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Wed Sep 25, 2019, 11:59 PM

Question for DU Legal Minds: What law did Trump break?

Put another way: It's obviously unseemly to pressure a foreign leader into doing political dirty work. But what actual law/statute was broken?

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 807; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(2)(J), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)


As much as I see this as undermining our Constitution, a) Ukraine is not an enemy (nor, technically, is Russia at this time) and I think it'd be difficult to assert he's levied war, in the traditional sense. So I don't see treason. Corruption? Hell Yes! But not treason.

Is extorting a foreign leader while President a crime? Answer: I have no idea.

Is this, in a sense, an Emoluments Clause violation -- an attempt at personal enrichment/benefit on the part of the President?

Will the House ultimately have a stronger case for pressing Obstruction of Justice, as described in the Muller Report?

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Reply Question for DU Legal Minds: What law did Trump break? (Original post)
Algernon Moncrieff Sep 2019 OP
RandySF Sep 2019 #1
stopbush Sep 2019 #2
DrToast Sep 2019 #5
Algernon Moncrieff Sep 2019 #7
UniteFightBack Sep 2019 #3
grantcart Sep 2019 #29
shraby Sep 2019 #4
Lock him up. Sep 2019 #17
uponit7771 Sep 2019 #19
tblue37 Sep 2019 #6
Algernon Moncrieff Sep 2019 #8
gopiscrap Sep 2019 #32
James48 Sep 2019 #9
Algernon Moncrieff Sep 2019 #11
James48 Sep 2019 #12
librechik Sep 2019 #23
Claritie Pixie Sep 2019 #10
SCantiGOP Sep 2019 #13
Algernon Moncrieff Sep 2019 #15
James48 Sep 2019 #14
emmaverybo Sep 2019 #16
Algernon Moncrieff Sep 2019 #21
emmaverybo Sep 2019 #34
mercuryblues Sep 2019 #18
uponit7771 Sep 2019 #20
maxrandb Sep 2019 #22
Algernon Moncrieff Sep 2019 #39
Coventina Sep 2019 #24
TidalWave46 Sep 2019 #25
shockey80 Sep 2019 #26
StarfishSaver Sep 2019 #27
OliverQ Sep 2019 #28
Tanuki Sep 2019 #30
Newest Reality Sep 2019 #31
Newest Reality Sep 2019 #33
Algernon Moncrieff Sep 2019 #36
Newest Reality Sep 2019 #37
Algernon Moncrieff Sep 2019 #38
smirkymonkey Sep 2019 #35

Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:00 AM

1. It's not clea at the moment

But impeachment is by definition a political act and Trump tried to strong-arm a country in peril.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:01 AM

2. Breaking a law isn't the necessary offense.

Abuse of power is what impeachment is all about. No crime need be committed.

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Response to stopbush (Reply #2)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:06 AM

5. Exactly. I learned that from Lindsey Graham...circa 1998

But he did break the law, too, as others have outlined in the thread.

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Response to stopbush (Reply #2)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:07 AM

7. The question asked by the opponents of impeachment will be "What law was broken?"

Nixon was accused of Obstruction of Justice. He orchestrated a Cover-Up.

Clinton was accused of Perjury. He lied about not having sex with that woman.

I'll plead ignorance on Andrew Johnson - except he made the Republicans in Congress madder than Hell.

I take your point, but I think the question of what "High Crime or Misdemeanors" will come up.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:03 AM

3. Campaign finance laws. This muthafucka is always breaking laws somewhere, believe that. nt

 

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Response to UniteFightBack (Reply #3)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 10:56 AM

29. Also inducing a bribe

That is why they keep saying "no quid per quo"

That is an essential requirement of a bribery conviction

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:04 AM

4. He tried to influence the 2020 election in his favor by asking a foreign nation to

get him dirt on his opponent.

That's a big no-no

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Response to shraby (Reply #4)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 01:51 AM

17. He did the same thing in 2016 asking Russia...

Though he was just a nominee.

Now he's prizedent with the power to abuse it while violating his oath of office by breaking the same campaign laws.

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Response to Lock him up. (Reply #17)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 04:27 AM

19. +1,

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:07 AM

6. Using taxpayer money for bribery & extortion. Campaign finance violations (federal

law!). Colluding with a foreign nation to influence US election.

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Response to tblue37 (Reply #6)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:09 AM

8. I think those supporting impeachment would do well to make that point

...and cite the specific statutory language.

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Response to tblue37 (Reply #6)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 11:07 AM

32. and treason

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:10 AM

9. 18 USC 872 (possibly)

18 U.S. Code § 872. Extortion by officers or employees of the United States
U.S. Code


“Whoever, being an officer, or employee of the United States or any department or agency thereof, or representing himself to be or assuming to act as such, under color or pretense of office or employment commits or attempts an act of extortion, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; but if the amount so extorted or demanded does not exceed $1,000, he shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”

———-

If he withheld Military aid funds he controlled, and said he would release the funds only if the Ukrainian President got dirt on his rival politician, that could be viewed as extortion, which is a felony.

He used his government position (to withhold funds) in exchange for dirt.

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Response to James48 (Reply #9)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:14 AM

11. OK - I like it

Does the fact that it was a foreigner being extorted change anything? Obviously, withholding aid is used in other contexts to achieve political ends. A regime supporting a terrorist organization might have aid withheld until they change their ways. Can a President assert that keeping him/herself in the office is, in and of itself, a political end in the national interest?

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Reply #11)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:28 AM

12. Here is the difference.

In the example of withholding aid to a terrorist organization- that is NOT extortion, because the withholding is done for the national interest.


But if the threat to withhold aid (money, arms, anti-tank missiles) is being done for a PERSONAL interest, and the threat (withholding anti-tank missiles - so you won’t be able to stop invading tanks, therefore your life is endangered, or something you value (a city) is endangered, UNLESS you go investigate my political opponent) - that is doing it for a personal interest. Making such a threat - conditioning the sale of defensive arms, on cooperation to harm a political opponent for personal gain, IS the very definition of a textboook case of extortion under 18 USC 872.

The question now is- is there evidence he actually withheld money/arms, and did he convey the request of conditioning their release upon an investigation being opened.

If so- THAT is a “high crime”.

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Response to James48 (Reply #9)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 10:43 AM

23. James, would you post this in its own thread? Thi statute is important to know about!

Thanks in advance!

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:11 AM

10. Abuse of Power. Extortion.

BTW - "high crimes and misdemeanors" does not mean the crimes and misdemeanors are extraordinary. Just means the person committing them holds a high office.

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Response to Claritie Pixie (Reply #10)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:30 AM

13. I know. Why the hell are people asking?

He offered to sell or not sell American military equipment if another country would help him politically.
You want a crime? How about malfeasance and misuse of federal funds? Government employees are not allowed to use federal funds for their personal benefit.

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Response to SCantiGOP (Reply #13)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:48 AM

15. The response from pretty much every GOPer so far is...

..."I read the transcript and I don't see any crime there." Some have paid lip service to the notion that soliciting a foreign leader for election help doesnt look great, but have implied its nothing criminal.

So my belief is that we will need to allege that laws were violated. Just as such allegations were made against Clinton and Nixon. Im not sure that merely alleging abuse of power will suffice. The GOPers alleged that Obama abused power constantly (although the Benghazi hearings were aimed at Hillary). We need specifics, and we need this not to be a fishing expedition.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:33 AM

14. Note:

The fact that he is President is just one small point In the discussion. ANY federal employee- (Officer of the US Government) can be charged with the crime of extortion (18 USC 872) if they attempt to use their office in order to intimidate or threaten.

The President could do it and be charged.
But so could a VP, or an Ambassador, or a Logistics Employee. The key is their use of office, and the implied threat of some kind to either give, or deny, an action that the employee has an obligation to issue or protect.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 01:13 AM

16. Ari Melber explains how Trump may have committed an impeachable offense:

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Response to emmaverybo (Reply #16)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 10:27 AM

21. I like the connection to the founding fathers an Federalist Papers.

My sense is that to get the electorate on board, it needs to be broken down further to a clear violation of a law on the books in 2019. He may well have done that, but to credibly impeach, that's what will need to be shown.

Bill Clinton clearly committed perjury. You can argue a more nebulous abuse of power, given the dynamics in the relationship with Lewinsky; however, perjury was the best argument for removal. The difference was that his affair and subsequent lie, while illegal and unethical, did not substantially represent a violation of national interest. Were he eligible for reelection, the argument might have been different - that the lie was a calculated attempt to mislead voters. But that was not the case, and even the most valud charge fell well short of the impeachment threshhold.

This case is much more like Watergate. Nixon obstructed justice to cover a crime in support of his reelection. Here, Trump is alleged to have extorted Ukraine in order to get damaging information on the son of an opponent. The House needs to tie those allegations to laws on the books.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Reply #21)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 12:59 PM

34. I agree. Translate the impeachable offenses into high crimes underpinned by the laws. Thank you

for you fine analysis. Some say Trump’s crime is extortion or bribery. But what specifically—as a criminal act—did he conspire with Ukraine to do? Ari presented the idea that this time, because Trump was on the offering, not receiving end, a conspiracy charge would stick. Again, conspired to break what specific laws.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 02:01 AM

18. as always, there is also

an obstruction of justice charge. The White House had the Whistle blower complaint buried, so congress wouldn't find out about it. Even though the law states that any whistle blower complaint is to be turned over to congress.

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Response to mercuryblues (Reply #18)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 04:32 AM

20. +1, Trump ordering holding up the whistleblower report is open shut obstruction of justice

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 10:40 AM

22. Human Decency nt

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Response to maxrandb (Reply #22)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 06:49 PM

39. Theres a shortage of that throughout this land.

Both the right and left wings of American politics accuse one another of lacking it.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 10:46 AM

24. Prosecutor on Lawrence O'Donnell last night said extortion.

She said mob bosses have been prosecuted for the same thing Trump did.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 10:48 AM

25. He blatantly broke campaign finance law.

That is the one law that has clearly been broken.

Yes, I know Barr “cleared” him of it already.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 10:52 AM

26. The question should be,

What laws didn't Trump break.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 10:55 AM

27. Among other things, campaign finance and bribery laws ...

Seeking something of value to himself or his campaign in return for engaging in an official act.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 10:56 AM

28. Several

 

Extortion, conspiracy, campaign finance violations being the most obvious ones.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 11:01 AM

30. This article has some good information

It's written by Corey Brettschneider, the author of The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents


https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/26/does-trump-need-to-break-the-law-to-be-impeached-the-answer-is-no

"In the coming days, opinions sections and cable news shows will be inundated with discussion about whether President Trump’s attempt to pressure the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, into investigating Joe Biden’s role in a supposed conspiracy was a criminal act. However, the answer to this question alone does not tell us whether Trump should be impeached. The constitutional standard of impeachment – “high crimes and misdemeanors” – is not a legal one. Rather, an impeachable offense occurs when a president violates the oath to abide by the constitution’s limits and respect its values. Trump’s use of political pressure on a foreign power to further his own re-election chances clearly fits.
......
Nixon’s case is instructive in this era of Trump. Part of the case against Nixon was about his role in the unlawful break-in and cover-up at the Watergate hotel. But Congress also drew up articles of impeachment that criticized his obstruction of justice, abuse of power, failure to execute the law impartially, and defiance of subpoenas – all actions that undermined the office’s ideals of constitutional democracy, even if they were not criminal violations. There, instruction about the constitutional responsibilities of the president helped to turn public opinion.

We should take the same path in Trump’s case. Public opinion is not fixed and can be moved with the right approach, as it was during Nixon’s impeachment hearings, moving from 19% approval of impeachment to 50% from early 1973 to summer 1974. An inquiry can be useful in determining whether Trump committed crimes in seeking an investigation of Biden and his son, and a positive finding on that question obviously adds to the gravity of his wrongdoing. But Congress should also draw the public’s attention to Trump’s fundamental failures to uphold his constitutional responsibilities as president. The inquiry cannot just be limited to criminal harms."...(more)

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 11:02 AM

31. From how I understand it...

Impeachment is about the integrity and sanctity of the office itself, be it President or otherwise. The person who is in office is then the next case in point. That person's actions are to in no way compromise or denigrate that office, it's oath, etc. and if they do, they can be impeached because of that.

So, we proceed from there to justify the impeachment based on that point of order. How Trump has impacted the position he holds matters most and the details seem to support that already and now there is the process of presenting all the supporting evidence. The rest will reinforce that fact.

If we agree that Trump has had that kind of impact of the office, then we are off to a good start. The proof of crimes are supportive, in this case of what impeachment is about. At least that is my take from what I have read. This is ALL about the office of the POTUS as a position in our political system and Trump just so happens to be the person who is denigrating its place and meaning by his words and actions.

I just thought I would throw that out to cast light on the protection of what we hold dear as a nation, over and above the personality and the primary focus on that. We are protecting something very important, not just getting rid of a bad actor/failure/traitor.

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Response to Newest Reality (Reply #31)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 11:20 AM

33. I am just going to illustrate that...

Of course, correct me if I am wrong, but I will illustrate something and it might be important because it puts the emphasis where it belongs while we consider proving crimes actually committed.

Let's say that Trump ONLY did these things: He always wears a greasy T-shirt, shorts and smells bad. He throws drunken parties in the White House regularly. He swears like a sailor, etc. Now, technically, those are not crimes. He could say it is Executive Privileged to behave in such a way. However, that behavior becomes a challenge to the dignity and decorum of the office and you could get a consensus agreement.

So, even though that scenario is unlikely, (well, Idiocracy illustrated something like that) and Republicans would not care enough to follow though on those grounds, those are just as valid grounds for impeachment as actual crimes committed. It is about more than that.

We probably should shift the narrative a bit to include that this is an act of preservation and protection of the office itself and its meaning to our political system and that may help to assure we accomplish that. It is both patriotic and positive. It means a lot that way.

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Response to Newest Reality (Reply #31)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 06:22 PM

36. In a broad sense, I agree with you

However, the GOPers, and, maybe more importantly, the slumbering non-political segment of America will pose the question - "What did he do wrong?"

We will also hear questions like:

"Isn't this something all Presidents do?"

"You people wanted to impeach Bush for 'war crimes.' Isn't this just what you do when you all are unhappy?"

Those pursuing this need simple concrete answers. Not high concepts about oaths or democracy, but straightforward statutes we can point to and say "Trump commited obstruction/extortion/fill-in-the-blank."

Impeachment has the greatest chance of success if two conditions are met: people see what crime took place and people see how America was hurt by the crime.

Those pursuing impeachment also need to answer the question "Why not just let the people decide in 2020?"

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Reply #36)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 06:36 PM

37. Yup!

I concur.

Hence, the crimes and the emphasis on their damage are the actual fuel for action, regardless of my points. It is getting the system to move and act and the people to stand behind it that matters most. In fact, that is most essential and a critical matter.

Maybe it is possible to include both proving the criminal action and the notion preserving the office, though? I think it would be more potent only because I see very little mention of this. That is why I brought some attention to it. It would be good to hear some legislators make more mention of that in the process. Double up!

In fact, as we all know, this President has really probably had the most negative impact on the office ever as far as degree and extent go. There are definitely going to be some bad stains left behind. So, we must recover and even improve on the office itself. I trust our next candidate will take that into account and heal the wounds.

Thanks!

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Response to Newest Reality (Reply #37)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 06:47 PM

38. In Nixons time, the dignity of the office was a huge deal

Maybe America can be steered back to that. Trump basically pays zero regard to tge dignity of the office.

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Response to Algernon Moncrieff (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2019, 01:16 PM

35. K&R

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