Defend the presumption of innocence

by Gordon Jones

Sigh. It is a thankless task to defend the application of legal norms to Donald Trump without appearing to defend the man himself. But it is necessary. I shall just have to assume that my opinion of Mr. Trump is sufficiently well-known that I can run the risk.

Curtis Haring tells us (Hatch Sums Up Our Broken Politics in One Comment) that Senator Orrin Hatch is a statesman – or would be if he agreed with Mr. Haring, that when it comes to controversies involving sexual abuse or the president, no evidence is needed.

Mr. Haring endows Senator Hatch with the remarkable ability to “encapsulate the current state GOP lawmakers’ thinking.” It is not quite clear what Mr. Haring intends here – his refusal to proofread introduces a number of opacities (what is “engaging activities such as…” for example, or a “talkie moving picture show,” or a “wave of people’s ludicrous opinions”?). I suspect that he has left out an “of” in the phrase quoted, so that it should read “encapsulate the current state [of] GOP lawmakers’ thinking.” As it stands it might mean the GOP of the state (of Utah), but I don’t think that’s what he had in mind.

But to return to our sheep, Mr. Haring is upset with Senator Hatch for saying that perhaps we ought not to rush to judgment of President Trump on the basis of allegations about “things from the past that may or may not be true.”

Mr. Haring’s reading of this statement is that Hatch is saying that “it is okay to break the law so long as the economy is doing alright [sic].” No, that is not what Hatch said. That is what the defenders of President Clinton said, and the American people seem to have agreed with them. What Hatch is saying is that (a) we have allegations from known perjurers about (b) possible civil violations of arcane and incomprehensible campaign laws in connections with (c) Mr. Trump’s sexual liaisons with sleazy (can you say that under the new rules?) women which were (d) pretty well known before the election.

Mr. Haring characterizes those laws as “don’t obstruct justice by paying people off with campaign funds.” Now our legislative draftsmen are not Shakespeare, but they shine in comparison with Our Hero. Let’s unpack. I’ve seen no allegation that the two women in question were paid with campaign funds. The allegation is that paying them off might have constituted a violation of campaign contribution laws. And the reason for the payments was not to “obstruct justice.” That’s what lying to a grand jury is, just to remind us. No one (until now) has ever claimed that the voters levy “justice.”

Mr. Haring then reminds Senator Hatch that the statute of limitations on many federal crimes (this one – if it is a crime? Mr. Haring doesn’t say, and I’m certainly not going to look it up) is five years. But Senator Hatch didn’t say it wasn’t. He only said it was “from the past,” which it certainly was. I note in passing that five years from 2016 will be 2021, and if the voters have rendered the “justice” Mr. Haring wants, Donald Trump will be out of office and subject to whatever prosecution is justified by the evidence.

But what about that “evidence”? Who needs it? Mr. Haring is “not here to debate if the allegations against President Trump are true or not.” No need for debate, because “they certainly appear that they are” (sic – how could they not “appear that they are”? He means “it certainly appears that they are” or “they certainly appear to be”). That is the standard of evidence applied by the Democrats to Brett Kavanaugh, and it, not Senator Hatch’s caution about premature indictment in the press is the danger to the rule of law in America today.

At that point in his diatribe, Mr. Haring launches a Fourth of July speech about “a nation that, until recently it seems, prided itself on creating a government of, by, and for the people; a nation that prided itself on electing public servants that worked for the people and not a monarch; a nation that prided itself on saying that no one is above the law –  not even the Chief Executive.”

In actuality, “[t]he comments Senator Hatch made are those you would expect from” someone that believes in the presumption of innocence, that believes that an accused is entitled to a fair trial, that rejects the rush to judgment indulged in by a lawless rabble, that rejects a fevered description of the United States today as “a harsh and brutal regime” filled with those “who despise[s] the people.”

If, as Mr. Haring charges, Senator Hatch reflects “the thoughts and comments of many within the GOP in today’s [as opposed to yesterday’s?] modern politics,” then interpreted as I read them, that’s not a bad rap. Perhaps I may even re-join the Republican Party (after Donald Trump departs, of course).

Liked it? Take a second to support Utah.Politico.Hub on Patreon!

Related posts