Hamilton: Screenwriters, would you pitch these stories?
Could even the screenwriters for “24” or for “Homeland” conceive of the political soap opera being played out today in Washington, D.C.? Who would finance a TV production featuring a sitting American President who, himself, was knowingly communicating highly classified e-mails with his Secretary of State over a non-secure e-mail server exclusively owned and operated, not by the U.S. Government, but by his Secretary of State? Who would believe that a sitting American President would endorse a former Secretary of State, currently under “criminal” investigation by the FBI, to be his replacement in the Oval Office?
In real life, no one, except perhaps President Obama and Valerie Jarrett, knows what will happen between now and the Democratic National Convention (DNC). If Hillary Clinton is indicted before the DNC convenes in Philadelphia, would President Obama throw Hillary under the bus and insert a Joe Biden/Elizabeth Warren ticket in her place? Or, after the DNC crowns Hillary and Hillary is indicted, can she be replaced by Biden and/or Warren? What happens if Hillary is elected president on November 8, 2016, and is then indicted?
All these questions bring us to the subject of Presidential Pardons as stated in Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution:
“The President…shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in cases of Impeachment.”
Legal scholars say a sitting President can even pardon him or herself. Apparently, the Founders failed to foreseen a time when a sitting President would be impeached by the House, not convicted by the Senate, and then continue in office still able to grant pardons. Could even Hollywood conceive of a story line where President Bill Clinton, Impeached by the House on December 19, 1999, for perjury and obstruction of justice, would still be in the Oval Office granting pardons to criminals such as Marc Rich on January 20, 2001? Remove the “Impeachment” sub-clause and Bill Clinton could have pardoned himself and probably had his license to practice law restored right away.
Back to the present: President Obama controls the Department of Justice which controls the FBI, albeit FBI Director James Comey enjoys a ten-year appointment that is supposed to make Comey bullet-proof from presidential pressure. President Obama can simply tell the Justice Department that there will “be no” indictment of Hillary Clinton and await the political fall-out. Attorney General Loretta Lynch might breathe a sigh of relief while FBI Director Comey’s legal scruples might force him to resign from the FBI with seven years left to go on his appointment.
As for criminal culpability by President Obama for e-mailing classified information with Hillary Clinton via Hillary’s non-secure e-mail server, President Obama might claim that, as the ultimate classification authority, when he handles a classified e-mail via a non-secure server, the e-mail is then, ipso facto, unclassified simply because he, as the classification authority, treated the e-mail as unclassified.
All of this, of course, remains to be seen. And, on second thought, the zany realities we face today might, indeed, make for great television. How about: “Benghazi: What really happened?”
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and is a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the Army Language School, the George Washington University, the Infantry School, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
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