John Colson: Presidents are not above the law, ever

John Colson
Hit & Run

If it wasn’t an open, oozing sore in our body politic before this, the current administration’s position that President Donald J. Trump is above the law and can do anything he damn well pleases is now in full, putrescent view for all the world to see.

Over the weekend, The New York Times reported on a memo sent by the Trump legal team to special prosecutor Robert Mueller, outlining the incredible belief among the mouthpieces that Trump has the power to pardon himself, should Mueller conclude that the president has engaged in illegal actions.

I need to point out that Trump’s current and loudest defender is the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, who is perfect for the job — neither man would recognize the truth if it ran him down in the street — though Giuliani was not on the team when the memo was sent in January.

Giuliani has, however, boisterously added his endorsement to the ideas expressed in the memo, which include a conclusion that the president is the head of government, including the justice department, and as such can block any action by the government in any direction, shut down any investigation and pardon himself should he be indicted for his acts.

As you may know, Giuliani is the man who, as a hired legal gun more than a decade ago, got rich by fending off attacks against Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin, the national scourge at the heart of the current “opioid epidemic.”

That’s right, Giuliani performed the very same kind of chores for Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Connecticut (not the chicken maker; that’s Purdue Farms from Maryland, though you could be forgiven for confusing the two) as notorious fixer and attorney Michael Cohen has been doing for years for Donald Trump.

What Giuliani did, essentially, was trade on his fame hangover from the 9/11 bombing of New York to distract lawmakers and prosecutors from coming down hard on Purdue Pharma for its misleading advertising and marketing games about the drug that everyone now cites as pharmaceutical public enemy No. 1.

This happened after prosecutors obtained guilty pleas from three Purdue Pharma executives concerning the firm’s manically aggressive marketing and promotional work starting in the mid-1990s, and exacted fines and other financial punishments worth more than $630 million, according to published accounts about 11 years ago.

But Giuliani managed to hold back the tide of prosecutorial blame, which permitted Purdue Pharma to keep pushing its pills and led directly to an overperscribing mania among doctors, hospitals and even school nurses. That’s how the drug, Oxycontin, ended up as a nearly ubiquitous presence in the schools, on the streets and in the homes of Americans seeking a way out of everything from pain to boredom.

When Trump and company get all wanky and self-righteous on us about their determination to stamp out the opioid crisis, it’s good to keep in mind that one of the chief enablers in the early years of this horrible addiction wave was none other than good ol’ Rudy the G.

And now, as he glides through life on the millions he earned as consigliere for the drug maker, Giuliani is determined to engineer the same kind of a prosecutorial pass for his current biggest legal client, the president of the United States.

One of the key issues facing the president is whether he has actively pursued obstruction of justice in all of his dodging, weaving and lying about some of the things he either has done or condoned.

For example, do you remember that Donny Trump Jr. was working with alleged Russian spies to obtain dirt on Hilary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race?

And do you recall that, when the president realized his son had been laid open to possible prosecution over a meeting with Russian meddlers in the election, he reportedly sat down at a table on Air Force One and wrote a memo claiming that Donny’s meetings with the Russians really were just about the issue of American adoptions of Russian babies, not about Hillary at all.

Don Jr. used that letter to absolve himself of any guilt in regards to the meeting with the Russians, and Don Sr. has said time and again he had nothing to do with drafting the letter, or with handing it off to his son as a way of getting out of hot water.

Trump, according to reports, recently has admitted that he wrote that letter, never mind the denials that came from his mouth and those of his lawyers in the intervening months.

If that’s not obstruction of justice, then nothing is.

Or take the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, which Trump equivocated about in a number of ways before admitting to a TV reporter that it really was an attempt to undermine the growing probe into Russian electoral interference.

Once again, it seems Trump has been busy building a textbook example of obstruction, while at the same time insisting he cannot be prosecuted for it.

Since when have presidents of this country been above the law?

Richard Nixon was forced to resign in the 1970s rather than face impeachment over his Watergate crimes, which focused on charges of obstruction of justice.

Bill Clinton actually was impeached when he lied about the Monica Lewinsky affair, in a highly partisan move by his detractors at the House of Representatives in 1998, but was saved from being bounced out of office when the Senate did not vote to convict him.

They were not above the law, and neither is Trump.

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