}

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

How will this presidency end?


The video above is from NBC News, part of their "THINK" series (they have a YouTube Playlist of the videos). In this particular edition, Corey Brettschneider, author of The Oath and the Office (Amazon Affiliate link), talks about the three possible ways that the current occupant of the White House could leave office. All three are possible.

There is debate about whether a sitting president can be indicted for criminal offences. I’m in the “of course he can be indicted!” camp on that argument. Whichever side is correct, the possibility cannot be dismissed outright.

The second possibility is impeachment. If the current occupant isn’t indicted for his crimes, then impeachment will remain as the only possible way to hold him to account. However, the Republicans who control the US Senate will never hold him to account, so even if the House or Representatives’ Articles of Impeachment presented an iron-clad case against the current occupant, the Republican-controlled Senate would still acquit him.

The third possibility is some sort of deal, and there’s a legal precedent for that. Spiro Agnew, who was elected Vice President with Richard Nixon in 1968, and re-elected in 1972, was also a hard-core crook who accepted payoffs at the White House. He ultimately resigned from office in exchange for a plea deal that kept him out of prison. Something similar could happen with the current occupant of the White House.

The case of Agnew is relevant in another way. Agnew was adamant that a sitting Vice President could not be indicted, but he entered into plea bargain negotiations to avoid real prosecution. This week, Walter Dellinger, who was head of the Office of Legal Counsel from 1993 to 1996 and acting US Solicitor General from 1996 to 1997, wrote a piece for the Washington Post concluding: “Where the crimes are extremely serious and the proof compelling, the principle that no one is above the law may leave little choice but to proceed to court.”

It’s important to note that while these three outcomes are possible, that doesn’t meant they’re likely. All three are problematic, not the least because if a sitting president cannot be indicted, and removal from office through impeachment impossible, then all these options are academic, leaving electoral defeat as the only way to remove him from office.

Nevertheless, it’s important to note that NO ONE is above the law. That means that, probable or not, it’s completely possible that the current occupant will face justice sooner rather than later. Only time will tell.

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