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Nov 04 2019

Profound Constitutional Questions

If a President lurches into, say Main Street USA straight out of Cinderella’s Castle in Orlando (because I certainly wouldn’t like to be accused of coastalism), grabs a baby (White baby, hate that it would make a difference) from a stroller, and tears out its heart and starts eating it, still vainly pumping, while the WOFL Fox 35 News Chopper circles around doing dramatic crane shots of the spurting gore simulcast on live national TV…

Is he guilty?

Well we’re not contending it didn’t happen, my dry cleaning bills attest to that, but a sitting President can’t be investigated because it would distract him from important stuff like being a Twit on the Internet, sucking up to wannabe Nuclear Dictators like Kim and Erdogan or real ones like Putin and Xi, and stealing Brown Babies from the arms of their Mothers.

You should try that one at Thanksgiving, shut the last Republican I talked to right up.

Anyway we can agree that this is all very important and even if not these particular things it’s a possibility that the President could be too distracted by pressing events of National importance to co-ordinate a criminal defense of infanticide and cannibalism and thus be denied due process which would be a shame and beneath our dignity according to a memo by the Office of Legal Council of the Department of Justice of the United Sates of America.

A memo. By a partisan political appointee (Republican of course).

Well that certainly overrides the unanimous consent of 13 States assembled, stop living in the past.

Today was another victory for Conservatism of the type that stands athwart (another elitism, a “thwart” is a horizontal brace with an open frame that spans port to starboard as opposed to longitudinally from stem to stern or vertically from keel to deck, meaning it’s a fence rail across a boat you can sit on) history.

Only the Supreme Court can keep Trump’s tax returns hidden now
By Paul Waldman, Washington Post

When President Trump goes to court these days, he arrives with two problems. First, the fundamental position he takes is usually indefensible. Second, the specific arguments his lawyers are forced to use to justify that position are themselves not just questionable but positively ludicrous.

As a consequence, he keeps losing. A federal appeals court ruled that his accounting firm does indeed have to turn over years of his returns to the Manhattan district attorney.

In case it isn’t clear, Trump’s lawyers argued that if he walked out on the street and shot someone, not only couldn’t he be indicted on a charge of the murder, but the police also would not even be allowed to investigate him.

First the district court and now the appeals court have found that argument to be somewhere between laughable and horrifying, which means that Trump has only one shot left to protect his tax returns from falling into the hands of prosecutors and then possibly the public: the Supreme Court.

There’s really no telling what the court will do. While the conservative justices have long adhered to the legal principle known as “Republican presidents get to do whatever they want,” Trump’s argument for keeping his tax returns hidden — in this case and in others, in which he is keeping them from Congress — are both farcical and extremely specific to him, meaning that they’re unlikely to impact future presidents.

If you were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., or even one of the other conservative justices, you might decide that this would be a good case to hand Trump a loss, thereby demonstrating that the court can be nonpartisan to bolster its legitimacy (which it will need when it starts nullifying half the laws the next Democratic president signs).

Those other cases concern Congress’s legal right to obtain anyone’s tax returns, but this one has a much clearer allegation of wrongdoing. The Manhattan DA is investigating Trump’s role in potential illegal activity around the payment of hush money to Trump’s (supposed) mistresses in 2016.

As you may remember, Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who administered those hush money payments, is now in jail for his role in that scheme (among other things). By making payments to keep those women quiet while the campaign was going on, he made what were in effect undisclosed in-kind contributions to the Trump campaign, contributions that exceeded legal limits. Trump then reimbursed him, which means he made undisclosed contributions to his own campaign. (A candidate can contribute as much as he wants to his own campaign, but the contributions must be reported.)

But that’s not the only crime Trump may have committed. To disguise their plan, Trump and Cohen set up a system in which Trump and his company made a series of monthly payments to Cohen totaling $420,000, disguised as legal fees. That means Trump almost certainly deducted them on his taxes as a business expense, which would be illegal.

I will note that one professor of tax law has a semi-serious theory that if Trump’s entire run for president was merely a plan to further his business interests, then he might be able to claim that since he paid off the women to advance his candidacy, it would be a legitimate business expense. It’s so absurd that at this point I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Trump’s lawyers toss that turd right on to the table in court.

I’m not sure if before taking office Trump was aware of the opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel concerning presidential immunity from prosecution. But we have to remind ourselves of just how extraordinary it is that the president is claiming not just that he can’t be prosecuted but also that he can’t even be investigated. Though it would be amusing to think that Trump ran for president so he could have a four-year window to commit crimes, there’s every reason to believe that he committed plenty over the course of his life and never bothered worrying about whether he’d be held accountable.

The presidency brought with it a certain limited immunity, but it also brought more scrutiny than Trump probably ever imagined. To achieve the goal of keeping his tax returns hidden — something that is obviously of paramount importance to him — he’s going to have to win every one of these cases. His odds don’t look good.

That standing athwart thing? Bill Buckley’s definition. He’s planted in Evergreen Cemetery North, Parkersburg, West Virginia but he was Cove Stamford guggle to zatch, a Thurberism (he also lived in Connecticut, just like Roger Sherman).

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