Are Trumps, Presidents, Kings, Queens, and Khalifas Above the Law?

Epigraph:

Indeed, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression. He admonished you that you may take heed. (Al Quran 16:90/91)

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

The President is the law, according to Donald Trump’s personal attorney, John Dowd.
The “President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case,” Dowd told Axios’ Mike Allen on Monday.

For most people, Dowd’s pronouncement echoed President Richard Nixon’s infamous assertion to British interviewer David Frost that “when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

But, whether or not Nixon could have committed an illegal act as President was totally besides the point in terms of the politics of his situation. Watergate — and his complicity in it — made it impossible for Nixon to remain President. He resigned, but had he not, he would have surely been impeached by Congress.

Nixon’s arc is totally relevant to Dowd’s assertion that Trump can’t legally obstruct justice because, in the words of Judge Joseph Dredd, “I am the law.”

What Dowd is doing in this quote to Mike Allen is obvious: He is laying the groundwork for the possibility that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation finds that Trump obstructed justice in his firing of FBI Diretcor James Comey amid the ongoing investigation into Russia’s attempted interference in the 2016 election.

Trump family

Trump family

The brazen assertion Monday by one of President Trump’s lawyers that a president cannot be found guilty of obstruction of justice signaled a controversial defense strategy in the wide-ranging Russia probe, as Trump’s political advisers are increasingly concerned about the legal advice he is receiving.

Trump tweeted over the weekend that he knew then-national security adviser Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador before firing him in February — and before FBI Director James B. Comey said Trump asked him to be lenient while investigating Flynn. Experts said the president’s admission increased his legal exposure to obstruction-of-justice charges, one of the core crimes under investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

But Trump’s personal lawyer John Dowd sought to excuse the president’s tweet in part by telling Axios and NBC News on Monday that the “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case.”

Dowd declined to elaborate on his theory or explain the emerging legal strategy to The Washington Post.

Many Washington lawyers and legal scholars disputed Dowd’s interpretation, citing several court cases and articles of impeachment — as well as, in the words of one expert, “common sense.”

“We have a president, not a king,” said Sam Berger, senior policy adviser at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “No one is above the law, whether it be Trump or any of his close associates. It’s the sort of desperate claim that makes you wonder, ‘What exactly are they hiding?’”

Berger argued that Dowd’s reasoning amounts to a “Hail Mary pass” for the president to escape responsibility. “This response, ‘If it’s the president, it’s not a crime,’ has never flown with the American people or our legal system in any context,” he said. “Claiming that the president can’t obstruct justice flies in the face of both common sense and past precedent.”

Dr. Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, wrote in a recent article in the Muslim SunriseDarul-Qadha’a During the Rightly Guided Khulafa, how the rightly guided Khalifas in the early Islamic history never considered themselves above the law.

It is related that Hazrat Umar (ra) purchased a horse on approval, and gave it to somebody to try it. The horse got hurt in the ride, and Hazrat Umar (ra) wanted to return it, but the owner refused to take it back. In the dispute that arose as a consequence, Shuraih was chosen as the arbitrator.  He gave the verdict that if the horse was ridden with the permission of the owner it could be returned, otherwise not. Hazrat Umar (ra) said that was the right decision and at once appointed Shuraih as the Qadi of Kufa.

Here is another example of Hazrat Umar’s (ra) respect for justice and his conviction that all are equal before the law. Hazrat Umar (ra) as a defendant: Once a dispute arose between Hazrat Umar (ra) and a Muslim called Ubayy bin Ka`ab over some money. The case came before Qadi Zaid for hearing who ordered Hazrat Umar (ra) to appear before him to plead his case. As the parties arrived in court, Zaid, out of respect for the Khalifah, invited Hazrat Umar (ra) to sit with him, but he declined by saying, “This is your first injustice. All are equal before the court of law.” He then went and sat along side Ubayy bin Ka`ab. During the hearing Ubayy was asked to produce any evidence for his claim but he failed to do so. Hazrat Umar (ra) totally denied that Ubayy had any claim over him. At this Ubayy requested the court to get a statement on oath from Hazrat Umar (ra). Qadi Zaid hesitated by saying that it was not proper for the Khalifah to sign such a statement but Hazrat Umar (ra) reprimanded the judge by saying, “You can administer justice only if you remain impartial.”

After the Battle of Siffin, Hazrat Ali (ra) lost his valuable coat of mail and saw it in the possession of a Christian. When asked to return it, the man insisted that the coat belonged to him. Hazrat Ali (ra) led a suit in the court of the Qadi of Kufa. The Qadi asked him to produce witnesses in support of his claim. Hazrat Ali (ra) could produce his son and his slave as witnesses. The Qadi held that he could not accept such evidence. Hazrat Ali (ra) appreciated the integrity of the Qadi. After the judgment the Christian came to Hazrat Ali and offered him the coat saying that it in fact belonged to him. The man was so impressed that he accepted Islam at the hands of Hazrat Ali (ra) who presented him the coat of mail as well as a horse.

Sources:

  1. http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/04/politics/trump-john-dowd-obstruct-justice/index.html
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/a-bold-new-legal-defense-for-trump-presidents-cannot-obstruct-justice/2017/12/04/b95cb262-d91c-11e7-a841-2066faf731ef_story.html?utm_term=.1d788719b05b
  3. https://themuslimtimes.info/2017/12/05/darul-qadhaa-during-the-rightly-guided-khulafa/

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