Some legal infractions are straight-forward. Speeding — there is empirical evidence that the vehicle which you were driving was moving at 63 miles per hour. The posted speed limit for the road, again empirical evidence, is 45. The line of questioning in this case may be “Were you speeding?”. It’s a lot quicker than asking what speed you were travelling, what the speed limit is on the road, and if your speed exceeded that limit.
Many infractions are not this distinct. Driving too fast for road conditions — that’s a matter of opinion. In fact, a decent argument could be made that someone involved in *most* traffic accidents was driving too fast for road conditions. I had a friend wipe out his motorbike on highway gravel. He was abraded but fine. A cop drove by as he was righting his motorbike, and stopped to help. Eighteen year old kid with a grudge against pretty much everyone mouthed off to the cop sufficiently to be cited for driving too fast for road conditions. Because gravel? That’s a road condition.
Collusion and obstruction of justice both fall into the “not clear cut” category. An unemployed guy notices a business district has a problem with vandalism and offers to patrol the street from 8p-6a for ten dollars an hour because they seem to have a vandal problem. That’s not extortion or racketeering — that’s someone who needs work offering to provide a service someone else needs. An unemployed guy starts vandalizing the business district, then offers to patrol the street from 8p-6a for ten dollars an hour because they seem to have a vandal problem … that’s a protection racket. The prosecution may not directly ask “are you running a protection racket?”. They could delve into how the guy noticed the vandalism problem on multiple occasions, ask questions show how desperate he was for money, ask the guy where he was during the vandalism. That line of questioning doesn’t mean the prosecution doesn’t think he’s running a protection racket. It means they’re asking questions that address all of what differentiates the perfectly innocent first scenario from the criminal second scenario.
In the NYTimes list of questions Mueller is said to have for Trump, there’s a whole section titled “Campaign Coordination With Russia”. Surely not Mueller’s title, but how can anyone reading this list say there are “no questions on collusion”? Because the word doesn’t literally appear!?!
Anyone else glad the head of the Executive Office of the United States has such a firm grasp on the law?
Obstruction of justice is corrupt interference in the proceedings or people serving at a proceeding from doing his duty. Nowhere in the US Code does it say “assuming, of course, the proceeding leads to a conviction”. If you are found guilty of a crime you didn’t commit, sentenced to five years in jail, escape jail, are subsequently found to be innocent and your initial conviction vacated … you can still be charged with escaping jail and sentenced to jail time for the offense. Now you might get time served, or a reduced sentence … but you still committed the crime of escaping the jail when incarcerated. Same deal-e-o here. If I didn’t commit a crime but was being investigated, and tried to influence witnesses or stop police from investigating the non-crime … that is a crime.
18 U.S.C. § 1503: “Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, endeavors to influence, intimidate, or impede any grand or petit juror, or officer in or of any court of the United States, or officer who may be serving at any examination or other proceeding before any United States magistrate judge or other committing magistrate, in the discharge of his duty, or injures any such grand or petit juror in his person or property on account of any verdict or indictment assented to by him, or on account of his being or having been such juror, or injures any such officer, magistrate judge, or other committing magistrate in his person or property on account of the performance of his official duties, or corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b). If the offense under this section occurs in connection with a trial of a criminal case, and the act in violation of this section involves the threat of physical force or physical force, the maximum term of imprisonment which may be imposed for the offense shall be the higher of that otherwise provided by law or the maximum term that could have been imposed for any offense charged in such case.”
There have been a couple of recent articles that highlight how very similar the opposition party’s view of Trump and Obama actually are (although the articles seek to highlight the hypocrisy of objecting to behavior in which you engaged just last year). To some degree, I understand — if I think my position on an issue is the only good, upstanding, moral, godly position … there’s no compromising, the other side is not only WRONG but an immoral force looking to corrupt others. And it’s a logical conclusion that the figurehead of the immoral force is going to be vilified. I didn’t really understand it with Clinton – right-leaning friends acted like the chap had personally offended them. But it’s something that made sense to me with Bush 43. Invading a foreign country on flimsy evidence (that turned out to be wrong) was offensive to me. Maybe not immediately personal as I couldn’t be drafted … but friends getting called back into service because of linguistic skills or SIGINT training is personal. Wasting the country’s money, farther destabilizing a region … and doing so in my name was offensive. Trying to privatize social security was personally offensive (and created my retirement plan of “if social security actually pays out, there’s extra mad money for you”) and impersonally offensive (the government program enacted due in no small part due to the Great Depression and associated stock market collapse was going to allow people to invest money in the stock market because you could make more money that way?!? Seriously, consult big huge event that led to the program in the first place. Then repeat your idea.). I tried to keep this in mind when Obama encountered the immovable Republican congress. No, I don’t understand why getting rid of preexisting condition exceptions is controversial – and I understand why no for-profit business is going to be willing to operate if they have to cover your sudden (and expensive) illness but you don’t have to buy their coverage until you get your diagnosis. And I really don’t get why Republicans who advocated for a lot of the components of the plan suddenly deemed it anathema … except that the figurehead of the opposition is so vile that anything they support must be somehow wrong.
And now those same people think left-wing opponents treat Trump cruelly, use parliamentary machinations to block vital legislation … the people who did exactly that to Obama … don’t see it as the same thing because it IS different to them. A bit like vilifying Pol Pot and then vilifying Mother Theresa. One of them deserves it.
A friend of mine had a thread on Facebook denouncing moral relativism … but moral relativism is what you need to address these situations. Yes, your morals say X is completely wrong. But someone else’s morals say X is the only reasonable course of action … and neither set of morals are wrong. They are just different. Maybe the hope is that the opposing party will just run out of members and lose power forever. Doesn’t seem likely. The alternative is that we have a government vacillating between positions as different parties are elected. There would essentially be a set of laws enacted on day 1 for Republicans that gets completely supplanted with an alternate set of laws enacted on day 1 for Democrats. Long term business planning would be neigh impossible — who knows which set of laws will be in place two years from now! You’d have to develop a business that could comply with either or two different business plans. Even managing your own home would get silly — I want to install solar, but I need to wait until the Democrats come back into office so financial incentives are restored. Want to buy a big gas guzzling vehicle? Better wait until the Republicans are back to suspend fleet fuel economy requirements.
And if we’re going to have a set of laws that essentially ignores the minority (remember majority rule, minority rights … won’t have that anymore) … then we should go farther than what this silly compromise stuff has given us. In R terms, our SS contributions will go into stock funds. Then in D terms, we’ll be buying government bonds. During R terms, you’ll get vouchers and pick whatever school you are willing to drive your kid over to. During D terms, anyone who didn’t pick (a) their local district or (b) a private school they can afford anyway will transfer their kid to the local district. Reductio ad absurdum.