Trump’s ‘absolute right’ and the Russian investigation

The Mueller investigation into possible interference in the US election in 2016 continues, as does denials and diversions by Donald Trump and his legal team. Trump’s assertion of absolute power has raised further concerns. They may or may not be seriously suggesting Trump would pardon himself, but it is further muddying and murking the issue.

NY Times: Trump and His Lawyers Embrace a Vision of Vast Executive Power

President Trump, ramping up his assertions of extraordinary powers, declared in a tweet on Monday that he had “the absolute right” to pardon himself for any crime.

While no president has ever attempted to pardon himself, and it is not clear whether Mr. Trump could legitimately take such a step, the president’s claim was the latest in an aggressive series of moves to assert his control over federal law enforcement.

Last month, Mr. Trump crossed a traditional line by ordering an investigation into the Russia investigators. And late last year he boasted he has “an absolute right to do what I want to with the Justice Department.”

The president has had help in shaping his expansive view of his authority: For at least a year, his lawyers in the investigation into whether he tried to obstruct the Russia inquiry have been advising the president that he wields sweeping constitutional powers to impede investigations no matter his motive — and despite obstruction-of-justice laws that everyone else must obey.

Meanwhile a pardon is being sought for one of those already arrested.

The Hill: Papadopoulos’s wife asks Trump to pardon her husband in Mueller probe

The wife of former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos on Monday appealed to President Trump to pardon her husband, who pleaded guilty last year in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson that her husband was “dedicated and committed” to the Trump campaign. She said his “freedom is challenged” after he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI last October amid the probe into Russia’s election interference.

“So I trust and hope and ask to President Trump to pardon him. I hope he will,” she said.

It would not only raise legal and constitutional eyebrows if Papadopoulos was pardoned given Trump’s dumping him under a bus last November:

Papadopoulos is one of at least four former Trump associates to plead guilty or be indicted as part of Mueller’s probe.The White House denied in March that it was considering pardons for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort or former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who were both implicated in Mueller’s investigation.

Meanwhile things look murkier for Manafort.

CBS News: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team accuses Paul Manafort of witness tampering

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort made several attempts to tamper with witnesses in his ongoing criminal cases, prosecutors said Monday. They have also asked a federal judge to consider revoking his house arrest.

In a court filing, prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller wrote that Manafort and one of his associates “repeatedly” contacted two witnesses in an effort to influence their testimony. The contacts occurred earlier this year, shortly after a grand jury returned a new indictment against Manafort and while he was confined to his home.

“Manafort’s obstructive conduct … instills little confidence that restrictions short of detention will assure Manafort’s compliance with the court’s orders and prevent him from committing further crimes,” the filing states.

According to the court filing, Manafort began messaging and calling one of the witnesses in February shortly after a federal grand jury in Washington returned a superseding indictment against him that included allegations of unregistered lobbying related to the Hapsburg Group.

Manafort messaged and called one of the witnesses the day after his co-defendant and business partner, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty and continued reaching out over the next several days, according to a sworn affidavit filed by an FBI agent in the case.

It wouldn’t be a good look pardoning obstruction of justice.

It’s odd that the issue of self-pardoning has come up – if he has done nothing wrong there would be nothing to pardon.

I would have thought that if Trump was really innocent of collusion as he claims he would welcome the Mueller investigation clearing things up.

Absolute Power, Hollow Men and authors

I found a post on Kiwiblog on a review of Ian Wishart’s Absolute Power (on Helen Clark). This is from 2008 but has some relevance now in relation to Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics.

Farrar posted Review of Absolute Power.

Ian Llewellyn of NZPA has done a review of the Helen Clark biography “Absolute Power” by Ian Wishart. It’s a fair and balanced review in my opinion.

From the review:

The book, released last week, is a collection of articles which attempt to prove Wishart’s thesis that the current Government is corrupt and Prime Minister Helen Clark entered Parliament under false pretences to push a hidden agenda.

The book is similar in many ways to Nicky Hager’s book The Hollow Men, and they share many of the same strengths as well as flaws.

They also both reveal as much as about the author’s world view as they do about their subjects.

Both gathered exhaustive (and in places exhausting) material and did meticulous research, but the impression is the evidence has been gathered and presented to reach a pre-determined position.

In Hager’s case it was that National was controlled and driven by dark forces ranging from big business, the religious right and foreign interests.

Wishart aims at the other end of the political spectrum and sees Miss Clark as someone who would do anything to get into power and do anything to hold on to it, all in order to push a hidden feminist, socialist agenda on an unsuspecting New Zealand.

It is unclear whether political blindness or naivety colours both authors’ views as they often see quite ordinary political processes as something far more sinister.

In Hager’s case, the lobbying of big business and internal caucus power struggles were proof of conspiracy. …

The fact that people join or lobby political parties to push a view that they believe is a better way for the world seems to be lost upon both authors.

Much of the book is spent on Wishart’s arguments over whether it is ethical to get into the personal lives of politicians.

He concludes that it is necessary to expose hypocrisy.

Some of the material is an interesting take on political events, such as the downfall of former police commissioner Peter Doone and similar events.

It also documents the habit of many politicians to say one thing in opposition and another in government.

Wishart believes his book portrays a pattern of behaviour that makes Labour and Miss Clark unfit to hold office.

For his followers and those who dislike the current administration, the book will be a gospel.

Miss Clark’s supporters will dismiss it as the ravings of an obsessed individual.

The vast majority of the population will simply not care either way as they accept things are not black and white; instead there are many shades of grey.

Most people accept that others are prone to make mistakes and get things wrong, as much as they get things right.

In the end Absolute Power is not Absolute Gospel, but neither is it entirely Absolute Nonsense.

Farrar’s responses:

 Ian Wishart didn’t just form a view as he started to put his book together that Helen Clark was no good – he has been of that view for some time.

I can’t agree too strongly here. Hager would have you believe that every business donor and supporter is motivated by self interest and greed, rather than a genuine belief in their views and policies being best for NZ. Likewise Wishart does fall down when he reads too much into fairly predictable stuff such as the PMs Office not being very helpful too him.

This is not to say that Wishart’s compilation of all the scandals under Clark is not valuable. People have become so used to them, they hardly register now, and the one thing they all have in common is that in almost every case Clark or her coterie lied and covered up – from paintergate to corngate to speedgate (yes I know all those gates sound lame but they make for easy reference) to doongate.

NZPA should be congratulated for doing a review of the book, rather than just ignore it. I suspect those on the left will not like the comparisons to Hager’s book (which is treated like the Koran by some Labour Ministers as they refer to it daily), but likewise some on the right will not like the dismissal of much of the book as reading too much into everyday politics.

Books that attack parties in power will always be controversial.