Five months ago, the lawyers for Donald Trump crafted an incredible 20-page letter to special prosecutor Robert Mueller claiming their client, as president, has “absolute authority” on any and all investigations, including the one against him.
The letter surfaced Saturday in The New York Times and attempts to make a case that Trump is above the law in any and all matters that concern him and anyone else he deems invulnerable.
Mr. Trump’s broad interpretation of executive authority is novel and is likely to be tested if a court battle ensues over whether he could be ordered to answer questions. It is unclear how that fight, should the case reach that point, would play out. A spokesman for Mr. Mueller declined to comment.
The letter states:
It remains our position that the President’s actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself, and that he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired.1
Notes Charlie Savage of The Times:
This is a striking line — and an ambiguous one. Mr. Trump’s lawyers may be suggesting that he had the lawful power to shut down the investigation into the national security adviser at the time, Michael T. Flynn, or even to pardon Mr. Flynn if he wanted — so that whatever he said to Mr. Comey about that case could not have amounted to obstruction. But the sentence may also leave open the possibility that he could order the obstruction investigation into himself shut down or even pardon himself. No president has ever purported to pardon himself, and it is unclear whether he could.
The letter continues:
We express again, as we have expressed before, that the Special Counsel’s inquiry has been and remains a considerable burden for the President and his Office, has endangered the safety and security of our country, and has interfered with the President’s ability to both govern domestically and conduct foreign affairs. This encumbrance has been only compounded by the astounding public revelations about the corruption within the FBI and Department of Justice which appears to have led to the alleged Russia collusion investigation and the establishment of the Office of Special Counsel in the first place.2The Special Counsel acknowledged that he was aware of and understands this burden and, accordingly, has committed to expedite his effort.
The letter briefly shifts in tone to an attack on law enforcement institutions and the legitimacy of the investigation. The president and his allies routinely use such language in the public relations arena. But his lawyers’ use of it in a private missive to Mr. Mueller is striking: a reminder to the special counsel that he will face more than legal pushback if he subpoenas the president or accuses him of wrongdoing.
The letter, and Trump himself, continues to push the limits of presidential power and the use of “executive authority.” Trump openly claims that he, as president, can and does whatever he wants without having to answer to anyone in the short term.
In the long term, voters have the final say, unless Trump finds a way to remain the nation’s “absolute authority” without ever having to stand for re-election.
Impossible? Don’t be on it.
Copyright © 2017 Capitol Hill Blue