Tag Archives: obstruction of justice

Comment Of The Day: “Reluctant Additional Ethics Notes On A Manufactured Crisis: The Comey Firing Freakout”

With so much loose talk about impeachment going around (and by “loose” I mean “inexcusably ignorant”), texagg04’s review of the Constitutional standard for the removal of a President is a gift to readers of Ethics Alarms, and one of the most interesting and informative comments ever to appear here.

He was reacting to a New York Times op-ed, cited by another commenter,  by political scientist Greg Weiner (no relation) titled, “Impeachment’s Political Heart,” in which the author concluded,

“The question is by what standards they should conduct this work, and that question provides an opportunity to correct the mistaken assumption according to which presidents can forfeit the public trust only by committing what the law recognizes as a crime. That is a poor bar for a mature republic to set. It is not the one a newborn republic established. And that is why the idea that the conversation about impeachment is simply a political persecution of a man who is technically innocent of a literal crime not only jumps the investigatory gun. It misses the constitutional point.”

Having studied the issue myself, I immediately rejected Weiner’s analysis (which still is worth reading in its entirety) on the ground that a constantly evolving standard of what is a “high crime and misdemeanor” simply means that Presidents can be impeached for behaving, or governing, in ways that enough members of Congress, the news media and the public don’t like. That is what is being advocated now, and that approach would undermine our democracy, the power of elections, and the office of the President.

My gut response, however, is wan and insubstantial compared to tex’s masterful historical review and astute analysis, which (whew!) reaches a similar conclusion.

Here is texagg04’s fascinating Comment of the Day on the post, “Reluctant Additional Ethics Notes On A Manufactured “Crisis”: The Comey Firing Freakout”…I’ll have one brief comment afterwards:

[Weiner] is making an argument from the same source material I mentioned, chiefly the Federalist papers. I still haven’t found Madison’s own specific arguments regarding it, but I think the source is irrelevant as the body of work published by the Founders (“Federalist” and “Antifederalist” alike) should be read as a single work documenting an internal dialogue, to be used as clarification when and where the final adopted documents possibly contain ambiguity. This could very well be one of those cases. That being said, the body of work by the Founders which may aid in revealing their intent or at least how they believed their philosophy of our political system out to be enshrined in the constitution, isn’t the only body of work used to interpret their intent. There is precedence and tradition, which the author of this article disregards when he says “Our tendency to read the impeachment power in an overly legalistic way, which is ratified by 230 years of excessive timidity about its use, obscures the political rather than juridical nature of the device.”

He’s right in nothing but that many of the earliest drafts and proposed language of the impeachment standards were very vague, such as (not an exhaustive list):

Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Research and Scholarship

Ethical Quote Of The Month: Former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz

“If it was a polite request saying, ‘Oh, you know, he’s a good guy, Flynn, I wish you’d back off this thing,’ that’s not an obstruction of justice. If it was a command, it would raise stronger problems.”

—Retired Harvard law professor , Constitutional scholar, lawyer, liberal and CNN commentator Alan Dershowitz, trying to explain to MSNBC what “obstruction of justice” means.

I’ve never been a Dershowitz fan, but when the List of Shame is complied after the Post 2016 Election Ethics Train Wreck has finally ground to a halt, he’ll be on another list: the one containing those who maintained their integrity.

He needn’t have bothered: the news media/Democratic Party/ “resistance'” collective has already labelled James Comey’s so far only rumored “memo” recounting that the President asked the then-FBI Director, in a private meeting in February, to close the FBI investigation of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, proof of criminal motives and acts.

The New York Times learned of the memo from two people who claim they had read it. One of them read part of the memo to a Times journalist.  According to these unnamed sources’ description of the memo, Trump told Comey, “I hope you can let this go” in a meeting that took place the day after Flynn was forced to resign.

“I hope you can let this go” would be consistent with what Dershowitz, no Trump supporter but apparently yet to be infected with the integrity- and logic-destoying anti-Trump virus, accurately described as “not an obstruction of justice.”

The Times, however, a card-carrying member of the “overturn the election” cabal—we know this because it stated last August that defeating Trump justified tossing journalism ethics into the trash, and because since the election, its pages have from the book reviews to the op-ed pages have been filled anti-Trump propaganda—called Trump’s reported request “the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and FBI investigation” into links between Trump associates and Russia. This must mean that there is no evidence, at all, since saying “I hope you can let this go” is barely influence at all.

The news of the alleged memo was breathlessly hailed by the “Can we impeach him now?” fanatics, including some readers of this blog who should know better and once did, as a “bombshell.” As Alan Dershowitz dispassionately points out, and as I have in the comment threads, it’s no bombshell. This is not  remarkable observation; a New York Times contributor was even allowed to agree with Dershowitz. (The Times can’t completely commit to the lynch mob, for then its efforts to aid and abet would be less valuable. It’s quite a tightrope these people are walking….). Constitutional law prof Elizabeth Price Foley wrote, Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Literature, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Massachusetts State Rep Michelle DuBois (D-Plymouth)

What is the thinking of people like Massachusetts state rep Michelle DuBois, who authored the above Facebook post? Do they think? Can they think? Aiding an illegal immigrant in evading authorities is obstruction of justice. Do the Duboises of the world really and truly regard facilitating illegal immigration as the equivalent of participating in the Underground Railroad? How did they reach such a fdoolish, counter-factual and warped opinion? Yes, the ACLU comes very close to crossing the line with its published advice to illegals, but it doesn’t actively try to foil legal government action. Even sanctuary cities that pledge not to cooperate with ICE are not actively interfering with the agency, or so they can argue with varying persuasiveness.  Not DuBois, though. As a an elected legislator, she can pass laws, but she can’t declare those she doesn’t like null and void, and defy the rule of law in so doing.

This is obstructing justice. DuBois’s argument to the contrary was beyond disingenuous:

“Passing information along that is already all over the community not only lets the people I represent know what is happening. It lets ICE know that everyone in Brockton is aware of their intended raid if there was one.”

Oh, I see. She made everyone in Brockton aware of the ICE raid so ICE would know that all of Brockton was aware  of it!

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson referred to DuBois while testifying before lawmakers on Capitol Hill, saying, “This is the most outrageous, outrageous example of what’s going on across the United States that’s undermining my job and every other law enforcement officer in the United States.”

Dubois belongs right along side Oregon judge Monica Herranz, who allegedly allowed an illegal immigrant to slip out a back door to avoid ICE officials waiting for him, in a jail, awaiting trial. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Facebook, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President

Hillary Gets Caught In A (nother) Whopper

Why yes, this IS the thanks you get, General!

Why yes, this IS the thanks you get, General!

From the New York Times (Aug. 18):

Pressed by the F.B.I. about her email practices at the State Department, Hillary Clinton told investigators that former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell had advised her to use a personal email account.The account is included in the notes the Federal Bureau of Investigation handed over to Congress on Tuesday, relaying in detail the three-and-a-half-hour interview with Mrs. Clinton in early July that led to the decision by James B. Comey, the bureau’s director, not to pursue criminal charges against her.

From Page Six:

Colin Powell has broken his silence about his alleged involvement in the Hillary Clinton email scandal, saying her team is falsely trying to blame him.When asked by the FBI about her email use at the State Department, Clinton reportedly told investigators that former Secretary of State Powell had advised her to use a personal email account at a private dinner. But Powell, who had said last week in a statement that he had no recollection of the conversation, told Page Six at Saturday’s Apollo in the Hamptons event, “The truth is she was using it (her personal email) for a year before I sent her a memo telling her what I did [during my term as secretary of state]. “Her people have been trying to pin it on me.”

When asked why Clinton’s team were attempting to blame him, he responded, “Why do you think?”

Conclusion: Hillary Clinton lied to the F.B.I.

Ethics musings: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump, Workplace

Observations On The Donald Trump/ Russia/ Hacked E-Mails Story

Hillary Putin Trump

I swear I am  trying to post on interesting ethics issues that have nothing to do with Hillary, Donald, either party or  their hot-button issues. My issue scout Fred and others have sent me scores of topics that are waiting on the runway. Then things like this happen.

To catch you up: After Wikileaks released embarrassing e-mails, hacked from the DNC, showing collusion by the supposedly neutral arm of the Democratic Party to ensure the nomination for Hillary Clinton, Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook told  ABC’s “This Week,” “It’s troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.”

Then Trump said at a news conference in Florida, “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” the Republican nominee “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Immediately Democrats, partisan lawyers, left-wing pundits and Trump-haters flipped out. Carl Bernstein, the far left half of Woodward and Bernstein, said Trump’s comments were “disqualifying.” Others wrote that his comments were “treason” or “virtual treason.” Clinton senior policy advisor Jake Sullivan said, “This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent.”

Trump, predictably, said that he was being sarcastic.

Observations:

1. I trust that my disgust for Donald Trump, his values, his character and his candidacy have been clearly and thoroughly explained here, as they will continue to be. Nonetheless, basic ethics requires that he be treated fairly by the news media, and I will continue to point out the media’s bias against him, Republicans, and anyone standing in Hillary Clinton’s way as she attempts to corrupt the government and the culture by infecting both with her grubby ambition and dishonesty. This is one more episode of journalism bias in what will be a long, long trail leading right to election day.

2. The Democratic Party’s spin on the e-mail scandal is self-evidently desperate and misleading, not that this appears to discourage Clinton-supporters in the social media from adopting it. The central issue is what the hacked e-mails show, and what the DNC and the Clinton campaign did to rig the nomination. Mook’s deflection, which a fair and competent host would have immediately rejected (but George Stephanopoulos is a loyal former Clinton staffer and confidante with a conflict of interest), was a miserable, dishonest tactic. Naturally, it was quickly adopted by most of the party and its partisan journalist supporters. Sad, weak, Martin O’Malley  chimed in, Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Workplace

What Lawyers Can Teach Doctors About Ethics

So THAT'S why they wear masks!

So THAT’S why they wear masks!

Sandeep Jauhar is a cardiologist, the author of “Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician” and “Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation.”and a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times. He recently penned a column for the paper that raised concerns about threats to doctor-patient confidentiality, specifically from the case, in Washington state, of Volk v. DeMeerleer.

Howard Ashby, a psychiatrist, was sued after his patient, Jan DeMeerleer, shot and killed an ex-girlfriend and her 9-year-old son before shooting himself.  The estate of the victims, Rebecca and Phillip Schiering sued Dr. Ashby, alleging that he breached a duty to warn DeMeerleer’s victims even though the killer had made no specific threats toward the Schierings during his treatment.  Last year, however,  that judgment was reversed by an appeals court, which held that doctors could be required to warn “all foreseeable victims” of their potentially dangerous patients in their care.

It’s a terrible decision, and Jauhar does a good job explaining why. Unfortunately, he also writes this..

“I once took care of a business executive in the emergency room who had hired call girls during a weekend drug binge. When he saw a police officer outside his room, he quietly handed me an envelope containing a large amount of white powder. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I discarded it. For the next several hours the patient eyed me suspiciously, probably wondering whether I had ratted him out. But it never occurred to me to do so.”

Well, it should have. Confidentiality is one thing, assisting in a crime is another. The Hippocratic Oath says“What I may see or hear in the course of treatment, I will keep to myself.” That only means, however, that doctors who learn about criminal activity a patient may be involved in is bound not to report it (lawyers have the same obligation).  Jauhar did more than not report criminal activity; he participated in it. He crossed the line by disposing of contraband. Continue reading

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Filed under Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Observations On A Nashville Police Arrest Video

I encountered this video on CNN this morning:

Observations:

1. No police officers should have to work under these conditions. This requires courage and tolerance above what any professional should have to muster on a regular basis.

2. Every urban mayor, district attorney, police chief, civil rights advocate and journalist should be asked to comment on the video regarding the principles of respect, civic responsibility, and citizenship.

3. If the question is asked why crime rates are rising in several cities due to a cessation of proactive law-enforcement, this video is a nearly complete answer.

4. What prominent U.S. African American officials, leaders and celebrities are condemning this conduct by the friends of the individual being arrested, and conduct like it all over the nation? I haven’t seen or heard a single one.

5. Allowing this phenomenon to continue without addressing it directly is community malpractice, irresponsible, destructive, and almost certain to be deadly.

6. When such a situation escalates to violence, as this one easily could, who will be responsible, and who should be held responsible?

Discuss.

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