Trump’s “Official Acts” to Pay Off a Russian Bribe Should Make Impeachment a Legal Issue, Not Just a Political One

The pearl clutchers screamed about Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib saying that we need to impeach the motherfucker, Donald Trump, demeaning the presidency.* While I’m glad that she has refused to back down from her beliefs in the face of the attacks, I think her more substantial argument about impeachment deserves further attention (which I hope to return to in a later post). More important, I think that the response to Tlaib’s comments has resulted in members of both parties retreating to a debate about Trump’s impeachment using the old formulation that it’s a political, not a legal question.

It is true that impeachment is political question insofar as, so long as there’s the political will, a president can be impeached for anything, even lying about a consensual blowjob immaterial to an investigation into financial scandal. But impeachment is also a legal question. Indeed, the Constitution mandates that the President be removed from office if he is impeached and convicted not just for the unenumerated grab bag of “high crimes and misdemeanors” — where Congress exercises the political will to decide whether a blowjob merits impeachment — but also the enumerated crimes of treason and bribery.

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.

In spite of Emmet Sullivan’s question — as one of the only people who has read sealed documents laying out what Trump’s transition team did — about whether Mueller’s investigators considered charging Mike Flynn with treason, there’s no chance that Trump will be named in a treason charge.

But there is very good chance he will be named in a conspiracy involving a quid pro quo trading dirt and real estate deals for sanctions relief and other policy considerations.

The other day, I realized something ironic: in precisely the same period Trump was entering in an apparent quid pro quo with Russians, John Roberts was authoring a unanimous Supreme Court decision that clarified the limits of quid pro quo bribery.

And while the Supreme Court believed that Governor Bob McDonnell had not accepted bribes for setting up meetings in exchange for gifts, the language Roberts wrote in the weeks after Trump’s son told some Russians they would revisit Magnitsky sanctions if his father won does not so narrow the definition of bribery as to make Trump’s actions legally excusable.

Roberts described an official act this way:

In sum, an “official act” is a decision or action on a “question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy.” The “question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy” must involve a formal exercise of governmental power that is similar in nature to a lawsuit before a court, a determination before an agency, or a hearing before a committee. It must also be something specific and focused that is “pending” or “may by law be brought” before a public official. To qualify as an “official act,” the public official must make a decision or take an action on that “question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy,” or agree to do so.

Notably, the bribed public official doesn’t actually have to follow through on the official act he agreed to take, so it doesn’t help Trump that Congress has repeatedly prevented him from overturning sanctions on Russia.

Under this Court’s precedents, a public official is not required to actually make a decision or take an action on a “question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy”; it is enough that the official agree to do so.

And there are a number of data points in the public record that suggest Trump did believe he had made a deal with the Russians and that Russia had what it believed was a commitment from Trump. For example, four of the people who attended the June 9 meeting testified (most under oath) that Don Jr said his father would revisit sanctions relief if he got elected.

Natalia Veselnitskaya said Don Jr said they’d revisit the topic.

Mr. Trump, Jr. politely wound up the meeting with meaningless phrases about somewhat as follows: can do nothing about it, “if’ or “when” we come to power, we may return to this strange and confusing story.

Ike Kaveladze said that Don Jr said they might revisit the issue if his father won.

There was no request, but as I said, it was a suggestion that if Trump campaign wins, they might get back to the Magnitsky Act topic in the future.

Rinat Akhmetshin said that Don Jr said they would revisit Magnitsky when they won.

A. I don’t remember exact words which were said, but I remember at the end, Donald, Jr., said, you know, “Come back see us again when we win.” Not “if we win,” but “when we win.” And I kind of thought to myself like, “Yeah, right.” But it happened, so — but that’s something, see, he’s very kind of positive about, “When we win, come back and see us again.” Something to that effect, I guess.

Anatoli Samochornov, Veselnitskaya’s translator, who is the most independent witness and the only one who didn’t compare his story with others, said that Don Jr said they would revisit the issue if Trump won.

A. Like I described, I remember, not verbatim, the closing that Mr. Donald Trump, Jr., provided, but that’s all that I recall being said from the other side.

MR. PRIVOR: That closing being that Donald Trump, Jr., suggested —

MR. SAMOCHORNOV: If or when yes, and I do not remember if or when, but if or when my father becomes President, we will revisit this issue.

And Ike Kaveladze, in the call back to his boss to report on the meeting that witnesses observed, was happy with the outcome of the meeting.

It’s not just the Russians who seem to have acted on the meeting. Michael Cohen’s allocution seems to suggest that the meeting tied directly to the negotiations over a Trump Tower, because he took steps to travel to Russian on the day of the meeting.

From on or about June 9 to June 14, 2016, Individual 2 sent numerous messages to COHEN about the travel, including forms for COHEN to complete. However, on or about June 14 , 2016, COHEN met Individual 2 in the lobby of the Company’s headquarters to inform Individual 2 he would not be traveling at that time.

Remember: a “senior campaign official” was involved in discussions about trips to Russia. And had the President’s personal lawyer actually taken this trip to St. Petersburg, the plan was to meet Vladimir Putin (who did attend the forum that year).

While the dates provided in Cohen’s allocution also suggest the disclosure that Russia hacked the DNC halted Cohen’s plans “at that time,” we know that the plans did resume after that canceled trip into July.

The Russians certainly believed they had an agreement. They put in some effort to meet again after Trump won. While finding an appropriate communication channel failed for the Agalarovs, Flynn and Jared Kushner moved to establish a back channel via Sergey Kislyak. When Trump met with Preet Bharara and reportedly agreed to keep him on, Veselnitskaya panicked, and suggested Trump planned to keep him on so he could take him out.

In its indictment of Veselnitskaya, DOJ just established that she was actually working as part of the Russian government when she claimed to have fought to get an MLAT request in her Prevezon case. And Veselnitskaya believed that after Trump won the election, he would take out the prosecutor whom she was facing in court. Ultimately, Trump did take out Preet, firing all his US Attorneys in an effort to do so.

And details from Mike Flynn’s allocution provide one important piece of evidence that Russians believed they had received a commitment from Trump.

After Obama imposed sanctions on Russia partly in retaliation for the election year operation, Trump’s team panicked, both because they wanted to improve relations with Russia, but also because Russia’s role in his victory delegitimized the victory. That is, even those unlikely to be unaware of any quid pro quo recognized that the public accounting of Russia’s role in helping defeat Hillary would make it all the more difficult to deal with Russia.

Obama is doing three things politically:

  • discrediting Trump’s victory by saying it was due to Russian interference
  • lure trump into trap of saying something today that casts doubt on report on Russia’s culpability and then next week release report that catches Russia red handed
  • box trump in diplomatically with Russia. If there is a tit-for-tat escalation trump will have difficulty improving relations with Russia which has just thrown USA election to him.

Trump’s response, however, was to reach out to Russia and assure them they didn’t need to worry about Obama’s new policy. In response, the Russians made it very clear that Putin had decided not to respond based on the assurances that Flynn gave Kislyak.

On or about December 30, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin released a statement indicating that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the U.S. Sanctions at that time.

On or about December 31, 2016, the Russian Ambassador called FLYNN and informed him that Russia had chosen not to retaliate in response to FL YNN’s request.

Mueller, of course, has the full transcript of what Flynn said to Kislyak that successfully placated Putin. It is highly likely the transcript provides explicit evidence of an official act to pay off his side of the deal, sanctions relief.

All of which is to say that Mueller may well be finalizing a conspiracy indictment of Don Jr and Trump Org laying out a quid pro quo in which Trump agreed to provide sanctions relief (and some other stuff) in exchange for Russia’s help winning the election.

That Mueller might be able to show all this is bribery may not affect Republican willingness to take the action laid out in the Constitution, to convict Trump in an impeachment inquiry. But given that the Constitution specifically envisions impeaching a President who has accepted a bribe, commentators should stop treating impeachment exclusively as a political issue.

Update: I posted this before I had read this analysis from Jack Goldsmith raising concerns about investigating the President for foreign policy decisions. While I think Goldsmith raises key points, he focuses on actions Trump took as President. But that’s one reason I think the transition activities are so important. If I’m right that the calls to Kislyak amount to an official act, then Trump took it to undermine the official policy of the government, not set it as President. Further, The Trump team had been asked — and at least one person had agreed — to not undermine Obama’s policies during the transition. There were several efforts to hide that they were doing so: the indications they couldn’t reengage on Magnitsky sanctions using the same channels as they used during the election, the request for a back channel, and the meeting with Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan that Susan Rice discovered by unmasking the identities of those who met with him.

The actions Trump took that led to Flynn and Comey’s firings were part of an effort to hide these clandestine efforts during the transition. Yes, they were conducted while he was President. But they were conducted to cover up actions taken before he became President. This is why I keep harping on the remarkable lack of curiosity about why Trump really fired Flynn. The public story Trump is telling is assuredly false. The real reason almost certainly ties back to these transition period actions.

As I disclosed in July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

*Full disclosure: I donated to Tlaib’s campaign.

187 replies
    • Linda Horn says:

      I don’t know if this is relevant, but I stumbled on his Presidential Records Act designation letter (PDF). It’s dated February 16, 2017 and names Don McGahn (gone), Stefan Passantino (gone), and Ann M. Donaldson (still there, I think) as his representatives. I don’t see an update, but I may have missed it.

    • P J Evans says:

      Taking the interpreter’s notes away, and barring them from telling anyone in the administration what was said, says to me that whatever he said would get him arrested should it reach the ears of US law enforcement.

      Over at Kos, there are people wondering if the interpreter has spoken to Mueller, and if they could be called to testify before a committee – it would have to be the House, as the Senate is going nowhere with anything while himself is in office. (That makes me wonder what Putin has on the GOP-T senators like McTurtle and Graham.)

      • NorskieFlamethrower says:

        “That makes me wonder what Putin has on GOP senators like McTurtle and Graham.”

        Ya think maybe it might be “sexual preference”?!! That and photos and rubles converted to campaign donations…maybe, but Russian money through both the Republican Party, NRA and Pacs over, in the case of McTurtle, years.

        • Badbaptistwife says:

          I am originally from Kentucky, and it’s a fairly open secret there that Mitch McConnell is gay. I asked a friend  about it years ago, and she said oh, you mean Miss McConnell? I think his current problems are more financially based, but who knows?

          • Trip says:

            I think that is wrong. McConnell is not gay or straight. I think he is a unicellular, asexual, methane-producing organism that only reproduces by binary fusion. Otherwise, the world is much much uglier than we all suspected, to even remotely contemplate a sex life.

            • e.a.f. says:

              best laugh of the day, thank you .  did always wonder how any one could crawl into the sack with him, even when he was young.  there are more attractive trees.

      • Peterr says:

        I think this is at least as much a case of  Trump being Trump. He’s never held a job before that required him to report to anyone else, and I suspect this is simply how he’s always acted in his Trump Co. operations. He keeps himself at the center, and tells his minions only what he thinks they need to know, when he thinks they need to know it.

    • Brumel says:

      An interpreter’s notes are largely useless as a record of what was said, because that’s just not their purpose. They are short-term memory aids, and hence full of (often self-developed and idiosyncratic) symbols, abbreviations, structuring devices etc. Most will be unintelligible to an outsider and, after a few weeks, even to the interpreter herself. Moreover, anything that requires no mnemonics to remember for a few minutes is simply omitted.

      As a result, the interpreter’s personal testimony would be indispensable. But the last time a woman had to defend her memory against the denials of a powerful man before Congress makes me wish for her to be spared that ordeal.

      An additional conclusion is that such notes hardly amount to “documentary material whose function is to advise or assist the President” to qualify as Presidential Records.

      • Pat says:

        People have long commented that Trump’s phone is not secure.  Although it probably wouldn’t be admissible in a court of law, I wouldn’t be surprised if some in our NSA already have a transcript of the conversation.

  1. sharl says:

    I’m still reading, but figured I’d bring this minor thing to your attention asap: I assume you intended to use something rather than sometime in the 5th paragraph.

    The other day, I realized sometime ironic

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I imagine that Trump supporters will keep to the “political” purpose of impeachment or talks about it, in part, to make it appear as if any movement toward impeachment is pure political bias of the kind the GOP patented in impeaching Bill Clinton.

    I read your point as saying that the process for impeachment is political, but that its purposes can be both political – abuse of lawful power – and legal – commission of a crime enumerated in the Constitution.

    The MSM is not given to nuance: it loves its clean Hollywood throughline. But even the conservative Benjamin Wittes could pick up on this. Perhaps a few of the legion of former DoJ employees now working as commentators will pick it up and run with it, too. Thank you.

  3. Peacerme says:

    I just can’t get this story out of my mind. I fear that there are more republicans compromised like Trumps’ team. This story about republican senators meeting over the 4th of July still feels “wrong”. So out of character for the team that referred to “Hanoi Jane” just for talking to the other team. It may mean nothing but I can’t help to think that it may be related to the larger conspiracy. Why on the 4th of July? Did Putin require a meeting on that date?? (I know he didn’t meet with them but the optics…!) And maybe that’s why the whole party is risking everything to cover up for Trump. Something feels so off about this meeting. It just makes me wonder how deeply some of these republicans are involved in the conspiracy. I can’t imagine that the intensity of the republican cover up and obstruction is just “politics”. It feels more deliberate, and intense. This behavior is an example of that for me. Why would they spend the 4th of July in Russia with very little discussion, reason, need? So suddenly. No discussion after the meeting? It just bothers me. But no real facts. I know.

    • Artistic Slats says:

      What’s odd about the Fourth of July junket to Moscow:

      No Democrats were included.  That’s unusual.
      Only one member of the House attended (mine, oddly).
      This trip preceded Trump’s visit to Helsinki to meet Putin, the “Surrender Summit,” and was billed as a lege-to-lege tete-a-tete.
      The conciliatory tone adopted by Shelby (Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) told Russia’s foreign minister that while Russia and the United States were competitors, “we don’t necessarily need to be adversaries.” … “I’m not here today to accuse Russia of this or that or so forth,” Shelby told Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin.)
      The Russians’ version of events was much different than the Americans’ (Duma member Vyacheslav Nikonov said on Tuesday that he’s met with many American lawmakers before, but this week’s meeting “was one of the easiest ones in my life.”)

      • Rayne says:


        Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. Thanks.

    • William Bennett says:

      Yeah, on the 4th of July no less. As if the Russians don’t know that’s a significant date for us. Symbolism doesn’t get more obvious. I think that was when I started to realize Trump’s Great Putin Suckup wasn’t just him, but a wider contagion in the Trumpublican Party. Oligarchs got money, Pols need money, you do the math. And the authoritarian stuff–hating on the press, the gays, the browns, and semi-official role for the church, government for and by the oligarchs–that’s all good for our Rs. Pretty much their program.

      It was so weird how unremarked it went on the editorial pages too. Like nobody knew what to make of it, so it just kinda melted into the rest of the crazy, as so many things do.

    • BroD says:

      At some point–perhaps in an impeachment context–these folks should be called to account regarding this excursion.

  4. 'Stargirl says:

    The same wealthy-corporate donors who own both Dems and Repubs call the shots….Pelosi obeys her owners…so no impeachment, for now… The stock market is the deciding factor what happens to 45.

    • Rayne says:

      It’s been a whopping 10 days since the 116th Congress was sworn in. Committee assignments aren’t complete, IIRC. This is a nation of laws — which is the entire point! — which means committees must be in place to conduct the hearings necessary for impeachment. On top of the administration of the House there’s a government shutdown. Get your plaid-skies head back here in reality.

      Don’t think we’ve missed what a Bernie cheerleader you are over the course of your 21 comments here to date. Perhaps you should go pound on Bernie’s door and find out what he’s doing to overcome McConnell’s obstruction since you think Sanders is the end-all-be-all. I mean, if he’s presidential material, negotiating with the wattle-necked bottleneck should be a piece of cake, right?

      • 'Stargirl says:

        45’s approval is stable at 40+%…for now. No way will Mitch & co. remove him unless the big donors (Koch, Mercer, etc) tell him to do so, which seems very unlikely at this time.

        • Rayne says:

          Oh sure, the Kochs will continue to support a guy who has helped trash the price of oil below $60/bbl so that their fracking business is completely untenable.

          And the Mercers are under scrutiny for their interactions with Cambridge Analytica/SCL.

          Sure, sure.

          • Peterr says:

            While I agree with you about the silliness of the original “Pelosi obeys her owners” comment, I think your note about the Kochs is somewhat off the mark. From the NY Times, via the Seattle Times:

            The Department of Veterans Affairs is preparing to shift billions of dollars from government-run veterans’ hospitals to private health care providers, setting the stage for the biggest transformation of the veterans’ medical system in a generation.


            If put into effect, the proposed rules — many of whose details remain unclear as they are negotiated within the Trump administration — would be a win for the once-obscure Concerned Veterans for America, an advocacy group funded by the network founded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, which has long championed increasing the use of private sector health care for veterans.

            The Kochs have many reasons for supporting Trump and the GOP, not just oil.

        • P J Evans says:

          The US Chamber of Commerce is unhappy, and that’s a lot of Big Business right there. Imagine how much pressure they can put on Congress.

      • William Bennett says:

        “wattle-necked bottleneck”

        That is superb. I guess I know now why you get paid the big $$$.

  5. Rapier says:

    It’s always good to remember that most of  the entire cast of characters who were working with Trump, including his spawn,  to change US policy towards Russia were doing it at least in part for personal profit.  I say “in part” but beyond Paps I can’t think of any of them who has ever laid out any reasons in a coherent fashion how it would serve the US national interest strategically to tilt towards Russia.  All we get from Trump are tiny verbal and body language gestures saying, ‘Putin good, American elites bad’.  Meanwhile the absurd sum of $200 million for Trump org for a Moscow development was on the table.

    If I were Xi I would be passing notes to Trump saying I’ll give you $20bn if you just call off this trade war thing.

      • gretab says:

        Peace isnt costing less in military spending because the big corporations that benefit are large donors to both Republicans and Democrats, depending on which way the locales where they operate lean.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Peace, as Gandhi said of western civilization, would be a good idea.  We’re not at peace, a comment the Yemenis, Syrians and Iranians would agree with.  We continue to spend as if we were at war.

        There is an elaborate system of industrial sites and employment in virtually every American congressional district, and an equally elaborate lobbying effort in DC, to ensure that that spending does not go down.

        That’s been true of every administration since George H. W. Bush’s.  The establishment responded to the possibility of a post-Soviet era peace dividend with as much ardor as walking into an ebola clinic.

  6. Artistic Slats says:

    “…as one of the only people who has read sealed documents…”

    Quibble: Sullivan can be the one and only person who has read sealed documents, or one of the few who have read sealed documents, but he can’t be one of the only.

    • Liz Kef says:

      “Only” can be plural:

      “The only people to read the documents were A, B, and C.”

      Then A is “one of the only people to read the documents.”

  7. Artistic Slats says:

    “Mueller may well be finalizing a conspiracy indictment of Don Jr and Trump Org laying out a quid pro quo in which Trump agreed to provide sanctions relief (and some other stuff) in exchange for Russia’s help winning the election.”

    If it’s what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer.

  8. Trip says:

    This is why I think the indictment of a sitting president needs to be tested. It seemed, in the past, that the question was whether or not the president could be brought to trial because it would interfere with presidential activity (in this case, however, that presidential activity is largely consmed by watching Fox News, tweeting, golfing and eating cake at Maralago, so anyway…), but an indictment doesn’t create any more workload from a president contemporaneously than does operating while there is an active investigation. I assume (perhaps erroneously) that personal attorneys would be furiously working on his behalf all along the span of that activity (Minus Ruday, who is just plain bonkers).

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      One might distinguish Trump from the few earlier cases by noting that it is precisely Trump’s conduct as president that constitutes a continuing crime or series of crimes.  Prosecuting him while in office is essential in order to disrupt that continuing criminal activity.

      To illustrate, one side says, “Let’s not prosecute Al because it might interfere with his efficient conduct of his bootlegging, murder, and tax evasion.”

      Another side argues, “Let’s prosecute Al now because it will interfere with his continuing bootlegging, murder, and tax evasion.”

      Not a perfect analogy, but it illustrates the point, and points out a weakness in one side’s argument that is created by the nature of Trump’s apparent crimes.

      The issue is not that Trump formerly committed crimes, but is not committing them now, so we should wait until he is out of office to prosecute him – but toll the statute of limitations because of that forced delay.  The issue is not that Trump committed a discrete crime while president, but is not continuing to commit that crime, so we should also delay prosecuting him.

      The issue is that his status as president is arguably owing to his former crimes – he is in office because of them – and he is continuing to commit crimes a) to hide that fact, and b) to fulfill obligations he incurred to a foreign state in exchange for its help in obtaining the presidency.

      Looked at that way – and assuming Mueller has sufficient evidence to prosecute – it would be a crime to delay prosecuting Donald J. Trump just because his crimes were successful.  To paraphrase a frequent rightwing talking point, America’s addiction to winning is not a suicide pact.

      • Trip says:

        No doubt @earl, good argument. Being president shouldn’t be a ‘get out of jail free’ card while continuing with crimes against the country, not just crimes, in general.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Arguably, that scenario is much like Richard Nixon’s, but with two differences.

        In Nixon’s case, a reluctant Congress became ready, willing, and able to impeach and try the president.  Nixon’s realization of that persuaded that much smarter man to resign rather than expose his full criminality. He avoided prison time and further damage to his party.

        That realization was almost certainly aided by the expectation that Gerald Ford would – and did – grant Nixon a prospective full pardon for all federal crimes he committed or might have committed.

        That took the wind out of his investigation’s sails and effectively hid Nixon’s crimes – leaving us with the false impression that the cover-up is always worse than the crimes it seeks to hide.  It deprived Americans of the evidence for them.

        That denuded public record deprived Americans of the documentary record it needed to evaluate the GOP’s role in Nixon’s crimes, to revise the powers of the president, and to rethink the structures it needs to oversee how well the president exercises those powers.

        • Kat says:

          The Constitution states that pardons are available “except in cases of impeachment”. Does this go both ways, i.e., not only can you not pardon someone being impeached but that someone being impeached cannot pardon others? The Constitution does not specify.

          As a follow on, could Ford have pardoned Nixon if he had been impeached and convicted by the Senate? I am confused as to why Ford could have pardoned him when formal impeachment proceedings had been already initiated in the House. Perhaps a promise of a pardon by Ford was necessary to get Nixon out before impeachment conviction in the Senate, thus rendering him unable to be pardoned?

          • Alan says:

            No, it means that impeachment and removal from office, which is a prerogative of Congress, cannot be pardoned by the President.  The same set of facts or actions may give rise to both criminal charges and an impeachment action, and the President may pardon the criminal charges, but not the impeachment action.

          • Cicero101 says:

            I have thought there was an urgency regarding the need for Nixon to decide to resign because of this Constitutional provision. He needed to resign before the full House voted on the articles of impeachment referred to it by the House Judiciary Committee. Any delay in his decision would have removed Ford’s power to pardon him.

            The alternative scenario suggested by Alan raises complexities I haven’t considered so can’t comment on right now.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            A president’s pardon power is extensive, but he cannot use it to prevent his impeachment, trial or removal from office on conviction.

            The Constitution limits the consequence of impeachment and conviction to removal from office.  A president would remain subject to potential criminal prosecution for the acts for which he was impeached or for other criminal acts.  A practical limit to that exposure comes from the statute of limitations, which for federal crimes is usually five years.

            A president can pardon someone for crimes they did or might have committed, and can issue that pardon at any time before, during or after prosecution or in the absence of prosecution.  Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon, for example, after he resigned – making impeachment moot – but before any prosecution could begin.

            The likelihood that Ford and Nixon (or their intermediaries) struck a bargain – resignation for a pardon – seems high, although everyone involved denied it.  It solved as many problems for the GOP as it did for Nixon, but helped no one else.

            Arguably, the pardon power, while extensive, can be used for illegal purposes, which should lead to criminal liability for the president.

            Normally, however, pardons are considered by a DoJ pardon review board after someone has been convicted and served their sentence.  The board considers the nature of the crime and its consequences, the criminal’s acknowledgement of responsibility and efforts to make restitution and lead a responsible life.  Other factors include changing laws and mores, and alleged miscarriages of justice not cured by the formal appeals process.

            But there is no normal with Donald Trump.  He will do whatever he thinks will promote his brand or protect himself and his business.

      • SteveB says:

        Agree with the argument.

        Another way of framing the same points:

        All mature criminal justice systems seek to deprive criminals of the Proceeds of their Crimes, in order to prevent the injustice of allowing them the enjoyment of the fruits of their past crimes, and deprive them of the wherewithal to utilise them as a resource for further criminality.

        For Trump the office of POTUS is both the proceeds of crime and a vast criminal resource.

  9. Jenny says:

    Yes, Marcy – Trump’s actions “hide and cover up.”  Goes along with his hair where he hides and covers up the bald spots.  Highly symbolic.

  10. Avattoir says:

    I’m about to raise here some what I think of ‘related concerns’. But first, I don’t want my doing that to be misinterpreted as me expressing doubts about there been a criminal case of bribery

    (Or conspiracy to accept a bribe, which IMO  under the Roberts’ court’s definition is indistinguishable from bribery; tho I’ve had arguments along such lines with other criminal law beagles & I’m not eager to accused any member of SCOTUS’ R majority caucus of consistency in this area.).

    I think there IS a case here – one that meets the SCOTUS definition currently (presumably) in force, indeed that’s reasonably analogous to at least 3 actual cases I’ve been involved with as counsel, which in each brought convictions (The one that was appealed even survived that.).

    But I do think there’s something of a good news / bad news situation with this case: First, tho I concede it’s at least implied in fearless leader’s post here, Mueller’s likely got more in this vein than fearless relies on, including but not limited to:

    – the name of the person whose cellphone identity was “blocked” in the 2 or more calls Junior made in relation the Trump Tower meeting (Plus call content? Not sure that’s doable when the suspec is also the official controlling authority over classified material.);

    – statements to the FBI from anyone involved in the Trump Tower meeting that “never” took place while some of the participants in the one that’s been admitted did in fact Happen were enjoyed beverages in the lobby bar;

    – statements relating to meetings among those involved in the meetings aboard AFI that led Junior to commit to that ridiculous ‘adoption’ alibi; and

    – the extent to which K.T. McFarland was both reliable AND specific in her role of info/orders conduit between Trump and Flynn, AND (second AND, every bit as important) can be trusted not to weasel out of it on the stand.

    Second, there’s a big practical difference between the actual Rule of Law-type standards judges and criminal attorneys are used to OTOH, and on the other the sort that can the shithurricane to which every micro-detail in such a case is overwhelmingly likely to be submitted en route to outcome.

    …. Okay, enough of that. Now I want to raise some stuff that to ME at least I can’t get rid of the feeling is related:

    1. Trump’s call in to Pirro last night, to me at least, seems like some gigantic pile of dung he’s really stepped into deep. The part I’m pointing to for present purposes is his completely unsubtle threat aimed at Mickey Medallion’s about his father in law — NYC-based Ukraine-born convicted money-launderer Fima Shusterman — INCLUDING in particular his gratuitous crap about not knowing his name.

    From what Josh Marshall’s put up this week on the Editor’s Blog at TPM and on his Twitter feed, the clear implication is that Trump and Mickey were first introduced by their MUTUAL ACQUAINTANCE, the very same Fima Shusterman.

    2. Now I want to join that who all Trump arranged to put on as Chair and Deputy Chairs of the 2016 RNC.

    Trump chose Steve Wynn as Chair (tying up the notoriously-hard-to-get gambling titans, Wynn & Adelson, always the subject of intense competition between the parties), plus 3 Deputy Chairs (I assume due to the expectation that Wynn’s attention would be taken up almost entirely with Sheldon Adelson.):

    – the lovely & charming bribery convict Elliott Broidy,

    – a North Carolina bagman named Louis DeJoy, who was a high muck in a middleman company named New Breed Logistics until it was bought out by the ginormous ‘facilitator’ behemoth, XPOLogistics (exactly the sort of boondoogle org DoJ used to go after before Reagan made sleazebucket middleman cons so irresistibly sunny); and

    – Mickey Medallions himself.

    Now, it’s not hard to understand Wynn, or Broidy (who’d, after all, served as RNC Finance Chair under GWB back in the early aughts), or for that matter LeJoy because suspect money changing hands at ports of entry are pretty much SOP to companies like New Breed.

    But why Cohen? What political campaigns had Mickey ever financed? And what “campaign financing interest” or group of interests could Cohen have claimed access to?

    I mean, other that Ukraine-based Putin-connected interests and oligarchs looking to funnel cash out of the those former Iron Curtain countries into the U.S., like his beloved father-in-law, of course.

    • Trip says:

      This article preceded the revelation that the Trump Moscow Tower negotiations went way past January 2016, but includes some of the info you’ve mentioned:

      “Fima may have been a (possibly silent) business partner with Trump, perhaps even used as a conduit for Russian investors in Trump properties and other ventures,” a former federal investigator told me. “Cohen, who married into the family, was given the job with the Trump Org as a favor to Shusterman.” (“Untrue,” Cohen told me. “Your source is creating fake news.”)…In a five-year period, he and people connected to him would purchase Trump properties worth $17.3 million….there was an informal group of federal and local law enforcement agents investigating the Russian Mafiya in New York that called themselves “Red Star.” .. It was well known among the members of Red Star that Cohen’s father-in-law was funneling money into Trump ventures. Several sources have told me that Cohen was one of several attorneys who helped money launderers purchase apartments in a development in Sunny Isles Beach, a seaside Florida town just north of Miami. This was an informal arrangement passed word-of-mouth: “We have heard from Russian sources that … in Florida, Cohen and other lawyers acted as a conduit for money.”

      Chabad connections, Putin, Trump, Sater among others (Russian/Israeli Mix)
      Michael Cohen Gets a Special Visit

      • Trip says:

        Weird, now I can reply.

        **This why I think that it likely was a collaborative effort (at least on some level) between Putin and Netanyahu to get Trump elected. (Not simply Putin/Kremlin alone).

      • Trip says:

        Quick round up in lazy search:

        Lawsuit filed for Investors in NYSE: XPO shares against XPO Logistics, Inc. over alleged Misleading Statements

        The plaintiff claims that between February 26, 2014, and December 12, 2018 the defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that XPO Logistics’ highly touted aggressive M&A strategy had yielded only minimal returns to the Company, that XPO Logistics, Inc. was utilizing improper accounting practices to mask its true financial condition, including, inter alia, under-reporting of bad debts and aggressive amortization assumptions, and that XPO Logistics, Inc. as a result, the Company’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times.

        Triad CEO retires from firm that bought his company, joins board of directors

        Louis DeJoy, CEO of High Point-based New Breed Logistics from 1983 to 2014, has retired from the firm that bought his company.

        Aldona Wos, is his wife; was ambassador for Baltic State, Estonia under GW Bush.

        Aldona Wos was appointed by President George W. Bush as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Estonia from 2004-2006. Ambassador Wos focused on winning the hearts and minds of the next generation of Estonian leaders, Russian integration, HIV/AIDS prevention in Estonia, and preservation of Estonian culture. For her service, she was awarded the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana 1st Class, the Distinguished Service Cross of the Estonian Defense Forces, and the Cross of Merit of the Estonian National Police Board.

  11. SteveB says:

    But that’s one reason I think the transition activities are so important. If I’m right that the calls to Kislyak amount to an official act, then Trump took it to undermine the official policy of the government, not set it as President.

    While accepting the general thrust of your argument about the importance of the transition activites, and acknowledging that the McDonnell  definition of “official act” includes agreements to act, ie that there is a prospective element, there remains the wrinkle as to whether, at the time of the agreement during the transition Trump and his Team were “public officials”. It may be enough for the statute to be satisfied that they were prospective public officials, or alternatively the criminality could be framed as a bribery conspiracy ie a corrupt agreement to undermine the official acts of the incumbent officials by promising benign dispensation when empowered in office in exchange for the continuity of a relationship of corrupt quid pro quos.

    Or maybe I am over thinking this

    • emptywheel says:

      I suspect you’re overthinking it. And if not, I suspect the way in which the offers synch with Trump getting the nomination would overcome those issues.

    • Rapier says:

      There is more than a kernel of truth to the stock market thing but the fortunes of the market and Trump should be considered more coincidental that causal.  The substitution of the latter with the former being the timeless bane of human history, apparent in the Pelosi comment.  Which is now being turbocharged by modern communications, wherein every idiot can sense his own unique genius by slapping any 5 or 7 ‘facts’ together and calling it a conspiracy, that explains EVERYTHING.  Or as the hippies used to say.  “it’s all connected man”. When you find yourself there step away from the keyboard.

  12. oldoilfieldhand says:

    Remember the steaks and wine that Bob McDonnell’s kids routinely took from the VA governor’s mansion to consume at their various private home parties, were they Trump steaks and Trump wine?

    The Russians who compromised the Trumps are not the garden variety influence peddlers McDonnell double crossed when he took gifts in exchange for influence and only set up meetings within his administration without providing written assurance of the promised quid pro quo. If, and more importantly, when the Russian gangsters who have been propping up the bloviated Trump for years decide he’s no longer a useful asset, they will not only drop details that McDonnell’s marks weren’t smart enough to document, they’ll call immediate payment on the money laundered financial instruments, the remunerative foundation Trump and his children have manipulated to very publicly display their lavish lifestyles. What if the carefully seeded Supreme Court is unable to rescue the Presindebt? Trump is terrified that his followers and the “haters” will discover that Trump’s wealth, like his portrayal of a business mogul on the Apprentice, is a fairy tale, smoke and mirrors; ditto his reality TV hyped business acumen. Trump, in spite of his carefully crafted, self delusional, very stable genius image, may have finally realized that he is the Apprentice, tasked with delivering the goods to Russia; risking public humiliation, termination and final bankruptcy for non-performance or even strictly entertainment for the real CEO, Vladimir Putin.

    Should the exposure of his culpability be litigated in front of the Supreme Court, will Kavanaugh recuse himself; Gorsuch is smart enough to recuse, but will he? Can a case involving the Presindebt be decided by a majority of only seven Supreme Court Justices? Will all of the federal judges (including GorKav), nominated by an illegal Presindebt, be removed from the bench and the cases they presided over be re-litigated when the Artist of the Deal is forced from office for conspiring with the Russians to illegally win the Presidency? Will the complicit and equally tainted GOP leadership, and former leadership (the three digit IQ, accessory after-the-facters, capable of reading the writing on the wall who “retired”) be indicted along with the naked emperor for their part in the illegal transaction to destroy democracy? Or will we all be satisfied to follow Trump’s tweets and televised rantings for another twenty-two months, until the Russians have another opportunity to manipulate the US election with the benefit of lessons learned from their last effort to suborn democracy? We the people can force our government to take the necessary steps to restore the sovereignty of the United States… or not.

    [FYI, I inserted line returns at paragraph ends to improve readability. Long unbroken swaths of text are difficult to read./~Rayne]

    • Jenny says:

      LOL.  Funny the first line.  Brings back memories of Greedy McDonnell and his Grifter family.  Just like Greedy Trump and his Grifter family.  The family that grifts together, stays together.

      • Rayne says:

        No worries. I’ll get your back if you can’t. Some folks have problems with formatting text depending on the device they use. I spend a lot of time removing null blank spaces because some apps stick them in text like confetti.

  13. chicago_bunny says:

    This post is excellent, and a great reminder to sometimes go back and check the key source texts – in this case, the impeachment clause – rather than continuing to have the same discussions we’ve had in the past, applying conventional wisdom gleaned from factually different scenarios (Clinton impeachment v. where we are now). Thanks for doing the hard analytical work and writing it up.

  14. Trip says:

    Sorry: Can’t reply or edit (so I can’t delete the test)

    earlofhuntingdon says:
    January 13, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    No doubt @earl, good argument. Being president shouldn’t be a ‘get out of jail free’ card while continuing with crimes.

  15. jonb says:

    what is everyones opinion of the role of Felix Sater..Is he the mole in this whole story ? he is a long time cooperator with the justice department…This guy has a history that cant be described as normal.

  16. Wm. Boyce says:

    “Trump kept details of meetings with Putin from US senior officials”

    ‘President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, current and former U.S. officials said.’
    ‘Trump did so after a meeting with Putin in 2017 in Hamburg that was also attended by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. U.S. officials learned of Trump’s actions when a White House adviser and a senior State Department official sought information from the interpreter beyond a readout shared by Tillerson.”
    (Washington Post 1-13-19)

    You don’t think he was concerned that someone might find out what they talked about, do you?

    • Strawberry Fields says:

      Shelving the election conspiracy for a moment, I wonder if he’s selling US diplomacy for Trump Moscow… reminds me of when he announced he discussed Real Estate deals with North Korea at his summit.

  17. Trip says:

    To everyone upthread who mentioned the interpreter and/or records of same:

    Can Congress Subpoena The Interpreter From Trump’s Putin Meeting? Experts Aren’t Sure.
    Some constitutional scholars want lawmakers to try anyway.

    Can lawmakers even do this, though, given the principle of executive privilege?

    That’s a great question, and there is no clear answer,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of Berkeley Law and the Jesse H. Choper distinguished professor of law at the University of California. “Executive privilege is traditionally about conversations with or memoranda from advisers. This, of course, is different.”

    “He could cite national security as well as the president’s unique position as the country’s representative in foreign relations,” said Eric Posner, the Kirkland and Ellis distinguished service professor of law and the Arthur and Esther Kane research chair at the University of Chicago.

    (more opinions in link)

    But then there’s this:
    Dave Itzkoff @ditzkoff

    • Linguist says:

      Beyond the legal question, it would be unethical for the interpreter to discuss the conversation. IMO, this is an even heavier burden than journalists face when faced with revealing success. While I would love to know what kind of shenanigans Trump and Putin are up to, I have to empathize with the interpreter’s dilemma here.

      • Rayne says:

        The interpreter’s ethic to preserve privacy doesn’t exist in this situation, when the meeting is subject to Presidential Records Act and the content of the meeting may have been criminal conspiracy. I’d argue the interpreter’s ethics require them to comply with applicable laws like the PRA and not aid and abet conspiracy or obstruction.

      • P J Evans says:

        The interpreter works for the US, I think, not for Himself personally. I think they’re part of the State Department, actually. (I also suspect that Himself doesn’t get that he’s our employee, not our employer.)

        • bmaz says:

          Honestly, and I say this as a huge fan of you and your commentary over the years, I cannot in the least fathom why you insist on calling Trump “Himself”. Since Rayne, Marcy and I see most all of the comments, we know what you are obliquely trying to do. But  it accomplishes absolutely nothing and makes your otherwise excellent comments look silly to a lot of readers who do not know you and understand. It seems very ineffective and counterproductive. What is the deal??

            • bmaz says:

              That is likely true. It still looks silly to outside readers that are not everyday commenters and in on the endless joke.

                • bmaz says:

                  Sorry, I flinch and cringe every time I see that nonsense. Also do the same for people that think it is oh so cute to use “Drumph” and “tRump” or past commenters that thought it oh so cute to refer to Hillary as the “Red Queen”. I said so as to “Red Queen”, and I will say so now.

          • P J Evans says:

            Like a lot of other people, I don’t want to use the name. That’s as close to “damnatio memoriae” as we can get, with someone who’s apparently determined to destroy the country.

            (Dammit, it won’t do real italics.)

            [Accio italics! /~Rayne]

            • bmaz says:

              I love you, but that is just nuts. And, again, don’t you want your comments to be taken  seriously? Because there are serious people that come here and read the comments. Don’t you want your work viewed in that light?

              • paulpfixion says:

                “Himself” is a character from David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest. The character has assorted communication problems which perhaps stem from some sort of narcissism related complex. Himself is the father of the family the novel centers around. He created the “perfect entertainment” titled “Infinite Jest.” This is a video that, once watched, entices the viewer to continue watching until they die in a pool of their own fluids. Various governments and a terrorist organization desperately attempt to procure this weapon throughout the novel, which mostly takes place at a Tennis Academy for rich fucks.

                I can completely understand how many people dislike DFW, both for his work, his behavior, and for the strange bro-lit cult that formed around him. However, as an outsider to the emptywheel group (having just started daily reading some months before the midterms–now emptywheel is the first site I check upon waking up each morning) I can say that I understood PJ’s continued use of “Himself,” and found it both appropriate and funny. In the novel, Himself ends by purposely sticking his head in a microwave. We could only be so lucky.

                I won’t be commenting on here often as I prefer reading the comments and articles written by NatSec and law experts. Keep up the amazing work everyone, this blog is the Velvet Underground of Journalism/NatSec/Russia blogs. Marcy, you deserve your own show on MSNBC.

                • bmaz says:

                  Hi Paulpfixion – great comment. And that is quite a compliment to this blog as the Velvets were early rock heroes, at least of mine.

                  You should consider commenting more often, and I hope you do.

                • Rayne says:

                  Thanks for that explainer offering a more contemporary origin. I’m fairly certain DFW borrowed “Himself” from English literature somewhere between late 1700s and mid-1800s but I can’t find a solid origin point. It’s part of a slang phrase which was shortened — “his nibs himself” — which mocked the subject’s self-importance and puffery. “Nibs” was originally “nob,” a shortened version of “nobility.” Over time it may have been blended with Old Dutch “knabe” or “nab” referring to a young man and not with a positive connotation (like “knave”). But the mockery implied by “his nibs himself” could easily be conveyed by “Himself.” Certainly easier in American English to grasp.

                  Do come back and comment. We’re not all natsec all the time, and sometimes the weedy stuff needs a wholly different viewpoint to keep it from going off into the deep end. Welcome to emptywheel!

              • P J Evans says:


                bmaz, I’ve been doing genealogy for more than 40 years. For me, losing a name is the worst thing that I can think of: disappearing them from history. I feel like I’m being respectful by not misnaming him as others do.

      • Trip says:

        this is an even heavier burden than journalists face when faced with revealing success.

        I don’t understand this sentence. What does “faced with revealing success” mean?

      • Alan says:

        > IMO, this is an even heavier burden than journalists face when faced with revealing success.

        Would this be due to the 1.5th Amendment Right to Freedom of Interpretation?

  18. bmaz says:

    I know it is getting a lot of play among the neocon unitary executive types, of which Jack and Ben are certainly two large ones, but I find Goldsmith’s reasoning circular and unconvincing. And I note that he conveniently leaves out that the sworn duty of said CI folks is to the Constitution, not any and all fealty to the President suspected of violation. There are indeed serious arguments that could potentially arise from such action,  but I think Jack is hyperventilating when he repeatedly clucks about “imprudence” in the face of the suspicions they seemed to have about what was going on. Note also that Jack seems to hedge on what evidence they had for said suspicions. Well what if it was pretty compelling Jack, then what?? And note that Jack and Ben would normally be two of the first in line to assume the Bureau acted appropriately, but now yammer about “imprudence”.

  19. BobCon says:

    @EOH re: prosecution of a president

    Not that conservatives are actually originalists, but if they weren’t fakes on the issue they’d acknowledge that the impeachment-only viewpoint is completely nuts from the viewpoint of the Founders.

    Back in the late 1700s, Congress was a part time affair, since members often lived in rural areas and traveled by horse, sailing ship, or even on foot. The First Congress didn’t get its first quorums until April. Congress would essentially shut down in the fall and members would disperse before long distance travel become too difficult.

    The idea that a president would be able to commit crimes and be immune to prosecution until Congress could reassemble for impeachment hearings would be absolutely ludicrous to the Founders. It could take weeks to simply get notice to representatives in places like rural Vermont or Georgia, and bringing enough together to meet the quorum requirements would take even longer.

    The Founders were also extremely concerned about the risks of a king-like president. There is simply no way they might agree to the idea that no check on high crimes and misdemeanors could exist while Congress was unavailable.

    And to be honest, that risk exists today. There is still the possibility in extreme cases that a president needs to be arrested in the lame duck period when members disperse around the globe and assembling a quorum may take days. The underlying assumption of anti-indictment people is that a president would only commit a somewhat low level crime like perjury or tax evasion, where the damage to the country would not be extreme if indictment was delayed or even prevented. But at a minimum there must be allowances for presidents committing high level crimes — selling nuclear secrets, serial murder, or conspiring to overthrow other branches of government. Any kind of blanket protection against indictment while in office is too dumb to consider.

  20. BobCon says:

    One thing I am still puzzling over is the urgency the Trumpies felt during the transition to appease the Russians. Why was it not sufficient to send some VIP — Pence or Prince or maybe Eric and Don Jr. — with a message saying that the Russians should know that Trump very much wanted to start a new deal with the Russians in two months?

    The Russians had to know that the risks of exposure would drop significantly once Obama’s lame duck appointees were out of the picture. If they were interested in a long term profit from a Trump administration, they would have operated on a more symbolic and less detailed level during the short transition period. Obama’s final efforts certainly created some pressure, but it’s hard to see them as something Russia couldn’t withstand for a little while longer until the coast was clear.

    It seems possible the Russians (and possibly the Trump camp) expected Trump to get into trouble on such a short timeline that the two month transition period was critical. Or maybe the Russians never planned on doing anything more than screwing over Trump to begin with — the object has always been to push Trump into collapse by forcing him to do more and more criminal acts.

    I don’t see, however, the Russian actions during the transition as making sense if they were thinking about a long term relationship with Trump. They seem to be acting like a side that was cashing in its chips and not planning on playing many hands.

    • emptywheel says:

      Another possibility is that this was a means to expose Trump: by making him commit before he had power to escape their compromise.

      • BobCon says:

        That’s possible, and it would suggest that whatever goods the Russians had on him from the campaign might not have been as strong as they’d like.

        Or maybe the Russians were just the scorpion riding the back of the frog in the Aesop’s fable, and simply couldn’t help stinging in the middle of the stream. Which might suggest that Trump’s camp was in panic mode because they knew this was coming no matter what they did.

        Whatever the case, I’d like to find out some day.

      • Rusharuse says:

        Seeing the Trump presidency as opportunity to “destroy” America . . rather than gain a few favours. Evil strategy that continues to work well!

    • Rayne says:

      The urgency is definitely puzzling. I wonder if part of this was the uncertainty of cabinet roles and whether the nominees would both be approved and cooperate with the president on a uniform basis.

      All of the appointees and Pence are compromised in some way, enough that they won’t agree collectively to remove Trump via the 25th amendment. But what could happen once they were all approved and a majority plus Pence all caught an ethical clue?

      • BobCon says:

        I could see it happening if the Trump camp was worried that the GOP Senate wasn’t in their pocket. Maybe McCain circulating the Steele Dossier had them worried that he would lead a revolt in the Senate?

        I guess for that to be true, we’d need to know whether McConnell was still working through a list of demands from Trump at that point.  I guess I could see McConnell pretending he had a weaker grip on the Senate than he really did in order to extract more from Trump, and used the threat of non-cooperation on Russia as part of his leverage.

    • Hops says:

      Regarding urgency, I would postulate the sanctions. The oligarchs and the Russian government depend on oil and gas revenues, and the best equipment for drilling and pumping is from the West. So sanctions limit access to new equipment and replacement parts. Imagine a compressor pumping millions of cubic feet of natural gas a day goes down and you can’t get a part. Lost revenue mounts quickly.

  21. Theresa says:

    Impeachment as a political issue – removed from office but not prosecuted vs a legal issue – removed from office and prosecuted is the way I read this. So many questions! I would like some of the former DOJ pundits, and others, to discuss the theory as well. I’m wondering if the Mueller team has assigned anyone to follow the EW blog, you know, just to crosscheck their work in maintaining an accurate chronology of events and related actions. Keeping up with these details is a full time job for a computer, aka Palantir or whatever has superseded it. I don’t know how EW does it.

  22. DrFunguy says:

    I can’t help but wonder about WaPo story that “Trump kept details of meetings with Putin from US senior officials” . The sourcing is not very clear. “current and former U.S. officials ” implies more than one  Is there any reason for skepticism regarding this report?

  23. Nopants says:

    wrt subpoena, 1) How much substantial detail can an interpreter recall in the midst of translating?
    2) I thought Putin spoke English.

    • bmaz says:

      1) I would think a translator could remember quite a lot, if not most everything from such a high profile and weird assignment.

      2) Putin does speak some English, but generally prefers translators.

      • BobCon says:

        Professional translation is very much an active art, like jazz improvisation, rather than something more mindless like adding sums of numbers.

        In order to get the nuances across, translators absolutely must be engaged in the conversation and judge the moods and intentions of the speakers rather than just plugging in a series of words. In general it requires a level of mindfulness on a par with making a medical diagnosis, and in this case it would be like a doctor making a diagnosis on both Putin and Trump.

        • Gerondoc says:

          I could not disagree more. It might be “on par” but translation has almost nothing in common with medical diagnosis. I have decades of experience with diagnoses and the analogy is weak. Long time lurker since FDL and this is my first post.

          • BobCon says:

            Well yes, that’s why I said “mindfulness on a par with” rather than strict one for one logical identity.

            But the similarities aren’t as far off as you present. Say you’re a resident on rounds examining a patient in front of a doctor. You have to receive the facts and translate them into a diagnosis. Some things are straightforward – body temp is what it is. But others you need to make value judgments on the fly.

            When a patient has difficulty bending a limb, is that a symptom? Or is that normal? That’s the point where you start looking at contextual clues to try to decide whether this particular fact is significant or not, and how to present it.

            As time goes on, you’re building a fact pattern into a diagnosis. And that is what a skilled translator does. Do these combinations of utterances equal a neutral exchange of information? A confrontation? An overture? The skillful translator does more than just a give a robotic recitation of verbs and nouns – by neccessity they evaluate the situation and make a diagnosis about what type of discussion they are translating, and use this diagnosis to evaluate additional words as they go forward..

            • CCM says:

              As an MD who uses medical translators, I disagree. I want word for word and get annoyed when translators take liberties

    • Teddy says:

      Translator and interpreter are two different skillsets, that yield different outcomes, yet are used almost interchangeably in the Trump/Putin context.  I have no clear understanding whether there was an interpreter or a translator present for these meetings, or both.

      Until we know better who was there and what skills were in play, I think any speculation about what they might have retained, notated, or provided is premature.

      • Jenny says:

        Perhaps Trump ate the interpreter’s notes.  He has been known to do so from former staffer Omarosa stating “chewing and swallowing paper.”  Ha.

        • Tom says:

          Can’t help but think that the translator, knowing that Trump’s actions were suspicious, would have re-written his/her notes from memory, then had some trusted person witness his/her signature and co-sign and date the notes, and then placed them in a safety deposit box or other secure location for safekeeping until it was safe or appropriate to reveal their existence.

  24. MattyG says:

    Great piece – thoughtful and excellent synthesis as always. The meat on the bone here gives even more tangible urgency for the call to action. IMHO the GOP will be forced to act en mass – possibly even quite soon – regardless of members who personal situations may be compromised. It will be less painful for the party to stem the bleeding of their esteemed colleagues than throw the whole body on the DT time bomb – in hopes it’s a dud.

    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      “IMHO the GOP will be forced to act en mass…regardless of members who personal situations may be compromised.”

      That works only if there is a critical mass of GOP members who aren’t personally compromised. I Believe that between the Kochs and the Kremlin there are precious few that AREN’T compromised. But adding criminal charges to the “political” for impeachment makes it easier for those few who are relatively clean to lean in. But our institutions will not last for another two years and through another completely corrupt campaign.

      • MattyG says:

        Yes, it is dependent on the actual number of the compromised. But they will vary quite substantially in degree of exposure, and a fair number, perhaps the bulk will be able to “lean in”. The GOP has a choice of which mess to clean up and my instinct is their deep congressional bench is better prepared to handle rearguard action than marching out in front of DT. Who knows, McConnel may asign which Senators will be allowed to symbolically vote against DT in order to save face/save disctricts, while still delivering a guilty verdict.

  25. Reader 21 says:

    Awesome work once again, EW—as posted upthread by one more eloquent than I, going back to the original text—brilliant. I’ve read that section many times—somehow bribery is staring me in the face, and I’ve missed it.

    Re Putin—everything I’ve read indicates he’s an excellent tactician, steeped in KGB-style, small-ball, kompromat-type operations—but not exactly a strategic thinker. A risk-taker, who doubles down if things look dicey. He approached the KGB about joining; apparently that’s not how it’s typically done (I realize they go by a new name now). And, there are strong suspicions for why he washed out of the elite track he was originally on (Litvinenko’s deathbed testimony—speaking of going back to the original text (and deathbed accusations are admissible under the FRE, FWIW)—is both eye-opening, and chilling.

    In other words, Putin may also have those to whom he answers. Perhaps those individuals were anxious to see some results as well, from his enormous risk-taking.

    • bmaz says:

      Do keep in mind that bribery in the Constitution is not defined, therefor bribery must be understood and examined in terms of legal precedent and understanding post-McDonnell and Skilling world, which Marcy properly did.

      • Bobby Gladd says:

        Ahhh… the Scalian “Textualist” dilemma. The words “bribe” and bribery” only appear 4 times total in The Federalist Papers, all of them assuming the definition to be clear as of the day. “…the bribes of the rich…”

      • Super Nintendo Chalmers says:

        CJOTUS Roberts is many things, BUT I expect him to follow HIS own court’s precedents.

  26. pseudonymous in nc says:

    As EW just tweeted, the issue here is whether foreign policy acts as either head of state or Secretary of State can be treated as personal actions or whether they essentially belong to the state. That was the criticism of Hillary Clinton (and previous SecStates) in operating outside the requirements of FRA for technological convenience, and it extends to sub pectore conversations with foreign leaders. The expectation of public readouts of phone calls  was tossed aside over a year ago: they now often come from the other party, and I’m sure that there are people at Foggy Bottom who get more information from foreign readouts and quiet chats with their diplomatic peers than from the White House. Having NSA snoop out the reaction among Russians is an extreme extension of this.

    • Rayne says:

      Yuck. Yuckety-yuck. Ka-ack. What an image.

      Couldn’t happen to a nicer asshole. Mulvaney deserves every bit of strife he gets as Trump’s bitch. The story tells us that Trump has no intention of opening government, though — that’s no reset. How would a mafioso demand fealty in new territory?

  27. Mainmata says:

    The Roberts decision you cited talks about an “official” (presumably both elected and appointed). At the time of the June, 2016 meeting none of the players was an official and even after the election, Trump was President-Elect but not yet an official. Obviously, none of the other players was either. (But Flynn, though fired and retired might still have residual liability, dunno.)

    I would argue that the bribery was Trump agreeing during the campaign to a quid pro with Putin and then committing multiple acts as President to aid and abet policies that Putin wanted that would actively undermine U.S. national security. I don’t know if that meets the test of treason (in my book, it does). As an actual official, he clearly has violated the emoluments clause many, many times, of course, though the GOP sees that as just fine.

    I think it’s more likely he would be indictable for conspiracy to act against the US like the others have been (well, not yet Cohen). If they can connect Trump to all the conversations (pretty sure they can).

    • bmaz says:

      So, you have caselaw or other precedent that “Transition” officials have no such standing as already prohibitively claimed by Trump team?

      I actually agree with you generally, but do not think it is all that clean cut.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        I’d agree that the official status of the transition is a grey area that might be left for SCOTUS to resolve. That said, the context will define any case, given that the courts don’t make rulings in the abstract.

        Mueller already has the transition email server from the GSA and multiple accounts of those weeks from Flynn, Gates and others. So this wouldn’t necessarily be a case where information is being withheld under a privilege claim, unless Mueller takes the subpoena route to fill in the blanks. It might be one where parties seek a dismissal of charges tied to quasi-official activities during the transition. But once those activities are made public, the cat’s out of the bag.

        • bmaz says:

          As to the discovery, think you are likely right. As to legal arguments to prevent disclosure and/or admission, maybe not.

  28. Artistic Slats says:

    @Liz Kef:

    I was being pedantic, so my hat is off to you. Yet I will continue, annoyingly, to be so.

    There’s an extended discussion of “one of the only” here: I come down on the side of Mikato’s March 6, 2018 reply (at the bottom of the page), especially this: “But just listen to it or read the words. It doesn’t mean anything. The word “only” does not add anything to the phrase because additional required information isn’t there.”

    In your example, you provided this additional required context (A, B and C…). I don’t know the universe of people who have read the documents, but perhaps others do.

  29. Greenhouse says:

    And here’s a little dittylittical diversion for all you tunesmiths, B “Nazz” included, from the most underrated princess of rock/soul/blues Ms. Nyro “Save The Country”
    “Come on, people, come on, children
    Come on down to the glory river.
    Gonna wash you up, and wash you down,
    Gonna lay the devil down, gonna lay that devil down.
    I got fury in my soul, fury’s gonna take me to the glory goal
    In my mind I can’t study (corruption) war no more.
    Save the people, save the children, save the country now”

    ’cause as Marcy so eloquently “paraphrasiqually” states, it ain’t just political… baby.

  30. Rusharuse says:

    Newspaper taxis appear on the shore
    Waiting to take you away
    Climb in the back with your head in the clouds
    And you’re gone

    Drop a tab. Join Don on his Majical Mystery tour.

    Donald J. Trump


    Wish I could share with everyone the beauty and majesty of being in the White House and looking outside at the snow filled lawns and Rose Garden. Really is something – SPECIAL COUNTRY, SPECIAL PLACE!
    9:01 AM · Jan 14, 2019 · Twitter for iPhone

    • P J Evans says:

      Right after he was whining about being alone, and stuck there for a couple of months. Both are lies – he was in Texas just last week, and there’s staff there all the time, plus the meetings that he’s had.

      (Most of us learn that we’re not the center of the universe before we get through grade school, or maybe before we get to grade school. He hasn’t made it to that point yet, and never will.)

  31. Jules says:

    The evidence that Trump and his co-conspirators have committed crimes is now beyond a tipping point. Can anyone envision a scenario, that would finally push the Republican Party over to impeach and remove from office ?

    • Rugger9 says:

      Probably not since they were all willing conspirators for using the dirt, and McTurtle prevented Obama from sounding the alarm.

      Kaiser Quisling’s antics have been likewise protected from any real constraint (i.e. Nunes going to the Palace to spill the beans on House intel committee testimony, among many others) by the GOP and that had something to do with why they lost 40 seats and maybe one more.

  32. Vinnie Gambone says:

    Some questions I’d like Cohen asked. Not that they all relate to crimes, but I would like to know more about the inner workings of Trump world to see if they match our worst fears.

    When, and under what circumstances did Michael Cohen first meet Paul Manafort?
    When and under what circumstances did Michael Cohen first meet Felix Sater?

    What was Cohen’s understanding, if any, on how Manafort’s role on the campaign would link to Cohen’s own mission to get the Moscow Tower deal done?

    Who else besides Trump and Sater did Cohen consult with about dealing with Moscow? His relatives ? His Cigar buddies?

    What does Cohen know of Manafort’s turning over of polling Data?
    What did any of the rest of the Trump crew know about Manafort turning over the data?

    When Cohen berated Daily beast reporter Tim Mak in 2015 , was it done at Trump’s instruction? (Look to R’s to bring up Cohen’s greatest hits pre-epiphany.)

    Were there instances when Trump instructed Cohen to make such hostile calls and to tape them so trump could hear them later?

    (Cohen’s described as a fixer, but in the past he would be known as a hatchet man. The Tam recordings are goon intimidation tactics 101. The recordings almost sound like Cohen was practicing the lines in the shower. )

    For EW folks, any value asking why was Cohen sent and not Manafort to button up the tower deal? Was it that Cohen had long established ties to and cred with the NYC Russian mob? Or was it that by this time Manafort already had been placed on the glow in the dark Oligarch Feces Roster?

    For sure both Manafort and Cohen knew Russia wanted the sanctions lifted yet each were were tasked with separate parts of making it happen. Sounds almost too smart for Trump. What if anything are we yet to learn about the interactions of Manafort and Cohen ?

    And talk about not being allowed to interrupt a presidential crime spree to indict the president for a crime spree, what the heck is the Mnuchin sanctions play if not more proof this president is under severe pressure to deliver?

    Despite everything going on, it doesn’t seem this president or the Russians are giving up on getting the sanctions lifted. So if they want it this bad, what are they planning to do next if they don’t get what they want? Are we about to go to war over these sanctions? If Putin makes new military moves in Eastern Europe you for damn sure you won’t see this president drawing any red lines in the sand.
    It’s Scary.

  33. Mitch Neher says:

    emptywheel said, “If I’m right that the calls to Kislyak amount to an official act, then Trump took it to undermine the official policy of the government, not set it as President.”

    This is fascinating. Trump invoked executive privilege over decisions he made as President-Elect to avoid answering Mueller’s questions about the transition period. If EW is right, then Trump’s assertion of executive privilege would have to make his decisions as President-Elect “official acts.” Or else Trump must answer Mueller’s questions about the transition, because the assertion of executive privilege would be thoroughly inconsistent with the notion that the President-Elect cannot commit an “official act.”

    I wonder, though, since Trump’s assertion of executive privilege appears to be bogus on the face of it, can Mueller still allege that Trump’s decisions during the transition could be construed as “official acts.” If Mueller declines to challenge the bogus assertion of executive privilege, then the answer would appear to be yes: Trump’s decisions as President -Elect can be regarded as “official acts,” because Trump and his lawyers have asserted as much.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      With Trump more so than Nixon, claims of fact and reality are wildly different things.  It’s not as if Trump can be trusted to know what the rules are or are not, just the opposite.  He doesn’t even know that WH Counsel are not his personal lawyers, which means that attorney-client privilege does not apply (other rules limiting disclosure might).

      Whether acts done in preparation of becoming a US official are legally official acts might be a fine point.  I tend to think they are not, but remain personal.

      But as EW points out, if they are official acts, then the rules about officials committing  bribery apply.  Arguably, so would other rules, such as records retention rules.  Ahem.  And executive privilege has limits and exceptions, including some pertaining to investigations of criminal conduct.

      If they are not official acts, then executive privilege cannot apply.  Trump will have to stand and deliver or be held in contempt, leading to fines or imprisonment.  The jumpsuits are already orange, so he’ll fit right in.

      • Mitch Neher says:

        Thanks EoH. I think I’m catching your drift about records retention. Trump may have “failed to retain” records that incriminate Trump. Well, who keeps that clutter lying around, anyhow? (It’s edible, you know.)

    • Nopants says:

      If trump got his first “official” briefing as president-elect on Nov 12, 2016, wouldn’t that mark his officiality?

      • Mitch Neher says:

        Yes. The President-Elect is definitely a public official. I think the problem with the President-Elect committing an “official act” is the implication that there are, albeit briefly, two Presidents at the same time. For me, that’s the same entailment from the assertion of executive privilege over decisions made by a President-Elect.

        However, the President-Elect might legitimately assert executive privilege over job interviews for hiring decisions made during the transition period.

  34. Super Nintendo Chalmers says:

    Mind you, haven’t the Drumpfists claimed that the Presidential transition team activities were entitled to…wait for it…EXECUTIVE PRIVELEGE. Foist meet petard.

  35. Trip says:

    Trump admin move said to benefit farmers could be boon for developers

    Farmers and farmland are already exempt from many wetlands regulations….real estate developers take out more permits than farmers for projects related to wetlands, streams and creeks, according to the Associated Press.
    A financial analysis the administration released last month shows that out of 248,688 federal permits issued from 2011 to 2015 for wetlands-related work, the government required developers to do some type of mitigation 990 times a year on average.

  36. Omali says:

    Trip, why am I not surprised that easing these regs will benefit developers.  Here in southeastern Georgia we have 100 miles of coastline, home to a string of barrier islands and 1/3 of the country’s saltmarsh.  About 100,000 acres of vital estuary.  It is under unrelenting attack from not only developers, but proposed pipelines and offshore drilling, coal ash storage and now, a spaceport.

  37. Trip says:

    Trump never said that he wasn’t an agent of Russia. He said he was insulted.

    This is like Tillerson never actually denying that he called Trump “a moron”. He said he wouldn’t dignify it with an answer (when asked multiple times, he repeated the same refrain) and that was like telegraphing “Yes, he’s a fucking moron, and I said it”.

    “No” is a very short word. It’s remarkably easy to utter. Only one tiny syllable.

  38. Trip says:

    He kinda has a point.

    Russian Patriarch Warns ‘Antichrist’ Will Control Humans Through Gadgets

    In an interview with Russian state media, Patriarch Kirill explained he does not entirely oppose gadgets, but warned against “falling into slavery” to smartphones.
    Patriarch Kirill said that the collection of user data including “location, interests and fears” will make it possible for humans to be controlled by external forces.

  39. Vinnie Gambone says:

    RE: The Wetlands Assault. Curious how this will affect coastal wetlands, ”
    Trump ordered the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to consider limiting protection of non-navigable waterways under the Clean Water Act to those covered year-round by water and connected to a navigable stream, river or lake.

    That could remove many wetlands from federal protection and undermine the nation’s mitigation banking system, under which real estate developers legally fill and build on wetlands by purchasing credits from so-called mitigation banks that maintain wetlands.

    I suspect a survey of the total number of Counties that touch the east coast are governed by R’s. There’s not a barrier island along the Atlantic that doesn’t have a gaggle of developers who would love to build in the saltmarshes. Frightful. Yes, build more houses in low lying areas along the coast,-good for the local economy, both when they build them, and when they rebuild them after the next hurricane. Crazy.

    The red tide in Florida scares the hell out of me too, and I’m not talking about R’s registrations being on the rise.

    If the red tide’s duration continues to increase , how long before you have a housing crash and large if not mass migrations? Maybe I worry too much.

  40. oldoilfieldhand says:

    Not only did he miss the best chance he ever had to fund a monument to his greatness in perpetuity (THE TRUMP WALL), visible from space, forming the visible Southern Horizon on the US border; anyone else wonder why, when the stable genius held both the House and Senate, he didn’t make passing legislation through Congress granting him legal cover to receive emoluments from foreign governments a priority?

    Are we just really lucky America? Imagine what the Presindebt could have accomplished if his work ethic had actually matched his rhetoric about stamina and focus…

  41. Trip says:

    Last bit:
    Russia Warns Japan on Islands Dispute as Peace Talks Resume

    The ministry accused Japanese officials of creating tension around the issue and distorting a 1956 offer by the Soviet Union to resolve the dispute by handing back two of the islands seized by its forces near the end of the war. Russia also criticized the description of 2019 as a “turning point” in the talks.
    Russia and Japan have been in dispute since World War II over islands captured by Soviet troops in the last days of the war. The islands are known as the Southern Kurils to Russia and the Northern Territories to Japan.

  42. Rugger9 says:

    The Kurils are a flash point and have been for centuries. Neither originally Russian (until Siberia was fully annexed in the 1700s) nor fully Japanese (mostly Ainu), they were awarded to the Japanese after the 1905 Russo-Japanese war that provided the first step in removing Nicholas II, along with half of Sakhalin Island. Before that the two southern ones were recognized as Japanese. Toward the end of WWII, Russia finally declared war on Japan (after we had flattened them) and seized all of the islands and has kept them ever since.

    Russia’s Pacific Fleet is based out of Vladivostok, and the current ownership of the islands means the Sea of Okhotsk is a Russian lake in range of the USA for ICBMs. I don’t think Vlad Putin will give in on this one for strategic security reasons. Kaiser Quisling will probably go along since Vlad is his master and Abe is not, in addition to no Trump Tower Tokyo deals in the offing.

  43. Jenny says:

    Remember Trump made promises to his base appealing to principals in fossil fuel, banking industries wanting regulations eliminated on their enterprises; wealthy and corporate heads wanting lower tax rates; individuals wanting their religious convictions as law; supporters who did not want immigrants in the country; people who felt ignored by government to enable others to prosper.  Enacting laws and policies to totally undo everything the Obama administration had accomplished.  He has done lots of damage in 2 years.

    I don’t believe he cares about the red tide in Florida or clean water.  I would guess he has never set foot in a National Park or understands the environmental issues we are facing today.

    This is about GREED.  He is a taker.  With his narcissistic behavior he probably has an “Abby Normal” brain.

    P.S.  24th day of the shutdown for government employees.  Where is McConnell?  He seems to be missing in action.  Perhaps he is wearing Melania’s jacket with writing on his back “I really don’t care, do you?”

  44. Rusharuse says:

    That old Trump Tower chestnut . .

    “The developer of Trump Tower Moscow received a non-revolving line of credit from the U.S. sanctioned Sberbank three weeks after signing a Letter of Intent (LOI) with Trump Acquisitions LLC. A letter of intent describes the details of a real estate transaction before it is finalized. The agreement was signed by Donald Trump on October 28th, 2015, four months into his presidential run.”
    – – – – snip
    “The licensing deal with Trump was predicated on the firm’s ability to secure financing, land, and government permission. It included an initial $4 million dollar ‘upfront’ payment to ‘Trump Acquisition LLC and/or one or more of its affiliates’. It is unclear whether such a payment was ever made.”

  45. Arj says:

    @paulpfixion, @rayne
    Reply not working – aargh…
    ‘Himself’ has a distinctly Irish flavour to me: like ‘yer man’, it refers to a third person without the burden of undue deference. As Trump soubriquets go, it seems pretty restrained; however, I realise it’s the repetition that kills it in the end.

    • Rayne says:

      Pretty restrained, aye…nothing like the Scots hurled, including “witless fucking cocksplat,” “weaselheaded fucknugget,” rather nonspecific “gobshite,” very specific “mangled apricot hellbeast,” “bloviating flesh bag,” or my personal favorite, “Cheeto-faced, ferret-wearing shitgibbon.” I am absolutely certain the Irish could match these given the chance but then perhaps they need the inspiration of a Trump-branded golf course on the Emerald Isle.

      • P J Evans says:

        I think that there is one – and he was trying to put in a sea-wall that the locals were Very Much Against. Somewhere on their west coast, if I remember correctly.

        • Rayne says:

          Oh jeebus I just read that, went looking for one. I knew the ferret-headed fuckweasel had two in Scotland but I didn’t know about Doonbeg. Well, I guess I’ll go dig for a collection of Ireland’s best epithets targeting Trump…

        • Rayne says:

          I’ve known a fair number of gobshites in my lifetime, I’m sorry to say. Had the swearer modified the noun with a pointed reference to Trump’s appalling appearance I would know exactly which of many gobshites was the subject.

          A mention of his “less-than-magic mushroom” would be far too specific on the other hand. ~shudder~

          • Arj says:

            Right so.  ‘Specific’ as in tailored to the intended wearer.

            As to the other point: it must’ve been a toadstool, surely?  But let’s not dwell on that either.

  46. Thomasa says:

    I saw the movie “Vice” last night. I have lived through the entire debacle of Cheney’s life so far, including the aftermath of the scene where Nixon and Kissinger are planning the bombing of Cambodia— I watched the “fireworks” of the B-52s from the roof of a hotel in Saigon. That not withstanding, the most appalling part of the movie was the discussion of the theory of the Unitary Executive in which, after some tortured logic the President can do no wrong because if he does it, it’s legal by definition.

    What is the likely effect of Barr’s support of Unitary Executive?

    Have I misunderstood the filmmakers presentation? Have they overstated the case?

    If the answers are no, and Barr is confirmed as AG, and can make such a theory stick, could senators argue successfully that the President cannot be convicted of bribery? Would they?

  47. Arj says:

    @rayne, @ P J Evans (Nice to bring in the Welsh here.)
    Reply not working again…
    Was just about to say that, if the price of richer invective is having a Trump golf course in the country, my Irish relatives would prolly stick with referring to ‘him with the hair’ and leaving the rest to inflection & gesture – but PJ has taken the wind out of my sails. Language is a discrete combinatorial system, and those Scottish terms are a nice example of Elegant Variation, I grant you. The man who gave us the Locker Room Defence has gone on to ever greater things in all departments; was it really so long ago there was so much fuss about Clinton sharing a cigar with a friend?

  48. Tom says:

    Re: Arj @ 1:34 pm above – As far as a possible Irish origin for the mock-pompous title “Himself” for a self-important individual (even Individual-1), I seem to recall that Barry Fitzgerald referred to Victor McLaglen as “Himself” in the 1952 John Ford film “The Quiet Man”, which was set in Ireland.

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks for that! It’s still niggling away at me that I’ve read something specific in UK literature in which this was used but it just isn’t coming to me.

  49. Thomas says:

    Re: the urgency of the transition to communicate that the bribery payoff will be honored.

    I think this is attributable to Trump’s bizarre narcissism. He will risk exposing his own crimes in order to be recognized as the most important person in the moment.

    The bribery crime. Trump agreed to the crime while he was a private person, which he still was during the transition.

    He attempted to complete the criminal action as a public official.

    Thus, he is BOTH a criminal conspirator as a private person AND as a public official, not either/or.

    If Trump had not been elected, and evidence existed that he attempted a bribery conspiracy, he could still be prosecuted, yes?

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