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Schatz Blasts Trump’s Dangerous Claim Of Total Impunity, Warns Of Rising Threat Of Authoritarianism In The U.S.
By News Release @ 2:42 AM :: 1224 Views :: Congressional Delegation

Schatz Blasts Trump’s Dangerous Claim Of Total Impunity, Warns Of Rising Threat Of Authoritarianism In The U.S.

Schatz: “The Official View Of Donald Trump's Lawyers Is That He, And He Alone, Should Be Exempt From The Law… That's Not A President – That's A Dictator”

News release from office of Sen Brian Schatz D-HI, Jan 11, 2024

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) today spoke on the Senate floor responding to statements made in court this week by former President Donald Trump’s legal team claiming absolute impunity for crimes committed by presidents, even if they were to include the ordering of SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival.

“What's being contemplated here – the ordering of a murder – is a crime,” said Senator Schatz. “It's a violation of the criminal code and every other person in the land would be arrested and tried for it. But apparently the official view of Donald Trump's lawyers is that he, and he alone, should be exempt from the law. In the authoritarian future that he's clamoring for, he gets to do anything he wants, wielding unparalleled power in the presidency, and face zero repercussions. That's not a president – that's a dictator. That's not equal justice under the law – that's one law for Trump and another for everybody else.”

Video of the remarks is available here and a full transcript follows.

Mr. President, I get it. I understand that people are tired of hearing about whatever insane thing Donald Trump just said or did. I get that it's emotionally exhausting, it's intellectually exhausting, certainly politically exhausting to be panicked and outraged all the time. Frankly, it's not possible. We've now been living in this reality of Trump's unending lies and chaos for almost a decade, and people understandably want to live their lives. Go to school, drop their kids off at school, make dinner, maybe get some exercise, or read a book, or watch a show. They want their life to continue. So you can't wake up every morning and be one of those people – one of those people who says, “Did you see what Trump said? Did you see how crazy it was? Aren't your worried?” You can't live life like that. I totally understand.

But Trump's lawyers said something this week, in a courtroom just a few blocks from here, that is impossible to ignore. And it must cause alarm. Because it was the clearest indication that Trump and his team believe that he can commit any crime in the book – crimes as clear as day –  and get away with it without any consequences whatsoever.

When asked by a federal judge if a president could be criminally prosecuted for ordering SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival, Trump's lawyer responded, and I quote, “He would have to be, and would speedily be, impeached and convicted before the criminal prosecution could proceed.” What does that mean as a practical matter? It means that the president could commit any crime. It means that the president could commit any crime, up to and including ordering the United States military to murder a political rival, and there would be no way to hold him accountable, as long as 34 United States senators stood ready to vote to acquit.

Do you think 34 United States senators stand ready to vote to acquit? I don't know. Honestly, I don't know. But I can tell you that way more than 34 United States senators voted to acquit former President Trump, who was impeached and then tried by the United States Senate – twice. So I guess what we're saying is this time, the Senate would stand up, because that crime would be more egregious than the other ones.

Let's back up for a second. Because during the impeachment trial three years ago, Trump's legal team, and a majority of Senate Republicans, argued that it was the job of the criminal justice system to deal with statutory crimes – crimes that are in the law books, right? Not the Senate. They said that the question before Congress was whether or not Trump's actions rose to the level of crimes against the country, which are different from statutory crimes.

A novel argument – and it worked. Right? It doesn't have to be a good argument; doesn't have to be a compelling argument; just has to work in this body. Because we've got 100 jurors, all politicians, and however the chips fall is however the chips fall. But their argument was explicit, which is, “This is not the venue.” And now Trump's lawyers are arguing in the other venue, ‘I'm sorry, what I meant was, this is the venue.’ So what they are really saying is, “Our guy gets to commit crimes.”

And I want everybody who is right of center, far right of center, center right, right in the center – I don't care – I want everyone to think about the consequences of accepting this argument. Any president can commit any crime? Not only that, by the way, it's not a matter of just committing crime. It's a matter of commanding the United States military. It's a matter of being the most powerful individual on the planet. It's a matter of being the commander in chief and using those resources to assassinate a political rival. And you can't get a Trump lawyer to say that would probably be illegal and cause him to go to jail. They said that would depend on how the votes fell in the Congress. I'm alarmed. Trump's team is in court arguing that it's up to Congress. That the political system, not the just system, should render justice even on statutory crimes. I say this as a senator and someone who believes deeply in the awesome responsibility of this institution: ‘If the senate says so’ is not a serious legal argument. “If the senate says so” is not a legal argument.

What's being contemplated here – the ordering of a murder – is a crime. It's a violation of the criminal code and every other person in the land would be arrested and tried for it. But apparently the official view of Donald Trump's lawyers is that he, and he alone, should be exempt from the law. In the authoritarian future that he's clamoring for, he gets to do anything he wants, wielding unparalleled power in the presidency, and face zero repercussions. That's not a president – that's a dictator. That's not equal justice under the law – that's one law for Trump and another for everybody else. Think about what they're saying and ask yourselves: are you comfortable with that? Are you comfortable with a democratic president with those kinds of authorities? Is that the kind of country that you want to live in?

To be clear, this can't be dismissed as “I don't read the tweets” or “That guy is crazy, he just says stuff” or “What a showman.” That was the kind of hand waving away at whatever Trump said or did. Now we have four years of a Trump presidency and two impeachments and many statutory and constitutional crimes to look straight at. The other thing is, again, this is not a tweet. This is not a comment in a town hall, right? What this is is the official position of the lawyers for the former president of the United States.

Authoritarianism is no longer just a remote problem in foreign lands. I just joined the Foreign Relations Committee a couple of years ago. One of the things we do as members of the Foreign Relations Committee is go to other countries and encourage them to adopt democratic reforms. We encourage them to adopt democratic reforms. And now when we have our meetings, they are encouraging us to maintain our democracy.

And make no mistake, this is not some nebulous movement that is difficult to decipher. This is because Donald J. Trump was president and does not believe in American-style democracy. He doesn't. He doesn't believe he should be accountable. He believes he should be immune. And he believes that when and if he becomes president again, that he will exact revenge, that he will be a dictator from day one, and that if he is held accountable for his crimes, there will be bedlam. Now, does that sound like a rhetorical flourish? It sure does, doesn't it? Except I'm quoting him.

Again, I want everybody to be able to live a life. I don't want everybody waking up every morning freaked out about what Donald Trump says. But today, this week, it is worth marking what his lawyers said because it is an official position of a presidential candidate and it is a position that is antithetical to everything that we all believe in.

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