Trump And DOJ: If The President, His Family Or Their Businesses Do It, It's Not Illegal
Another day, another court telling Trump to hand over his goddamn taxes already, and another higher court staying the order. Only this case is a bit different from the other civil suits, since it involves New York State's criminal investigation of the president's business for potentially laundering the Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal payoffs through the Trump Organization's books.
Trump's case for judicial intervention is even weaker here than in the eleventy million other Trump tax cases because of longstanding precedent mandating that the federal court keep its nose out of state prosecutions. In short, the president is asking the federal courts to jump in, seize jurisdiction from the State of New York, and order it to stop Manhattan prosecutor Cyrus Vance's grand jury investigation of the Trump Organization because everyone associated with Trump is covered by a giant blanket of presidential immunity. This argument failed to impress US District Judge Victor Marrero, who found that he had no jurisdiction over this matter and dismissed the suit. But just in case the Second Circuit decides that he does have jurisdiction and sends it back to him, Judge Marrero pre-issued his holding, which is that Donald Trump is completely full of shit and needs to hand over his business records RIGHT BLOODY NOW.
Donald Trump's legal position in this and every other hearing is simple: He's above the law. Everyone related to him is above the law. And the existence of a Justice Department opinion memo from 1973 that says a sitting president can't be federally indicted means that it's illegal to even investigate the president or anyone close to him.
Spoiler Alert: THAT'S NOT THE LAW.
Judge Marrero spent several pages taking apart the 1973 memo and the subsequent supporting memoranda for their sweeping declarations and internal inconsistencies, saying "[T]he theory [that "a sitting president cannot be indicted] has gained a certain degree of axiomatic acceptance, and the DOJ Memos which propagate it have assumed substantial legal force as if their conclusion were inscribed on constitutional tablets so-etched by the Supreme Court. The Court considers such popular currency for the categorical concept and its legal support is not warranted." Amen to that, since a DOJ opinion memo is not law and is only binding on the Justice Department itself.
The Court opines that "better-calibrated alternatives to presidential immunity exist," advocating a balancing test between the burdens on the president's official duties and the needs of a fair and equal justice system. He also points out that there's no Supreme Court precedent for presidential immunity, and the existing precedents from cases involving Presidents Nixon and Clinton strongly suggest that the president is NOT immune from criminal process. Of course, this issue may never be litigated, since presidents control the Justice Department, which is unlikely to indict them. But this case involves state prosecutors, who are certainly not bound by the DOJ's internal rules.
Moreover, the president's assertion that his own immunity extends a get-out-of-jail-free to all his family and businesses is a further insult to the concept of American justice.
In that instance, the presidents claim of absolute immunity conceivably could enable the guilty to go free, and deprive the innocent of an opportunity to resolve serious accusations in a court of law.
The running of a statute of limitations in favor of the president or third persons during the period of immunity presents additional complexities and exceptional circumstances in these situations, similarly raising the prospect of frustrating the proper administration of justice.
So the district judge dismissed the case, Trump immediately appealed, the Second Circuit issued a stay of the dismissal (stopping him from dismissing the case), and the DOJ just filed a motion to support Donald Trump's private lawyers in the appeal. Because Bill Barr is an even bigger whore than Mike Pence -- which is quite an accomplishment. This isn't a close case, and Trump's lawyers probably know that. But they might just be able to throw enough sand in the gears to put off a final verdict until after the 2020 election.
What the hell is in those returns that he's so afraid of, anyway?
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.