We’re short of the solstice, but with school getting out soon it’s time to start talking about summer reading. I’ve started early.
With all the furor about the two-year-long Mueller investigation and his recent public statement where he said, “Read the report!” I decided to. It’s available online. Don’t let the 448 pages scare you. I’ve only spent a couple hours and I’m up to page 175. The first part is about the “Russian Interference campaign” in the 2016 presidential election. I figure I’ll get to the exciting volume two (about the “cover up”) before we’re picking raspberries.
It’s a good read; well- written and direct. So far, I’ve basically learned the Logan Act is dead, even though it still occupies space in the Federal Code. (18 USC Sect. 953). The Logan Act was passed back in 1799 in response to a US citizen lobbying France to soften up its stance to the new United States. Congress and President Adams didn’t like that a private citizen could act on behalf of the US government without clear authority, so they made it illegal.
There have only been two indictments under the act in its 220-year history. The section I’m working through in the Mueller report shows multiple clear violations of this law. But all the folks who have plead guilty in the Trump circle copped to lying to the FBI, not violating the Logan Act. Mr. Mueller must not think the law is prosecutable.
To me, if you have a law on the books and don’t want to enforce it, get rid of it. I don’t like ignoring laws. I thought we were a nation of laws.
The second reading I’m into now is the Federalist Papers. They aren’t in clear language, but after a few minutes you get a sense of the colonial dialect. They were written as “letters to the editor” to convince New Yorkers to support the new Constitution that needed state ratification. They too are online. They are each about as long as this column, but there are 87 of them. It’s OK to skip around; there aren’t any plot twists.
As I was jumping back and forth between Mueller and Hamilton (the main author of the Federalist Papers, with Madison and Jay) I skipped forward to number 66, on why the US Constitution’s structure for impeachment proceedings was such a nifty solution. Hamilton didn’t mention all the negotiations that took place to define an impeachable offense, he just argued that The Senate was the best place for such a trial of impeachment to take place. He argues the Supreme Court had too few brains to properly contemplate the issue, though they are by definition the “Judicial” branch of government. He defended having Senators acting as judge and jury by saying we all have to wear different hats at times:
“This partial intermixture is even, in some cases, not only proper but necessary to the mutual defense of the several members of the government against each other.”
By splitting the duties, giving the role of investigating and indicting a Federal Official to the House of Representatives (The Popular Body, Hamilton called it), then having the trial and judgement in the Senate, he figured it was a Goldilocks solution. The balance of power is the guiding principle.
It’s wonderful that we can read such documents right there at our fingertips. I would hope you can find time; at least before the pumpkins are ripe.