Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks recalled during an MSNBC panel discussion that she was once the prosecutor for organized crime. It was something that reminded her of this recent move by President Donald Trump and his administration.
This week, it was revealed that Trump said something to a foreign leader that was so concerning to a senior intelligence officer that a complaint was filed and the officer sought whistleblower protections. The White House is now working to obstruct any investigation about the complaint.
Former U.S. Prosecutor Joyce Vance began by saying that the one major point is that the director of national intelligence has already violated the law by refusing to turn over the information to Congress within seven days.
“The real take away is that we’re well past the seven-day period that the DNI had to transfer this whistleblower’s complaint to Congress. And we don’t know exactly what’s in it. And when I say ‘we,’ really, I’m saying Congress because ‘we’ the public aren’t entitled to it. But Congress, the House Intelligence Committee that Congressman [Adam] Schiff (D-CA) chairs should have that.”
Wine-Banks agreed, saying that the law is clear and in her experience the law understands implications by power-players like Trump.
“If he had said specifically, ‘I will release the funding, the loan guarantees and military support for you if you give me what I want,’ that’s an explicit request,” Wine Banks explained. “That is absolutely clear. But he doesn’t have to say that. I was an organized crime prosecutor for many years. And they don’t say things openly. People understand what they mean. And it’s implicit in the power that the president has that when he asks for a favor, when he asks the foreign government to do something that was for his own personal election benefit, not for the benefit of us as Americans, not for the security country, but for his own electoral power, then that’s implied and just as clear and just as illegal.”
She continued: “It is part of wrongdoing. It is clearly an impeachable and serious offense. I think we need to really completely investigate it. And whoever is withholding the release of the complaint, it’s within seven days of when he got the report that it should have been released to Congress. He is interfering once again, stonewalling the oversight by Congress. And that has to stop. It’s the same things as not obeying the law that says, ‘he shall turn over his tax returns when requested.’ He is thumbing his nose at Congress. And that is a threat to democracy.”
Vance noted that America and Congress is in an awkward position, “flying blind,” because we’ve never been here.
“There is a need for a lot of investigation,” Vance said. “Anyone who is involved in improper conduct could potentially have some sort of criminal exposure, but that, I think, is sort of an amorphous concept. What we’re really concerned with here is the foundational notion. There is no way that the president of our country should be going to a foreign country seeking a criminal prosecution. He has the FBI for that and shouldn’t be using a foreign country to influence our elections.”
She also noted that any person involved, whether Trump, Mike Pence or Rudy Giuliani, “there needs to be [a] full investigation by Congress so the American people ultimately can understand exactly what happened here, because it’s not right.”
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