It ain't over 'til it's over. And several well-respected Constitutional attorneys have just filed a motion arguing the Roger Stone case is not over at all. Not yet anyway. One of those attorneys joins us on today's BradCast to explain. [Audio link to show is posted below.]
But first, some other news of note today. It's becoming a broken record, but the U.S. broke yet another record for new, daily COVID-19 cases on Thursday. It's the 11th such record smashed in the first 16 days of July. With more than 75,600 confirmed new cases reported on Thursday alone, the U.S. is now quickly rushing toward the 100,000 cases per day that Dr. Anthony Fauci shocked the nation a week or so ago by predicting was likely coming soon.
Of course, why should anybody believe the nation's top infectious disease expert Fauci on these things? Former game show host turned rightwing genius Chuck Woolery certainly doesn't! Or didn't. Maybe he does now. Woolery unleashed an unhinged Twitter rant on Sunday calling news about COVID-19 "outrageous lies", and warning us that "The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors" are "lying" about it all. The President of the United State retweet that screed to much notice on the same day. The very next day, however, on Monday, Woolery tweeted again. This time "To further clarify and add perspective." What was his added perspective? His son had been diagnosed with COVID-19. That led the former "Love Connection" host to concede that the virus "is real and it is here." He deleted his entire Twitter account soon thereafter.
Yes. It's real and here, no matter how much Trump and his duped followers hope to pretend it away. And Woolery is just the latest wingnut to be hoisted on his own idiotic social media rantings suggesting the coronavirus is little more than hoax by the media and by Democrats to help them win the upcoming election and/or to allow Fauci and Bill Gates to control the world. Or something. Unlike so many other wingnuts, sadly, who've offered similarly dangerous public rants over the past several months, Woolery wasn't actually killed by the virus before his embarrassing social media spew revealed him to be an idiot. We send our best wishes for a healthy future to both him and his son.
Similarly, we send such wishes to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg who, after apparently overcoming an infection that hospitalized her overnight this week, announced that she, separately, has been undergoing twice-weekly chemotherapy since being diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer on her liver in May. She has, so far over the past decade, survived pancreatic, colon and lung cancer. She says her current cancer is "at bay" and that she is "able to maintain an active daily routine." In her statement today, she vowed to continue her work at the Court until she can no longer "do the job full steam," adding "I remain fully able to do that." In fact, according to NBC News, other than Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Ginsburg authored more opinions over the past term than any of the other Justices, even as she was undergoing treatment for cancer. Meanwhile, the nation will remain on pins and needles until a new President is sworn in.
Ginsburg's still-sharp mind may soon be needed on a number of landmark matters that could come before the Republican's stolen SCOTUS, as the Trump Presidency (hopefully) nears its ugly end over the next several months, even as he becomes more desperate, manic, narcissistic and reckless with each passing day. One such matter that could come before the Court is a ruling on the Constitutionality of Trump's grant of Executive Clemency to his long time pal, former Trump campaign official, and decades-long GOP dirty trickster Roger Stone.
On Wednesday this week, to little public notice, the non-partisan good government group Free Speech for People (FSFP) filed a motion [PDF] with U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who oversaw the Stone case and his eventual sentencing to 40 months in prison. Stone was found guilty by a jury of 7 counts of lying to Congress and federal investigators in their probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and of witness tampering (threatening to kill the witness and his dog) in his case. Jackson, in her closing remarks after sentencing Stone, said he "was prosecuted for covering up for the President."
That same President then granted Clemency to Stone by commuting his 3-year sentence to zero days late last Friday night, before Stone could even reported to prison as scheduled this past Tuesday. But a number of well-respected Constitutional legal scholars are now arguing that Trump's action on Stone's behalf was unconstitutional and should be overturned by Judge Jackson.
"This case isn't over," declared Ron Fein, Legal Director of FSFP in a statement announcing the motion filed with Jackson on Wednesday. "The Supreme Court has acknowledged that the pardon power is not unlimited, and the Constitution requires the President to exercise that power loyally and carefully in the public interest rather than in his own self-interest."
Joining us on the show today is BEN CLEMENTS, a former federal prosecutor, former Chief Counsel to MA Governor Deval Patrick and now Board Chair and Senior Legal Advisor for FSFP. Clements, with more than thirty years of expertise as a constitutional attorney in both the public and private sectors is co-counsel on the motion filed by this week with Judge Jackson.
"In the very clause establishing the Presidency itself, Article II of the Constitution, the framers included language making clear that the presidency is, in effect, a public trust. Its powers must be exercised for the benefit of the public, and not the personal benefit of the President," Clements tells me today. "They specifically provided that the President is required to take care that the laws be faithfully exercised and executed, and they required the President to take an oath to faithfully execute the office of President."
Clements goes on to explain that the Presidential pardon power, while "considerable" is "not absolute," and that the Supreme Court has recognized those powers "are subject to the textual constraints in the Constitution itself." In other words, as he details today, it can't be used in a criminal manner or with a corrupt purpose. He offers the example that it would be unlawful and unconstitutional for a convicted felon to pay bribe money to the President in exchange for a pardon.
"Granting a pardon or a commutation for a completely unlawful and illicit purpose is antithetical to [the President's] obligation to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed," Clements argues, adding, "There's ample public evidence that this was part of an illicit bribe. Stone agreed to protect the President by refusing to tell the truth, even lying to investigators investigating the role of Trump and his campaign in Russia's unlawful interference in the 2016 election. And Trump agreed, in exchange, to protect Stone from the legal consequences of his illegal conduct."
"At a minimum, the public evidence --- including statements from Trump himself throughout these last several years, and from the White House in describing the reasons for this commutation --- that evidence demonstrates that Trump's purpose in commuting [Stone's] sentence is to reward him for covering up for Trump, and to continue to protect Trump," according to Clement. "So, this is not 'faithful execution' of the laws as required by Article II. This is obstruction of the law, it's obstruction of justice, and it's obstruction of lawful investigations all for corrupt and self-interested purposes."
He says it is up to the court --- right now, Judge Jackson --- to consider the arguments presented and "if the judge agrees that the evidence is persuasive, to declare [the Commutation] constitutionally invalid and to order Roger Stone back to prison."
It's a fascinating twist --- or, at least, a potential one --- in the case. Clements goes on to offer his insight on how all of this may play out in the days ahead...including what may happen once, and if, the case reaches the High Court. You'll want to tune in for today's conversation for much more on this important filing, that has otherwise flown largely under the radar this week with everything else that is going on.
Finally, we end with some bonafide good news --- at least for progressives --- as 44-year old progressive African-American and first time political candidate, Jamaal Bowman, is declared the winner by AP over 16-term establishment U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel in New York's June 23rd Democratic primary. Bowman's reported victory in the 16th Congressional District mirrors Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' win over 10-term Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley in 2018. And, as with AOC's District next door, Bowman's is heavily Democratic as well, meaning the winner of this year's primary is, as AP reports, "virtually assured of victory in the general election in November."
So there's a bit more good news to take home with you this weekend, as we all limp together towards the hoped-for coming end of the Trump nightmare and all that has come with it...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)