The Art of the (Raw) Deal. December 14, 2018.

In a Manhattan, NY courtroom on Wednesday, President Trump’s longtime fixer and attorney, Michael Cohen, received a sentence of three years of incarceration, along with $1.5 million in fees and penalties, courtesy of the Southern District of New York. The consensuses among most people with whom I have spoken are that justice was served. However, was justice indeed served?

 

To clarify for all readers, Robert S. Mueller III, also known as the Special Counsel, was appointed to oversee the investigation into Russian tampering in the 2016 presidential election, particularly any possible campaign illegalities carried out by Donald Trump or his henchmen during the aforementioned campaign. In fulfilling his responsibilities, any judicial or criminal matters that Mueller becomes aware of, but are not directly in the purview of the Russia investigation are referred out to the appropriate state governing bodies. The reason that the media so frequently references the Southern District of New York is that virtually the entirety of the criminal activities engaged in by Donald Trump, his associates, and his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, occurred within the geographical area that is under the jurisdiction of the SDNY.

 

Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to nine felonies: five counts of “willful” tax evasion, one count of bank fraud, one count of lying to Congress, and two counts of illegal campaign contributions. It should be noted that Cohen’s then-client and your current President, Donald J. Trump, ordered the commission of said illicit campaign contributions. Under customary circumstances, upon an attorney’s admission that his client directed him to commit a crime and then pleads guilty to that crime, the client is, without exception, indicted as well. However, if this client is the current President, then pursuant to current DOJ protocol not to charge a sitting president, said client receives treatment reserved for absolute monarchs and escapes indictment, effectively rendering the President above the laws of our nation. It is questionable and defenseless policies to grant immunity to the primary beneficiary of nefarious activities, yet, as in this case, subject the inferior to three long years of incarceration.

 

On December 9, Incoming House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, while appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” indicated that the Justice Department might indict President Trump on day 1 of his post-presidency, a comment that I found extremely disheartening. As mentioned above, while I understand that it is DOJ procedure not to indict a sitting president, the soundness of such policy is highly questionable and demands revalidation for a litany of reasons. An August 22, 2018 transcript of an interview on NPR with Philip Allen Lacovara has informed my position and assisted in the formulation of my very real, pragmatic, and moral concerns that I address regarding such an easily exploitable policy by individuals of questionable character. Lacovara was counsel to the special prosecutors who investigated Watergate, and he argued the Nixon tapes case before the Supreme Court.

 

First, in fighting the Revolutionary War, we shed blood to break away from the absolute immunity that is provided only to absolute monarchs. Hence, there can exist no doubt that our constitutional forefathers would find the granting of such immunity abhorrent, and, consequently, there exists no provision for presidential immunity in our Constitution. Second, there is a practical reason for not waiting until the President finishes his term. Federal felonies, such as those committed by President Trump, carry a five-year statute of limitations. If the President is reelected, and he has already proclaimed his aspiration to seek reelection, he would not exit the Oval Office until 2025, at which time he could no longer be indicted for criminal acts that were committed as a candidate in 2016. He would then vacate the presidency as a free man, avoiding any prosecution for his criminal undertakings. Lastly, we must determine which the better of two disagreeable selections is: an indicted president, or a lawless agent serving as our commander-in-chief. One thing is irrefutable: in American democracy, no man is above the law. Here is to hoping that tradition continues.

 

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