Late last week, Donald Trump decided to practice for a possible role as Kim Jong Un’s successor by cancelling the West Point virtual graduation in favor of a live event. This is in contrast to a decision made recently by The Naval Academy. The Air Force Academy sent its underclassmen home, locked down its seniors and moved up its graduation ceremony. The event respected the Doctrine of Social Distancing and the featured speaker was Mike Pence.
It seems that Trump, not to be outdone, wants all the graduates packed closely together to worship him and continue the tradition of flinging their hats into the air in a “Thank God, it’s all over” moment at the end.
From what I read, it seems that all the graduates will be tested before leaving home and will be quarantined in dorms (either alone or in pairs) for two weeks. I understand that a further quarantine will be imposed when they return home afterwards.
When I completed my university studies in 1964, students had the option of graduating “in absentia” in exchange for a small fee and receiving their diplomas in the mail. Sadly, since money was tight, I decided to attend. It was arguably the most boring day of my life. Watching paint dry is exciting by comparison. The only fond memory I have whenever I look at my framed but faded diploma ( that I still can’t understand ‘cause it’s in Latin) is that mine was the last year they were written by hand on genuine sheepskin.
Of course, West Point graduates don’t have the choice of opting out. If they try, it is likely their careers will end before they even start . Moreover, if they fail to meet their service commitments, they may be on the hook to pay back the entire cost of their programs, which I believe is about $400,000.
After I read about all this, I asked myself “How can the (not so) Esteemed Leader of the Free World be stopped”?
The first idea that popped into my head was to suggest that the mainstream media (other than Fox News) be convinced to boycott the event-or at least refrain from quoting, or even mentioning, Trump’s speech.
I think that idea has some merit if any of you reading this have the necessary media connections.
Then I thought of something else.
I am not a lawyer, although I have practiced and taught tax law for almost 50 years. I like reading legal novels and, like many people, I’m familiar with the term “Reckless Endangerment”.
Since the proposed graduation ceremony is slated to take place in New York State, I researched their definition of this crime:
“A person is guilty of reckless endangerment in the first degree when, under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life, he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person. Reckless endangerment in the first degree is a class D felony.”
All that is required is the creation of “grave risk”. No one necessarily has to die as a result. We all know that Coronavirus can kill.
Is it likely Trump would be found guilty?
Here is an expanded definition from LegalMatch:
“It must be proven that the defendant intended to commit the act giving rise to the charge. Further, it must be shown that the defendant knew (or in some cases, should have known) of the risk posed by this action. The defendant’s action must also exceeds negligent or accidental conduct, posing a risk of harm that is itself unreasonable.
It isn’t necessary to prove that the defendant intended their actions to cause harm to others or that they intended to cause the specific harm that resulted. The recklessness of the defendant’s conduct is sufficient. That is, the intent to act without regard to the risks is generally enough.
So, for example, you may just have been showing off for your friends when you fired a shot into the air in your backyard injuring your neighbor. You can be charged with reckless endangerment because the risk of injury was arguably foreseeable even though you didn’t intend to cause any harm.”
Finally, the big question is “Can a sitting U.S. president face criminal charges?
Here is a quote from an article in Reuters by Jan Wolfe:
“The U.S. Constitution explains how a president can be removed from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors” by Congress using the impeachment process. But the Constitution is silent on whether a president can face criminal prosecution in court, and the U.S. Supreme Court has not directly addressed the question.”
And, here is one last quote from an article in Lawfare by Laurence H. Tribe, Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard University titled “ Yes, the Constitution Allows Indictment of the President”:
“Former OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) head Walter Dellinger has authoritatively canvassed the complex history of the Justice Department’s wavering views on the indictment of a sitting president and analyzed the arguments underlying the relevant OLC memos and executive-branch submissions to the Supreme Court. He concludes that “putting a president on trial would be inconsistent with the Article II responsibilities of the modern presidency,” although indicting the president and postponing the trial might not be.”
So, where do we go from here? If you have any political connections or know someone who has, I believe the person to contact is Letitia James, Attorney General of New York. The contact information I found is:
Contact Office by Mail:
Office of the Attorney General
Albany, NY 12224-0341
Hopefully, the threat of criminal charges may be enough to stop Donald Trump from needlessly risking the lives of 1,000 new Army Officers and anyone with whom they may come into contact.