One of the common threads tying together many of Donald Trump’s disparate scandals is an unsettling idea touted by his lawyers and defenders: the president must be freed from the burdens of accountability.
Follow the law as it relates to disclosing tax returns? No, Team Trump says, because a president can’t be investigated. Follow legal precedent related to grand jury testimony during impeachment proceedings? No, Team Trump says, because the president operates above the law. Cooperate with a congressional impeachment inquiry? No, Team Trump says, because a president can pick and choose which legal processes he deems legitimate.
With this in mind, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote a ridiculous letter to congressional leaders yesterday, effectively making the case that the president considers the ongoing impeachment proceedings “unconstitutional” and has therefore decided to defy lawmakers’ efforts to hold him accountable. Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, told Roll Call that Cipollone’s letter is “borderline hysterical,” adding, “Cipollone would rip up the Constitution and make impeachment subject to presidential consent.”
Shaub, now a senior adviser at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), went on to say, in reference to the White House counsel’s bizarre argument, “Its underlining assumption, that the executive must consent to an impeachment inquiry, mistakes Trump for a king.”
Neal Katyal, the former acting U.S. solicitor general, drew a similar conclusion, noting on Twitter that Cipollone is “saying in effect” that the American president is “a king.”
New York’s Adam K. Raymond noted a related argument that unfolded on Fox News soon after.
On Tuesday’s episode of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, Joseph diGenova did what Giuliani hasn’t. The lawyer and ardent Trump fan appeared on the show right next to Giuliani, when he called the impeachment proceedings against Trump “regicide.”
“What you’re seeing is regicide,” said diGenova…. “This is regicide by another name, fake impeachment.”
If that name sounds familiar, it’s because last year Trump decided to hire Joe diGenova, a far-right conspiracy theorist and frequent Fox News guest, to help defend him from the investigation into the Russia scandal. They parted ways seven days later.
I suppose it’s possible that the Republican lawyer isn’t altogether clear what “regicide” means, and perhaps his ignorance led him to use it incorrectly. Joe diGenova may not know, for example, that the word refers to murdering a king, which doesn’t seem to make any sense in this context – since impeachment is not murder, and Trump is not royalty.
The alternative, of course, is that diGenova knows what the term means and he considers the president to be an actual king.