Trumps side should be heard before House moves on impeachment: Tom Campbell – LA Daily News

Posted: December 7, 2019 at 7:45 pm

Its a federal crime not only to give a bribe to a public official but for a public official to ask for one.

A public official who directly or indirectly demands [or] seeks anything of value personally for or because of any official act to be performed by such official is guilty under the law.

The public official does not actually have to receive the valuable at issue and does not actually have to withhold the official act. The crime is to ask for something of personal value in return for doing an official act.

President Trump has yet to present his defense to allegations of such bribery to the House of Representatives. Indeed, he has not yet been officially charged. The House Intelligence Committee cannot do that, only the House Judiciary Committee can. If Trump seeks to make a defense, it will be there.

Unlike the procedures of the Intelligence Committee, the procedures of the Judiciary Committee should allow Trump to put on his own witnesses, rebut witnesses against him and present a legal defense. Many members of Congress have already reached their conclusion regarding President Trump in the Ukraine matter. Whether for or against Trump now, each should reserve judgment until Trump makes his defense, and the Judiciary Committee should be generous in allowing him all the opportunity to do so he wishes.

Admittedly, Trump has not been forthcoming with regard to several key witnesses.

Trump has ordered members of his staff and administration not to testify to the Intelligence Committee. Perhaps he will also order them not to testify before the Judiciary Committee. However, until a court orders them to testify (as the Supreme Court ordered President Nixon to turn over evidence when he was under impeachment inquiry) and they refuse, it would be wrong to infer their testimony would support impeachment.

There are legitimate reasons for a president to want to shield conversations between himself and his closest advisors: most importantly, to permit a president to receive candid advice. By way of analogy, a newspaper might refuse to disclose its sources lest it chill others from providing information to the newspaper in the future, not necessarily because the newspapers sources would not back up what was published.

The House is evidently on a fast track, hoping to take an impeachment vote by years end. Far more important, however, is to make a correct decision than to make a fast decision.

How can a decision be reached about what President Trump sought from Ukraine, and in return for what official act, without hearing from John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, who talked directly with Trump? Bolton says hell willingly testify if a court rules that executive privilege does not prevent it. Mulvaney and Giuliani can be compelled to testify if a court overrules the executive privilege defense, although each might choose to plead the Fifth Amendment instead.

Courts can move quickly when the nations needs require it. The Supreme Court decided the Pentagon Papers case 12 days after the Nixon administration first went to federal district court to enjoin those documents publication. The legal issue today is important, but not complicated. Does the Supreme Courts unanimous 1974 decision that President Nixons claim of executive privilege had to give way to a criminal investigation apply as well to a claim of executive privilege in an impeachment inquiry?

The House leadership is thinking like a prosecutor instead of a branch of government engaged in the most serious inter-branch challenge under our Constitution. If a prosecutor can build a sufficient case against a suspected criminal without some piece of evidence difficult to obtain, the prosecutor will go ahead. In impeachment, however, the selection of a president is proposed to be set aside.

The House should learn what Trump told his budget chief, his national security advisor and his private diplomatic representative before deciding whether Trump withheld governmental action for personal benefit.

Tom Campbell is a professor of law and of economics at Chapman University. He served five terms in the House of Representatives, during which time he voted to impeach President Clinton for perjury. Campbell left the Republican Party in 2016, and is now the interim chairman of the Common Sense Party of California, which is gathering signatures to be officially recognized.

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Trumps side should be heard before House moves on impeachment: Tom Campbell - LA Daily News

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