Lindsey Graham's disturbing comments about investigating Biden

Article Image

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?

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 482902

Reported Deaths: 9425
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33063488
Hinds31021589
DeSoto30610358
Jackson23687348
Rankin21340370
Lee14909220
Madison14166271
Jones13404227
Forrest13160240
Lauderdale11601305
Lowndes10443176
Lamar10214130
Pearl River9098221
Lafayette8241137
Hancock7514112
Washington7102150
Oktibbeha6964124
Monroe6514164
Neshoba6475201
Warren6464164
Pontotoc630393
Panola6250126
Marshall6126123
Bolivar6115144
Union574186
Pike5613136
Alcorn537290
Lincoln5303131
George471472
Scott459196
Leflore4476140
Prentiss446779
Tippah446480
Itawamba4444100
Adams4416116
Tate4394101
Simpson4335112
Wayne433066
Copiah431787
Yazoo423386
Covington415792
Sunflower4148104
Marion4099104
Leake397586
Coahoma3957100
Newton370875
Grenada3556104
Stone350860
Tishomingo336289
Attala325387
Jasper314162
Winston304691
Clay296473
Chickasaw287065
Clarke282190
Calhoun266141
Holmes262187
Smith250649
Yalobusha221047
Tallahatchie220450
Walthall211058
Greene209045
Lawrence206833
Perry199953
Amite198452
Webster196542
Noxubee178939
Montgomery172454
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162137
Tunica153334
Benton142535
Kemper138640
Choctaw127026
Claiborne126834
Humphreys126637
Franklin116728
Quitman103926
Wilkinson101936
Jefferson91333
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 787421

Reported Deaths: 14022
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1114521765
Mobile708161234
Madison49744633
Baldwin36201495
Shelby36186315
Tuscaloosa33818548
Montgomery33135678
Lee22590220
Calhoun21140410
Morgan19795335
Etowah19188462
Marshall17659274
Houston16788386
St. Clair15408305
Cullman14568258
Limestone14553188
Elmore14444264
Lauderdale13486281
Talladega12932236
DeKalb12174237
Walker10561330
Blount9693157
Autauga9652137
Jackson9363158
Coffee8847175
Dale8584173
Colbert8508184
Tallapoosa6661181
Escambia6585121
Covington6432167
Chilton6372144
Russell605355
Franklin5779101
Chambers5398134
Marion4789120
Dallas4694189
Clarke462279
Pike461597
Geneva4396117
Winston425295
Lawrence4112108
Bibb408581
Barbour346570
Marengo326285
Butler318190
Monroe318153
Randolph305256
Pickens304474
Henry301358
Hale292285
Cherokee289455
Fayette279073
Washington245248
Crenshaw237970
Cleburne235251
Clay228365
Macon219258
Lamar196243
Conecuh181846
Lowndes170758
Coosa169935
Wilcox159736
Bullock149243
Perry136437
Sumter124436
Greene121243
Choctaw73427
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 63°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 60°
Oxford
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 59°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 60°
While some cool mornings are again in store for the weekend, afternoons start to warm up a bit, so plan on dressing in layers if you're heading to the MSU or Bama games, because you'll need to utilize them in different ways.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather