The Administration

OPINION: Trump acts like a president guilty of impeachable offenses


While the “Putingate” scandal is the subject of an FBI investigation and congressional hearings and the White House has reportedly studied congressional rules for impeachment, consider the following:

It is fair to suggest that if President Trump were a patriotic American president who knows he is innocent of all potential charges, he would be deeply offended that a Russian dictator could engage in covert actions aimed at electing his favored candidate as president. Trump would move heaven and earth to expose the truth behind the scandal and see that all of its perpetrators are brought to justice.

{mosads}It is fair to say, nay, proven by facts beyond a reasonable doubt, that time after time, week after week, month after month, President Donald Trump — whether he or his campaign staff are guilty or not — has done and is doing the exact opposite of what an innocent man who ran an innocent campaign would do.

Investigators seeking to uncover the truth of the Putingate scandal, along with Republican campaign operatives for House and Senate candidates running in the coming midterm elections, would do well to study the legal concept “consciousness of guilt.”

Consciousness of guilt can be suggested by prosecutors to the judge and jury in a criminal case. A typical legal definition of consciousness of guilt is offered by Legal Guru: “When a person who is accused of a crime does something which an innocent person would not do, at least in theory, the law deems that he has displayed a consciousness of guilt. The jury is told that they may weigh such an act as being consciousness of guilt in their deliberations.”

On the matters of the actions of President Trump in the Putingate scandal and the matter of conflicts of interest that run rampant throughout the Trump administration, the ultimate deciders are federal investigators pursuing the facts; judges and juries who might someday consider formal cases; members of Congress conducting legislative investigations; and voters who will render their verdict on Republicans in the midterm elections of 2018.

To Republican lawyers defending the president in various media, I would challenge them to state their legal opinion about whether the president’s conduct suggests that he believes he and his campaign staff are innocent of all wrongdoing and he wants the facts fully known, or whether Trump’s actions suggest a consciousness of guilt.

Does it suggest Trump’s belief in his innocence, or a consciousness of guilt, when he repeatedly fires prosecutors investigating the case and calls the investigations “fake news”? Does it suggest Trump believes in his innocence, or a consciousness of guilt, when he repeatedly asks leaders of investigations to falsely state what they do not believe, i.e., that the evidence proves his innocence?

Does it suggest Trump believes in his innocence, or a consciousness of guilt, that he falsely accused intelligence agencies trying to protect the nation from foreign subversion of being like Nazis and falsely accuses the free press trying to report the facts as being enemies of America?

Does it suggest Trump believes in his innocence, or a consciousness of guilt, when he slanders former President Obama with the ludicrous charge that he illegally wiretapped him and slanders the intelligence service of a trusted American ally with the ridiculous accusation that it illegally spied on him?

Regarding the Putingate scandal and the rampant conflicts of interest that plague his administration, does it suggest confidence in his innocence or a consciousness of guilt when Trump refuses to disclose his tax returns (what is he hiding?); when his White House attacks the independent federal ethics office for seeking information that might reveal conflicts of interests for administration officials (what are they hiding?); and when some of those individuals closest to him refuse to fully divest potentially conflicting interests and set up company structures designed to prevent citizens from knowing what sources provide investments or loans to them (what are they afraid of)?

None of what I assert here proves anything beyond a reasonable doubt on the ultimate question of innocence or guilt. What these assertions do prove, however, beyond any reasonable doubt, is that Trump is acting like a guilty man who suffers from an extreme consciousness of guilt.

To my Republican friends in the Senate and House, are you sure you want to stake the future of your careers and the viability of your party on anything less than the aggressive search for facts, truth and justice — wherever it leads?

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then-chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors blog and reached at

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 

Tags Donald Trump Guilt Legal affairs of Donald Trump Politics of the United States Reasonable doubt
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