November 7, 2017
In “A Man for All Seasons,” Sir Thomas More was accused by his son-in-law William Roper of putting the law before morality.
Roper declared he would “cut down every law in England” to “get after the devil.” More warned his son-in-law, “When the last law was down, and the devil turned around on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?”
Similar winds are blowing in the Beltway. For months, President Trump’s critics have bent and twisted criminal provisions to accuse him of a “plethora” of crimes. Little thought has been given to the implications of radically expanding the meaning of crimes such as obstruction, election fraud or conspiracy. Now, experts are scrambling to find shelter in the narrowest of criminal definitions as Democratic figures are implicated in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as well as new campaign allegations by a former party leader.
Just as I have been skeptical of theories of Trump’s criminality, I am equally skeptical of such pronouncements of Hillary Clinton’s crimes based on current evidence. However, Trump would need to look no further than the interpretations of many experts to support calls for prosecution. It was recently confirmed that Clinton’s campaign paid a foreign national to dig up dirt against Trump from other foreign nationals, including Russian and foreign intelligence sources. Both Trump and Clinton have justified their actions as standard “opposition research.” Moreover, both campaigns insist the public had a right to know of evidence of illegality held by such sources.
Experts have spent months shoehorning Trump into ill-fitting criminal provisions. Some have argued that he can be charged under Section 371, which prohibits conspiracies to defraud the United States “in any manner or for any purpose.” Former federal prosecutor Randall Eliason has argued, “Running a free and fair presidential election is a core lawful function of the federal government. Any agreement to secretly and dishonestly attempt to interfere with a federal election would fall squarely within Section 371’s prohibition on conspiracies to defraud the United States.”
This article was posted: Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 9:04 am