We discussed the campaign by The Lincoln Project and others to harass and abuse lawyers representing the Trump campaign or other parties bringing election challenges. Similar campaigns have targeted election officials opposed to counting irregularities. Now the Michigan Attorney General and others are suggesting that Republicans who defy certification or even meet with President Donald Trump on the matter could face criminal investigation or indictment. The media are again silent on this clearly abusive application of the criminal code against members of the opposing party in their objections under state law.
On Friday afternoon, the leaders of the Republican-controlled legislature in Michigan met with Trump in the White House at his invitation. My column today explores the difficulty of any strategy in campaigning in college. However, the legislature’s objections could focus on a variety of affidavit complaints from voters or irregularities in voting. We haven’t seen any evidence of what kind of systemic problems would turn a state around, let alone the elections as a whole. While the legal team raised some credible election concerns, I also criticized Rudy Giuliani’s claim of the global communist conspiracy at this week’s press conference. Some of these questions will be dealt with in court. In the meantime, the legislature has the right to object to the elections and seek a solution in the legislature.
According to the Washington Post, Dana Nessel “consults with electoral law experts on whether officials may have violated state laws prohibiting them from bribery, perjury and conspiracy.” It’s the same criminal code weapon for political purposes that we’ve seen against Trump over the past four years. In particular, the focus is on the same discredited interpretation used against Trump, and specifically not adopted by the impeachment company’s judicial committee: bribery.
In Politico, Richard Primus wrote that these lawmakers should not attend a meeting with Trump because “doing so personally threatens the two Michigan lawmakers with the risk of criminal investigation.” These ridiculous legal claims are based on the theory of bribery:
So the danger for Shirkey and Chatfield is that they will be visibly invited to a meeting where the likely agenda includes the crime of bribing an officer.
Under Michigan law, any member of the legislature who “corruptly” accepts a promise of beneficial action in return for exercising their authority in a certain way is “forever disqualified from holding public office” and “guilty of a crime, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for no more than 10 years[.]”
We discussed this theory repeatedly during the Trump presidency. As I wrote before, a The leading proponent was former Washington Post attorney and columnist Randall D. Eliason, who insisted that “allegations of improper consideration are really just another way of saying there was a bribe … it is bribery when there is something in return Corruption is sought intentionally when the president does not pursue legitimate US policies but wrongly demands measures by Ukraine that would benefit him personally. “Further endorsing the House of Representatives report, Eliason affirmed that” the legal and factual analysis of bribery and honest service fraud in the House of Representatives report is spot on “and” contains compelling evidence of federal crime violations “.
The theory was never “exactly” or even remotely correct, as evidenced by the decision not to use it as a basis for impeachment. And yet it’s back. In fact, the theory’s greatest danger was not that it would ever pass a draft in the federal judicial system, but that it would be used (as here) in the political system to criminalize political and legal disagreements. (Eliason recently defended the attacks on other lawyers advocating these challenging election results or practices.)
In my testimony, I went into historical and legal details to explain why this theory was never credible. While it was cheerfully presented by newspapers like the Washington Post, it ignored case law that opposed precisely this kind of limitless definition of the crime. As I told the House Justice CommitteeThe Supreme Court has repeatedly narrowed the scope of the legal definition of bribery, including distinctions that are relevant to the current controversy in cases such as immediately McDonnell versus United Stateswhere the court overturned the conviction of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell. Chief Justice John Roberts expropriated what he called the “limitless interpretation of federal law on bribery”. The Court stated that such “limitless interpretations” are contrary to constitutional rights because they refuse to tell citizens what acts are suspected of being criminal: “[U]According to the government’s interpretation, the term “official act” is not defined “with sufficient clarity for citizens to understand what conduct is prohibited” or “in a manner that does not encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement”. ”
I will not repeat the litany of cases where this type of full interpretation is rejected. Jurisprudence didn’t matter then, however, and now it doesn’t matter to those who believe the criminal code is infinitely flexible to accommodate the political agenda.
It doesn’t even matter that the Supreme Court, in a recent unanimous judgment by Judge Elena Kagan, reiterated its previous rejection of such sweeping interpretations. In the Kelly v. United States case, the Supreme Court overturned the Bridgegate convictions for the controversial blocking of lanes on George Washington Bridge to create traffic problems for the Mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who refused to approve of this. Gov. Chris Christie. The Court found:
“This requirement, as the Court has made clear, has prevented these laws from criminalizing all dishonest acts by state and local officials. A few decades ago, appellate courts often interpreted federal fraud laws to “prohibit” Plans to defraud citizens of their intangible rights to an honest and impartial government. “McNally, 483 US, at 355. This court declined to participate. The fraud laws we passed at McNally were “limited to protecting property rights.” Id., At 360. They did not authorize the federal prosecutors to “put Disclosure standards and good governance for local and state officials. “Ibid. “
This is the argument I made in impeachment against the proposed impeachment proceedings – backed by a host of experts for MSNBC and CNN, as well as Democratic Members – that the Ukrainian allegations could be charged as postal and wire fraud, and as crimes such as extortion.
Most worryingly, if these lawmakers objected to voting irregularities or fraud, they would act under their state constitutional authority. They would be examined for the fulfillment of their official duties under state law. Many of us cannot agree with such objections. (I have stated repeatedly that I see no evidence of systemic voting problems to reverse such state outcomes, and I have criticized President Trump’s rhetoric). When Democrats like Senator Barbara Boxer (D., Cal.) Questioned the certification of votes in Ohio in 2004, no one suggested a criminal investigation. Nessel threatens state lawmakers if they meet to discuss such objections they could be the target of a criminal investigation. This appears to be an effort to use the Criminal Code for the purpose of intimidation or coercion. Imagine if this were US Attorney General Bill Barr threatening Democratic lawmakers with possible criminal investigations for contesting Trump votes. The media would be apoplectic. However, when used against Republicans, it celebrates major publications and politicians for applying the Criminal Code to such politically motivated threats.
As with the attacks on Republican attorneys, threats against Republican lawmakers have been received with the utmost silence in the media. Just the familiar sound of a barbecue.