Trump floats taking case to Supreme Court to stop impeachment

President Trump on Monday questioned whether he and his allies could go to the Supreme Court to halt the House impeachment inquiry. 

Trump tweeted shortly after arriving in the United Kingdom for two days of NATO meetings that he had read House Republicans’ draft defense in which his allies insist there was no evidence of wrongdoing in Trump’s interactions with Ukraine.

“Great job! Radical Left has NO CASE,” Trump tweeted. “Read the Transcripts. Shouldn’t even be allowed. Can we go to Supreme Court to stop?”

The tweet marked the second time that Trump has raised the possibility of appealing his case to the Supreme Court to avert a possible impeachment. There’s no precedent for a president taking his impeachment case to the high court, and legal experts have previously said it’s unlikely the justices would hear such a case.

The president’s comments came as the impeachment proceedings enter a new phase while he is overseas meeting with world leaders and reflected the difficulty Trump will have restraining himself from weighing in on the House hearings while abroad.

Lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee are expected to begin reviewing a draft version of the panel’s report summarizing its findings after private depositions and public hearings with a dozen current and former administration officials.

The committee will then vote Tuesday on whether to adopt the report, which would be sent to the Judiciary Committee thereafter.

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday will hold its first hearing in the impeachment inquiry, titled “The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump: Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment.” The panel will hear from legal scholars as Democrats weigh whether the evidence turned up in their weeks-long impeachment inquiry warrants the drafting of articles aimed at removing the president from office. 

The White House said it will not participate in the hearing, though it did not rule out taking part in future hearings.

House Democrats are examining whether Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to pursue investigations that could benefit him politically, including by conditioning a White House meeting or aid for Ukraine to those investigations.

But House Republicans argue in their draft defense that the president’s actions were not politically motivated and that the evidence does not support Democrats’ assertions.

The president’s GOP allies at no point over the course of the 123-page document concede any wrongdoing by Trump, instead insisting that with proper context the administration’s actions were “entirely prudent.”

Trump himself has maintained that his much-scrutinized July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect.” On the call, Trump asks Zelensky to look into the Bidens and a debunked conspiracy theory about 2016 election interference.

Trump in April first tweeted that he would take Democrats to the Supreme Court if they tried to impeach him. That assertion came on the heels of former special counsel Robert Mueller releasing his full report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But legal experts cast doubt on the chances of the Supreme Court taking up such a case. They noted that the Constitution grants impeachment powers to the House and that Chief Justice John Roberts would be expected to preside over a Senate trial.

[The Hill]

Trump defends Yovanovitch attack: ‘I have freedom of speech’

President Trump on Friday defended his tweet earlier in the day attacking former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in the middle of her public testimony in the House impeachment hearing, insisting he has the right to speak out.

“I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech just like other people do,” Trump told reporters at the White House after making remarks on a health care initiative, adding that he’s “allowed to speak up” if others are speaking about him.

Pressed on whether his words can be intimidating, as Yovanovitch and Democrats have said, Trump said no.

“I don’t think so at all,” he said.

The remarks were Trump’s first public comments of the day, which has largely been dominated by testimony from Yovanovitch. As the former ambassador testified about a smear campaign by Trump’s allies to oust her from her post in Kyiv, the president took aim at her on Twitter.

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him,” Trump tweeted. “It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”

In a stunning moment, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) interrupted questioning from his staff counsel to read the president’s tweet aloud to Yovanovitch and asked for her reaction.

“I don’t think I have such powers,” Yovanovitch said with a slight laugh. “Not in Mogadishu, Somalia, not in other places.”

Asked what effect Trump’s tweet might have on future witnesses facing pressure from the White House not to testify, Yovanovitch described it as “very intimidating.”

Democrats on the committee and elsewhere in the House equated Trump’s tweet to witness intimidation and suggested that it could be considered when mulling articles of impeachment later in the process.

The White House on Friday morning issued a statement that Trump would not be watching Yovanovitch’s testimony beyond opening statements. But Trump himself said that he had tuned in.

“I watched a little bit of it today. I wasn’t able to yesterday because we had the president of Turkey here, and I wasn’t able to watch much,” Trump said. “I watched some of it this morning and I thought it was a disgrace.”

Trump complained that Republicans were not given a fair shake, referencing an instance where Schiff stopped Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) from questioning Yovanovitch because the rules stipulated that only the ranking member or Republican counsel could ask questions during that period.

“It’s a disgrace and it’s an embarrassment to our nation,” Trump said.

Yovanovitch is the third witness to testify publicly in the House impeachment inquiry. Several other current and former administration officials are scheduled to give public testimony next week.

[The Hill]

Trump Wants Whistleblower’s Lawyer Sued ‘Maybe for Treason,’ Which Definitely Isn’t a Thing

President Donald Trump tried his hand at tort law on Friday by suggesting the intelligence community whistleblower “should be revealed” and that their lawyer should be sued “maybe for treason.”

“So the whistleblower is a disgrace to our country” Trump said. And the whistleblower, because of that, should be revealed. And his lawyer who said the worst things possible two years ago, he should be sued and maybe for treason. Maybe for treason, but he should be sued. His lawyer is a disgrace.”

It appears that Trump was referring to attorney Mark Zaid. The comments were made during a press assemblage on the White House lawn where the president also addressed the closed-door impeachment hearings and the state of the 2020 presidential race.

The suggestion of treason as a civil action, however, quickly sent legal commentators into a tailspin of eyebrow-raising ridicule.

First Amendment attorney and legal commentator Adam Steinbaugh noted: “you… you can’t be sued for treason.”

That’s true. Treason is a criminal charge. Suing someone is an action taken in a civil court. Criminal charges are leveled by the state. Civil actions–which we usually call lawsuits–are usually filed by the state or private individuals in an effort to obtain money or information.

Treason, in other words, is a suggestion that simply makes no sense whatsoever under the present circumstances. This isn’t an issue that’s subject to debate. There’s plainly and clearly no cause of action known as “treason” under any state or federal law in the United States. (And this probably shouldn’t even have to be explained.)

Under the laws of the United States, treason has a very specific and very limited definition. Per the U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 3:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

There’s also a separate codification of treason under at 18 U.S. Code § 2381 which barely tweaks the constitutional definition and also assigns specific penalties for committing the criminal act.

No concept, provision or sleight of legalese that exists in the U.S. legal order would be capable of transmogrifying the above potential crimes into something that anyone could sue anyone else for. The point, now a bit belabored, is basically the end of the story.

Except for maybe the jokes.

“Treasonous infliction of emotional distress, dude,” offered Reason‘s criminal justice reporter C.J. Ciaramella. “Look it up.”

On Thursday, it should be noted, one of the intelligence community whistleblower’s attorneys sent White House Counsel Pat Cipollone a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Trump stop calling for their client’s identity to be exposed and to stop using “rhetoric that may endanger their life.”

“I am writing to respectfully request that you counsel your client on the legal and ethical peril in which he is placing himself should anyone be physically harmed as a result of his, or his surrogates’, behavior,” attorney Andrew P. Bakaj wrote.

The whistleblower’s attorney later laid it on the line:

In the best light, such statements seek to intimidate my client–and they have. As I am sure you are aware, my firm was in the process of coordinating with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to have my client deposed by congressional investigators. However, as a direct consequence of the President’s irresponsible rhetoric and behavior, my client’s physical safety became a significant concern, prompting us to instead state our willingness to only answer written interrogatories [questions].

Trump’s campaign to expose and smear the intelligence community whistleblower has, effectively, given the whistleblower pause about how and whether they should testify. Bakaj says that’s a crime.

“In light of this, it is reasonable to submit that your client’s activity constitutes a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512, Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant,” Bakaj continued. “Furthermore, because my client is a lawful whistleblower and a prospective congressional witness, any threats to influence, obstruct, or impede my client’s cooperation is a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1505, Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees. Finally, reprisal against my client for cooperating with a congressional inquiry would be a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1513, Retaliating against a witness, victim, or an informant.”

Despite this warning, Trump once again called for the whistleblower’s identity to be revealed.

The 45th president is arguably skilled at asymmetric attempts to muddy the waters and that’s as good an explanation as any for what happened on the White House lawn Friday morning. That doesn’t mean necessarily mean any of this is well-advised. 

Those most recent attacks on these attorneys and their clients are exactly the sorts of statements cautioned against in the cease-and-desist missive. They’re also the sort of statements that congressional investigators are likely to add to any eventual articles of impeachment.

[Law and Crime]

Trump claims bribery isn’t an impeachable offense — but it’s in the Constitution as an example

President Donald Trump went off on Twitter Sunday against the idea that “some” reports are incorrectly citing Republican senators believe he tried to extort Ukraine.

“False stories are being reported that a few Republican Senators are saying that President Trump may have done a quid pro quo, but it doesn’t matter, there is nothing wrong with that, it is not an impeachable event. Perhaps so, but read the transcript, there is no quid pro quo!”

Quid pro quo” is a Latin word that simply describes extortion or bribery. The Constitution outlines “high crimes and misdemeanors” as impeachable offenses and gives examples in Section 4 of Article II.

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

[Raw Story]

Trump just called the Constitution’s emoluments clause ‘phony’

Who cares about emoluments? Not President Trump, that’s for sure.

During a Cabinet meeting Monday, Trump defended his now-reversed decision to host the 2020 Group of Seven Summit at the Trump National Doral Miami resort. While on a tangent, the president hand-waved the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the federal government from receiving gifts or titles from foreign states without the consent of Congress. Trump described it as “phony,” making it unclear if he’s aware that it’s in the Constitution of the United States.

He also reportedly argued he wouldn’t have profited off the summit, world leaders deserved the best hospitality possible, and other presidents “ran their businesses” while in office, which actually hasn’t been the case since former President Andrew Johnson left office.

[The Week]

Trump suggests Pelosi committed treason, should be ‘immediately impeached’


President Trump
 late Sunday suggested that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was guilty of treason and should be “immediately” impeached.

“Nancy Pelosi knew of all of the many Shifty Adam Schiff lies and massive frauds perpetrated upon Congress and the American people, in the form of a fraudulent speech knowingly delivered as a ruthless con, and the illegal meetings with a highly partisan ‘Whistleblower’ & lawyer,” he tweeted.

“This makes Nervous Nancy every bit as guilty as Liddle’ Adam Schiff for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, and even Treason. I guess that means that they, along with all of those that evilly ‘Colluded’ with them, must all be immediately Impeached!”

Members of Congress cannot be impeached, but the Constitution says each House of Congress “may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.” Members may also be censured.

Trump last week ratcheted up attacks targeting House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for exaggerating a partial transcript of the July 25 call between the president and Ukraine’s leader.

At the time, Trump suggested that Schiff should be arrested for treason, which is punishable by death or a prison term.

During a televised congressional hearing, Schiff said that Trump directed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “make up dirt on my political opponent” a full “seven times.”

The California Democrat defended his comments amid backlash from Republicans at the time, saying: “Of course, the president never said, ‘If you don’t understand me I’m going to say it seven more times,’ my point is, that’s the message that the Ukraine president was receiving in not so many words.”

It was also reported last week that the whistleblower at the center of a House impeachment inquiry into Trump contacted Schiff’s committee before filing a complaint.

Trump’s attacks late Sunday came shortly after reports emerged of a second whistleblower said to have firsthand knowledge of some of the allegations detailed in the original complaint.

Mark Zaid, an attorney at the firm that represents the whistleblower who filed the original complaint regarding Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, said that he was representing the second whistleblower.

Zaid said the second whistleblower is also an intelligence official and has direct knowledge of some of the allegations detailed in the original complaint.

According to Zaid, the second whistleblower has already spoken to the head of the intelligence community’s internal watchdog office, Michael Atkinson. However, they have not yet spoken with congressional committees investigating Trump’s communications with Ukraine.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham defended Trump after reports surfaced of the second whistleblower and said “it doesn’t matter how many people decide to call themselves whistleblowers about the same telephone call.”

She also said that it “doesn’t change the fact that he has done nothing wrong.”

[The Hill]


Trump suggested shooting Hispanic migrants in the legs

President Trump suggested having migrants shot in their legs during a March meeting with White House advisers in the Oval Office, The New York Times reported Tuesday. 

The Times’ report is based on interviews with more than a dozen White House administration officials involved in the events the week of the meeting. The article is adapted from a forthcoming book by reporters Mike Shear and Julie Hirschfield Davis, titled “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.” It will be published Oct. 8. 

The aides told the Times Trump suggested to advisors during the Oval Office meeting that they should shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. 

The suggestion came after Trump had publicly suggested shooting migrants if they threw rocks, the Times reports. Trump had made the suggestion about shooting migrants that threw rocks during a speech in November

Officials who spoke to the Times also recall Trump often suggesting fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators. 

Trump also “wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh,” the Times reports. 

When advisors told Trump some of his suggestions were not allowed, he reportedly became frustrated. 

“You are making me look like an idiot!” Trump shouted, according to the Times, citing multiple officials in the room’s description. “I ran on this. It’s my issue.”

The meeting was set for 30-minutes and the Times reports it lasted more than an hour. Officials in the room included then Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Customs and Border Protection Chief Kevin McAleenan, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Steven Miller, according to the Times. 

A White House spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

[The Hill]

Donald Trump’s false claim about a change in whistleblower rules

President Donald Trump raised the specter of shady bureaucratic doings that allowed a whistleblower’s complaint to move forward when ordinarily it wouldn’t have.

“Who changed the long standing whistleblower rules just before submittal of the fake whistleblower report?” Trump tweeted Sept. 30. “Drain the swamp!”

Trump was far from the only one saying the rules were changed “just before” the report that ignited an impeachment inquiry was filed Aug. 12. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted the same thing Sept. 28.

“Whistleblowers were required to provide direct, first-hand knowledge of allegations,” McCarthy wrote. “But just days before the Ukraine whistleblower came forward, the IC (Inspector General of the Intelligence Community) secretly removed that requirement from the complaint form.” Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani echoed the same point Sept. 29.

All three tweets lead back to the same article on the conservative website Federalist. 

All three are wrong. 

• First-hand knowledge by a whistleblower has never been required since the law protecting intelligence community whistleblowers was enacted.

• Inspector General staff, who investigate a charge, need first-hand information to move a complaint forward — as they did in this case.

• The current complaint was based on both first- and second-hand information.The Federalist article

The Sept. 27 article claimed, “Between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings.”

The evidence comes from a tweet thread started by Stephen McIntyre on the morning the Federalist article appeared. McIntyre is a former mining company director who created the Climate Audit blog, which questions the official data behind climate change.

From the thread, a few key points emerge:

As of May 24, 2018, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community’s Urgent Concern disclosure form — the form whistleblowers fill out  — offered three choices to describe how the whistleblower got his/her information: personal knowledge, heard from other people, and other sources.

The current form offers just two choices: personal knowledge or “heard about it from others.” That form dates from August 2019.

The previous form also included a section under the subhead “First-hand information required.”

“In order to find an urgent concern ‘credible,’ the IC IG (Intelligence Community Inspector General) must be in possession of reliable, first-hand information. The IC IG cannot transmit information via the ICWPA (Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act) based on an employee’s second-hand knowledge of wrongdoing. This includes information received from another person, such as when a fellow employee informs you that he/she witnessed some type of wrongdoing. (Anyone with first-hand knowledge of the allegations may file a disclosure in writing directly with the IC IG.) Similarly, speculation about the existence of wrongdoing does not provide sufficient basis to meet the statutory requirements of the ICWPA. If you think wrongdoing took place, but can provide nothing more than secondhand or unsubstantiated assertions, IC IG will not be able to process the complaint or information for submission as an ICWPA.”

The current reporting form lacks that section.

Based on these facts, Trump and other Republicans asserted that the rules for whistleblowers were changed “just before” the current complaint was filed. Actually, only the forms were changed. The rules stayed the same.The actual sequence

The whistleblower who triggered the impeachment inquiry filled out the earlier version of the form, and no rules were changed.

The Office of Inspector General issued a statement Sept. 30 saying that “the Disclosure of Urgent Concern form the Complainant submitted on August 12, 2019, is the same form the IC IG has had in place since May 24, 2018.”

The inspector general’s office underscored that the whistleblower received the section about the need for first-hand evidence before a claim would go on to the next step.

So changes to the form took place after the whistleblower filed.

As for the rules on what is required, those have been the same since 2014 under an order issued by the Director of National Intelligence. Intelligence Community Directive 120 defines a protected disclosure as one that the employee “reasonably believes evidences a violation of any law, rule or regulation.”

The statement from the Inspector General’s office emphasized the reasonable belief standard.

“By law the Complainant – or any individual in the Intelligence Community who wants to report information with respect to an urgent concern to the congressional intelligence committees – need not possess first-hand information in order to file a complaint,” the statement said. “The IC IG cannot add conditions to the filing of an urgent concern that do not exist in law.”

The section about the need for first-hand information has to do with the investigation that follows a whistleblower’s report, not a requirement for the report itself.

“This is their way of tempering the whistleblower’s expectations,” said analyst Irvin McCullough, with the nonprofit Government Accountability Project. (McCullough’s father served as inspector general until 2017 and now represents the whistleblower.) “It says we might not find enough to support your complaint.”

The latest IG statement says it changed its forms after the current affair unfurled, because it understood some parts “could be read — incorrectly — as suggesting that whistleblowers must possess first-hand information in order to file an urgent concern complaint.”

The statement noted that the whistleblower checked both boxes to indicate he/she had both first and second-hand information. 

It also notes that its investigation found the report credible and urgent.

The White House had no comment.Our ruling

Trump said, “Longstanding whistleblower rules (were changed) just before submittal of the fake whistleblower report.”

The current rules have been in place since 2014. Whistleblowers can provide either first or second-hand information, or both. The current whistleblower filled out a form that dates from May 2018. Whatever changes existed on that form date from 14 months before the present claim was filed.

Investigators require more than second-hand information in order to move a complaint forward, but that is not a requirement before a complaint can be filed.

The Inspector General’s office changed its forms after the whistleblower filed, but those changes had no bearing on the rules under which a claim would be processed.

We rate this claim False.

[Politifact]

Trump suggests arresting Adam Schiff for ‘treason’

President Donald Trump and his allies on Monday ratcheted up their campaign against Rep. Adam Schiff as the White House’s Ukraine scandal entered its second week — with Trump again suggesting the House Intelligence chairman committed treason.

Locked in a defensive crouch and staring down an impeachment inquiry, Trump continued to batter the California Democrat for allegedly mischaracterizing his July phone call with newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?”

During Trump’s conversation with Zelensky, the president urged his foreign counterpart to work with Attorney General William Barr to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

After Schiff offered a knowingly exaggerated version of the call’s transcript before a meeting of his committee last Thursday, conservative commentators and Republican lawmakers were quick to castigate the congressman on social media and cable news.

The president was unwilling to drop the issue Monday afternoon, complaining about Schiff’s remarks to reporters in the Oval Office following a swearing-in ceremony for his new Labor secretary, Eugene Scalia.

“Adam Schiff — representative, congressman — made up what I said. He actually took words and made it up,” Trump said, as Scalia’s family looked on. “The reason is, when he saw my call to the president of Ukraine, it was so good that he couldn’t quote from it. Because there was nothing done wrong. It was perfect.”

Trump previously demanded Sunday that Schiff be “questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason,” and claimed that his “lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber.”

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, kept up that line of attack Monday, charging that Schiff “didn’t embellish” but instead “lied about” the memo the White House released last week summarizing the Zelensky call.

“He stood in front of the American people with millions of people listening and he lied,” Giuliani told the Fox Business Network. “He put on a stupid phony show, just like he lied when he said he had direct evidence of Russian collusion.”

Eric Trump, the president’s son, also assailed Schiff on Monday, telling the hosts of “Fox & Friends” that the congressman “is exactly why we need term limits in this country” and adding: “He’s a total disgrace.”

[Politico]

Trump demands to meet whistleblower, warns of ‘big consequences’

President Trump on Sunday evening railed against the whistleblower and other individuals at the center of a growing scandal involving his phone call with Ukraine’s president, warning there could be “big consequences.”

“Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called “Whistleblower,” represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way. Then [Rep. Adam] Schiff made up what I actually said by lying to Congress,” Trump said in a series of tweets.

“His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber,” he continued, before adding that he wants Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, “questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason.”

“In addition,” he added, “I want to meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION, but also the person who illegally gave this information, which was largely incorrect, to the ‘Whistleblower.’ Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President? Big Consequences!”

[The Hill]

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