President Trump remembered this week (as he does periodically) how much he enjoys his pardon power. As with previous waves of pardons and commutations, he has shied away from using them in the specific cases where he feels like the victim of a witch hunt. So: no pardon for Paul Manafort or Roger Stone or Michael Flynn, but President Trump found sort of similar cases of wealthy and connected people who, well, did they really deserve what came to them? Josh Barro and Ken White discuss the pardons and the fates of Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Andrew McCabe, Michael Avenatti and more in this special live episode of All The President’s Lawyers.
The post-acquittal flex
President Trump raged against prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone. Then the Department of Justice reduced the recommendation and the four prosecutors who made the original recommendation have withdrawn (one quit the DOJ). Is there a limit on the president’s power now that Attorney General Barr seems to be stepping in to support the president protecting his allies and going after his enemies? There may be theoretical limits, but it seems there aren’t really any practical limits.
Federal prosecutors have a lot of power in recommending sentences, but of course, that doesn’t mean the actual sentence will be anywhere close to the recommendation. A lot can happen. The original recommendation for Roger Stone (7-9 years) seemed high and notably reasonable, but it was always unlikely (and still is) that Long Suffering Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson would give Stone that sentence. Ken says Trump and Barr’s interference in Stone’s sentencing is a gratuitous flex.
And what about Michael Flynn? Even before Trump started weighing in, the Flynn sentencing had gone off the rails. Plus: the Vindmans are removed from the White House, DOJ sets up a way to review what info Rudy brings in, and Republicans get financial documents on Hunter Biden while Democrats still can’t get Trump’s tax returns.
Impeachment, the centerpiece of President Trump’s legal problems, is wrapping up. But the House will continue to investigate him on various fronts. There is ongoing litigation over efforts to obtain his financial records. The House could also try to subpoena John Bolton, even though the Senate declined to. And what’s the deal with Trump’s Department of Justice making arguments about remedies for disobeying subpoenas that are the exact opposite of his impeachment defense team? What’s next?
Plus: Roger Stone’s sentencing approaches and the public (including Randy Credico) weighs in; prosecutors retreat from recommending prison time for Michael Flynn; Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas have a trial date, just weeks before the general election; and E. Jean Carroll seeks the president’s DNA.
All about Bolton
The president’s legal defense team made their opening statements and now we’re in the phase where senators can submit questions to the House impeachment managers and the lawyers. But the biggest developments in the trial have arguably occurred outside the Senate chamber. The New York Times reported on the contents of former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming book. Among other claims, the book says President Trump told Bolton he wanted military aid to Ukraine withheld until Ukraine probed Joe and Hunter Biden — in other words, the quid pro quo. There will be a vote soon about witnesses in the Senate trial. Is this trial incomplete without John Bolton’s testimony? Also: why doesn’t John Bolton just...talk?
Do Republicans really believe that the president should only be accountable to the voting public and the only way to remove a president is to vote them out of office? That seems to be what they are arguing. Alan Dershowitz has made some broad statements about presidential power this week, namely, that if the president believes his re-election is in the public interest, a quid pro quo done to win re-election isn’t impeachable. Wow.
Also, is Rudy Giuliani a good podcast host?
The Senate trial begins
It looks like the House managers and the president’s legal team are going for different audiences in their opening statements, and neither seems to be speaking to the audience of senators in front of them. Ken and Josh discuss the tone and strategy so far, and whether it seems like this impeachment trial will be conducted very differently from the Clinton impeachment.
Both sides are taking partisan shots and were admonished by Chief Justice Roberts late in the first night, but White House counsel Pat Cipollone lied about Republicans not being allowed into the SCIF. Should Cipollone be allowed to do that in this arena? Should we be expecting a really partisan impeachment? (Yes. Plus, nastiness, bitterness and some harsh stuff.)
Then: Lev Parnas is kinda acting like Michael Cohen. Is he cooperating or not? Michael Avenatti’s troubles continue. And Tulsi Gabbard is suing Hilary Clinton for defamation.