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Lindsey Graham's disturbing comments about investigating Biden

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Retired Brig. Gen. Peter Zwack talks to CNN's Brooke Baldwin about Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) recent appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Posted: Feb 10, 2020 10:50 PM
Updated: Feb 10, 2020 10:50 PM

Sen. Lindsey Graham stated on CBS News on Sunday morning that Attorney General William Barr has set up a mechanism to receive purportedly damaging information coming from Ukraine, via Rudy Giuliani, about former Vice President (and current Democratic presidential contender) Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Barr already has sacrificed his integrity and bent the law to do President Donald Trump's bidding, but this new arrangement, if true, with Trump's personal counsel would invite potential criminality right into the heart of the Justice Department. The Justice Department has not responded to confirm Graham's comments.

There would be so many things wrong with Barr granting VIP direct access to Giuliani that it's hard to know where to start.

First, Giuliani is treading in murky waters, at best, by continuing to solicit campaign dirt from foreign nationals to be used against Biden -- and now Barr reportedly has plunged himself and the Justice Department right into that same mire by openly accepting, and weaponizing, the anti-Biden (hence, pro-Trump) dirt that Giulani generates. The Senate did not convict Trump for his conduct toward Ukraine -- though even some of Trump's Republican defenders noted that his actions were inappropriate -- but it remains a federal crime to "solicit, accept, or receive" a campaign contribution or donation -- defined as "money or other thing of value" -- from a foreign national.

The Justice Department has, however, refused even to open an investigation of the efforts of Trump and his surrogates to gather (or generate) dirt from Ukrainians on the Bidens. The President has repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege that the Bidens acted improperly in Ukraine.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden. It is an unresolved legal issue whether election "dirt" qualifies legally as a thing of value, but former Federal Election Commission counsel Larry Noble argues persuasively that it should. It is wildly irresponsible for Barr to countenance and encourage such borderline (at best) and illegal (at worst) conduct.

Second, Barr, if the arrangement indeed exists, would once again reveal himself to be a spineless partisan, serving Trump's every political and personal desire. In the year he has spent in office as the nation's top prosecutor, Barr already has distorted in Trump's favor the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller; publicly echoed Trump's non-legal, campaign catch phrases like "no collusion" and that his campaign was subject to "spying"; and his DOJ tried to prevent the Ukraine whistleblower's complaint from going to Congress, as required by law.

Simply put, Barr has not taken a single move during his first year in office that would in any way undermine Trump's political wishes, but he has bent the law and common sense in Trump's favor at every turn.

Finally, let's not forget: Rudy Giuliani himself is reportedly under criminal and counterintelligence investigation by the Southern District of New York (which is part of the Justice Department). The arrangement Graham describes would present conflicts of interest in both directions.

Giuliani has every incentive to ingratiate himself with Barr by taking steps perceived as favorable to Barr or his benefactor, Trump. And, by giving Giuliani special access to the head of the Justice Department, Barr would be creating real questions about his impartiality in assessing a potential criminal charge against Giuliani. Beyond that, just as a basic matter of common sense: How smart would it be for an attorney general to open a direct line of communication with a potential counterintelligence threat?

Graham spoke of this new pipeline of information from Giuliani to Barr as if it was a good thing, as if it will somehow clean up corruption. That notion is laughable. If anything, the Giuliani-Barr connection itself would be a manifestation of the worst kind of corruption -- where the attorney general acts not as the top lawyer and prosecutor for the people of the United States, but rather as the President's most enthusiastic and unprincipled political cheerleader.

Now, your questions:

Dave (Minnesota): Is there double jeopardy in an impeachment? If new information comes to light, can Trump be impeached again?

Double jeopardy -- the principle that a person cannot be charged twice for the same offense -- applies to criminal charges but not to impeachment. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution provides that no person shall "be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." The phrase "life or limb" refers to physical punishment such as incarceration or execution. The penalty for impeachment -- removal from office -- is fundamentally different and does not qualify as loss of "life or limb."

While an official legally can be impeached more than once, there are political obstacles to a second impeachment. Impeachment is commonly seen as a politically divisive process. And, while Trump was the 20th American official to be impeached by the House, no American official ever has been impeached multiple times.

All things considered, there is virtually no chance the House impeaches Trump again based on the Ukraine scandal, even if new evidence emerges. If an entirely separate scandal should emerge at some point, a second impeachment could be more politically palatable, but still would be tempered politically by the fact that Trump already has been impeached, and acquitted, once.

Barbara (Michigan): Does the acquittal of President Trump mean that the President is above the law?

No, the acquittal of Trump does not place the President above the law, but it does fundamentally alter the balance of powers in favor of the presidency.

By constitutional design, impeachment is rare and conviction is rarer still. The Constitution permits impeachment only for "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors" and requires a supermajority two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict and remove. There has been, on average, fewer than one impeachment per decade over our history -- and only eight of the officials impeached have been tried and convicted.

The Trump impeachment has altered the balance of powers between the branches of government in two crucial respects. First, some of Trump's defenders, including several senators who voted to acquit, argued that Trump's conduct, even if wrong or improper, was not impeachable. While one impeachment is not legally binding on future impeachments, if the Trump standard is followed, it will become more difficult -- perhaps near impossible -- to impeach and remove an official based on abuse of power.

Second, Trump essentially got away consequence-free with defying all congressional subpoenas relating to the Mueller inquiry and the impeachment investigation and trial, making good on his public vow that "we're fighting all the subpoenas." White House counsel Pat Cipollone later openly defied Congress, writing to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Trump "reject[s] your baseless, unconstitutional efforts to overturn the democratic process" and would not comply with any requests for information.

So the bottom line, for now, is that the House served dozens of subpoenas; Trump defied every one of them; and with his acquittal there seems to be no negative consequence to that refusal. If that result stands, it will severely impair the ability of Congress to conduct oversight of the President and the executive branch. Congress still has the option to go to court to enforce future subpoenas should the administration continue to stonewall.

But unless and until the courts resolve the issue in favor of Congress, the executive branch has effectively diminished one of Congress's most important checks on the President.

Roger (Wisconsin): Was it a mistake for House Democrats to impeach Trump based on abuse of power, without a specific crime?

History and the law make clear that impeachment need not be based on a specific statutory crime. Indeed, federal officials have been impeached for noncriminal abuses of power or misconduct ranging from "favoritism" to "intoxication." The House was well within the law, therefore, to impeach Trump for two noncriminal acts: "Abuse of Power" (Article I) and "Obstruction of Congress (Article II).

The House did not need to -- but could have -- also impeached based on specific statutory crimes including bribery, extortion and solicitation of foreign election aid. House Democrats could have alleged these crimes as sub-parts of the abuse of power article of impeachment, or as separate articles after the abuse of power allegation.

We do not know precisely why House Democrats opted against alleging specific crimes. My best guess is they did not want to get drawn into a complex, legalistic debate about the nuances of the elements required to prove a statutory crime. Instead, they opted for the broader, more sweeping Abuse of Power allegation.

But by deciding not to allege specific crimes, House Democrats opened the door to the rhetorical argument that the impeachment was somehow lacking -- as Trump himself put it, "impeachment lite."

Trump's defense team amplified this theme during trial, arguing that in the absence of a criminal (or "criminal type") allegation, the impeachment must fail. Had House Democrats alleged specific crimes, they would have preempted this line of defense.

Three questions to watch:

1. Will the House subpoena John Bolton and other witnesses on the Ukraine scandal?

2. What will happen on the various emoluments clause lawsuits against President Trump, now that the DC Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in Trump's favor in one such suit?

3. Will President Trump seek retribution against other witnesses, beyond Lt. Col. Vindman and Ambassador Gordon Sondland?

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 612001

Reported Deaths: 7756
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1269201801
Ramsey53281911
Dakota47414477
Anoka43426465
Washington27780296
Stearns22738227
St. Louis18329319
Scott17747139
Wright16603153
Olmsted13567103
Sherburne1217096
Carver1078349
Clay830492
Rice8283112
Blue Earth772444
Crow Wing691299
Kandiyohi672285
Chisago629355
Otter Tail591987
Benton587798
Goodhue487274
Douglas480381
Mower478634
Winona465452
Itasca463768
Isanti447267
McLeod435861
Morrison429262
Beltrami411563
Nobles410950
Steele401619
Polk391272
Becker389957
Lyon366154
Carlton357158
Freeborn353134
Pine338123
Nicollet335045
Mille Lacs315756
Brown309140
Le Sueur301028
Todd289233
Cass288933
Meeker267344
Waseca241723
Martin237433
Roseau212721
Wabasha20873
Hubbard198741
Dodge19133
Renville184246
Redwood178741
Houston176016
Cottonwood168224
Wadena165223
Fillmore160110
Faribault157420
Chippewa154238
Pennington154120
Kanabec148028
Sibley147410
Aitkin140037
Watonwan13629
Rock129719
Jackson123112
Pipestone117226
Yellow Medicine115620
Pope11416
Swift107718
Murray107610
Koochiching96819
Stevens92611
Clearwater89517
Marshall89017
Lake85020
Wilkin84213
Lac qui Parle76222
Big Stone6114
Grant5958
Lincoln5863
Mahnomen5669
Norman5509
Kittson49222
Unassigned48393
Red Lake4037
Traverse3835
Lake of the Woods3504
Cook1740

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 376815

Reported Deaths: 6122
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk59215646
Linn21567342
Scott20530250
Black Hawk16850320
Woodbury15378230
Johnson1479586
Dubuque13627215
Dallas1150699
Pottawattamie11393177
Story1092548
Warren594392
Clinton565894
Cerro Gordo564898
Webster546397
Sioux520574
Muscatine4956106
Marshall493679
Des Moines481776
Jasper454273
Wapello4402124
Buena Vista432340
Plymouth405782
Lee396958
Marion372378
Henry301737
Jones301357
Bremer294663
Carroll287252
Boone273735
Crawford273541
Benton264255
Washington261051
Dickinson251145
Mahaska235151
Jackson225943
Kossuth222166
Clay217927
Tama213872
Delaware213343
Winneshiek201337
Buchanan197834
Page195722
Cedar194323
Hardin192544
Wright191240
Hamilton189251
Fayette188943
Harrison182873
Clayton173258
Butler169135
Madison168019
Floyd165242
Mills164724
Cherokee162238
Lyon161241
Poweshiek159836
Allamakee156452
Hancock154034
Iowa149124
Winnebago147031
Calhoun144813
Cass142155
Grundy139733
Emmet137341
Jefferson135535
Sac133320
Shelby132238
Louisa130749
Union129535
Franklin129223
Appanoose128749
Mitchell127343
Chickasaw126017
Humboldt126026
Guthrie125332
Palo Alto115224
Montgomery106938
Howard105522
Clarke102624
Monroe101533
Keokuk100432
Ida93735
Adair90132
Davis88525
Pocahontas87022
Monona86731
Greene80011
Osceola79517
Lucas78323
Worth7648
Taylor67112
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