pardons

Despite the president repeatedly referring to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt,” Mueller has been racking up some very serious witches.

After issuing more than 100 counts against 32 people and three companies, seven people have already pleaded guilty, including Trump’s former campaign advisors Michael T. Flynn and George Papadopoulos. A federal jury recently convicted Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort of fraud, and now Manafort is working for Mueller’s team, possibly feeding them info on his former boss. All of these cackling witches went down in the bonfire as a result of charges stemming from Mueller’s inquiry.

The GOP degenerated into rank tribalism throughout this investigation, however, circling the wagons around their leader and refusing to investigate perfectly legitimate claims against the president. Sometimes, they’ve even resorted to investigating the investigators, in an effort to undermine the inquiry.

With the GOP broadcasting its rank protectionism, critics say it is difficult not to view the recent behavior of Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) with anything but suspicion.

Hatch, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, recently filed an amicus brief in the court case, Gamble v. United States, which could protect Trump’s criminal associates from further prosecution outside of federal court.

“I think this is a potentially very important case about double jeopardy,” UC-Berkeley school of law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky told Grit Post. “I also think it will give another sense of the Roberts’ Court’s attitude towards precedent.”

As it currently stands, potential wrongdoers convicted by a federal jury can face follow-up prosecution in state courts, in defiance of federal double-jeopardy laws. When Manafort broke federal rules by committing tax and bank fraud and issuing false statements, he also broke several state codes. The State of New York, for example, has definitely noticed Manafort’s antics. Politicos debate whether or not Trump will issue presidential pardons to his criminal associates, as he did for convicted ex-Sheriff Joseph Arpaio. Although Trump’s pardons could easily undermine the ongoing federal investigation, they would not extend to state prosecution.

That won’t matter so much if Sen. Hatch gets his way and prevents states from pursuing cases previously chased by the federal government. The Fifth Amendment has a 150-year-old double-jeopardy exception that allows state and federal courts to indict the same suspect for the same federal offense. Hatch’s September brief, however, suggests the exemption should be jettisoned.

“The extensive federalization of criminal law has rendered ineffective the federalist underpinnings of the dual sovereignty doctrine,” Hatch stated in his brief. “And its persistence impairs full realization of the Double Jeopardy Clause’s liberty protections.”

In Hatch’s argument, dual sovereignty doctrine somehow poses a “hardship” to lawmakers trying to create punishments that fit the crime by heaping on “cumulative punishments” for a crime that is supposed to be defined by lawmakers. Hatch argues that “federalist interests are no longer sufficiently served by the doctrine to warrant the harm to individual liberty suffered by criminal defendants charged with federal crimes.” In short, the government is suddenly being too hard on victims, like Manafort, who have angered multiple entities.

Any decision on Hatch’s take could find its way before a Supreme Court with Kavanaugh sitting on it, if the GOP gets its way this week. With Kavanaugh’s partisan bent made obvious last week, critics say it is a fair bet that his side in the argument will assist GOP tribalism.

 

Adam Lynch is a part-time “word-puncher” in Jackson, Mississippi. Battle with him on Twitter @A_damn_Lynch. He’s also on Facebook, if that’s still a thing.

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