Monday, April 23, 2012

Colson's Watergate crime

Stewart Baker suggests that Charles Colson of Watergate fame was convicted only of something that is not really a crime:
But did he deserve it? The theory of his plea was that he intended to gather (apparently true) information about Ellsberg and leak it at a time when Ellsberg faced criminal charges. How is that obstruction of justice, exactly?
Ellsberg was criminally leaking USA military secrets and seeing a psychiatrist. Presumably the Nixon DoJ could have gotten a court order to seize the psychiatrist's files and to release them to the public at Ellsberg's trial.

While Colson may not have followed procedure, I do think that the USA govt should have obtained the Ellsberg files and made them public. Hardly anyone can explain the Watergate crimes. Somehow the Wash. Post tricked the public into thinking that it was a much worse scandal than it was.

The Nixon articles of impeachment included a charge that Nixon deceived the public:
Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office ... has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice, in that: ...

8. making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States into believing that a thorough and complete investigation had been conducted with respect to allegations of misconduct on the part of personnel of the executive branch of the United States and personnel of the Committee for the Re-election of the President, and that there was no involvement of such personnel in such misconduct:
If this is a crime, then every other President was a criminal.

Update: The comments below show how some people mistakenly believe that Nixon admitted to illegal acts. It is difficult to understand how Nixon could be guilty of obstruction of justice when he had executive authority over the justice dept.


A K Haart said...

"If this is a crime, then every other President was a criminal."

Good point.

Anonymous said...

Richard Nixon: I'm saying that when the President does it, that means it's *not* illegal!
David Frost: I'm sorry?

Nixon admitted that wha he did was a crime.

Roger said...

You lost me. If Nixon said that it was not illegal for him to do what he did, then he was not admitting that he committed a crime.

Anonymous said...

No, I don't think I lost you.
It was illegal for him to do. There's no execption for Nixon in the law allowing him to do what he did.

Nixon said "when the President does it, that means it's *not* illegal!"

So, when someone does what he admitted that he did, then they did something illegal, or commtted a crime.

Nixon claims that when the president/he does it it's not a crime. It's not illegal for the sole reason that he, the president, did it.

So, he admitted that he committed a crime. How can someone admit to doing something that's illegal, without admitting that you committed a crime ?

Choose to understand and you will.

btw Nixon was referring to
this same matter involving Colson when he made this statement.

I'm correct about this because when
I say it it's not inaccurate, because I said it.

Roger said...

What you say is completely false. The President has certain authorities under the law that are not necessarily shared by others. As a trivial example, I would be trespassing if I walked into the White House. And yet the President can live there legally, because he is the President. So yes, something might be not illegal, just because the President did it.

Roger said...

Also, David Frost is a British journalist and comedian, and is not an authority on American law. Him saying "I'm sorry" does not make Nixon guilty of a crime.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but Nixon was not speaking about
anything like trespassing, he was responding directly to the Colson matter, and his obstruction of justice.

Frost is no legal expert, but Nixon was an attorney, and it was Nixon, not Frost, who said that what he had done was illegal.

Roger said...

You can read the quote and context in Excerpts from a 1977 Interview with David Frost. Frost asked about presidential authority to "do something illegal" in certain situations. Nixon replied that "it is not illegal." So no, Nixon did not admit that what he had done was illegal. He denied it.

Anonymous said...

Nixon says "argued" as far as the president is concerned, etc...

So...Lots of things are "argued" especially by those who have been caught breaking the law.

It can better be argued that I don't have to pay income tax because of what's in and not in the constitution but if I don't I'll end up in jail, where Nixon belonged.

Nixon's absurd comparison to Lincoln, is at best, a very weak sort of "two wrongs make it right"

Frost: But when you said, as you said when we were talking about the Huston Plan, you know, "If the president orders it, that makes it legal", as it were: Is the president in that sense—is there anything in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights that suggests the president is that far of a sovereign, that far above the law?

Nixon: No, there isn't. There's nothing specific that the Constitution contemplates in that respect. I haven't read every word, every jot and every title, but I do know this: That it has been, however, argued that as far as a president is concerned, that in war time, a president does have certain extraordinary powers which would make acts that would otherwise be unlawful, lawful if undertaken for the purpose of preserving the nation and the Constitution, which is essential for the rights we're all talking about.

The constitution does not allow him to break the laws that he broke as president. Nixon admits that the constitution does not permit it, it's just been "argued"

Roger said...

Frost asked Nixon if the Constitution put him above the law, and Nixon said no. That is correct, and is not an admission of guilt. Frost comes from a country that does not have a constitutional government, and does not understand the concept. You are making my point about people being unable to explain the Watergate crimes.

Anonymous said...

The supreme court has never upheld the "Nixon Doctrine", as it's been called about his statement, and reasoning on this.

Also, Frost had his interview questions scripted by leading U.S.
constitutional experts, lawyer, and scholars, so it's unimportant where
Frost is from, or just proves that even a foreign comedian can expose Nixon for what he was.

Nixon couldn't cite where in the constitution it was stated that he was permitted to act as he did, and Nixon couldn't even point to anywhere where it was implied, or vague, just that "it's been argued", etc.

Besides, you've re worded what wa asked and answered about Nixon being above the constitution..

is there anything in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights that suggests the president is that far of a sovereign, that far above the law?

Nixon: No, there isn't.

Frost asked if there was anything IN the constitution that ..above the law... and Nixon admits that there is NOT.

You're making my point.. Nixon admits it.

Roger said...

Yes, the US Constitution does not say that the President is above the law. Only a Brit would ask such a stupid question. Nixon answered it correctly. Where you go wrong is by saying that Nixon admitted to doing something illegal. If he did, where is the law and the quote? You just have quotes of Nixon saying that it was not illegal for him to do what he did.

Anonymous said...

I can give the inside story
A top Nixon supporter, defender, and biographer praised the "Brit" Frost and his interviewing of Nixon.

because, as Nixon's biographer, I knew the ex-President and his inner circle well. After he was forced to resign from the presidency for his part in the cover-up of a burglary at the Democratic Party offices in the Watergate building in Washington DC by undercover agents linked to the White House, Nixon withdrew from the world in disgrace.
But during those difficult post-resignation years (1974-79), I was a regular visitor to La Casa Pacifica, the Nixons' hacienda-style estate overlooking the Californian coast at San Clemente, where most of the movie was filmed.
After my first marriage in 1979, my wife and I spent part of our honeymoon at La Casa Pacifica.

The Hollywood portrait of David Frost is far too flip and flashy. Even in the 1970s, he was a considerably more substantial character, and his journalistic track record to that point far more accomplished than Peter Morgan's screenplay suggests.

Michael Sheen plays David Frost in the new film Frost/Nixon
He is a deeper and kinder man, too. It was these underestimated qualities which earned Frost the trust of the Nixon team and eventually prised the historic lines of regret out of the 37th President of the United States.

Roger said...

You are quoting a British tabloid reviewing a Hollywood fictionalization of the Nixon interviews.

Anonymous said...

What difference does it make who asked Nixon the question ? It wasn't a stupid question by Frost. It wasn't even written by Frost.

What matters is the stupid answer given by Nixon to a simple question.

Roger said...

Frost asked Nixon a question about American law, and Nixon answered. The problem with Frost is that he did not understand it, and draws a faulty inference. If Frost had understood it, he could have asked better followup questions. Regardless, Nixon did not admit to anything illegal. If you think that Nixon described American law incorrectly, then go ahead and post a link to an article saying so.

Anonymous said...

Roger said...

Okay, you found a left-wing Nixon-hating law professor who wrote an article citing a 2004 US Supreme Court decision where "the court ruled that Congress gave federal courts the power to hear these [habeas corpus] cases." Another 2004 opinion said the Constitution "most assuredly envisions a role for all three branches when individual liberties are at stake." Nixon might agree with these opinions, for all I know.

David D. Cole attacks the straw man argument that the President's "inherent power cannot be regulated or checked by Congress". I don't believe that Nixon or Bush ever made that argument. In that Frost interview, Nixon specifically said that he was accountable to Congress for what he was doing.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Nixon agreed that he was accountable to Congress for what he was doing, and Congress moved to impeach, and Nixon resigned, because he was to be held accountable for what he had done before Congress.

As for Frost's follow up questions..they're pretty good.

Would you really consider comparing Nixon and Vietnam to Lincoln and the civil war ?

Frost: But there was no comparison was there, between the situation you faced and the situation Lincoln faced, for instance?

Nixon:This nation was torn apart in an ideological way by the war in Vietnam, as much as the Civil War tore apart the nation when Lincoln was president. Now it's true that we didn't have the North and the South—

Anonymous said...

If you take out the part about having
the North and the South as a part of the civil war, what's left for Nixon to make any sort of comparison with between Vietnam and the civil war ?

Roger said...

If you want to analyze the wartime powers of the President, then you should certainly look at what powers other wartime presidents were allowed to exercise. So yes, I would compare to Lincoln, and also to FDR, Truman, and others. But Frost is British, and does not know very much about American law or history.

Anonymous said...

I said earlier that, "two wrongs don't make a right."

So, Lincoln , FDR's and Truman's actions were wrong ,too.

Of course, Lincoln, FDR, and Truman were responding to attacks on Americans, on American soil, and Nixon was not.

Roger said...

In that case, you must be really unhappy with Barack Obama. If you think his actions are illegal, then you might want to suggest impeaching him.

Anonymous said...

I'm not happy with Obama. It's up to Congress to impeach him.

The Repub.s have the majority in Congress. Why do you think that the Repub. majority Congress isn't trying to impeach Obama ?

Roger said...

Most Republicans in Congress do not believe that Obama's actions are illegal. But here is an opinion that Obama Is a Big-Time Law Violator and Obama Abusing Power.

Anonymous said...

Obama has been a crooked, law bending, law breaking politician from the start, beginning with his intial Ill. state senate races. He's been able to get away with everything, it seems.

Nixon, made and kept many enemies while acting similarly.

Obama has a certain type of personality and charisma that allows him to escape prosecution or perhaps persecution that Nixon had to deal with.

I'd say that Reagan and Clinton enjoyed a similar sort of luxury, too.

I'm not saying I'm right. It just appears this way to me.

What do you think ?

Roger said...

We will get to vote in November. Ron Paul is the only candidate who wants to roll back presidential power, but he will not be getting the nomination.