Monday, 16 July 2018 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

President Trump Is Not "Above the Law": John Bonifaz Warns Against Normalizing Impeachable Offenses

Tuesday, May 22, 2018 By Amy Goodman and Juan González, Democracy Now! | Video Interview
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President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House May 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool / Getty Images)President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House May 17, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool / Getty Images)

Top FBI and Justice Department officials have confirmed they will meet with congressional leaders to review classified information on the handling of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. This comes after President Trump demanded an investigation into whether the FBI infiltrated his presidential campaign. Trump has claimed for months, without evidence, that the Obama administration spied on his campaign. Legal experts say his tweet Sunday crossed a line by applying overt presidential pressure on the Justice Department, which could possibly set up a clash similar to the one between President Nixon and the Justice Department during the Watergate scandal. The finding of wrongdoing by Trump could ultimately be referred to Congress and make impeachment a topic of debate among candidates in the midterm elections, though few Democratic leaders have openly supported it. This comes as Texas Democratic Congressmember Al Green doubled down on his effort to impeach Trump, a year after he first announced he was drafting articles of impeachment. We get an update from John Bonifaz, an attorney and president of Free Speech For People, one of the organizations that launched the "Impeach Donald Trump Now" campaign.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman with Juan Gonzalez.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Top FBI and Justice Department officials have confirmed they will meet with congressional leaders to review classified information on the handling of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. This comes after President Trump demanded an investigation into whether the FBI infiltrated his presidential campaign.

AMY GOODMAN: The finding of wrongdoing by Trump could ultimately be referred to Congress and make impeachment a topic of debate among candidates in the midterm elections, though few Democratic leaders have openly supported it. This comes as Texas Democratic Congressmember Al Green of Houston doubled down on his effort to impeach Trump a year after he first announced he was drafting articles of impeachment. Green spoke Wednesday on the House floor.

REP. AL GREEN: You know that there's bigotry emanating from the presidency, yet you would not want me to stand here and address it. I will address it. This president has exhibited a kind of bigotry that this country ought not tolerate. And when he said that there were some s-hole countries as he was addressing his immigration policy, he was putting his bigotry into policy, and that is something that we all should concern ourselves with -- the fact that the president's policies are based upon his bigotry. Impeachment is the remedy.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we are joined by constitutional attorney John Bonifaz, co-founder and director of Free Speech for People, speaking to us from Massachusetts. Welcome back to Democracy Now!, John. With all of the latest investigations going on in Washington and the investigating of the investigators that President Trump is calling for, what Congressmember Green is calling for here, what is the state of the impeachment movement and why are you calling for it today?

JOHN BONIFAZ: Thank you, Amy, for having me. We have been calling for it since the day this president assumed the oath of office, because he created a constitutional crisis at that moment, refusing to divest fully from his business interests and treating the Oval Office as a profit-making enterprise at the public expense.

We now see the list of impeachable offenses growing by the day, really. Obstruction of justice, conspiring with a foreign government to violate federal campaign finance laws, giving aid and comfort to what supremacists and neo-Nazis, abuse of the pardon power, misusing the law enforcement agencies to attack political opponents, undermining freedom of the press.

This is a president -- to pick up on your prior conversation and guest's statement that we don't have a monarchy in the United States, we don't, but this president acts like he is above the law, that he is not needing to comply with basic constitutional principles and basic democratic principles that no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk about Lido City in Indonesia, as an example of the many, many issues that could be raised in impeachment?

JOHN BONIFAZ: Yes. This is an example where this president continues to receive illegal foreign benefits from foreign governments in violations of the foreign emoluments clause and the domestic emoluments clause when it comes to the use of property, federal and state property in the United States.

But with respect to Indonesia, what we see here now is the Chinese government providing a $500 million loan, a financial benefit to the Trump organization, ultimately going to Donald Trump himself, for this Indonesian business project of The Trump Organization. At the same time, within 72 hours, the president tweets out that he's thinking of going -- essentially interfering in a corporate law enforcement action by the Justice Department against a Chinese telecommunications firm. There may not be quid pro quo -- that has to be further investigated -- but we already know this is a foreign emolument in violation of foreign emoluments clause.

AMY GOODMAN: I am wondering if you could respond to Harvard University professor, law school professor Laurence Tribe who, like you, originally called for Trump to be impeached but now has written a new book and is changing his views on this.

JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, we work closely with Professor Tribe in other matters, and I think he's obviously an esteemed constitutional professor in this country, but we have a friendly disagreement on this. He did come out in May of 2017 calling for impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump when he fired James Comey and tried to effectively stop the investigation into whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 elections. He has now shifted his position.

And I think his position, that somehow we are normalizing impeachment, ought to really be the concern that we're normalizing impeachable offenses. That if we do not act with respect to this president and the magnitude of impeachable offenses that grows by the day, then we are setting ourselves up for a very dangerous precedent where we treat a president of the United States as being above the law. And that is a road down toward authoritarianism that we cannot take.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you, John Bonifaz, for being with us. Attorney and president of Free Speech for All. And that does it or today's show.

Democracy Now! is accepting applications for our paid video production fellowships. Find out more at "democracynow.org": www.democracynow.org. You can sign up for our daily digest. Send the word "democracynow" to 66866. You can just text that word to 66866. Today we bid a fond farewell to Kaija Siirala. All the very best to you, Kaija.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Juan González

Juan González co-hosts Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. González has been a professional journalist for more than 30 years and a staff columnist at the New York Daily News since 1987. He is a two-time recipient of the George Polk Award.

Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on more than 1,100 public television and radio stations worldwide. Time Magazine named Democracy Now! its "Pick of the Podcasts," along with NBC's "Meet the Press."

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President Trump Is Not "Above the Law": John Bonifaz Warns Against Normalizing Impeachable Offenses

Tuesday, May 22, 2018 By Amy Goodman and Juan González, Democracy Now! | Video Interview
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
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President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House May 17, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool / Getty Images)President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House May 17, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool / Getty Images)

Top FBI and Justice Department officials have confirmed they will meet with congressional leaders to review classified information on the handling of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. This comes after President Trump demanded an investigation into whether the FBI infiltrated his presidential campaign. Trump has claimed for months, without evidence, that the Obama administration spied on his campaign. Legal experts say his tweet Sunday crossed a line by applying overt presidential pressure on the Justice Department, which could possibly set up a clash similar to the one between President Nixon and the Justice Department during the Watergate scandal. The finding of wrongdoing by Trump could ultimately be referred to Congress and make impeachment a topic of debate among candidates in the midterm elections, though few Democratic leaders have openly supported it. This comes as Texas Democratic Congressmember Al Green doubled down on his effort to impeach Trump, a year after he first announced he was drafting articles of impeachment. We get an update from John Bonifaz, an attorney and president of Free Speech For People, one of the organizations that launched the "Impeach Donald Trump Now" campaign.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman with Juan Gonzalez.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Top FBI and Justice Department officials have confirmed they will meet with congressional leaders to review classified information on the handling of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. This comes after President Trump demanded an investigation into whether the FBI infiltrated his presidential campaign.

AMY GOODMAN: The finding of wrongdoing by Trump could ultimately be referred to Congress and make impeachment a topic of debate among candidates in the midterm elections, though few Democratic leaders have openly supported it. This comes as Texas Democratic Congressmember Al Green of Houston doubled down on his effort to impeach Trump a year after he first announced he was drafting articles of impeachment. Green spoke Wednesday on the House floor.

REP. AL GREEN: You know that there's bigotry emanating from the presidency, yet you would not want me to stand here and address it. I will address it. This president has exhibited a kind of bigotry that this country ought not tolerate. And when he said that there were some s-hole countries as he was addressing his immigration policy, he was putting his bigotry into policy, and that is something that we all should concern ourselves with -- the fact that the president's policies are based upon his bigotry. Impeachment is the remedy.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we are joined by constitutional attorney John Bonifaz, co-founder and director of Free Speech for People, speaking to us from Massachusetts. Welcome back to Democracy Now!, John. With all of the latest investigations going on in Washington and the investigating of the investigators that President Trump is calling for, what Congressmember Green is calling for here, what is the state of the impeachment movement and why are you calling for it today?

JOHN BONIFAZ: Thank you, Amy, for having me. We have been calling for it since the day this president assumed the oath of office, because he created a constitutional crisis at that moment, refusing to divest fully from his business interests and treating the Oval Office as a profit-making enterprise at the public expense.

We now see the list of impeachable offenses growing by the day, really. Obstruction of justice, conspiring with a foreign government to violate federal campaign finance laws, giving aid and comfort to what supremacists and neo-Nazis, abuse of the pardon power, misusing the law enforcement agencies to attack political opponents, undermining freedom of the press.

This is a president -- to pick up on your prior conversation and guest's statement that we don't have a monarchy in the United States, we don't, but this president acts like he is above the law, that he is not needing to comply with basic constitutional principles and basic democratic principles that no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk about Lido City in Indonesia, as an example of the many, many issues that could be raised in impeachment?

JOHN BONIFAZ: Yes. This is an example where this president continues to receive illegal foreign benefits from foreign governments in violations of the foreign emoluments clause and the domestic emoluments clause when it comes to the use of property, federal and state property in the United States.

But with respect to Indonesia, what we see here now is the Chinese government providing a $500 million loan, a financial benefit to the Trump organization, ultimately going to Donald Trump himself, for this Indonesian business project of The Trump Organization. At the same time, within 72 hours, the president tweets out that he's thinking of going -- essentially interfering in a corporate law enforcement action by the Justice Department against a Chinese telecommunications firm. There may not be quid pro quo -- that has to be further investigated -- but we already know this is a foreign emolument in violation of foreign emoluments clause.

AMY GOODMAN: I am wondering if you could respond to Harvard University professor, law school professor Laurence Tribe who, like you, originally called for Trump to be impeached but now has written a new book and is changing his views on this.

JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, we work closely with Professor Tribe in other matters, and I think he's obviously an esteemed constitutional professor in this country, but we have a friendly disagreement on this. He did come out in May of 2017 calling for impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump when he fired James Comey and tried to effectively stop the investigation into whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 elections. He has now shifted his position.

And I think his position, that somehow we are normalizing impeachment, ought to really be the concern that we're normalizing impeachable offenses. That if we do not act with respect to this president and the magnitude of impeachable offenses that grows by the day, then we are setting ourselves up for a very dangerous precedent where we treat a president of the United States as being above the law. And that is a road down toward authoritarianism that we cannot take.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you, John Bonifaz, for being with us. Attorney and president of Free Speech for All. And that does it or today's show.

Democracy Now! is accepting applications for our paid video production fellowships. Find out more at "democracynow.org": www.democracynow.org. You can sign up for our daily digest. Send the word "democracynow" to 66866. You can just text that word to 66866. Today we bid a fond farewell to Kaija Siirala. All the very best to you, Kaija.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Juan González

Juan González co-hosts Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. González has been a professional journalist for more than 30 years and a staff columnist at the New York Daily News since 1987. He is a two-time recipient of the George Polk Award.

Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on more than 1,100 public television and radio stations worldwide. Time Magazine named Democracy Now! its "Pick of the Podcasts," along with NBC's "Meet the Press."