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Trump embraces right to assassinate political rivals claimed by attorney

Chris Graham
(© Evan El-Amin – shutterstock.com)

You might have missed it, how Donald Trump, asked Thursday about his lawyer’s claim in federal court earlier this week that a President Trump could order the military to assassinate a political rival and avoid prosecution, didn’t say, nah, that’s crazy.

The question, from a reporter at a press conference that Trump called after closing arguments in his New York civil case: “Do you agree with your lawyers, what they said on Tuesday, that you should not be prosecuted, or could not be prosecuted, if you ordered Seal Team 6 to kill a political opponent?”

Trump’s answer: “I say this, on immunity, very simple. If a president of the United States does not have immunity, he’ll be totally ineffective. He won’t be able to do anything, because it will mean he’ll be prosecuted, strongly prosecuted, perhaps, as soon as he leaves office by the opposing party.”

There you go.

How this all came up was in a hearing on Tuesday on the disgraced ex-president’s claims to have immunity from prosecution for the litany of crimes he’s been accused of committing during his time in office.

D.C. Court of Appeals Judge Florence Pan asked John Sauer, representing Trump in the hearing, if “a president who ordered Seal Team Six to assassinate a political rival, who was not impeached, would he be subject to criminal prosecution?”

The question arose because Sauer had argued in a brief filed on Trump’s behalf in the case that communicating with an executive branch agency, communicating with a foreign government, and communicating with the U.S. military would all be considered official acts.

The argument from Sauer is that anything possibly criminal in those official acts would be off-limits to prosecutors, unless, and he said this in response to Pan’s question, “he were impeached and convicted first,” which he called “a qualified yes.”

“There’s a political process that will have to occur under the structure of our Constitution, which would require impeachment and conviction by the Senate in these exceptional cases,” Sauer said.

The background there: Trump was, of course, impeached twice in his time in office, the first for abuse of power for pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to try to dig up dirt on Democratic rival Joe Biden that Trump could use in the 2020 election, the second for inciting an attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021, the goal being to overturn the results of the election after Biden had been declared the landslide winner.

The Senate voted not guilty by a 52-48 vote in the Ukraine impeachment, and guilty by a 57-43 vote in the Jan. 6 attempted coup matter.

Per the Constitution, it takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate, so, at least 67, if all 100 senators cast a vote, to obtain a conviction.

By Sauer’s reasoning, Trump, as president, could order the military to assassinate a political rival, and if 34 Senate Republicans could be coaxed into voting not guilty, it’s all kosher.

For that matter, by extension, he could threaten some number of senators with being sent to sleep with the fishes ahead of a Senate impeachment trial vote, to avoid conviction in the Senate, and then, nope, he couldn’t be prosecuted.

“You have to have immunity for a president, and I think most people are seeing that,” Trump said Thursday. “I’ve read a lot of real reports lately and scholarly reports that are saying you really have to have a president of this country has to have immunity, or they’re not gonna be able to function in office.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].