By Richard Bleil
A few days ago, Bijan Rafekian, who worked with the president who worked with Michael Flynn was convicted of felony charges for failing to register as a foreign agent for work they did on behalf of the Turkish government in the final months of the previous presidential campaign. MIchael Flynn himself worked directly with the President as the National Security Adviser.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a political piece. Whose who read my work no doubt realize that I tend to lean liberal (at least by today’s standards), but hopefully, my intention of raising points to consider, rather than changing minds, is my goal. Today, there is much to consider.
This story has to go back quite a bit further, however. In his report, Robert Mueller (a Republican appointed by the President) cited multiple instances in which the current president allegedly attempted to, or did, obstruct justice. He, or someone on his orders, threatened, coached and bribed testimony throughout the investigation, and yet no charges were filed. I wasn’t really surprised by this; Mueller may have been doing the investigation, but investigators never charge. The charges have to come from another source. In most criminal cases, it’s the State Attorney’s Office that actually files the charges if they agree that there is sufficient evidence to move forward. But for the president, what did come out was rather interesting.
Nixon was impeached, but never indited. Admittedly he was pardoned by Ford once he left office, but the Office of Legal Council, an office of the Department of Justice, concluded in 1973 that a sitting president could not be indicted or criminally persecuted because it would undermine the executive branch. This long-standing policy (which is reasonable from the perspective of protecting the reputation of the country) came to light in the Mueller testimony (the first time).
The first point to think about is to consider this in the light of those who try to defend the president after the Mueller report. Many people, and even the President himself, argued that the report exonerated the president because no charges were brought. Well, first of all, no, it did not exonerate him as these instances were plainly described in the report for anybody who actually read it or the appropriate excerpts that were provided. But, more importantly, any claims of exoneration is automatically negated by the fact that the DOJ has a standing policy that it will not charge a sitting president regardless of the findings.
This is kind of a paradigm shift from the current political discussion. Once it becomes clear that the the president cannot be charged, then the discussion of guilt or innocence becomes irrelevant, at least until the presidency ends. It’s like trying to decide the yacht to buy when you have seventeen dollars and twenty-two cents to your name.
This being the case the indictments around the president take on a new level of relevance. The president cannot be charged, but when those around him are, it has to raise serious concerns in the minds of those who are willing to ask the question. Bijon Rafiekian has been found guilty of acting as a foreign agent while a member of the presidential transition team. The voice whispering in our president’s ear was tainted by a foreign government. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was found guilty of obstruction of justice. Paul Manifort pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the US and obstruction of justice. Trump’s campaign aid Richard Gates pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Michael Flynn pleased guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with working with Moscow’s ambassador a month before the Trump inauguration. George Papadopoulos, Trump’s previous foreign-policy adviser pleased guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with his contacts with people tied to the Kremlin. Consultant W. Samuel Patten pleased guilty to working as a lobbyist for the Ukraine. These are just the guilty pleas; more indictments are pending, including Roger Stone, Konstantin Kilimink, and multiple Russian agents and employees of the Internet Research Agency and more.
I don’t play sports, but I do enjoy a good game of chess. It’s really an interesting game; the key piece is the King, although it is not the most powerful. The Queen is by far the most powerful piece, but the rook, to a lesser extent the bishops, and for their cunning the knights are all far more powerful than the king. It’s not uncommon in these games to employ a strategy where the goal is to isolate the king, removing the most powerful pieces on the board so as to leave the king largely without protection. What is happening in today’s politics is strikingly reminiscent of this chess strategy. The indictments are getting closer and closer to the king, but even in chess, the king can never be truly captured. The game is over when no doubt remains.