Above the law?
There is a well-known quote by John Locke (English philosopher and physician) from 1689 which seems quite applicable today in light of the political melodrama which we are all witnessing: “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins.” More specifically, the key issue for our nation at this time is this: is our sitting President above the rule of law and exempt from his sworn oath to faithfully uphold the U.S. Constitution? In our nation’s current situation, this issue is further complicated by an existing Department of Justice policy which states that a sitting President cannot be indicted — i.e., cannot be charged with and prosecuted for any crimes while he/she remains in office. With these issues in mind, please consider the following events.
Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer and “fixer,” has just begun serving a 3-year sentence in Federal prison due to numerous crimes, including some which he was directed to do by Mr. Trump. Consequently, Mr. Trump is named as an “un-indicted co-conspirator” in these crimes but remains immune to indictment due to that above- mentioned policy.
The report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller describes 10 incidents wherein Mr. Trump could be charged with obstruction of justice, despite Mr. Mueller’s ultimately declining to indict him. Over 700 former federal prosecutors have subsequently signed a letter stating that was Mr. Trump not a sitting President immune from indictment because of that noted policy, he clearly would be indicted on multiple charges of obstructing justice on the basis of these facts presented by Mr. Mueller.
And now the Trump administration is blatantly refusing to comply with subpoenas issued by Congress asking for information to which they are legally entitled as part of their constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities and is ordering everyone he thinks he can to ignore all such subpoenas requesting documents and testimony. To put it more bluntly, this administration is now openly “stonewalling” all efforts by Congress to exercise its constitutionally required oversight role, and is asserting that it will no longer cooperate with these efforts. Thus the Trump administration is essentially staking the claim that it (the Executive branch) is no longer bound by the Constitution and its system of three co-equal branches of government (including the Legislative and Judicial branches) which serve as checks and balances on each other as described therein, and that the Executive branch is now the primary branch of our government, elevated above and not answerable to the other two.
So Mr. Trump and his administration are making it quite clear that they now see themselves as above the law, unfettered by the Constitution, and free to do whatever they wish without any limits or constraints. And each time they test limits in this manner and seemingly get away with it, they feel that we as a nation are basically okay with their doing so, and are then emboldened to continue (and to escalate) these efforts – kind of like that young child who tests limits to see how far they can go before there are real consequences.
Thus our nation is now facing an extraordinary and unprecedented attack – this time from within. If such glaring and shameless efforts to undermine our democracy and re-shape it into more of a totalitarian and autocratic government are allowed to proceed unchecked, the America we all love and have come to take for granted will soon be no more. This is how democracies die.
But America is resilient, and the power to defend this extraordinary democracy still resides in the hands of its citizens – and an informed citizenry who actively and constructively participates in this precious democracy still serves as our best defense against any who would undermine it. So we all must stay informed, speak up, communicate with our elected representatives (reminding them that we have entrusted them to serve the common good and do what is right regardless of any partisan loyalties), and then exercise our right – indeed, our responsibility — to vote. History is watching.
Dale E. Buonocore,