Now that Donald Trump has publicly and falsely accused President Obama of having wiretapped Trump Tower during the election, a popular discussion has erupted as to whether Trump’s actions meet the legal definition of libel. Harvard Law Professor and Constitutional expert Laurence Tribe has thrown a bit of cold water on that, arguing that Trump may be immune to libel laws. But he believes Trump can be impeached over the matter.
Professor Tribe cited the case Nixon v Fitzgerald as precedent for why Donald Trump would be “arguably immune from liability” in any libel claim. But President Obama would be unlikely to sue Trump for libel to begin with. Instead, Tribe is focusing his attention on the more the real-world relevant issue of impeachment. Here’s how Tribe explains the legal basis for Trump being impeached over his false claims about Obama:
“Using his office to accuse the prior POTUS of an impeachable felony in reckless disregard of truth while implying security briefings. Gave him unique access to evidence confirming that accusation is a high crime that could properly form an Article of Impeachment. Trump’s accusation of lawless wiretap by Obama, unlike the racist claims Trump made as a private citizen about Obama’s birth, was made by Trump as POTUS, with strong suggestion he had ‘just learned’ in that capacity about Obama’s alleged crime, was a grave abuse of power of presidency to slander a private citizen as well as a former president, an abuse I’d classify as a high crime against the nation and one of its most distinguished citizens. Given GOP control of both House & Senate, talk of Impeachment & removal from office seems premature, but this is one big straw atop an already weakened camel’s back.”
Laurence Tribe posted the above in a series of consecutive tweets tonight starting here. He is considered one of the foremost Constitutional experts in the United States, meaning his interpretations carry significant weight. Impeachment hearings are initiated at the sole discretion of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. But with Donald Trump’s approval rating continuing to sink, the GOP could become motivated to impeach him if it believes it might bolster its chances in the 2018 midterm races.
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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report