Published June 4, 2018 / Updated August 7, 2020
Tautology: The Last Refuge of the Guilty
Mr Trump thinks he’s above the law
Back in January the Trump legal team sent a letter to Robert Mueller stating that, in their opinion, their client could not obstruct justice because he is justice. Sylvester Stallone could not be reached for comment.
The memo, authored by John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, says “the President cannot obstruct himself or subordinates acting on his behalf by simply exercising [his] Constitutional powers.”
A second memo goes on to state that “The President’s actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself.”
Read over that line from the second memo a second time. I’ll wait. Done? Good. Here we go.
The President’s legal team is literally arguing that the President of the United States is incapable of obstructing justice because the justice department works for him. The President tells the DOJ what to do, the memo argues, and therefore any action he takes is leading it, not obstructing it.
Elura Nanos, in a editorial over at Law & Crime, illustrates the absurdity of this by examining how it would apply to literally any other law enforcement official in the country:
“By this reasoning, a police chief under investigation for committing murder would be within his rights to evade the law at all costs by virtue of his authority over police investigations generally. That logic wouldn’t work in the movies, and it doesn’t work in our government.”
This kind of tautological innocence plea is the last refuge of the irredeemably guilty. It’s one we’ve seen before, from another President, who was likewise unable and unwilling to admit that he’d betrayed the trust of the American people.
Tell Congress What You Think
Regardless of if the President can obstruct justice, the Congress has to decide if his attempts to do so constitute an impeachable offence. Until they do, it is unlikely that Mr Trump will be held to account on anything he has done or said. You can ask your Representative, Senators, Governor, or all of the above to speak out on this or any other issue by texting RESIST to 50409. Or, if SMS isn’t your style, you can contact your government by talking to Resistbot on Facebook Messenger, Telegram, or Twitter.