As Democrats Entertain a Ukraine-Only Impeachment, Jack Goldsmith Lays Out Import of Impeaching for Clemency Abuse

As June Bug the Terrorist Foster Dog and I drove the last leg of our epic road trip over the last few days, I listened to Jack Goldsmith’s book on his stepfather, Chuckie O’Brien, In Hoffa’s Shadow: A Stepfather, a Disappearance in Detroit, and My Search for the Truth.

It’s a fascinating book I’m pondering how to write about: Imagine a book written by a top surveillance lawyer describing how he learned things his beloved stepfather was lying about by reading old FBI transcripts of wiretaps targeted at top mobsters.

The entire point of the book is to exonerate O’Brien of any role in Jimmy Hoffa’s murder, and it fairly convincingly does that. As Goldsmith describes, the FBI admitted privately to him that they belatedly realized his father couldn’t have had a role in Hoffa’s disappearance, but because the FBI is the FBI, they refused to state that in an official letter (though it was Barb McQuade, then as Detroit’s US Attorney, who made the final call).

But in Goldsmith’s effort to exonerate his step-father on the Hoffa murder, he implicates him in a shit-ton of other crimes … including being the bagman for a $1 million bribe to Richard Nixon so he would commute Hoffa’s sentence for jury tampering (which Chuckie was also a key player in). Here’s how Goldsmith describes O’Brien’s claims about the payoff.

Chuckie nonetheless insists there was a payoff. And he says he was the delivery boy.

Chuckie told me that in early December 1971, he received a telephone call in Detroit from Fitzsimmons’s secretary, Annie. “Mr. Fitzsimmons would like to see you,” she said. Chuckie got on the next plane, flew to Washington, and went straight to Hoffa’s former office at the foot of Capitol Hill. After small talk, Fitzsimmons got to the point. “He’s coming home, and it’s going to cost this much,” Fitzsimmons whispered to Chuckie, raising his right index finger to indicate $1 million. “There will be a package here tomorrow that I want you to pick up and deliver.”

The following afternoon, Annie called Chuckie, who was staying at a hotel adjacent to the Teamsters headquarters near the Capitol building. “Mr. Fitzsimmons asked me to tell you that you left your briefcase in his office,” she said. Chuckie had not left anything in Fitzsimmons’s office, but he quickly went there. Fitzsimmons was not around, but Annie pointed Chuckie to a leather litigation bag next to Fitzsimmons’s desk—a “big, heavy old-fashioned briefcase,” as Chuckie described it. Chuckie picked up the bag, and Annie handed him an envelope. Inside the envelope was a piece of paper with “Madison Hotel, 7 p.m.” and a room number written on it.

It was about 5:00 p.m., and Chuckie took the bag to his hotel room. He had delivered dozens of packages during the past two decades, no questions asked, mostly for Hoffa, sometimes for Giacalone, and very occasionally for Fitzsimmons. But this time was different. Chuckie knew of the strain between Fitzsimmons and Hoffa. He wasn’t sure what game Fitzsimmons was playing, especially since Hoffa had not at this point discussed a payoff with him. Chuckie was anxious about what he was getting into. And so he did something he had never done before: he opened the bag.

“I wanted to see what was in the briefcase,” Chuckie told me. “I didn’t trust these motherfuckers. I needed to look; it could have been ten pounds of cocaine in there and the next thing I know a guy is putting a handcuff on me.”

What Chuckie saw was neatly stacked and tightly wrapped piles of one-hundred-dollar bills. He closed the bag without counting the money.

The Madison Hotel, where Chuckie was supposed to deliver the bag, was two miles away, six blocks north of the White House. It “was a very famous hotel” in the early seventies, a place where “political big wheels” and “foreign dignitaries” stayed, Chuckie told me. At about 6:45 p.m., Chuckie took a taxi to the Madison, went to the designated floor, walked to the room (he doesn’t remember the number), and knocked on the door. A man opened the door from darkness. Chuckie stepped in one or two feet. He sensed that the room was a suite, but could not tell for sure.

“Here it is,” Chuckie said, and handed over the bag.

“Thank you,” said the man. Chuckie turned and left. That was it. The whole transaction, from the time he left his hotel to the delivery on the top floor of the Madison, took less than twenty minutes. The actual drop was over in seconds.

If O’Brien is telling the truth, it means that in addition to locking in Teamster support for 1972, Nixon got a chunk of money for the election (just as Trump just hit up Wayne LaPierre for fundraising support in exchange for killing gun control).

Goldsmith’s step-father claims that the money for the payoff came directly from Hoffa — but he either didn’t know or wouldn’t say whom he delivered it to.

“Where did the money come from?” I asked. “From the Old Man,” Chuckie answered. “Through Allen Dorfman. It was the Old Man’s money. Dorfman had a lot of his money. Fitz wouldn’t give you a dime if you were dying.”


“Did Fitz tell you who you were delivering the bag to?” I asked. “No. I took the fucking briefcase to where it’s supposed to go, I never asked any questions. You never ask, Jack.”

This is something that John Mitchell lied about to prosecutors, just as the stories of Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow regarding the pardons they’ve negotiated with Russian investigation witnesses don’t hold up.

Since that time, presidential abuses of pardons have only gotten worse. Say what you will about the Marc Rich pardon (and I agree it was ridiculous), both Poppy Bush (Cap Weinberger) and W (Scooter Libby) provided clemency to witnesses to silence them about actions of the Bush men. Bill Barr was a key player in the Poppy pardons, and he seems all too willing to repeat the favor for Trump.

Until Congress makes reining in the abuse of executive clemency a priority, the claim that no one is above the law will be a pathetic joke. Plus, there are at least allegations that Trump’s effort to dig up Ukrainian dirt stemmed from an effort to make pardoning Paul Manafort easier. And the Ukraine corruption involves someone — Rudy — who was intimately involving in bribing witnesses with pardons in the past.

More generally, any decision to narrowly craft impeachment would be catastrophically stupid, not least because other impeachable acts — such as Trump’s treatment of migrants — will be far more motivating to Democratic voters than Ukraine. But to leave off Trump’s abuse of the pardon power would be a historic failure.

75 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    I don’t think it can be limited to Ukraine. Too many people involved in his other impeachable acts are also involved in Ukraine, from Manafort to RudyRudyRudy. Ukraine gets you obstruction of justice, it gets you hiding evidence, it gets you emoluments, and it gets you witness intimidation – both by threatening openly and by advising people not to obey subpoenas.

    This really feels like July 1974.

  2. OldTulsaDude says:

    Christ! I’m watching CNN fall into the Mueller-like trap of trying to make the impeachment about legalities and criminal statutes. No! The issue is high crimes and misdemeanors.

    It is going to be difficult to expand the investigation to cover what needs to be covered when there is so much misinformation pummeling us daily.

  3. mvario says:

    No, please no. If the Democrats focus on just-Ukraine then they are going to blow it. It will allow the Fox propaganda machine to focus on just Biden and confuse the average voter so that they just don’t care. They need to dogpile on all the provable offenses, from his offers of clemency to his violations of the emoluments clause, to the obstruction of justice charges that Mueller hinted, abuse of power, violating election finance laws, hack even charge him with nepotism under the RFK law. They need to issue subpoenas and make people sweat or lie on national television. That preponderance of testimony and evidence for multiple offenses is what will turn public opinion strongly against him.

  4. viget says:

    Really it’s simple. It’s about abuse of presidential power. You don’t ask foreign entities to investigate your political rivals. You don’t ask them to invent evidence that discredits your own intelligence agencies and top law enforcement agencies about interference in an election. And you sure as hell don’t do all that on the orders of and at the behest of top leaders of frenemy nations seeking to diminish the US’s influence in the world and irreparably harm National Security!

    Not to mention there’s the extortive nature of the request as well, and the cover-up of the evidence regarding the request and prior meetings with other foreign leaders planning said requests.

    I’m sure subpoening a TS/SCI server would be one hell of a court fight, but I think it needs to be done. This treachery needs to be exposed once and for all.

    • P J Evans says:

      The Intelligence committee should be able to get information on that server – mostly what they need is who put the political stuff there, what the political stuff is – and as it shouldn’t be classified, they ought to be able to get that information – and how to fix that problem so it doesn’t happen again.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Thanks. Welcome back. Hope the road trip was soothing. Nice end paragraph (emph. mine):

    More generally, any decision to narrowly craft impeachment would be catastrophically stupid, not least because other impeachable acts — such as Trump’s treatment of migrants — will be far more motivating to Democratic voters than Ukraine. But to leave off Trump’s abuse of the pardon power would be a historic failure.

    Indeed. It’s not just about documenting Trump’s wrongs and punishing them. It is also about making another president less likely to commit them.

    • BobCon says:

      The core of what’s driving me mad about Pelosi’s approach to impeachment is how void of principle it is.

      Her entire opposition was always based on narrow political calculations, and now that she’s flipped, there is nothing beyond a vague hint at illegality and… abuse of power? violations of standards? unacceptable behavior? Her statement four days ago makes no compelling argument about why this, why now.

      The left will correctly ask why not everything else? The right will sow confusion by asking what about Obama/Clinton/Reagan/Roosevelt/Washington.

      Pelosi’s only answer is going to boil down to an argument about pragmatism and politics, which will let the right pivot to argue this is only about politics.

      Her disdain for principle in the name of effectiveness has made the left, and the country, adrift. And the stupidity of her misguided pragmatism has left us in a place where we don’t even know where her pragmatism is supposed to take us.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        If she offers no convincing reason beyond political calculation for an as yet to be authorized by vote impeachment inquiry, she will lose the public in a heartbeat.

        An investigation without adequate foundation and purpose I thought was exactly what the Dems were trying to avoid. it was the problem at the heart of the Clinton impeachment.

        If she goes in that direction, it will not be good for the people or the Constitution, it will be bloody awful for the Democratic Party.

        • P J Evans says:

          The best I can come up with is that she knows how much stuff there is that can be used, and she wants to keep it to a manageable amount.
          I don’t think limiting it to Ukraine is the way to do it. I think that the committees have to be able to follow it farther, because it involves a lot of officials in this maladministration, including Pence, Mulvaney, Barr, Mnuchin…

        • Yogarhythms says:

          Ew, Eh,
          “For an as yet to be authorized by vote impeachment inquiry”. Judges prefer resolutions over ego’s (Nancy). When will a young house member seize house daily agenda and introduce resolution authorizing vote “Impeachment inquiry”? Judges enforce resolution based subpoenas before if ever ego based subpoenas. IANAL

          • bmaz says:

            It is not an area with much, if any, precedence. It was idiotic for Nadler and the HJC to be claiming in legal filings that there was an “impeachment inquiry” ongoing when all of the actual House leadership, but significantly Pelosi, was swearing there was not anything of the sort.

            It helps some that Pelosi now says there is. But when it it patently clear the votes exist to open such an inquiry, and she refuses to put that vote on the floor to confirm the inquiry, what should a court make of it? If I was a judge, I would have some very harsh questions.

            Why is Pelosi continuing to play games with this? She says she now favors an impeachment inquiry. She clearly has the votes for it. So, why is she still dithering and obfuscating? It is maddening.

      • bmaz says:

        BobCon, that is exactly right. Earl too. My local Rep is a good guy, and sits on the HJC, although he is a junior member there. He is good. But the leadership still wants nothing to do with this.

      • Nehoa says:

        Pelosi is trying to balance many factors. There is principle there. Go back to her speech announcing the impeachment process.
        She also has to keep an eye on how to win the battle. If they can implicate Pence and then convict both of them in the Senate the GOP (particularly a number of GOP Senators) have a chance to run with a clean slate next year. How does Pelosi get enough GOP votes in the Senate to convict? Decline the Presidency and let Sen. Grassley become President. It could persuade Sen. McConnell to let a conviction happen. To even have a chance to do that they have to be very focused on the Ukraine issue. As they have time and resources they can add to that.

        • bmaz says:

          Pelosi is shit. She is derelict to her oath of office and relentlessly selling the soul of the Constitution for her perceived political expediency. She is a disgrace to her office.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            What is the purpose of protecting a majority – by catering to the right, never the left – if it makes the Democrats a mirror image of the Republicans? A party which does nothing for the people that put them in office is a party ripe for abandonment.

            The belief that establishment Democrats work only for their mega-donors is a vast opening for the continued dominance of Republican demagogues. Opposing that belief is what put AOC and her peers in office – in a wave.

            If moderately progressive Sen. Markey can be primaried to put a Kennedy prince in the Senate, the same tactic could be used to keep her right in line. Republicans do it all the time to keep their left from being left. That she does not do it says she’s already doing what she wants.

        • orionATL says:

          your take is the more solid, longterm one, nehoa. see orion @10:54am.

          there is a lot a stake here that pelosi’s fanatical critics seem blind to. impeachment can happen and be constructive if it is focused and convincing. if not it will be political firewood for a demagogic candidate trump with a conflagration to follow where seperation of powers and constitutional law are burned by the likes of william barr and john roberts, jr. and colleagues.

          a useful, less contentious viewpoint of a constitutional crisis similarvto the one we are having (involving a willful, lawless president) is what is happening in the U.K. with the conflict between prime minister boris johnson and the parliament. the parliamentarians really do have all the moral rectitude and constitutional law on their side, just as do american impeachiosos. BUT johnson is deliberately running a demagogue’s campaign against “those swells and toffs in the parliament” and he has a nasty advisor similar to trump’s steve bannon who is just fine with such rabble rousing.

          the problem in the u.k. with this approach is it might work because the parliament is not popular with “the people”, nor is the importance of parliamentary supremacy necessarily appreciated among ordinary britons with lowering standards of living. it may be the case that the u.s. will be shown to have the same problem vis-a-vis the u.s. congress if trump runs an anti-house of reps, anti-pelosi campaign. i would hope the voters will have had a belly full of trump by november 2020, but i am concerned about the power of trump’s demagoguery pitting his tortured, unappreciated self against a congress perceived as nitpicking and partisan. the impeachment process needs to surgical in previsiion and morally convincing to the voters because it is they who will have the final say.

      • orionATL says:

        bobcon –

        “political calculations” are pelosi’s job. she is very good at it. those calculations you demean are very consequential at this juncture in the nation’s history. speaker pelosi she is a leader in a wideranging political war involving the calculated destruction of a decent, caring american society, not an armchair critic and philosopher of constitutionalism.

        the goal that counts for this nation if it is not to disintegrate in a rightwing autocracy like hungary or turkey or austria is a democrat in the Whitehouse in 2020 and control of at least one-half of congress. impeachment is important enough, but trivial beside this larger, long-term problem.

        • bmaz says:

          Protecting and defending the Constitution, its vibrancy and separation of powers is NEVER “trivial”. In fact it is the singular duty of her oath of office, and she is flailing and failing miserably.

        • BobCon says:

          She is not good at politics beyond the narrow demands of counting votes and parliamentary maneuvers.

          She inherited an enervated institution from Dennis Hastert and did nothing to strengthen it. She is deeply complicit in the Democrat’s fractured messaging, failure to develop a coherent legislative agenda, and the decision to favor fundraising over grassroots development and voter turnout. Unsurprisingly, she is repeating that path having inherited the same situation from Paul Ryan.

          The NY Times and Washington Post both have articles today describing in great depth the worries of Democratic politicians, Pelosi in particular, about impeachment drowing out their larger message.

          What is missing from those articles? Any clear articulation of what the larger message is. What, exactly, does Pelosi stand for besides a laundry list? What, exactly, has she done besides pass symbolic legislation?

          The one time she took a leadership position, defying Trump on his budget impasse, she actually drove him to his lowest approval/disapproval gap. And the lesson she took from that is confronting Trump and defending Democratic values is somehow bad.

          She represents the choice we face in the Democratic primary. Do we want an accommodationist who hides from taking stands and struggles to articulate a position? Or do we want someone who has a clearly defined message and specific stands, and who speaks forcefully for what they believe in? Do we want someone who treats the grassroots with disdain and reinforces a large donor funding system that locks in a 60-40 GOP advantage?

          Pelosi is the path to 1994 and 2010.

          • orionATL says:

            bobcon –

            in my view this is intemperate criticism based on your frustration at something you want to happen not happening. that doesn’t seem especially analytical. vote counting and parliamentary maneuvers are how things happen – or don’t happen – in Congress. one vote margins have made any number of important wins or losses.

            pelosi is a competent, cautious leader, as she should be. when it became clear to her that the split in her caucus had mostly closed over, she moved rapidly. she also moved to replace jerrold nadler with schiff due to nadler’s committee’s bungling of the initial impeachment questioning of trump campaign manager landowski. this puts the impeachment effort on a sounder basis. the fundamental problem dems as a group have is that they are conflict averse and not notably articulate.

            itcseems to me you are setting reality against an ideal you’ve manufactured in your head.

    • emptywheel says:

      Thanks. Missed this joint. The last few days, especially, were crazy. For much of the last 2 weeks I’ve been off the Toobz, in the rural areas of this country, and some of this stuff I’ve got some key things to write about.

      • Ruthie says:

        The consequence to this blog are obviously nil, but I was also largely unable to follow events in real time. I found it intensely frustrating, although for the most part I was so busy I wasn’t thinking about it. Still, in those snatched moments when I could come up for air I relied heavily on the blog. Rayne, bmaz et al as well as the sterling commentariat here kept things ticking along, but I’m sure I’m not alone in my anticipation of your claws sinking into the various threads of this story.

  6. jo6pac says:

    “any decision to narrowly craft impeachment would be catastrophically stupid”

    If they do yes they will lose the impeachment and potus. I do believe that’s what nancy p. wants as do her puppet masters. The demodogs that are in power of dnc & dncc do not want to have to be held accountable. In bring the charges against the trumpster and losing they can say we tried and failed, Obomber 2.0

    Sadly the trumpster crime family could be tried on many charges that would stick but nancy in charge.

    • Avattoir says:

      As I understand how matters stand at this point, the Speaker has requested all House committees engaged in inquiries or oversight touching on corruption and impeachment therefore to report to the House Majority leadership on all proposed articles and supporting evidence and witnesses. That request is notably inconsistent with the premise in your comment (and indeed with that of several other readers commenting on this thread).
      But your comment goes ridiculously beyond the subject of focused concern expressed by our hostess and by other commenters here, by characterizing the Speaker as driven by some elitist Bizarro World motive to deliberately put the kibosh on her own party’s endeavor. Your comment reads more like some rant in the comment section of any given article in The Hill, in that like those you provide absolutely nothing to support the venomous dismissal of the most able and gifted speaker of our times.
      More generally, I get how folks here and elsewhere on the internet are bent on exuding stressmarks over what the Dem leadership MIGHT do to turn this initiative into a defeat by any measure, mostly because to me we are very much in the Chicken Little phase of the process. What I don’t get is the ease with which many here and many more elsewhere are prepared to assume that the Dem House leadership isn’t aware of any of these concerns.

  7. OldTulsaDude says:

    I also note with some pleasure that no one so far has expressed any surprise that Nixon demanded and received a million dollar under the table payoff.

    History has a way of ferreting out and revealing true character.

  8. Savage Librarian says:

    This article by Clark Cunningham was useful for me. Maybe others might like to see it, too:

    “Founders: Removal from office is not the only purpose of impeachment” –
    Clark D. Cunningham, September 26, 2019

    “As Congress moves toward a possible formal impeachment of President Donald Trump, they should consider words spoken at the Constitutional Convention, when the Founders explained that impeachment was intended to have many important purposes, not just removing a president from office.”
    “…The Founders viewed impeachment as a regular practice with three purposes:
    * To remind both the country and the president that he is not above the law
    * To deter abuses of power
    * To provide a fair and reliable method to resolve suspicions about misconduct.”

      • vicks says:

        People voted for Trump because they thought they wanted him to run the country like he runs his businesses.
        The experiment failed, and the results need to be made public so “the people” can decide what they want done about it.
        Dems can’t get caught sputtering over a single “immoral is not illegal” argument.
        Trump’s past actions show that him staying in office is a danger to our country and this is why…

  9. Eureka says:

    These are great stories! — Goldsmith’s and yours (of balancing life in the midst of a natsec shit-storm). And they recur nicely into this post.

    Apologies if the upcoming– and deeply moving– New Yorker cover has been linked elsewhere as I’m not caught up; this seems like an appropriate place for it (note Rudy’s gloves):

    The New Yorker: “An early look at next week’s cover, “Whack Job,” by Barry Blitt. [links to the below] ”

    Barry Blitt’s “Whack Job” | The New Yorker

    Adding: I take Bill Barr to be part of the cement (shoe) mix.

  10. Tom says:

    The big story in all of this, IMHO, is (a) Russian sabotage of the 2016 election, and (b) the recent disclosure that the President was okay with it. That should be the main focus of any impeachment proceeding. What I would like to see in the coming weeks is for every Republican and other Trump defender who appears on a TV news show, no matter what the topic under discussion may be, to be presented with one of those photos of Trump yukking it up with Lavrov and Kislyak in the Oval Office and then asked for their reaction. Do they agree with the President’s position that there is no cause to be concerned that the Russian government helped elect him in 2016? If so, why? If not, what do they think should de done about it?

    Debates about health care, gun control, immigration, and anything else all pale to insignificance beside the fact that a sitting President is willing to allow a foreign government–and not just any foreign government, but Russia–to help select the person to fill the highest office in the land. And I don’t think what the Russians did, and what Trump has condoned, should be brushed aside by trying to minimize the effect that Russian interference may or may not have had on the outcome of the 2016 election. Perhaps I’m committing a logical fallacy here, but if the GOP is prepared to tolerate and even support a President who is agreeable, and even welcomes, Russian help to get him elected and re-elected, then why bother to have an election at all? Why not just have Putin pick who he wants? These are the sort of questions I’d like to see Republican Congressmen pressed–no, hammered–on in front of TV cameras.

    • Tom says:

      Also, what has the GOP got to say about Trump’s lies regarding what he has been calling “the Russia hoax” for the past several years now that we know he admitted to Lavrov and Kislyak that he knew Russia helped him get elected?

  11. orionATL says:

    this is an odd one :

    it looks like giuliani may have been playing footsie with the russians for some time. but why? for what gain?

    when did this start? who is he trying to network with?

    the suspicion has been voiced that some putin russians may have a hand in president ukrainian adventure, but no one seems to know for sure.

    • orionATL says:

      and then there are these two guys, born in russia, immigrated young, and reside in s. florida. they gave $1/3 mill to a trump super-pac in 2018. one has fraud on his record, the other does business in the ukraine. two more of the crooks and sleezeballs trump and giuliani are comfortable cuddling up with:

      buzzfeed has the story (again):

      “… Two unofficial envoys reporting directly to Donald Trump’s personal lawyer have waged a remarkable back-channel campaign to discredit the president’s rivals and undermine the special counsel’s inquiry into Russian meddling in US elections.

      In a whirlwind of private meetings, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — who pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Republican campaigns and dined with the president — gathered repeatedly with top officials in Ukraine and set up meetings for Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani as they turned up information that could be weaponized in the 2020 presidential race…”.

      why can’t the nytimes report this straightforwardly?

      so is this the tip of the Russian spear in the 2020 election?

      “… BuzzFeed News and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project have examined scores of court filings and confidential financial records and interviewed dozens of people — including Parnas — to piece together the international maneuvers of the two men. The results raise questions about the origins of the money they were spending and whether their work should have been declared — as well as the impact of their efforts on the 2020 election…”

      • orionATL says:

        to 2004? really?

        very interesting.

        i’m all ears – or eyes as it were.

        but are we seeing russian sappers on the move again inside u.s. territory?

        • Rayne says:

          LOL check out this puff piece on Giuliani published a week before Trump was inaugurated, in which his early interest in Russian business opportunities was mentioned. His links to Ukraine go back just as far.

          By the way, note the outlet that published this turd buffing — Observer. Yeah, the little New York media outlet owned by Jared Kushner.

          • orionATL says:

            “… We live in an age of fact-free, reportage-free, experience-free news. That is a shame. But the facts here actually make a lot of sense. Rudy Giuliani, with his twin passions for security and technology, is the perfect choice for this important role…”

            oh my yes. we certainly do.


  12. bmaz says:

    Okay, back to the actual subject of the post. This line is absolutely correct:

    “More generally, any decision to narrowly craft impeachment would be catastrophically stupid, not least because other impeachable acts — such as Trump’s treatment of migrants — will be far more motivating to Democratic voters than Ukraine.”

    Any number of other acts are very germane and should be fleshed out in the inquiry. So that there is a record, and so that the public sees and understands it all, because they still do not as few read even the exec summaries of the Mueller report. And there is so very much above and beyond just the Mueller Report content. To focus solely on Ukraine would be irresponsible and cowardly.

    That said, I think a straight up count on abuse of pardon/clemency power would be a bad idea. It is the one thing that a President has complete and unfettered discretion in. And there is absolutely nothing Congress can do to “rein it in”. It is a crystal clear Constitutional prerogative; to change it would require amending the Constitution, not some action by Congress. The only Constitutional limits described in the Constitution are that The only limits mentioned in the Constitution are that pardons are limited to offenses against the United States (not civil or state cases), and that the power cannot affect an impeachment process. That’s it. Here is a list of people Trump has used his Article II, Section 2, Clause I power on. They are mostly disgusting, but none violate the limits of his power as set forth in the Constitution.

    Maybe it could be mentioned as factual support on bribery or obstruction impeachment counts, should they be made, but as a standalone, no. And were it to be done, the GOP and Trump would howl about ridiculous overreach. Frankly, I would have to join them.

    • BobCon says:

      Just curious, but would that include pardons with evidence of an explicitly corrupt purpose? Hypothetically speaking, if Rudy accidentally cc’d the Washington Post on a memo signed by Trump offering Flynn a pardon in exchange for obstruction, is that still out of bounds?

      Obviously Sheriff Joe is a monster but Trump has the explicit power to pardon monsters if he wants. But that seems to have no other purpose than making his nutjobs happy. Bad policy, but not out of bounds.

      • bmaz says:

        That is a good question. And there was a lot of discussion on this back during the evaluation of the Marc Rich pardon by Clinton. To my view, yes the pardon would probably still be valid, but that it could be a separate act, such as obstruction, by the President.

        • P J Evans says:

          ISTR that there’s an office that makes recommendations on pardons. Is there a legal requirement that they be involved in the process? Are they being bypassed?

  13. David B Pittard says:

    Is it possible to start a 2-track impeachment, one, narrow, quick; the other, everything else, thorough; anything in the second category can be combined with the 1st track if completed soon enough. I see impracticalities but there are drawbacks for only the narrow quick Ukraine matter and for the all-encompassing one as well. The narrow quick one could perhaps include the all-encompassing unfitness for office demonstrated by Trump in various ways that needs no investigation (e.g., the Kelsinki display; the many allegations that are simply lies; etc.) although I’m not sure mere unfitness for office is “high crimes and misdemeanors” – but I would say many of these amount to a failure to carry out his oath of office.

  14. Cloverbell says:

    OT-ish but interesting article in today’s Palm Beach Post: “The Nixon pardon: It was negotiated by a Boynton Beach lawyer. Did it leave a road map for Trump post-presidency?”

    “The Richard Nixon pardon Benton Becker negotiated concluded a singular, dark chapter in American history. It remains the only road map to dealing with a former president facing criminal charges after leaving the White House.”

    Touches on several topics Bmaz and others have discussed in recent comments. /news/20190920/nixon-pardon-it-was-negotiated-by-boynton-beach-lawyer-did-it-leave-road-map-for-trump-post-presidency (Inserted a space to break the link between .com and the /)

    • Cloverbell says:

      “’The most amazing part of the story was always when he talked about visiting with President Nixon himself,’ Gormley said of Becker. ‘He was in essence reading him his Miranda rights by telling him about this Burdick v. U.S. case and telling him that acceptance of a pardon amounted to an admission of guilt.’

      Gormley said at the 1999 forum, another participant, Nixon lawyer Jack Miller, revealed that Nixon had pushed back hard against accepting the pardon for the same reason.

      ‘Jack Miller for the first time disclosed that President Nixon fought it, and fought him, and tried not to accept the pardon at first because he did not want to admit guilt,’ Gormley recalled. ‘So it almost unraveled there and Benton Becker was in the middle of it because he insisted there was going to be no pardon, at President Ford’s direction, unless Nixon acknowledged that acceptance of a pardon was an admission of guilt.’

      That view of a presidential pardon is much more serious and intense than the cavalier way in which it is usually discussed today.

      In June 2018, for example, President Trump tweeted that, ‘As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself …’ Plenty of other politicians and pundits alike have talked of presidential pardons in almost trivial fashion.”

    • Cloverbell says:

      “From there, Becker wrote, Nixon’s team first relented on a contract turning over control of Nixon’s records — 46 million pieces of paper and 950 reels of tape. It was a collection so heavy that Secret Service officials worried the floor of the Executive Office Building, where the bulk of the materials were stored, was buckling and might collapse.

      A U.S. Department of Justice opinion flatly stated that Nixon had full ownership of his papers, records and the infamous tapes. Tradition and custom, but not law, held that those records belonged to the president to do as he pleased. Ulysses Grant, for example, auctioned his off to pay debts. Modern presidents would later use them to write memoirs and stock presidential museums.

      The Ford team, including Becker, argued that while tradition, this was an unprecedented moment in which the shadow of criminality hung over a former president, and the documents and tapes were of ‘evidentiary value.’ They wanted to preserve them.”

  15. Yohei72 says:

    This seems the best place to ask: Is there some sort of schedule out there for the upcoming hearings of note in the impeachment inquiry, and whether they’ll be streaming online somewhere? I checked the website for the House intelligence committee, but couldn’t find anything there. Thanks for any tips.

  16. Tom says:

    One consequence of the Democrats’ decision to focus on Trump’s involvement with Ukraine in their impeachment hearing is that the Republicans are now stating this only proves that the Mueller investigation cleared the President. I don’t think I’d ever heard of Hugh Hewitt before but he was part of the panel on Meet the Press yesterday. Hewitt referred to the Democrats’ investigation of Trump on the Ukraine matter rather than the information derived from Mueller’s investigation and said this means that Mueller “found no impeachable offense” and that there was “no collusion and no obstruction” on the President’s part. He added that this also means that Nancy Pelosi has implicitly conceded that “Mueller exonerated Trump.” Chuck Todd and the other panelists let this comment go unchallenged.

    Listening to On Point this morning I heard Senator James Lankford say much the same thing; i.e., that the Mueller Report didn’t find that Trump had done anything wrong, otherwise the Democrats would be using it as grounds for impeachment. So it seems we’re back to the old ‘no collusion no obstruction’ routine again. I hope the Democrats’ messaging makes clear that their present focus on Ukraine doesn’t mean they’ve absolved the President of wrongdoing on a multitude of other matters.

    • Rayne says:

      Gonna’ make me whip out the old Judge Napolitano video explaining Trump’s multiple obstructions of justice.

      As this site knows, Trump was never vindicated. Barr simply fucked enough with the public’s head on top of Mueller’s inability to be direct that the House Dems didn’t get in line.

      I can see we need a post to push back on this propaganda. And Lankford — Jesus, I thought the man was smarter than this. He’s lucky he’s not up for re-election until 2022.

      • Tom says:

        Lankford is quoted extensively on the On Point website. What he actually says, referring to the accusations against Trump involving Russia, is that, “… Democrats seem to have dropped all that after 2 1/2 years. They’ve dropped the issue about Russia and Russian collusion.” Then he goes on to talk about the Durham investigation. So I suppose he doesn’t actually dismiss the Mueller Report, but he claims that the Democrats have, the implication seeming to be that the Dems believe they can’t use Mueller’s findings to impeach Trump.

        • Rayne says:

          Lankford blaming Dems when he knows damned well their efforts were exacerbated deliberately by Barr and by DOJ regulations. Such bad faith.

Comments are closed.