Pardon Me, Mr. President?
Written By: Anton Sawyer
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Pardon Me, Mr. President?
We are living in a real-life episode of "Dexter."
Between the recent bounty of Presidential pardons that have fallen from Santa's sleigh to the effervescent testimony of Melissa Carone with Rudy Giuliani, one could get the impression that the current legal problems being encountered in the United States courtrooms and are somehow new.
And they're half-right.
Not new, but definitely different.
We have seen various politicians throughout history in hot water for different ethical or financial scandals. These scandals are almost always guaranteed at some point during or after their career. Yes, there are politicians in "Club Fed" right now doing time, and others who are still paying dues to penalties from the fallout of their various indiscretions. These aspects have always been a time-honored tradition amongst those in power. The difference stems from how brazen it has all become in recent history.
The people who know the laws inside and out are able to stay one step ahead in a majority of cases. This is typical because they had a hand in their writing or amending. Whenever we see a Senator or the like in a financial probe, you typically get the headlines and meat of the matter, and then it kind of dies down, followed by the guilty verdict or acquittal.
During the downtime is when all the magic happens behind the scenes.
When we're given the results, it's typically so some statement can be written in an attempt to justify whatever has been decided with enough verbiage to make Merriam-Webster's shake their heads in confusion. This allows the recipe for the secret sauce to stay intact but allow for the commoner to understand that SOMETHING was done. For the last five years, we've had the ability to get into the mechanics of what the US Constitution can, and clearly cannot do, all thanks to President Donald Trump.
As much as I may have spoken negatively about him in prior writings, there is one thing that I can say I am truly grateful for when it comes to him serving this country as its leader; the lawsuits.
Whether prompted by or directed towards Trump, there has been a level of legal entanglements that would make Bill Clinton proud over the last half-decade. What's been even more eye-opening is how open the responses to everything has been.
I do believe that former President Trump has been the best thing to happen for the average citizen's ability to see our governmental process in action as it pertains to those who are in charge. We've found that in all reality, if you are in some form of the national attention-gathering political organization of a higher rank, you are more than likely not going to be punished near ANY level as those who are of the blue-collar variety—A.K.A. their constituents—A.K.A. you and me.
First off, I know there are going to be people that will mention former President Bill Clinton and his impeachment and controversial pardon of Marc Rich. To be clear, he was definitely guilty of lying in court, and I was against that Rich pardon due to the sheer number of laws broken (65 counts). I also believe this is when we got the first taste of how the system can favor those in control.
Nixon's guilt in Watergate was so beyond the pale that the outcome was sealed. Both parties knew there was no way they could vote not-guilty and then expect not to lose in the first primary opponent they would face in their next election.
I always felt watching Clinton's deposition where he said he "did not have sexual relations with that woman" (Monica Lewinski), and then saw all the evidence that came out. I felt that acquitting would be insane—we all saw the words come out of his mouth. But because it was "sellable" to their base, the Democrat-controlled Senate did not follow through and the impeachment went nowhere.
Trump has been under a barrage of various lawsuits. One was so effective that in 2019 State Supreme Court Justice Saliann Scarpulla of Manhattan ruled that Trump pay $2 million in damages to various nonprofit groups to settle allegations that he and his family used the Trump Foundation to further his political and business interests. This eventually ended up causing the charity to dissolve. Yet, the lawsuits that were brought about on him not fulfilling his Constitutional duties were stifled.
Impeachment was introduced against the President for "abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress." It has been covered ad nauseam by every media outlet, so I'm not going to add to the redundancy here. The main takeaway though was the United States President, as of this writing, cannot have charges brought against him while he's in office.
It doesn't matter what the charges are, as it had been determined by the US Justice Department in 1973, via an internal memo, stating that the position of a sitting president cannot be indicted. The department reaffirmed the policy in a 2000 memo, saying court decisions in the intervening years had not changed its conclusion that a sitting president is “constitutionally immune” from indictment and criminal prosecution.
As a nation, we were told that because of some determination done many decades ago involving specific charges for a specific President—none of which has nothing to do with the current situation—that it is etched in time and all eternity. We learned that it wasn't just Clinton, it wasn't just the democrats, but it was an umbrella of immunity for all sitting Presidents.
When looking at the constitution itself, specifically Section 4 of Article Two, it seemed that the founding fathers had been pretty thorough. "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors," is fairly clear.
Trump truly realized the power of the White House. The brazen attitude he has adopted towards the legal system has blossomed since he lost the election with the pardons he's been issuing.
Yes, every president has had people they have pardoned which has struck a wrong chord with many. I don't recall a president in my lifetime that didn't get blowback for at least one pardon they issued. But the volume and scope of the people Trump is pardoning are what is so terrifying.
Outside of the cronies who stood by him throughout, names like Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, there was one pardon that Trump tried, but found out he wasn't able to do—it was only because the prisoners were in another country. They are the Citgo 6.
On November 6th, 2020, a Venezuelan court convicted and sentenced six executives of Houston-based oil refining company Citgo, a subsidiary of PDVSA, of violations of local anti-corruption laws based on their offer to refinance approximately $4 billion in Citgo bonds in return for sixty million dollars (1.5% of the total deal). CITGO employees Tomeu Vadell, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Alirio Jose Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano, and Jose Angel Pereira were sentenced to between 8 and 13 years, the source said. They also reported that the men are being held in inhumane conditions, sharing overcrowded basement cells in a military counterintelligence prison, and are suffering severe weight loss in a country plagued by food shortages.
Trump and his administration have been doing whatever they can to stop those individuals from facing any consequences. There have been many quotes from many people decrying the trial itself, claiming it was totally fraudulent. Given the number of times we have heard about "fake news" and other "fraudulent" accusations from the Trump administration, you'd have to go through the case to find out what truly happened.
Regardless, Trump did everything he could to get those men free. He soon realized that even the President of the United States can't force the removal of prisoners from another nation. So on December 30th, 2020, Trump slapped a bunch of tough sanctions against Venezuela. The action is an attempt to force the hand of Venezuela, and will most likely remain until the end of his term.
What's so bothering about the Citgo 6 is the level of hypocritical moralization we as a country are trying to spin to the rest of the world. Sure, we can dispute the case brought up in court, but the facts remain:
We have Guantanamo Bay, which has been a legalized torture center with conditions just as bad, if not worse, than what's described in the Venezuelan prisons.
The Citgo 6 were at least granted a trial. We have people currently locked up in Guantanamo Bay for decades without any hint that they will get a trial someday.
With a straight face, we can look at our justice system that has all of the flaws mentioned above when it comes to holding those with power accountable (along with the decisions from the Supreme Court to further stack the deck), and tell other countries—with pride—that it is the best in the world.
At the time of this writing, it's less than a month before Joe Biden takes over the presidency. Though, to be honest, I don't think any charges from a federal level towards Trump is going to come about. When Obama took over in 2008, many liberals were crying for Bush to be brought up on war crimes for Guantanamo Bay and other allegations. Obama refused. He said that he didn't want to set a precedent where any future leaders would second-guess, or not do what they feel is right because of fear of retribution from further administrations. My guess is that Biden will follow suit and bring nothing up.
2021 is going to be an interesting year for American judicial history. Many attorney generals have said they have lawsuits lined up for when Trump is out of office. Some states have threatened the same thing.
If all of them bear no fruit, then as American citizens we have been explicitly told through their (lack of) actions, that not every man or woman is created equal.
The cement will have dried on the foundation for true class separation in regards to legal matters. That between the pardons, the legal maneuvers, and every other trick that could be thought of, there really are people in this country who are above the law.
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