Trump’s legal team has consistently ignored legal precedent in an effort to reframe our political understanding of Constitutional Law in order to appeal to the President’s warped understanding of it.
By David Todd McCarty | Wednesday, October 23, 2019
In a Federal Appeals Court today hearing today, William S. Consovoy, one of Donald Trump’s personal attorneys argued before a three-judge appeals court panel, that the President was immune to prosecution while acting as President, even if “he shot someone on Fifth Avenue.”
The hearing was to determine if Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, and a Democrat, had the authority to subpoena President Trump’s tax records in a criminal investigation.
The panel did not immediately indicate when it would issue a ruling, but Judge Robert A. Katzmann, the appeals court’s chief judge, signaled that he and the other judges understood both the gravity of the matter and that they were unlikely to have the final word.
“This case seems bound for the Supreme Court,” Judge Katzmann said early in the arguments, adding later, as the hearing wrapped up, “We have the feeling that you may be seeing each other again in Washington.”
Throughout the Department of Justice investigation led by ex-FBI Director James Comey, Trump’s lawyers and lawyers for the Dept of Justice acting on behalf of the administration have made bold claims concerning an unconventional reading of the Constitution and the law. They have basically argued in contempt of legal precedent and scholarly understanding of the law.
The subpoena was “an effort to harass the president by obtaining and exposing his confidential financial information, not a legitimate attempt to enforce New York law,” the president’s lawyers wrote.
While the Department of Justice has held a longstanding position that a sitting President cannot be charged or prosecuted for a crime, there is not only not law that prohibits but this but no legal precedent. It has never been tested in court and would likely have to be decided once and for all before the Supreme Court.
It’s hard to believe, given the inclusion of the concept of impeachment within the framework of the Constitution that the framers meant to hand over carte blanche power to the Executive Branch. In fact, they specifically worried about creating a new monarchy after having already fled one. They in fact had no intention of the President having nearly the amount of power the office holds now, and would no doubt that have considered it good form to have thrown out many more Presidents that we ever have. The impeachment clause, it may even be argued, was even a sort of failed attempt to provide due process for removing a President since it’s never actually been followed through with.
The New York Times reported that throughout the arguments, the judges returned to the president’s claim of broad immunity.
“Your position,” Judge Chin addressed Mr. Consovoy at one point, “is that the immunity is absolute.
“And so if the president were to commit a crime, no matter how heinous,” Judge Chin continued, whether he did it before he took office or after he entered, he could not be the subject of any investigation. “That’s the position?”
“Yes,” Mr. Consovoy replied, adding, “Of course, Congress retains the impeachment power.”