Douglas M. Bloomfield
Douglas M. Bloomfield

De Ja Vu at the White House

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Trump surrogates are now peddling the line that the media is paying too much attention to process and not enough to substance in the Russia and Wiretap scandals.

If that sounds familiar, maybe the name Ron Ziegler will ring a bell.

Ziegler was Richard Nixon’s press secretary who accused the media of trying to link a “third rate burglary” to the White House and to the President’s re-election campaign. It was all a pack of lies by the President’s enemies.

They went to great lengths to derail all investigations into the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Watergate office building.

The Nixon White House message then was eerily similar to the one today out of the Trump White House. Focus on the substance – a third rate burglary and Trump’s accusations that Barack Obama ordered his phones tapped – and quit obsessing on the process.

Process, it turns out is a euphemism for investigating the cover-up. And you know where that can lead.

In another Watergate déjà vu, Trump is trying to divert attention from the Russian hacking investigations by tweeting “Find the leakers.” Maybe he’ll hire a squad of plumbers to plug the leaks.

We’re reminded of it by Trump’s former national security advisor, Mike Flynn, who seems to be at the center of the Russiagate imbroglio, offering to tell all he knows to congressional investigators in exchange for immunity.

There’s more than a touch of irony for such a request coming from Flynn and being endorsed by Trump.

They had very different views during last summer’s campaign when some of Hillary Clinton’s aides had sought immunity in the investigation of her private email server

Flynn repeatedly and loudly said, “When you are given immunity, that means you probably committed a crime.”

Trump was even more emphatic. “The reason they get immunity is because they did something wrong. If they didn’t do anything wrong, they don’t think in terms of immunity,” reported the Washington Post.“If you are not guilty of a crime, “what do you need immunity for? Right.”

Look for videos of these statements to play repeatedly on cable news.

Immunity is a tool investigators use to get lower level figures to turn on the higher-ups. But there aren’t many higher up in the White House than the National Security Advisor. And that raises the question, could Trump give Flynn a pardon to keep him quiet to cover-up the Russia and other scandals?

And if he did, could that be an impeachable offense?

The president’s pardon power is unreviewable, it can’t be reversed by the courts or the Congress.

“The Constitution does not define an impeachable offence beyond ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ so it would be up to Congress to determine whether a president’s actions had risen to that level. A controversial pardon has not previously been deemed impeachable conduct. Congress would likely look for evidence of a broader conspiracy involving the president, for example, granting a pardon as part of a scheme to obstruct justice where the president was involved in the underlying unlawful conduct,” according to David Lachmann, who was chief of staff on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).”

Flynn is just one of several Trump associates under investigation by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and the FBI about possible collusion between the campaign and agents of the Russian government.

The Post noted:

Immunity for congressional testimony, which comes in a variety of forms with a variety of limitations and requires approval by a judge, has proven to be filled with complications.

“Use immunity,” for example, does not prevent a prosecutor from indicting a witness; it only stops prosecution using the testimony provided to the particular congressional committee.

“The witness can still be convicted for the crimes mentioned in the testimony on the basis of other evidence,” as Hanah Metchis Volokh wrote in a Georgetown Law Review article.

Trump, in his tweet accusing Obama of tapping his phones, likened that to “Nixon/Watergate.” There’s one big difference. Neither Trump nor anyone else has produced a shred of evidence to back his accusations, while overwhelming hard evidence forced Nixon to resign.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.
Related Topics
Related Posts