Is Mitch McConnell Above The Law?

After the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted against removing sanctions on Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska, Mitch McConnell and the Republican-led Senate approved the removal of sanctions which allowed the move suggested by the Treasury Department to take effect. Days later, Deripaska announced plans to build a $200 million aluminum plant in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky. McConnell personally lobbied for the vote indicating Deripaska and his children would not benefit personally while allowing for the “much needed” plant to be built.

In reality, Oleg Deripaska still owns 35% of the company building the plant. He got his percentage of stock owned below 50%, theoretically losing absolute control, by transferring $78 million in shares to a fund controlled by his children. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchen said Deripaska’s children would “in no way benefit from sanctions relief.

You may be familiar with the name Oleg Deripaska as it has come up often during the investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election and the trial of former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort. Deripaska associates received private internal polling data from the Trump campaign. Manafort also discussed the “Russian Peace Plan” with Deripaska which was all about removing sanctions on Russia, imposed for their interference in our elections.

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell has sole control over what measures are allowed votes in the Senate. He has routinely blocked bills passed in the House from being voted on that would have strengthened America’s efforts to resist Russian influence. McConnell has single-handedly left America possibly more vulnerable in 2020 than we were in 206. A recently released bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee said Russia hacked into state election systems in “all 50 states.” McConnell knows this and keeps change from happening.

McConnell and his family have also received significant financial support from China. The family of his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao owns a shipping company which does a lot of business with China. McConnell has received millions in gifts from his father-in-law along with large political contributions. That shipping company, The Foremost Group, has commitments for hundreds of millions in loans from a Chinese government-owned bank. McConnell said he was “proud to have had the support of my family over the years.”

“I’m proud to have had the support of my family over the years.”

McConnell’s has helped keep the heat off Russia before and since Trump’s election. He opposed President Obama making public the extent of Russian interference. He said he’d claim it was partisan. Since the election, he’s consistently called for the end of the investigation, joining the President in calling it a witch hunt and a hoax. McConnell is benefitting personally and politically from protecting Russia and China while they make moves to harm America. The Washington Post just published an opinion page saying Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset. On Twitter, he’s trending as, “Mitch McConnell is a Russian,” and “Moscow Mitch.”

The question is no longer whether McConnell is illegally profiting politically and personally from his ties to Russia and China, it’s what are we able to do about it?

It’s theoretically possible he could be expelled from the Senate with a two-thirds vote but that isn’t going to happen with this group of Republicans. Mitch has kept them from taking difficult votes and kept hope alive for their own re-elections. Like any other Federal official, he could be impeached by the House of Representatives and could be referred to that same reluctant Senate for a trial. Like dozens of Trump officials before him, McConnell could refuse to testify in any House proceedings and ignore subpoenas to appear. Even if the House impeached Mitch, this Senate would not convict.

Lastly, the FBI or some other arm of the Justice Dept. could arrest Mitch for any crimes uncovered. The Justice Department just announced it will not prosecute William Barr or Wilbur Ross on criminal contempt charges for failure to obey subpoenas. We can expect nothing different in the case of Mitch McConnell.

Unfortunately, the list of people apparently above the law is much longer than Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. The recent appearance of Special Counsel Robert Mueller before two House committees revealed several Trump administration officials and family members lied to the FBI (a felony) and are going unpunished. The only remedy likely to get results is a Hong Kong-like revolt of the people marching in the streets. Until then, Mitch is safe from everyone but the voters. We can only hope.

Impeachment or Indictment? That is the Question.

Each day, new revelations reveal the depths of depravity of the Trump campaign, administration, family, and the President himself. What is also apparent is that in every instance reported by the media, Special Counsel Robert Mueller already knew and has known for some time. The final report when issued will be damning, incriminating and it will be clear to the majority of Americans that it’s time for him to go. The question will be, how to proceed?

The two primary options, excluding the unlikely scenario of Trump’s Cabinet committing mutiny and conspiring with VP Mike Pence to remove him for being unfit mentally or physically, is to have him indicted in criminal court or impeached by Congress.

There is an open-ended legal question as to whether a sitting President can be indicted. The issue has never been settled by the Supreme Court, nor is it delineated in the Constitution. There are two Department of Justice findings suggesting it shouldn’t be done but neither carry any legal weight, they are simply Justice Department rules. Filing an indictment will generate a round of appeals as to whether the indictments themselves are legal and the protracted court battle could last well past the President’s term in office, at which time any indictments could be filed without objection on those grounds.

Impeachment is a political process vs. a legal one. It depends on getting a majority of the House of Representatives to vote for impeachment, after which the Senate would conduct a trial, which would require a two-thirds vote to remove the President. Timing is critical as there would be a world of difference between Impeachment proceedings led by House Republicans as opposed to House Democrats if they regain control of the House, Under Republicans, they would draw up the Articles of Impeachment (what crimes will be considered) which would likely be narrow and limited. The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee would normally conduct the proceedings and could disallow certain areas of questioning as not being directly related to the Articles and could control witnesses testifying before the House. An attempt at Impeachment prior to the mid-term elections would likely face rejection unless the Mueller report is so compelling it cannot be denied. That won’t keep Devin Nunes, Mark Meadows, and others from attempting to reject the Mueller findings and blame some vast deep state conspiracy against Trump. Should Democrats take control of the House in November, Impeachment becomes much more likely but Democrats shouldn’t jump the gun and get ahead of the report from the Special Counsel.

Should the President be impeached; witnesses may be compelled to give testimony that might be excluded from a criminal trial. If the President is later indicted, that testimony could likely be used against the President and the possibility of a successful indictment leading to a guilty verdict intensifies if he were impeached first. Even an unsuccessful Impeachment will bear fruit in later criminal action taken against the President and those surrounding him.

Most importantly, the impeachment will be televised. Not only will America have the chance to hear first hand of Trump’s high crimes, misdemeanors, and moral failures. Each member of Congress will have to stand up and indicate whether they put Party before Country. They will either continue to protect someone that has literally sold out the nation, putting his personal interests and wealth before any consideration of the people. Or, our representatives will do the will of the people. Trump has not been able to do this alone; it took Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Devin Nunes, Mark Meadows, Lindsay Graham, and from time to time even John McCain who found mavericking a little too tough on some crucial votes. Like the village it takes to raise a child, it also took one to support a would-be dictator.

Indictments will still be there awaiting Trump when he finishes his term. In perhaps wishful thinking, I find it hard to believe our government will stand for allowing him to pardon himself. Criminal and civil actions will follow Trump the rest of his life and there is no one more deserving. For the moment, using the legal means of impeachment, we must rid ourselves of this menace before he does any more harm.