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Can US President Donald Trump be Indicted for Obstruction of Justice?

Did Trump obstruct justice when he allegedly asked then FBI-director James Comey for an end to the Flynn probe? And, is it an issue for the courts or Congress to decide?

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Donald Trump's alleged obstruction of justice
From left, President Donald Trump, former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, former FBI Director James Comey. VOA
  • Donald Trump allegedly asked ex-FBI Director James Comey in February to stop his investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn
  • According to Trump’s personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz, the president never, in form or substance, indicated Mr. Comey to stop investigating anyone
  • The case for obstruction of justice based on Comey’s testimony is far from ironclad, legal scholars say

Washington, June 10, 2017: Did President Donald Trump break the law when he allegedly asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February to stop his investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn?

The question is at the heart of a legal debate a day after Comey disclosed during closely watched congressional testimony that Trump asked him to end his investigation of Flynn’s suspected ties to Russia.

In riveting detail, Comey recounted that after a February 14 counter-intelligence briefing at the White House, Trump told him that he wanted “to talk about Mike Flynn,” saying Flynn “is a good guy” and “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go.”

The allegation raised two sets of questions: Did Trump obstruct justice when he asked for an end to the Flynn probe? And, is it an issue for the courts or Congress to decide?

Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s personal lawyer, said in a statement released after the testimony that “the president never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone.”

Directive

Senators were at odds over the implications of Comey’s testimony. While some Democrats suggested it pointed to obstruction of justice by Trump, Republican members of the panel seized on the fact that the president did not explicitly “direct” the former FBI director to drop the Flynn investigation.

In response to a question, Comey declined to say whether he thought Trump’s conduct amounted to obstruction of justice, saying it was up to Special Counsel Robert Mueller to make that determination.

To Trump’s critics, Comey’s revelations recalled the “Nixon tapes,” secret White House recordings that former President Richard Nixon refused to release during the Watergate scandal, ultimately leading to his resignation in 1974.

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Case not ironclad

But the case for obstruction of justice based on Comey’s testimony is far from ironclad, legal scholars say.

While Trump’s alleged interactions with Comey were seen by many as grossly out of line, the Comey testimony did not provide grounds for obstruction charges, these scholars say.

“The president is not facing a particularly compelling case of obstruction for prosecution at this time,” said Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law. “This is also not a record that would support impeachment.”

Louis Michael Seidman, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University, agreed that the case for charging Trump with obstruction of justice is not there, but he said that Comey’s firing after he refused to carry out the president’s wishes is “a serious matter.”

“No one outside the White House is contesting the fact that that is what happened, that director Comey is telling the truth,” Seidman said. “If he is telling the truth, that means the president has lied about it and that is a further indication he may not be fit to be president of the United States.”

Presidential history

No American president has ever been indicted while in office, though two, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were impeached but later acquitted.

Legal scholars disagree over whether a sitting president can be prosecuted, but the White House Counsel’s office has argued against it, deciding in at least two instances not to indict a president, Seidman said.

Obstruction of justice, or interference with a legal proceeding, such as a criminal investigation, is a crime, but proving it is legally challenging. To demonstrate obstruction of justice, prosecutors must show evidence of “corrupt intent.”

“That’s a very difficult standard to meet,” Turley said.

Andy McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor and now a fellow at the conservative National Review Institute, said that as the head of the executive branch of government, Trump has “prosecutorial discretion” to end an investigation and that he “couldn’t conceivably have thought he was doing something wrong.”

“Therefore, it would be impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted corruptly,” McCarthy said.

Though Trump’s true motivation remains unknown, “it’s perfectly plausible that the president was feeling sympathetic to his former aide who had just resigned and was facing a torrent of criticism,” Turley said.

Congressional actions

The U.S. Constitution allows Congress to remove a president from office for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors” through impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives and a trial in the Senate.

While it is easier to bring an article of impeachment on obstruction charges, the allegation of crimes must be far more detailed than what has been alleged about Trump, Turley said.

In the Nixon case, he noted, the first article of impeachment in the House of Representatives listed obstruction of justice but included “nine separate but rather detailed crimes.”

In the Clinton impeachment case, the House of Representatives dropped an article on obstruction of justice, said Turley, who testified before the House in favor of impeachment.

With Republicans in control of Congress, the prospects of their impeachment of their party leader appear slim. But Turley said impeachment is not always brought for purely political reasons.

In Watergate, he noted that Republicans abandoned Nixon in favor of his impeachment. And today, congressional Republicans are “actively supporting the investigation of Donald Trump,” he said. (VOA)

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Sulabh International unveils World’s biggest Toilet Pot model

The NGO gave 95 new household toilets to the residents of the village.

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Sulabh launched biggest pot toilet models
Sulabh International in working towards improving sanitation. Wikimedia Commons

Sulabh International on Sunday launched the “world’s biggest” toilet pot model in Haryana’s Marora village — popularly known as ‘Trump village’ — on the occasion of World Toilet Day.

As per a release by the non-profit, the mega Indian-style pot, made of iron, fibre, wood and plaster of Paris, measuring 20×10 feet, was unveiled to create awareness about the use of toilets in the village dedicated to US President Donald Trump.

Sanitation expert and founder of Sulabh International, Bindeshwar Pathak, also dedicated 95 new household toilets to the residents of the village.

“This large pot replica will be shifted to Delhi’s Sulabh Toilet Museum,” the release quoted Pathak as saying.

He said the idea behind naming a village after Trump was to highlight the issue of sanitation and cleanliness globally.

Puneet Ahluwalia, a member of the ruling Republican Party in the US, said that such an initiative would go a long way to motivate masses towards cleanliness and safe sanitation. (IANS)

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Exposed! Paradise Papers reveal Tax-haven Secrets of the Super-rich! Even Queen Elizabeth II hasn’t been spared!

The publication of this investigation for which more than 380 journalists have spent a year combing through data that stretches back 70 years comes at a time of growing global income inequality.

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Paradise Papers expose tax haven secrets of ultra-wealthy, including Queen Elizabeth. The details come from a leak of 13.4 million files that expose the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive - and the complex and seemingly artificial ways the wealthiest corporations can legally protect their wealth. VOA

London, November 6, 2017 : A huge new leak of financial documents has revealed how the powerful and ultra-wealthy including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II’s private estate secretly invest vast amounts of cash in different offshore tax havens, media reports said on Monday.

The details come from a leak of 13.4 million files in the Paradise Papers on Sunday that expose the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive – and the complex and seemingly artificial ways the wealthiest corporations can legally protect their wealth.

The material which has come from two offshore service providers and the company registries of 19 tax havens was obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with 100 other media organisations including the Guardian, the BBC and The New York Times.

Some of the revelations in the Paradise Papers include millions of pounds from Queen Elizabeth II’s private estate that has been invested in a Cayman Islands fund and some of her money that went to a retailer accused of exploiting poor families and vulnerable people.

Paradise Papers detail extensive offshore dealings by US President Donald Trump’s cabinet members advisers and donors including substantial payments from a firm co-owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law to the shipping group of the US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

The leak shows how social media giants Twitter and Facebook received millions in investments that can be traced back to Russian state financial institutions along with aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations including Nike and Apple.

It also includes information about a tax-avoiding Cayman Islands trust managed by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief wealth manager.

The leak also includes how some of the biggest names in the film and TV industries protect their wealth with an array of offshore schemes and the complex offshore webs used by two Russian billionaires to buy stakes in Arsenal and Everton football clubs.

The disclosures will put pressure on world leaders including Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May who have both pledged to curb aggressive tax avoidance schemes.

The publication of this investigation for which more than 380 journalists have spent a year combing through data that stretches back 70 years comes at a time of growing global income inequality.

Offshore finance is about a place outside of one’s own nation’s regulations to which companies or individuals can reroute money assets or profits to take advantage of lower taxes reports the BBC.

These jurisdictions are known as tax havens to the layman or the more stately offshore financial centres (OFCs) to the industry. They are generally stable secretive and reliable often small islands but not exclusively so and can vary on how rigorously they carry out checks on wrongdoing. (IANS)

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Donald Trump Planning to meet Putin during his Asia tour

Donald Trump's first trip to Asia is the longest international tour.

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US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump. wikimedia commns
  • US President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he expected to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during his Asia tour.

“I think it’s expected we’ll meet with Putin, yeah. We want Putin’s help on North Korea, and we’ll be meeting with a lot of different leaders,” Donald Trump told reporters on Air Force One before landing at the Yokota Air Base in Japan, Efe reported.

Putin is scheduled to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, which Trump will also attend as part of his long Asia tour.

The North Korean nuclear threat is expected to dominate Donald Trump’s meetings in Japan and the next two stages of his tour, South Korea and China, where he will have a highly anticipated sit-down with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The remainder of the tour will be more focused on economic issues, with Trump scheduled to take part in the APEC meeting in Da Nang and then in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and the East Asia Summit in the Philippines.

Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia is the longest international tour by a US head of state since the one then-President George H.W. Bush embarked on in 1992.

Bush became ill at the end of that trip, famously vomiting on the Japanese prime minister’s lap at a formal dinner before fainting.(IANS)