may have stumbled over a few trip wires. His former attorney, Michael Cohen, claims that Trump committed bank fraud by misrepresenting his wealth or assets. Calculating wealth at that level is not a precise function – and pressing cases of that nature is very, very tough.
While the litany of investigations being carried out by his political adversaries appears extensive, they are individually far less than the superficial surface appearance – far less than the Democrats are making of them. Of course, when it comes to politics, the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain.
So, there ‘tis.