The government has filed its brief in opposition to Senator Menendez’s Speech or Debate arguments. A fuller analysis will have to wait, but the arguments look to be pretty much as I expected.
From the brief’s conclusion:
Defendant Menendez’s broad, unprincipled interpretation of the Speech or Debate Clause is a blueprint for immunizing criminal activity on Capitol Hill. Under defendant Menendez’s interpretation, all a Member of Congress—or staffer—would have to do in order to shield his illegal activity from criminal prosecution is insert the word “policy” into a corrupt conversation, mention an unrelated bill in an unlawful email, write something legislative on a calendar entry for an illicit gathering, threaten to hold a hearing at the conclusion of a meeting, or ask for a briefing at the end of an effort to influence the Executive Branch.
(see update below) More precisely, Tillman argues here that any attempt to disqualify former Secretary Clinton from the presidency based on conviction of a crime, including 18 U.S.C. § 2701 (which provides that anyone convicted “shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States”), would be unconstitutional. FWIW, I think he is right.
Now if Clinton were to be elected to the presidency while actually serving time in prison, a different set of issues would be presented. But I think we can cross that bridge when we come to it.
(Clarification: Tillman does not believe that section 2701’s disqualification language is unconstitutional, but he believes it would be unconstitutional if it were intended to apply to the presidency and other elected positions. In part for this reason, he would interpret the “office under the United States” language as not applying to elected positions).
Update: former Attorney General Mukasey, to whom Tillman was in part responding, has emailed Professor Eugene Volokh to acknowledge “on reflection, … Professor Tillman’s [analysis] is spot on, and mine was mistaken…. The disqualification provision in Section 2071 may be a measure of how seriously Congress took the violation in question, and how seriously we should take it, but that’s all it is.”
It’s hard to decide which is the worst part of the House Ethics Committee’s report on member/staff travel to Baku, Azerbaijan, but I am going to go with the discussion of tangible gifts. At least it is easiest to explain why that part is wrong. I will discuss other aspects of the report in future posts.
As you may recall, a large number of members and staff traveled to a 2013 conference in Baku, courtesy of a rather shadowy group of Turkish American non-profit organizations. The travel was approved in advance by the Ethics Committee, but the approval letter explicitly warned each traveler about the possible receipt of gifts from foreign governments during the trip. Specifically, the letter noted that “[a]ny tangible gifts valued in excess of $350 received from a foreign government must, within 60 days of acceptance, be disclosed on a Form for Disclosing Gifts from Foreign Governments and either turned over to the Clerk of the House, or, with the written approval of the Committee, retained for official use.” Report at 20 n. 95.
Continue reading “Rare Bipartisan Agreement: Let’s Sweep Baku Gifts Under the Rug”