Understanding the Impeachment Proceeding that is about to Transpire in the U.S. Congress

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last Tuesday (September 25, 2019) that the House of Representatives is set to move forward with an impeachment inquiry.

Speaker Pelosi stated that she made the decision to endorse the inquiry after conferring with key members of the Lower House, about the facts and events that led to Donald Trump’s admission that he asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and son. Such events included Trump’s suppression of a related whistleblower complaint filed by an intelligence officer.

What Does an Impeachment Inquiry Denote?

First off, the term impeachment does not necessarily mean that the subject of an impeachment inquiry will be removed from office once evidence of wrongdoing leads to a formal inquiry or investigation.

The results of the “impeachment inquiry” provides the basis on which the House of Representative will exercise the power to file formal charges against a president, vice president or civil official currently holding office, found in violation of his oath to perform duties by abusing the authority afforded by his position.

After the “impeachment inquiry” has been completed, the so-called “articles of impeachment” will be drafted.

What do the “Articles of Impeachment” Signify?

Once the House of Representative wraps up the inquiry procedure, all evidence of wrongdoings of the elected official under impeachment inquiry, will be used to draft a set of charges known as the “Articles of Impeachment.”

The term articles basically refer to the reasons why the official being impeached will undergo trial and thereafter receive judgment on whether he shall be removed from office or not; or if necessary, be convicted for unlawful acts committed.

What kind of charges will the “articles of impeachment” include?

The standard charges for which a President, Vice President or a civil official of the U.S. government can be impeached are generally termed as acts of “bribery, treason, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

All three types of charges denote actions that have been carried out through abuse of authority and misuse of office for reasons that may include financial gain, personal advancement or benefit, or any other act that is not compatible with sworn duties related to protecting the interests and national security of the country.

The draft of the “Articles of Impeachment” must first be voted upon by a majority of the members of the House Representatives. Once ratified by the lower house, a final set of charges or the official “Articles of Impeachment” will be passed on to the Congressional chamber of the U.S. Senators.

The Impeachment Trial Conducted in the Senate Chamber

After the “Articles of Impeachment” goes to the Senate Chamber, an impeachment trial will take place. The trial is the final process of the impeachment proceeding, to which appointed members of the House of Representatives will act as prosecutors during trial.

The office holder under impeachment is permitted to present his own defense against the charges through his own set of defense lawyers. Both the designated House of Representatives members and the impeachment defense panel, can present evidence, as well as call on witnesses to prove or disprove the charges, as the case may be.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides during the trial, to act accordingly in the manner prescribed by law regarding judicial hearings. The members of the U.S. Senate has no other role but to decide on whether the charges brought against the impeached person will require immediate removal from office, disqualification from holding another government position, and/or conviction.

The Senate will deliberate on such decisions by way of a closed-door session. After which, the final judgment will be voted upon by the full Senate body in an open-session. In the event that the Senate presents a judgment that includes conviction, at least two-thirds of the members of the Senate Chamber must have openly concurred with such judgment.

In the annals of American history, only U.S. presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton underwent impeachment trial. In both cases, the Senate had cast votes not to remove them from office or to convict them. Although President Richard Nixon underwent impeachment inquiry, he resigned from his position before the charges against him were addressed in an impeachment trial.

History of Consumerism and Consumer Laws in India

There was once a time when consumerism was unheard of India. Citizens as consumers had no voice, due to lack of awareness about consumer laws that could protect them.

Back then, and fresh from gaining their newly found independence from British colonial rule, Indian leaders were busy building a democratic government. The concept of consumerism was hardly a matter that required immediate addressing.

Buyers merely had to follow the rule of caveat emptor or “buyer beware” when making purchases. Often times, they were treated to unfair merchant practices that included selling of items with inferior quality, of adulterated food, fake drugs, exorbitant prices, poor services and even hazardous products. Consumers who dared complain only got into arguments, as vendors merely responded with rudeness regardless of the legitimacy of reasons.

Still, the great Mahatma Gandhi, prime mover of Indian independence, who despite not accepting any government position, called the attention of other leaders to the plight of the “poor consumers.” He urged them to focus their attention on consumers whom he described as the most important visitor in all premises. Gandhi stressed that consumers are not dependent on what establishments had to offer, nor be treated as an interruption to their work. Instead, they must be regarded as the main purpose of their endeavors.

Yet Mahatma Gandhi’s words fell on deaf ears. It remained for a long time that consumers had to take responsibility for themselves when buying commodities. If one was not satisfied with a product brand, or with the food or services provided by a shop, it is up to the buyer to avoid or to stop buying the brand or in patronizing an establishment.

It took many years and adverse conditions before movements came about to advance the welfare of consumers. In the 1960s, unfair trade practices led to hoarding, causing widespread food shortages across Indian states, which also spawned black marketing. At first consumer movements involved mostly trading exhibits and of writing editorials, but hardly resulted to government actions in addressing consumerism.

Nonetheless, civic organizations formed during the 70s took bolder steps in carrying out missions of protecting consumers against unfair and unethical trade practices. Since there was no legal system in place, the years thereon saw an upsurge of consumer groups that took it upon themselves to address rampant exploitations in the marketplace. The groups became a social force that came to affect business operations. Organized efforts had created pressures that constrained sellers and business firms to pay attention to calls for cessation of malpractices.

Finally, by the 1980s, the movement to protect consumers throughout the nation succeeded in instilling the importance of consumerism to all. Lawmakers in different levels were finally taking action, and eventually, the federal government of India enacted the Consumer Protection Act of 1986.

How Globalization Helped Boost Consumerism in India

The advent of globalization helped boost consumerism in India. Local businesses now have to face worldwide competition, as eCommerce became a force with which they have to contend. Options for consumer purchases were no longer confined to what local manufacturers had to offer, as many Indian citizens discovered the benefits of shopping online.

However, caution must still be observed since not all online sellers are governed by the Distance Selling Regulations imposed by the country in which online sellers are registered. One of the most popular online stores that offer the widest variety of consumer products is the Amazon online store. This online establishment obviously caters to a large sector of the Indian population, since it annually holds the Amazon Great Indian Sale, an event much awaited by Amazon’s registered Indian members.

It may have taken a long time for consumerism to fully evolve in India, but what is important is that it did and that related legal systems</strong are now in place.

Legal Experts Confirm that a U.S. President Can Still be Indicted When No Longer In Office

A U.S. president currently holding office becomes an ordinary citizen once he or she steps down from said government position. Once out of the Oval Office, an ex-president can be indicted if further investigations of any purported wrongdoings during his tenure as president of the United States, draw further evidence that he or she is guilty of having committed related criminal acts.

This legal matter cropped up last July 24, 2019, after former FBI head Robert Mueller testified in a 7-hour long Congressional hearing.  To queries raised by lawmakers regarding the culpability of Trump, former Special Counsel Mueller testified that Donald Trump could be charged once he is no longer in office.

Key Points to Consider about Mueller’s Testimony

The former FBI head made it clear that:

Trump could be indicted to face charges after he leaves office, which is quite different from the Democrats’ general analysis that the Mueller Report provides basis for filing impeachment charges against Donald Trump.

Even before he answered questions, the former FBI head had made it clear that in the Mueller Report, which read as ”we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime,” did not mean exoneration of any misdeeds that seemingly involved Donald Trump.

Robert Mueller testified that according to the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)) of the Department of Justice, a prosecutor cannot file charges against a sitting president. The main reasons for this ruling include deference for impeachment proceedings, and the need to keep the head of the government, free from distractions while performing important duties.

Still, the ruling also states that the prosecutor can continue the investigation to determine if other persons, including the president, might be involved in an established conspiracy; such as the proven case of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.

Legal Experts Confirm Mueller’s Testimony

The website Punditfact referred the aforesaid matter to legal experts who gave the following opinion:

Mark Osler, a Law Professor at the University of St. Thomas.agreed with Mueller, saying that

Once a president is out of office, both deference to impeachment and the need to avoid distraction from his or her important duties as chief executive, evaporate as primary reasons to avoid prosecution.”

Josh Chafetz, a Law Professor at Cornell University likewise agreed with Mueller; stating that

”Arguments based on the supposed position of the president at the top of the prosecutorial hierarchy, also lose force for former presidents

.

Diane Marie Amann, a Law Professor at the University of Georgia voiced the same opinion; pointing out the line in the Justice Department ruling that says the prohibition to indict a sitting president fades, when he or she leaves office.

Statute of Limitations Applicable to the Ruling on Indictment of Ex-Presidents

If continuing investigations into alleged criminal acts provide basis for indicting a former president, any charges filed against that ex-president must be made within five (5) years. This is in line with the Statute of Limitations applicable to federal charges of obstruction of justice filed by a government administration against a former U.S. president.

However, the statutes have exceptions to which Congress can in theory, extend the time limit to prosecute the former chief executive. Still, if the present administration of the government chooses not to file charges within 5 years, then that former head of state becomes exempt from prosecution.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Poised to Legally Block Trump’s New Mexico Importation Tariffs

On the same day (May 30, 2019) when the U.S. – China Trade War negotiations broke down, U.S. president Donald Trump announced that starting June 10, 2019, he will be imposing a five percent (5%) tariff on Mexico importations. The said tariff will increase by another five percent (5%) every month up to October, 2019 until it reaches a max of twenty-five percent (25%).

The uproar against the new tariff imposition is so resounding that no less than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC) intends to sue Donald Trump. John Murphy, USCC Senior Vice President Of International affairs came out with an announcement that his group is constrained to make a move against the new Trump tariff.

As it is, leading business organizations are already discussing filing a lawsuit against the White House, to which actions on how they will go about it will be decided this Monday (June 03, 2019.) Mr. Murphy commented,

“Imposing tariffs on goods purchased from Mexico is exactly the wrong move… American families and businesses will be paying the tariffs, without solving the very real problems at the U.S. – Mexico border.”

Trump said that imposing tariffs on Mexico is his administration’s way of pressuring Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to step up with the blocking of Central American migrants to prevent groups from crossing into the U.S border. Trump intends to impose the Mexico tariff until such time the issue concerning the surge of illegal immigrants passing through Mexico, has been resolved.

USCC Analysis of the New Tariff Impact on U.S. States that Import Goods from Mexico

In 2018, imported goods from Mexico totaled $346.5 billion. Should the Trump administration go ahead with the five percent (5%) tariff on Mexico importations, the USCC estimates that American consumers and businesses will be confronted with as much as $17 billion in tax increases.

Yet that is only the initial onus that taxpayers have to shoulder. Since the planned tariff is set to gradually increase at five percent (5%) each succeeding month to reach 25% by October, 2019, the potential tax burden could soar to $86 billion. Trump intends to impose the 25% tariff until Mexico does something to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. border.

Businesses in the U.S. states of Texas, Michigan, California, Illinois, Ohio and Arizona regard Mexico as a top trading partner, as importing goods coming from the country has contributed to their economic growth and job opportunities. These states will be the hardest hit, if businesses and consumer will be constrained to pay additional taxes on the goods they import from Mexico.

U.S. Code § 6103: Law Permitting Disclosure of Tax Returns and Related Tax Information to Committees of Congress

Under the Internal Revenue Code, income tax returns and other information related to tax returns can be kept confidential. That is the general rule; but with certain exceptions which Congress passed into law in 1924 under U.S. Code § 6103.

The provision listed exceptions to the confidentiality rule; permitting disclosure of tax returns or related information upon request of certain individuals or examining authority. It was noted that disclosure of tax returns to Committees of Congress, is among the long list of exceptions to the tax information confidentiality rule.

This particular provision is highly relevant to President Trump’s continuing refusal to submit copies of his personal tax returns. Richard Neal, D-Mass of the House Ways and Means, in his capacity as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, had sent a letter to the IRS of the Treasury Department last April 03, 2019. Compliance to the House Committee’s request is expected on or before April 10, 2019.

However, through a new set of lawyers hired by Donald Trump, the president stayed firm on his refusal to furnish Congress with documents and information related to his personal and business tax returns. Trump’s new attorney, William Consovoy sent a 4-page letter seeking to weaken the validity of the reason for which the confidentiality exemption is being invoked.

Trump’s Refusal will Likely Lead to Another Court Battle

Even before House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Neal sent the request, he already anticipated that Trump will do everything possible to keep his personal and business tax information confidential. If necessary, the House Ways and Means Committee intends to bring this matter to court.

Consovoy’s letter is seen as a mere ploy to delay the Treasury Department’s release of the requested documents, whilst awaiting the Justice Department’s position regarding the matter. Not a few regard U.S. Code § 6103 as an obscure provision that requires clarification, as its legislation was an offshoot of the Teapot Dome scandal that involved certain cabinet members of President Harding’s administration.

Cohen’s Latest Testimony Could Boost Trump’s Unprecedented Number of Lawsuits

Michael Cohen’s testimony at the hearing conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Reforms last February 27, 2019, opened a can of worms so to speak. Albeit being discredited for his own conviction mainly as a tax cheat, a perjurer, and a falsifier of documents, Michael Cohen produced documents that serve as starting points from which other related documents will be scrutinized.

As a result, Democrats serving as committee members of the House Judiciary Committee, have sent out 81 requests for documents to different Trump Administration members, as well as to family and associates linked to the Trump Organization and electoral campaign. Through the requested documents, the investigating panel aims to establish whether or not, Michael Cohen’s latest testimony is credible, or just another thread of lies to bring down Donald Trump.

According to House Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA), the results of their investigation will either absolve or implicate Trump and members of his family, staff, advisers, campaign supporters and all others linked to Cohen’s testimony of Trump’s wrongdoings.

House Judiciary Committee’s Probe to Compound Trump’s Political Problems

When asked last Monday if he and every recipient of the document request, intends to cooperate, President Trump signified that he will, as he does all the time and with everybody. However, Trump could not resist adding that the House Judiciary Committee investigation, is a “political hoax.” Furthermore, he suggested that the absence of collusion will render the outcome of the investigation as mertiless.

That is Trump’s view; but not for NY Democrat and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler. The latter believes that if there is anything that Trump is guilty of, it is that of obstructing justice. Rep. Nadler cited Trump’s public attacks and criticisms on investigators probing his associates and business transactions, as a form of intimidation intended to obstruct justice.

 

House Committee Chairman Nadler explicitly stated,

Over the last several years, President Trump has evaded accountability for his near-daily attacks on our basic legal, ethical, and constitutional rules and norms,”…Investigating these threats to the rule of law is an obligation.

Lawsuits a Norm for Trump

In June 2016, USA Today published a list of legal cases filed in US Federal Courts and in common law courts, totalling about 3500. Trump and his businesses were named either as plaintiffs, defendants or as third party to bankruptcy proceedings. In those cases, 500 claims against Trump were dismissed, while of those with clear resolution, 451 were ruled in Trump’s favor, with only 38 cases ruled otherwise.

At least 100 cases reached extrajudicial settlements that paid out hundreds of thousands; the highest known settlement was in the range of tens of millions.

Lawsuits continued to pour in, even during Trump’s presidency, including one involving a mauling incident ordered by Trump against protesters in Louisville, Kentucky. The numbers continue to rise, with the most recent being the lawsuits filed by political watchdogs, and 16 U.S.states against Trump’s national emergency declaration.

In this aspect, Donald Trump surpasses the record of even the most challenged individual to ever assume office as president of the United States, for having faced and about to face an unprecedented number of lawsuits.

Donald Trump and His National Emergency Declaration to Face Several Lawsuits

Time and again, US President Donald Trump warned Congress that if his request for a $5.7 billion funding for US- Mexico Border Wall project is not granted, he will use his executive power to declare a state of national emergency. Now that Trump finally made good on his threat, the incumbent president is about to have his day or days in court to officially explain the legality of his use of an executive power reserved for emergency situations. This time, his justifications for his executive action must be fully supported by solid evidences and credible testimonials coming from reliable witnesses and experts.

Right after Trump announced his declaration of placing the South Border under a state of national emergency, several legal entities acting as defenders of constitutional rights, human rights, and other rights that have been trampled upon by Trump’s recent action, have either filed a federal lawsuit or announced their intention to do so, in order to challenge Donald Trump in court.

Legal Entities with Federal Lawsuit Already Filed in Court

One of the firsts to file a federal lawsuit is the Public Citizen, a non-profit consumer organization founded as far back as 1971. Comprised by more than 400,000 members, it has been instrumental in carrying out movements, and if necessary, seek court rulings in order to ensure that the present government is working for the benefit of its people.

Aside from the federal lawsuit filed by the Public Citizen against Trump, three Texas landowners have also pitched in their complaint that Trump’s national emergency declaration includes imminent sequestration of their property to make way for the extension of the South Border Wall.

Should the court declare Trump’s use of the National Emergency Act illegal, then it strips the government of the right to seize privately-owned properties with or without compensation.

Another federal lawsuit already filed in Washington D.C. is by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Instead of targeting Trump as main respondent, the lawsuit faults the Justice Department. The Justice Department failed to uphold the Freedom of Information Act in relation to making public the information on which Trump’s emergency declaration is based.

Other legal entities that have announced their intention to challenge the legality of the emergency order, include the U.S. Congress, the State of California, El Paso County and the American Civil Liberties Union, just to mention a few.

Who is a Legal Person?

A legal person is one born to a country of domicile, whilst naturally earning the rights and privileges to exist and participate as a citizen of that territory. In which case, a legal person is a natural being who must also assume responsibilities and obligations due to the territory that has given him or her benefits gained from such rights and privileges.

As a natural person, he or she is a human being entitled to assert ethical and justifiable rights to be free for harm, claim protection or act in accordance with the dictates of moral conscience. In asserting such rights, a natural person has a moral obligation to interact harmoniously with other natural persons; mainly by respecting everyone’s legal and moral rights. In doing so, he or she must coexist with other natural beings without bias, or adherence to any form of discrimination.

Can a Legal Person Become Illegal?

Basically, a legal person does not become an illegal person on whatever basis by which the legality of his or her freedom to reside, or coexist with others, is being questioned. Even if he or she is a convicted felon, some important legal rights may be taken away but not all. A convict is still a legal person, who retains the right to receive care, protection and rehabilitation so that he or she can later rejoin society as a reformed felon.

Legal persons found residing in another country without proper documentation for their immigration are called illegal immigrants. When proven guilty, they receive punishment for committing a civil infraction and will be sent back to their respective home country as part of their punishment. Upon return return to their sovereign country, they are still entitled to receive the same rights and privileges afforded to them as natural-born citizens . Not unless they left their homeland in order to avoid criminal conviction.

Can an Institution or Organization Become a Legal Person?

An institution, organization or association composed of several individuals, may apply for special legal rights in order to protect every shareholder or member from unjust or unwarranted liabilities. However, the special rights and protection is only as far as their involvement as shareholder or membership is concerned. In such cases, the institution or organization that receives approval for specific rights, assumes a legal personality and will be recognized as a legal entity.