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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Why Congress must impeach Trump Officials

Dear Esteemed Representative Jerry Nadler.

Just before Christmas I shared my opinion with Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Congress must open impeachment hearings. At that time I suggested that you do so:

“Not initially into the President, but into Whitehouse and Cabinet officials who, past and present, have abused their office.”

Since then you, Rep Jerry Nadler have been conducting hearings that could be turned into an Impeachment Inquiry. We all support and applaud your efforts.

Impeachment as a Prophylactic on Abuse of Power

It is my believe that this needs to be done and is even more urgent now than before.

“The purpose of Impeachment hearings is not merely to focus on the lawbreaking of these officials, which is obvious, but to stop them from committing high crimes and misdemeanors or the President from using his Pardon Power to help them get away with it.”

I believe that a case can be made that the use of the impeachment power should stop the ability of the President to obstruct justice via impeachment. As quoted in the Meme above, the President

“shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”

With the recent evidence of Trump dangling pardon's to people contemplating breaking the law, it is imperative that something be done to block him from using pardons to obstruct justice. See:

“Trump told CBP head he'd pardon him if sent to jail,” CNN

I believe you can make it impossible for Trump to use the Pardon power that way. It is time to open impeachment hearings, starting with inquiries into Bill Barr, Mnuchin and other officials who are violating USA law. Accompanying that I'd suggest you file an injunction with the courts against any impeachments related to those hearings.

Prophylactic Purpose

Time and time again, have gotten pardoned for relatively minor crimes that, however, reflect disregard for rule of law. These people may not have killed anyone, but they have shown that they are not fit for office. Indeed, that is the purpose of impeachment. Not to punish criminal behavior, that is for the courts, but to remove people from government who are a plague to it or a threat to the constitution. Impeachment serves a prophylactic purpose against traitors, grafters, grifters and privateers.

“Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”

In August 9 1974 Richard Nixon resigned from the Presidency. Soon after that Gerald Ford Pardoned Nixon, which shut down a number of investigations, not only into Richard Nixon, but into Nixon's veritable army of co-conspirators, including some minor players who went on to become republican operatives and into bigger and better crimes. At the time we took this to mean that even the President was not above the law. But some of those minor players came back when Reagan was elected, and the Reagan Administration showed even less respect for congress and the rule of law. Ford was able to pardon Nixon, only because he had not been impeached.

Nobody in the Reagan Administration, nor in the subsequent George HW Bush Presidency. Yet there was an investigation from 1986 to 1992. Despite that investigation being impeded by grants of immunity, deliberate cover-ups and obstruction of justice, that investigation detailed the high crimes and misdemeanors of a continuing program of lawlessness that ran from 1985 til the investigation was shut down after George HW Bush pardoned the perps. They got away with it, because nobody in the Reagan or Bush administrations had been impeached.

In 1992, at least partly on the advice of Bill Barr.

“On December 24, 1992, President George H.W. Bush granted pardons to six defendants in the Iran-Contra Affairs. The defendants were Elliott Abrams, a former assistant secretary of state for Central America; former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane; former CIA officials Duane Clarridge, Alan Fiers, and Clair George; and former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.” [Brown Article]

The experience of the Walsh investigation shows why Congress has a DUTY to impeach those responsible for wrong doing and not to look the other way covered by talk of "moving on." Congress has a duty to impeach officials engaged in wrong doing and not rely on prosecutors and courts because the President has Pardon power and only impeachment limits that power. The President has:

“Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” [COTUS: Article 2, Section 2 1st paragraph.]

If we don't want President Trump to pardon his way out being punished for his criminality, then Congress must impeach the officials involved and open an impeachment investigation. This is necessary, not only to ensure the President is brought to justice, but to prevent him from using the pardoning power to avoid responsibility. If he should start to pardon the perps in this case, any such pardons should be challenged in the Supreme Court. Additionally, if there is evidence of congressmen or of Supreme Court Justices seeking to aide him in obstructing justice, they need to be subject to impeachment hearings too.

Giving the President Immunity from Prosecution is Unconstitutional

Walsh investigation background

George HW Bush's pardons decapitated the already impeded investigation by Lawrence E. Walsh into the Iran Contra scandal. George Bush got away with these pardons due to a pattern of lawbreaking dating back to 1984, aided and abetted by a congress reluctant to impeach popular felons in the White-House. Had Congress launched impeachment hearings against senior cabinet and NSC officials involved in Iran Contra, Bush would not have been able to use his legal but illegitimate pardon power to quash the investigation.

Walsh Proved High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Despite the fecklessness of Congress and the lawlessness of the Reagan-Bush Administration, Lawrence Walsh had been able to document the criminality and obstruction of the NSC under Reagan.

Reagan had flouted and Ignored the Boland Amendment

The Iran Contra originated in President Reagan's decision to ignore Congress and its passage of the "Boland Amendment" in 1984. It involved serious breaches of law at the highest levels of Government and treasonous behavior in the execution of that determination. Reagan decided to deliberately ignore the law as passed by congress. The Administration would lie about who gave the orders, but came directly from President Reagan with the advice and consent of the Vice President and was:

“the product of two foreign policy directives by President Reagan which skirted the law and which were executed by the NSC staff with the knowledge and support of high officials in the CIA, State and Defense departments, and to a lesser extent, officials in other agencies.” [walsh part xi]

Massive Criminality

The Reagan administration started preparing to skirt the Boland Amendment even before it went into effect.

“As early as February 1984, Reagan's national security adviser, Robert C. McFarlane, had suggested to other Administration officials that one way to fund the contras would be to encourage other countries to contribute support. CIA Director William J. Casey agreed with the idea, and recommended several countries that had been or could be approached. By May 1984, McFarlane had convinced one of these countries, Saudi Arabia, to contribute $1 million per month to the contra cause. McFarlane instructed his trusted assistant on the National Security Council (NSC) staff, Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, to arrange for a covert bank account to move the Saudi funds into contra hands.” [Walsh Part_i]

This was still, in the opinion of their own lawyers “impeachable offense” as the Boland Amendment prohibited direct or indirect funds. But they rationalized that as long as they were merely getting third parties to spend their own money without any promise of reimbursement they could get away with having the Saudis or others pay for the Contra efforts. Unfortunately soon they felt the need to acquire much more funding and enlisted shady people in the effort. Reagan, Robert McFarlane and Bill Casey detailed Oliver North to break the law and support the Contras covertly and illegally:

“In the summer of 1984, on Casey's recommendation, North reached out to retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord and asked him to help contra leader Adolfo Calero buy arms with his new Saudi money. Secord soon became an arms broker for the contras. North also convinced an employee of Gray & Company, Robert Owen, to meet regularly with Calero and other contra leaders to learn of their needs, deliver valuable intelligence to them, and supply them with money raised by North.”

Iran Contra was a classic filibustering operation and, because of the Boland Amendment was deeply illegal.

A Feckless Congress

The Reagan administration and following Bush administration pursued a deliberate obstruction policy that began from the beginning of the affair in 1984, thru to the end of the Bush Administration. Because of these pardon's George H.W. Bush, or Reagan, never faced even a chance of being prosecuted for their involvement in behavior that was just short of treason. Congress was too feckless to impeach either Bush or Reagan. Moreover in their hurry they:

“gave immunity to North and Poindexter, who incriminated only themselves and who largely exculpated those responsible for the initiation, supervision and support of their activities. This delayed and infinitely complicated the effort to prosecute North and Poindexter, and it largely destroyed the likelihood that their prompt conviction and appropriate sentence would induce meaningful cooperation.” [walsh part xi]

Had they instead, launched impeachment hearings into senior Reagan Officials conduct, impeached them and moved the trial to the Senate, I believe even their firing from the administration would not have inoculated the administration from the constitutional prohibition on pardoning them. Congress could refuse to accept their resignation until the impeachment vote in the Senate. Even William Casey's death should not have stopped the Congress from investigating his role in Iran Contra and impeaching him. Impeaching officials for crimes isn't about their criminality so much as documenting their "high crimes and misdemeanors" against the Constitution and the well constituted function of our government. It is also about preventing the President from using the pardon power to get away with crimes.

In the current cases, Congress should launch impeachment hearings into all of the Cabinet officials, including those who have resigned, who have been accused of breaking the law. I'm no lawyer, but that is my opinion. This will prevent the President from thinking he can simply pardon them and quash the investigations. This isn't about them as criminals. This is about them as officers of the United States and about those offices.

During the Obama Administration the house impeached a number of Administration Officials on specious grounds. These were useless impeachments because none of them had committed actual crimes. However, had they done so, Obama would not have been able to use his pardon power to help them escape justice. To preserve the rule of law, Congress much launch impeachment hearings for all crimes that have been documented.

Bill Barr, the current nominee for AG, should be grilled about Iran Contra. He had an admitted role in quashing the investigations using the Pardon Power. (see Bill Barr Post) He needs to be warned that impeachment hearings will be opened if Trump begins to try to do the same thing this time around. Better even, impeachment hearings need to start in January. They don't need to initially be about Trump himself. He has enough criminal cabinet officials.

https://www.brown.edu/Research/Understanding_the_Iran_Contra_Affair/thepardons.php
https://fas.org/irp/offdocs/walsh/
https://fas.org/irp/offdocs/walsh/part_i.htm
https://edition.cnn.com/videos/politics/2019/04/12/trump-cbp-head-pardon-immigration-law-tapper-lead-vpx.cnn
Published 12/20/2018, edited 4/12/2019 with updates

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