Tag Archives: US Constitution

Actually, Mr. POTUS, it’s all ‘legal’

Donald J. Trump continues to fly off the rails with his ongoing assault on the media.

Here is what he posted this morning on Twitter: A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?

If you can past the mangled syntax of this tweet, I’ll provide a simple explanation of why the president — as usual — is dead wrong.

Mr. President, it’s all “legal.” It’s protected by the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment says the government cannot interfere with what a “free press” reports. It says media freedom shall not be “abridged.”

How in the world do the courts rule on the accuracy of media reports? There is no defamation here. There is no slander. No libel.

I get that the president is uncomfortable with the tone of much of the media coverage.

One more time — but most certainly not the final time: It goes with the territory, Mr. President. The media are on duty to do precisely what they are doing at this moment. They are seeking to hold you and your administration accountable for your actions, your rhetoric and the myriad promises you make.

Tax returns: the gift that keeps on giving

Tax returns have, um, returned to the top of our awareness.

Not my tax returns. Or yours. I refer to the president of the United States.

You’ll recall when Donald Trump stiffed 40 years of political tradition by refusing to release his returns for public scrutiny. He said dubiously that he was under audit by the Internal Revenue Service. That was more than two years ago! He still hasn’t released them. He is showing not a single indication that he’ll do so voluntarily.

Presidential candidates of both parties since 1976 have released their tax returns in the spirit of full transparency. Trump talks about being transparent, then hides his returns.

They’re increasing in relevance to what has developed. The special counsel, Robert Mueller, likely knows what is in those returns. He likely knows about whether the president has invested in “Russia matters.” He likely knows whether the president has benefited materially from his office, which could be in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, the part that says presidents cannot accept money from foreign governments.

We’ll know in due course whether Mueller has those returns. We’ll know also in due course whether the special counsel has anything incriminating regarding those returns.

The idea that Trump has refused to release those returns because of an IRS audit falls apart on two levels. First, he’s never produced any evidence that the IRS is even auditing his tax returns. Second, the IRS — which doesn’t comment on individual audits — has made it clear that an audit does not preclude any public figure from making those returns public.

My direct plea to the special counsel is this: Make those returns available to those of us who want to know the truth behind our president’s financial dealings.

Yes, there is a church-state ‘separation’

A former colleague of mine used to insist that because the United States Constitution doesn’t contain the phrase “separation of church and state” that the concept somehow is not relevant.

Well, I would remind him that the First Amendment about a prohibition against writing laws that establish a state religion implies the separation graphically.

Enter the new man nominated to become the U.S. attorney general, William Barr. He has declared his skepticism about the “secular” state the founders created in the late 18th century. He wants to invoke “God’s law” when enforcing the laws of the land.

I am going to presume he means the laws of the Christian God. But what about the laws of all the other gods that Americans worship? The Islamic god, the Jewish god, the Hindu god, the Buddhist god, the Shinto god? Do they matter? Of course they do! Or at least they should.

Except the founders created a Constitution that say there should be no law passed “with respect” to a particular religion. It stipulates there should be “no religious test” for anyone seeking public office.

The words “Christian,” “Christianity” or “Jesus Christ” are not mentioned in the Constitution. Nor does it mention “Jewish” or “Muslim” or “Buddhist” or “Hindu.”

So, to the AG-designate, I merely want to urge him to stick to enforcing the laws of the land, as enacted by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the courts.

Constitution and Bible: depends on who’s reading ’em

I have decided that the U.S. Constitution is like the Holy Bible in this important aspect.

Interpreting either piece of work is the product of who’s reading either of them. Specifically, it’s the product of the individual’s bias, perspective, philosophy, world view and spirituality.

Some legal scholars say, for example, that the Constitution allows for presidents to be indicted while they are in office. Others say it allows no such thing.

Biblical scholars also suggest that the Book of Genesis’s description of the universe’s creation means what it says in black and white: that God created our world in six days and then rested on the seventh day. Others interpret Genesis in a more, um, liberal fashion, that six days doesn’t mean six calendar days.

So here we are as we look at the troubles afflicting Donald John Trump, the embattled president of the United States.

I tend to side with those who believe the Constitution allows for a sitting president to be indicted. I heard some clap trap back when the House GOP was looking to impeach President Clinton that the president is “too busy” to deal with a criminal indictment. That’s nonsense, given that a president has plenty of legal assistance at his disposal. It’s an especially dubious a notion with Trump, inasmuch as he doesn’t work nearly as hard as he says he does at the job of governing, let alone as hard as any of his predecessors.

Will this president face a criminal indictment? Beats me. That depends, I suppose, on whether the prosecutors have the stomach to withstand the political firestorm that will erupt were they to deliver a criminal complaint to the White House.

I have looked at the Constitution, too. I do not see where it prohibits such an eruption from occurring. Then again, that’s just my highly visible bias and me.

How’s this for religious bigotry?

To think that Texas’s third-largest county is home to a cabal of religious bigots who want to oust a local Republican Party vice chairman because — get ready for it — he’s a Muslim!

Ye gads, this story disgusts me.

At issue is the faith practiced by Shahid Shafi, a Southlake trauma surgeon. He ran twice for the Southlake City Council and was elected on his second try. He was informed by friends that as a Muslim, he would have difficulty being elected to any office in Texas in this post 9/11 era.

That didn’t dissuade him. So he ran and won eventually.

Now he’s vice chair of the Tarrant County GOP. But wait! He barely had taken office when a local Republican raised a phony alarm. A precinct chairwoman, Dorrie O’Brien, urged the county’s GOP chair, Darl Easton, to pull Shafi out of the vice chair’s office.

The bigot said, without any evidence, that Shafi believes in Sharia law and that he’s a closet terrorist.

Good grief!

I feel the need to remind everyone yet again that the U.S. Constitution is unambiguous about this point: There shall be “no religious test” applied for anyone seeking elected office in the United States of America. It’s written in Article VI, Clause 3 of the nation’s founding government document. Yep, that includes city council member and political party leadership.

The bigoted move has drawn immediate condemnation from some high-profile Republicans, such as Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and lame-duck Texas House Speaker Joe Straus. The Texas GOP Executive Committee has approved a resolution endorsing religious freedom in a move to stop the xenophobia that might erupt if the Tarrant County removal motion is allowed to proceed.

Here is how the Texas Tribune reports it

Yes, this story sickens me. It should sicken anyone who has an understanding of what the Constitution says about religion in politics.

Then there’s the issue of innuendo and unfounded accusation, which has become one of the dubious trademarks of the nation’s top Republican, Donald Trump.

Disgusting.

‘Our Constitution works . . . ‘

Three words define for me the reason I remain optimistic about how the current tumult surrounding the president of the United States is going to end.

President Gerald Rudolph Ford took the oath of office on Aug. 9, 1974 and declared the following: Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men.

The 38th president took office under the most unusual circumstance this nation ever has experienced. His predecessor, President Richard Nixon, quit the office, giving the nation roughly 15 hours notice from the time he told us on national TV to the moment his resignation took effect the next day at noon.

We had just endured the most rigorous constitutional crisis in our nation’s history. Nixon resigned to avoid certain impeachment and virtually certain conviction of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Yes, our Constitution worked then. It will work now, matter where Donald John Trump’s troubles take him . . . and us.

Even out here in Trump Country where I live, there are rumblings of serious danger in store for the president. A special counsel, Robert Mueller. appears to be closing in on some matters that could produce actual indictments of the president’s closest advisers, even members of his family — and, yes, quite possibly the president himself.

Much of what transpires over time well might depend on how Trump responds to what could occur. Does he do something foolish? Does he issue pardons to indicted conspirators and then open himself up to demonstrable evidence of obstruction of justice?

The nation’s founders knew what they were doing when they drafted the Constitution. They built in a system of government that limits presidential power; they gave additional power to Congress; they also gave the federal courts power to rule on the constitutionality of laws and presidential actions.

Divided government is about to descend on Congress, with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives. The White House and the Senate will remain in Republican control.

One of the many beauties of the government the founders created lies in the ability of Congress and, when needed, the courts to rein in an overzealous executive branch.

So, when the president makes noises about what might occur within the White House, he sends alarm bells clanging all over Capitol Hill and throughout the federal judiciary.

Yes, indeed, the Constitution works. President Ford spoke a fundamental truth to us in our moment of dire constitutional peril. It worked then. It works today.

Is POTUS above the law?

Federal prosecutors are making some serious allegations against the president of the United States.

They are alleging that Donald Trump orchestrated the illegal payments to two women with whom he allegedly had sexual relations; the payments were made to keep them quiet about the encounters, which — quite naturally — Trump says never happened.

The allegations bring to mind a key question. Does the U.S. Constitution protect the president from indictment?

Trump in trouble?

I cannot pretend to be a presidential scholar, but I’ve read the document from beginning to end several times over many years. I am not at all aware of where it says in there that the president is immune from criminal prosecution if he commits an offense such as, oh, authorizing illegal payments to women with whom he took a tumble . . . allegedly!

Is it contained in Article II, the part of the U.S. Constitution that deals with presidential power and authority? Is it somewhere in any of the amendments that were added to the document? If it’s in there, someone will have to tell me where to look.

We keep hearing all the time that “no one is above the law” in this country. Does that include the president?

I believe that when we declare that the law excludes “no one,” that the president must be included in the masses of Americans who can, and do, face criminal prosecution if they mess up.

Hey, POTUS already has his media lapdogs!

Donald J. Trump has expressed a desire for the federal government to create a TV network that would report favorably on his exploits as president of the United States.

It’s a preposterous notion on at least one level: My reading of the U.S. Constitution prohibits such a thing in this country. A “free press” is supposed to operate without government interference or influence.

Trump, though, has expressed envy over the love and kisses heaped on his boyfriend, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, by TV anchors in that reclusive nation. Well, that is laughable on its face. Those TV anchors are employed by a murderer — Kim — and they would be killed if they didn’t say what he demanded of them.

Now, as for Trump’s desire for favorable TV coverage, he already has a major cable “news” network in his hip pocket. Fox News — aka Faux News — is chock full of talking heads who suck up to the president daily. Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, the trio on “Fox & Friends,” all are loath to say anything critical of Trump. So, they don’t. Plus, the network brings on an array of “contributors,” the vast majority of whom follow the lead of the network’s staff of anchors and correspondents.

Which brings me to my question of the day: Why does Donald Trump want to create a TV network that slobbers all over him when he already has one doing his bidding?

Bizarre.

State-run TV station? Sure thing, Mr. POTUS

Donald J. “Authoritarian Wanna-be in Chief” Trump wants the government to establish a TV network.

Yep, the protector of the U.S. Constitution has suggested the government establish a network to report news that is favorable to the president, his policies, his pronouncements and the direction of the government he was elected to lead.

Hmm. I believe the Constitution — the one that Trump swore when he took office to uphold — forbids such a thing. It’s that First Amendment clause that refers to a “free press” not being abridged.

This suggestion well might rank among the more idiotic ever to come from the 45th president of the United States. That’s really saying something, when you consider the mountain of idiocy that has poured out of his pie hole.

I’ll also remind everyone that the president once expressed a level of envy that North Korea’s TV anchors speak so glowingly about dictator/murderer Kim Jong Un. He wishes he could get that kind of love from the networks in this country, or so he said during his visit with Kim in Singapore earlier this year.

Here’s a reminder, Mr. President. Those TV anchors work for the same government that is run by Kim Jong Un. If they were to report the news accurately, you know, chronicling such things as the starvation and the abject poverty that afflicts the population, they likely would be yanked off the air, executed and their corpses would be fed to starving dogs.

I hope the president gets the picture.

However, I doubt that he does.

Did the chief justice fire a shot across his colleagues’ bow?

I remain fully committed to the proposition that the nation’s founders got it exactly right when they established a system whereby federal judges get lifetime appointments to serve in a co-equal branch of the U.S. government.

These judges are intended to be independent of political pressure from the presidents who appoint them.

Thus, I am wondering about U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ stern rebuke of Donald Trump’s implication that judges are beholden to the men who nominate them to the federal judiciary.

Roberts issued the rarest of rejoinders in reminding Trump that there are “no Obama judges, or Trump judges, or Bush judges or Clinton judges.” They are independent thinkers and adjudicators, he said.

I wonder if the chief justice didn’t actually fire a shot across the front of the rest of the federal judiciary as well, reminding his colleagues of the responsibility they all have to follow the law without regard to the president who nominated them.

I wonder as well if that lesson will be heeded, for example, by the two men Donald Trump has selected for the nation’s highest court: Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Both men have pledged to follow the law and to be faithful exclusively to the U.S. Constitution, which they all have taken oaths to preserve and protect.

Donald Trump appears for all the world to be making the judicial system loyal to him, irrespective of what the law dictates. That is what I believe Chief Justice Roberts was seeking to address with his statement today.

And of course, the president isn’t taking the criticism quietly and respectfully. He is firing back at the chief justice. Trump said in a tweet: “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”

Good grief, Mr. President.

Yes, judges have differing points of view. To say that they are beholden to partisan politicians steeps to cynical depths we haven’t seen before.

It is demagoguery, pure and simple.