A proposal for a special presidential grand jury.
AG Must Recuse... Now
The report of Atty. Gen. Sessions engaging in conversations during the presidential campaign with the Russian Ambassador necessitates the AG’s immediate recusal from all investigative efforts to ascertain the truth of such reports, and now the veracity of the Attorney General, himself. Coming so quickly after similar reports that led to the resignation of Michael Flynn from the National Security Council, it is apparent that the very legitimacy of the Trump presidency has been put squarely in the dock.
Let me be clear: it is to prejudge matters to ask for Mr. Session’s resignation since unlike Mr. Flynn, he has not conceded that the conversations related to the election.
Let me be equally clear: it is to prejudge matters to declare that President Trump should resign or that he has committed an impeachable offense. What is now apparent, however, is that it is far from facetious, and not at all partisan, to concede the necessity of definitively ascertaining what contacts, if any, candidate Trump had with Russian nationals who were seeking to undermine the integrity of the national election with stolen, hacked materials.
Not A Challenge To The President’s Agenda
The President and his closest advisers sometimes give the impression that these serious matters of law can be avoided because the President is well-intentioned and has some considerable popularity and support for aspects of his policy agenda.
Mr. President, that is not an acceptable deal. The integrity of the American government and its constitutional commitment to the rule of law are not for sale.
An Independent Investigation Is In Everyone’s Best Interest
The President should not resist an objective investigation of these matters. Indeed, he should welcome it. As I’ve written before, it is respectful of the voters who gave their confidence to Mr. Trump, and it is in his personal interest, that the dark clouds of Russian influence over his presidency be removed. Every day that the President fails to see the necessity for a thorough, nonpartisan examination of these issues is a wasted day for his presidency and those who still have great hope for it.
The Presidential Grand Jury
Realistically, a special counsel is needed, but even more. As I have noted earlier, there is no existing special counsel statute any longer that allows for judicial appointment. The statute that existed in the Clinton era has expired. Nor can the House and Senate intelligence committees free themselves from partisan taint and assemble the needed investigative effort. No, what is needed is a panel of equal stature to the office that would have immediate credibility.
To respect the stature of the office, a special presidential grand jury should be formed consisting of the former living presidents of the United States. This presidential grand jury should have every legislative and executive investigative tool at its disposal and set as its objective making a recommendation as the evidence warrants: either a recommendation of impeachment and prosecution, or a recommendation of the opposite, and those recommendations should be given within a short time certain.
The special presidential grand jury has obvious credibility, but it also has the utility of allowing the President and the Congress to go on with much needed legislative and executive work that should not be set aside or delayed. With the special presidential grand jury in place, President Trump can rightly decline to make any public statements about the nature of the investigation and he can insist that there is no reason to defer the public’s business, who obviously went to the polls in November 2016 with the objective of getting the business of government done more effectively than it had been over the last eight years of executive-legislative paralysis.
Ends Cannot Justify Means When The Rule Of Law Is At Stake
Unfortunately, the Trump administration does from time to time manifest the view that the ends justify the means. In many ways, that might be said to be the Trump phenomenon at its core, and this past week has been a microcosm exhibiting that modus operandi. President Trump made a credible, some would say elegant, presentation to Congress of his policy agenda, but then wrongly assumed that those raising concern over Mr. Session’s testimony were simply his policy opponents. That is incorrect. Mr. Trump may have succeeded in making “deals” to achieve Electoral College victory, but the same deal making should not be thought available in the governance of the country.
Evangelicals and Catholics could and did look past Mr. Trump’s moral and character failings in exchange for a desirable Supreme Court nominee.
The working poor accepted Mr. Trump as their standard-bearer even though that requires ignoring the fact that Mr. Trump lacks their life experience, and until this election, seldom manifested the genuine empathy needed to understand what it means to be left out of the American dream.
The long-term unemployed and deeply frustrated under-employed accepted Mr. Trump’s peculiar bull-in-the-china-shop method in exchange for daydreams of the good old days ― not only restoring old industry manufacturing jobs, but somehow immunizing America from the efficiencies and competition of globalization.
Families overwhelmed by increasing costs of medical care and the bewilderingly complex and increasingly unworkable Obamacare nervously consent to exchange that imperfect plan for an alternative yet to be disclosed, and likely yet to be devised.
Overlooking character flaws in exchange for desirable public policy is Faustian – that is, a deal with the devil because it accepts short-term gratification in exchange for long-term suffering.
It is one thing to accept those terms electorally, it is quite another to accept them as a matter of governance. End over means, loosely styled “America first” by the President, is destabilizing and dis-orienting in the world community and ultimately destructive of the Republic of the United States.
The five living former presidents represent both parties, but most importantly, they also represent that the most important function of the President of the United States is as the Constitution provides: “take care that the laws are faithfully executed.”