Roger Stone’s Sentence and The Latest Impeachment Non-Sense
After the Senate voted to acquit President Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, critics argued that Trump would glean from the acquittal that he could anything he wanted with no consequences because Senate Republicans have no desire to constrain him. Now they have their proof, or so they think.
On Monday, federal prosecutors recommend that former Trump ally Roger Stone get 7–9 years in federal prison for obstruction of justice, lying to Congress, and witness tampering.
Trump reacted to the news on Twitter:
On Tuesday, prosecutors resigned from the case after top DOJ officials were shocked at the high sentence request and filed a new filing stating that it believes Stone’s sentence should be lighter. One DOJ official also told Fox News, “The sentencing recommendation was not what had been briefed to the Department.”
The controversy over the appropriateness of the initial request seems to be over a threat Stone made to a witness and how that should affect Stone’s sentence. The threatened witnesses had said that he did not feel threatened, but government lawyers asserted that did not matter.
Naturally, given the revision and Trump’s tweet, emotions have been high. #ImpeachBarrNow was trending on Twitter and anti-Trump corners of the internet were calling for him to be impeached again.
Just like the previous Impeachment Mania, this potential one would be a tremendous abuse of the House’s impeachment power.
The Constitution says that the president is the head of the executive branch. He is at the top of the chain of command, not federal prosecutors. Congress could defund the entire Department of Justice if it wanted to and it, along with all federal prosecutors, would go away tomorrow, but the president would still be here.
But since, the president cannot be attuned to every little detail that goes on in the federal government, he has various members of the cabinet run the departments to execute his priorities. These heads of departments in turn have their own subordinates, but the chain of command is still the chain of command. If the political leadership wants to stick it’s nose in the business of sentencing requests it can. Whether it should is another matter.
There is something unseemly about the president tweeting and the DOJ issuing a revision of the sentencing requests of the president’s former hatchetman, but is there also something unseemly about giving a sexagenarian 7–9 years in the slammer for process crimes, especially when DOJ argues that that’s in excess of existing guidelines and that 7–9 years did not match the brief received by the department?
Are the people who say “yes” serious in that analysis or are they simply on an anti-Trump and anti-Barr sugar high who enjoy seeing Trump embarrassed and his allies suffer?
The only way to resolve these questions is through elections, but The Resistance will not even entertain these questions, because once again they are so confident in their own beliefs, they refuse to acknowledge that not everything is a grave threat to the system and maybe their assumptions are not self-evident.
Even still, assuming they are right, the power to run the DOJ is an explicit power granted to the president under the Constitution. Impeaching him for exercising legitimate executive power is a truly awful idea. The president also has the ability to pardon anybody for any reason. It is not uncommon for them use this power to bail out their friends, but impeaching for that is an unserious idea because its perfectly legal even if it is unseemly.
Was Andrew Johnson a good president? No. Should he have attempted to fire Edwin Stanton? No, but does that mean he should have been impeached for breaking an unconstitutional law? No.
Should Trump just have released the aid to Ukraine? Yes, because that would have been good policy, but was there a possible explanation beyond the assumed “get Biden” rational pro-impeachers insisted was self-evident? Yes.
Should the president and attorney general be micromanaging (which at this point is just another assumption, not a proven fact. The DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the decision came before Trump’s tweet) to the extent where they’re affecting, or seen to be affecting, sentencing requests? Probably not, but just because the president does something he ought not do, does not mean that it is corrupt, a threat to norms and institutions, or impeachable.