A day that will live in infamy

The Times leans back and puts its feet up and swirls the ice cubes around in its glass of bourbon, and drawls comfortably that the legal thinking on whether Trump can pardon himself isn’t quite as simple as he thinks.

President Trump declared Monday that the appointment of the special counsel in the Russia investigation is “totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” and asserted that he has the power to pardon himself, raising the prospect that he might take extraordinary action to immunize himself from the ongoing probe.

Yes but that’s not the only prospect that extraordinary assertion raises. It also raises the prospect that he thinks he can do anything at all with impunity. Why should we assume that Trump is thinking only about the Mueller investigation here?

In a pair of early-morning tweets, Mr. Trump suggested that he would not have to pardon himself because he had “done nothing wrong.” But he insisted that “numerous legal scholars” have concluded that he has the absolute right to do so, a claim that vastly overstates the legal thinking on the issue.

No shit, but the point is, it’s what he’s claiming right now, and he could act on it in all sorts of terrible ways. We seem to be paralyzed to stop him.

Monday’s tweets by the president went further than before in attempting to undermine the legal basis for the investigation into whether people on Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian meddling during the election, and whether anyone in the administration tried to cover up their activities.

The president’s assertions came in tweets just a day after Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of his lawyers, told HuffPost that Mr. Trump is essentially immune from prosecution while in office, and could even have shot the former F.B.I. director without risking indictment while he was president.

I doubt that Giuliani really does think that – my guess is that that’s just his re-wording of the reality that Republicans are in the majority in both houses and will never do anything to stop Trump.

Mr. Giuliani also said over the weekend that the president “probably” has the power to pardon himself, but said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it would be “unthinkable” for him to do so.

Doing so, Mr. Giuliani said, would “lead to probably an immediate impeachment,” adding that he “has no need to do that. He didn’t do anything wrong.”

Well I tell you what, I hope Giuliani hustled his ass right over to the Oval Office this morning to explain to Trump that if he did “pardon himself” he would be instantly impeached, because Trump didn’t mention that part in his I Am Dictator tweet.

Mr. Trump’s statement about pardons on Twitter went further than Mr. Giuliani and raises the prospect that the president might try to test the limits of his pardon power if Mr. Mueller, tried to indict him for obstruction of justice in the case.

Or for any other reason that pops into his rotting head.

The comments by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani about the legal limits of presidential power follow a report in The New York Times that the president’s lawyers had authored a 20-page memorandum in January arguing that Mr. Trump could “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon.”

In the memo, sent to Mr. Mueller’s office in January, the president’s legal team said that the president cannot, by definition, illegally obstruct any part of the Russia probe because the Constitution gives him the power to end it in the first place.

Lawyers are supposed to do what it takes to defend their client…but surely they are also supposed to respect and protect the rule of law? Surely they shouldn’t be trying to make it legal doctrine that presidents can flout the law with impunity? Surely they know presidents swear a fucking oath to protect and defend the Constitution?

I just can’t believe what we’re seeing here. Watergate was bad enough, but this is Watergate with the criminals winning.

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