Tag Archives: Bill Clinton

Yes, POTUS can ‘obstruct justice’

I am not a lawyer, but you know that already.

However, I know enough about history to understand this basic truth: Presidents of the United States can “obstruct justice.” Indeed, two of them — Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon — were accused of obstructing justice. One of them got impeached partly on that accusation; the other came within a whisker of being impeached before he resigned the presidency.

Thus, I am baffled in the extreme by lawyers serving the current president who says he cannot obstruct justice because, well, he’s the president. They are saying in effect that Donald J. Trump is above the law.

I beg to differ. I offer a strenuous objection to the notion that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, cannot determine that Trump obstructed justice in the hunt for the truth behind “the Russia thing.”

I don’t quite understand the logic being offered by Trump’s legal team that suggests Mueller cannot accuse the president of obstructing justice. Trump himself has acknowledged on network television that he fired FBI Director James Comey because of “the Russia thing”; then he told Russian visitors to the Oval Office that his dismissal of Comey had relieved him of pressure from the Russia probe and whether the Russian government meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

To my way of thinking, that constitutes at the very least circumstantial evidence of obstruction, but I know that Mueller’s team doesn’t operate on circumstance; it needs hard evidence. Whether it comes up with anything actionable remains to be seen.

As the nation watches this investigation lurch toward some conclusion, many of us are conflicted about the argument being offered that the president can do anything he wants — because he is the president.

Richard Nixon famously told David Frost that very thing, that the president cannot break the law simply by virtue of his office. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee eventually saw it quite differently when it approved articles of impeachment against the president.

I am pretty sure the law hasn’t changed since the 1970s. The current president took the same oath to follow the law that all of his predecessors took. The law in my view allows for presidents to be accused of obstructing justice.

Where’s the outrage from the right?

Let’s flash back for just a moment.

In 2016, former President Bill Clinton encountered Attorney General Loretta Lynch on an airport tarmac. Clinton boarded Lynch’s airplane and supposedly talked about this and that, grandkids and assorted family matters. Clinton said they didn’t discuss anything pertaining to the e-mail matter; Lynch confirmed Clinton’s account of the encounter.

The Justice Department at the time was investigating the ex-president’s wife and her use of a personal e-mail server while she was secretary of state. Oh, yes! Hillary Rodham Clinton also was running for president.

The right wing became unglued. Clinton sought to influence an on-going investigation, Republican operatives howled.

Should the ex-president have boarded the AG’s plane? No. The optics of it looked bad and President Clinton should have known better.

But then …

Just this week, a Republican politician, Donald J. Trump, “demanded” that DOJ investigate and investigation into Russian meddling in our 2016 election. He has leveled an accusation that the FBI spied on his campaign for “political purposes.”

So, the question is this: Where is the outrage over a sitting president interfering in an active Department of Justice investigation?

Trump’s demand seeks to undermine the DOJ, the FBI and the probe being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in our electoral process.

No outrage? No calls for yet another probe?

Weird.

Evangelicals continue their stunning hypocrisy

The Rev. Franklin Graham speaks for a lot of evangelical Christians. Thus, I’ll presume for a moment that those who follow him buy into the nonsense he espouses about Donald J. Trump Sr.

Oh, the hypocrisy of this preacher. It’s stunning to the max.

Graham recently told The Associated Press that Trump’s extramarital affairs are no one’s business. He said voters knew what they were getting when they elected him president in 2016. Back off, Graham implores us, because Trump’s marital infidelity is old news and has nothing to do with the here and now.

Why, he messed around with Stormy Daniels a dozen years before he became president, said Graham. He hasn’t messed around since then. OK, then. That makes it all right. It’s all good, right Rev. Graham?

How does that square with what Graham said about Barack H. Obama, Trump’s immediate predecessor as president?

Let’s see. He questioned President Obama’s faith because he was born to a Muslim father, a man the president barely knew. The president is a practicing Christian and has over the years declared his love of and devotion to Jesus Christ multiple times.

Oh, and then there’s this: Barack and Michelle Obama have been involved in a loving and faithful marriage for more than two decades, which is decidedly more in keeping with Biblical principles than the life that Donald Trump has led throughout much of his adult life.

So, the Rev. Graham gives Donald Trump a pass on his hideous moral indiscretions, but doesn’t extend the same Christian grace to, say, former President Bill Clinton. Graham wrote this in 1998 of President Clinton: If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same thing to the American public?

So help me, this so-called “man of God” possesses an amazing reservoir of hypocrisy.

The carousel keeps spinning in Trump World

My head is spinning. I’m suffering from motion sickness. I might throw up.

Ty Cobb has left Donald J. Trump’s legal team. The president reportedly has hired a new personal legal eagle: Emmet Flood who — and this is rich — served on President Bill Clinton’s team that defended him against impeachment in 1998.

We have Rudy Giuliani on the team. Rudy is the former New York mayor, former federal prosecutor, former presidential candidate, current Trump cheerleader. Giuliani’s task reportedly is to persuade special counsel Robert Mueller to bring his Russia investigation to a speedy close. Good luck with that, Mr. Mayor.

John Dowd bailed from the president’s legal team. Why? His client, Donald Trump, wasn’t listening to any legal advice he was getting. Why serve someone who doesn’t heed the best legal advice he can find?

The Hill reported: “Emmet Flood will be joining the White House staff to represent the president and the administration against the Russia witch hunt,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “Ty Cobb, a friend of the president, who has done a terrific job, will be retiring at the end of the month.”

I find it interesting that Cobb would “be retiring” at this critical time. With so much work apparently left to do and with Trump’s tenure as president appearing to be in growing peril, now this “friend of the president” has decided to ride off into the sunset?

Mueller’s investigation continues to gather steam. The special counsel reportedly has drafted a lengthy list of questions he wants to ask the president. He also reportedly is considering whether to subpoena the commander in chief if Trump doesn’t appear voluntarily before a federal grand jury that Mueller has impaneled.

Meanwhile, the president continues to undermine and undercut Mueller’s investigation. Yes, he’s doing so even though he insists there’s “no collusion” with Russians.

I’m still about to throw up.

Impeachment remains huge obstacle

I am believing now that Donald J. Trump isn’t likely to be kicked out of office before his term expires.

The nation’s founders set a high bar for removal of a president.

The U.S. House of Representatives can bring articles of impeachment. It can essentially indict a president on a complaint that he has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.” It takes a simple majority of House members to impeach a president.

It’s happened twice. President Andrew Johnson got impeached in 1868. Then in 1998, the House impeached President Bill Clinton. The House impeached Johnson on 11 counts, the principal count being a violation of the Tenure of Office Act after he had fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. The House impeached Clinton on a charge that he perjured himself in testimony before a federal grand jury.

Both men were spared being kicked out. Johnson made it by a single vote in the U.S. Senate. Clinton survived much more easily in his Senate trial.

The Constitution lays out a two-thirds rule for conviction and removal from office of the president.

What makes a Trump removal so difficult lies in the numbers. Republicans control the Senate by a single seat. If they lose the Senate majority after the midterm election, it is projected that several GOP senators would need to join Democrats who likely would vote to convict the president on whatever charge is brought before the body.

I’m not certain that an impeachable offense will emerge from the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. If one does emerge, though, it remains a tremendously tenuous view that there would be enough political support in the Senate to actually convict the president — no matter how egregious the charge that might come forth.

Impeachment is a political process, even though members of the House and Senate state piously that they are conducting a quasi-judicial process. It really relies on the partisan leaning of both legislative bodies.

I want to offer this look at what might lie ahead for the president and for Congress.

First things first. We have an election to complete that will determine the partisan makeup of the legislative chambers that will decide what to do about this president.

Hey, you know he could just quit once he realizes his agenda — whatever it is — is going nowhere.

‘Welcome back,’ ballooning budget deficits

Ronald Reagan and his fellow Republicans made lots of hay in 1980 about the “spiraling” budget deficit during that presidential election year. It totaled a whopping $40 billion.

The GOP presidential nominee’s campaign ridiculed those big-spending Democrats en route to a smashing landslide election victory over President Jimmy Carter.

Ah, yes. Republicans were the party of “fiscal responsibility.”

Hah! Not any longer. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the current fiscal year will end with an $800 billion budget deficit and will surpass $1 trillion by the next fiscal year.

Hey, what happened? Oh, it’s that tax cut that the Republicans wrote into law — at the insistence of Donald J. Trump, and the $1.3 trillion spending bill approved by Congress.

What happened to fiscal restraint? Where are the controls on runaway government spending? Aren’t congressional Republicans — who control the House and the Senate — supposed to rein in free-spending tendencies usually associated with liberal Democrats?

A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, managed to craft a balanced budget in the late 1990s with help from congressional Republicans. Then came Republican George W. Bush, who succeeded Clinton in 2001. We went to war at the end of that year, but didn’t increase taxes to pay for it. The deficit soared out of control.

Democrat Barack Obama came aboard in 2009 with the economy in free fall. He pushed a tax hike and a spending boost through Congress. The economy recovered. The deficit was pared by roughly two-thirds annually by the time he left office in 2017.

Now we’re hurtling back to Square One. The deficit is exploding.

And no one in power seems to care about things that used to matter a lot.

Obama is relaxed; many of us wish he could return

Barack H. Obama seems to have found his second wind as a private citizen. Same with Michelle Obama.

The two of them hardly ever are photographed without big smiles on their faces. The former president is enjoying his time away from the spotlight, as is the former first lady.

Oh, this fills many of us with wistful thoughts. If only we could get him back. That can’t happen. The U.S. Constitution limits presidents to two elected terms. Barack Obama did his time. Now he’s out among some of us.

Sure, he’s making a ton of scratch making speeches. He is kicking a lot of his post-presidential income back to community projects near and dear to his heart. He is following the course set by many of his predecessors.

George W. Bush has taken up painting, has biked with wounded veterans (including in Palo Duro Canyon) and has opened his presidential library in Dallas; Bill Clinton is hard at work on his Clinton Global Initiative Foundation, also making speeches and getting mixed up in politics from time to time; Jimmy Carter builds houses for Habitat for Humanity and teaches Sunday school in Plains, Ga.; George H.W. Bush is in poor health, but he, too, enjoys retired life.

I suppose it would tempting for Obama to fire back at his successor, Donald Trump, who seems to need a foil; he relishes the notion of dismantling many of his immediate predecessor’s successes and he does so while firing off broadsides via stump speeches and tweets.

Therein lies one of the many differences between Obama and Trump. The current president simply cannot stand being criticized; the former president might not like it, but he maintains his silence … mostly.

As much as I would like to have Barack Obama back in command of the situation, I know — and appreciate — his sense of freedom from the rigors of serving in the nation’s highest public office.

I wish him well. I also hope he doesn’t disappear. Many of his countrymen and women still enjoy listening to his soaring rhetoric far more than the trash talk that pours forth from the guy who succeeded him.

Righties’ duplicity = hypocrisy

My friend made a great point today after lunch.

“If Barack Obama had done a half of the things, a third of the things, that Donald Trump has done,” he said, “the evangelicals would be screaming for his scalp! But with this guy — Trump — they shrug and give him a pass. They say, ‘That’s just Donald.'”

Yes. Indeed.

His point is worth examining a bit more closely.

The issue of the day is the fling he took with Stormy Daniels, the porn star. And then we have the 10-month romantic relationship he allegedly had with Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model.

Are these issues by themselves worthy of an impeachment? Oh, I don’t think so. Then again, there might be more “there” there to discover … take it away, special counsel Robert Mueller.

The notion that the evangelical voter base would give the president a pass on a 12-year-old sexual episode speaks loudly and clearly to the duplicity those voters are exhibiting.

If we flash back about, oh, 25 years to the 1992 presidential campaign of Arkansas Gov. William Jefferson Clinton, you understand where I’m going with this.

The far right of the Republican Party that today is giving Trump a pass because what he did was so long ago was going apoplectic because of alleged affairs Clinton had with women well before he ever became president.

I cite the cases involving, oh, Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones … to name just two of them. Flowers came forward with an allegation that she and Clinton had a fling. What was the right wing’s response then? They went ballistic, man! They flew into paroxysms of rage!

These days? No sweat. He’s a changed man. He wants to “make America great … again.” The president deserves God’s grace.

To be fair, I’ll concede that progressives who largely gave Clinton a pass in 1992 are filled with rage and anger at Trump today. But their tolerance then is ancient history. I’m talking about the here and now.

Which brings me back to the point my friend made this afternoon. If someone other than Trump had done what he’s being accused of doing, our friends on the right and the far right would be … um … beside themselves with rage.

Hypocrites.

Porn queen vs. POTUS takes weird turn

Donald John Trump says he didn’t have a sexual affair with a porn queen.

The porn queen so far has been (more or less) quiet, although her lawyer says for the record that the two of them — the porn star and the president — had a sexual relationship.

So … if the president’s denial is true, why is he suing the porn queen for $20 million and seeking a change of venue from a state court to a federal court?

I refuse to name the porn queen because I don’t want to give her any more publicity than she’s already received — which is plenty! It’s too much, if you were to ask me.

But this story continues to get weirder by the day. A part of me shouldn’t give a damn about Trump’s sexual proclivity. He bragged about prior infidelity and those who voted for this clown knew what they were getting when they elected him president of the United States of America.

However, his lawyer reportedly paid the porn queen 130 grand to keep her quiet. She says that Trump never signed the non-disclosure agreement, making it all null and void. She’s spoken to “60 Minutes,” and the segment is going to air on March 25. Trump, though, wants to block it — which has about as much chance of succeeding as Trump actually telling us the whole truth about anything.

The salaciousness of this story gives it its legs, I am going to presume.

As we’ve learned from prior investigations into presidential misbehavior — see President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 — this story might end up in a most unexpected place.

I don’t know where that will be. I am willing to wait to see where it crashes and burns.

Trump reverses growth quotient

Paul Begala is an acknowledged Democratic partisan. He once worked for President Bill Clinton. He is no fan of Donald Trump.

Now that we’ve established that, I have to concur with something he has said about the president.

Whereas presidents — particularly those who come to the White House with a primarily outside-the-Beltway experience — usually grow in the office, Donald Trump is shrinking the office to fit his own shortcomings.

Begala mentioned how Presidents Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama all learned about the office, how they filled the White House with their presence. Trump has reversed that momentum.

I will add that of the examples Begala cited, all of them had prior government experience. Reagan served two terms as governor of California, Bush served a term and a half as governor of Texas, Clinton served multiple terms as Arkansas governor and Obama served in the Illinois state senate before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006.

Trump’s experience is totally unique. He never sought a public before running for president. He ran a large business. Trump answered to no one. He has demonstrated zero curiosity, zero humility, not a lick of introspection. He has said he’s never sought forgiveness. He won’t admit to making a mistake.

As some observers have noted, Trump’s political skill — which he exhibited while campaigning successfully for the presidency — hasn’t transferred to governing. He doesn’t know how to govern.

Donald Trump isn’t growing into the office he won. He is shrinking it to fit his own diminished profile.

Trump is shaking up the Cabinet. His closest advisers are bailing, or are being pushed out. His Health and Human Services secretary had to quit; his first national security adviser was canned; Trump has just fired the secretary of state; the veterans secretary is about to go; the current national security adviser may be canned; Trump has burned through four communications directors.

This all happened in the first 15 months of his presidency.

And the president would have us believe he is doing the best job in the history of the exalted office of the presidency?

Nope. Paul Begala is right. Donald Trump is shrinking the office.