Will Donald Trump Put Vanuatu on the Map?

Few Americans could find the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on a map. Fewer still know anything of its constitutional jurisprudence. Donald Trump could change all that if he exercises the right he claims to have to pardon himself (here). Vanuatu is the only country whose courts have ruled on the validity of a presidential self-pardon, and the merits of their ruling would surely be fodder for editorials, op-eds, and cable television’s blabbers  learned commentators.

Vanuatu’s courts had the unprecedented case thrust upon them thanks to the action of Marcellino Pipite. Speaker of the Vanuatu legislature, in accordance with the country’s constitution he served as acting president whenever the sitting president was abroad. During one period of service a long running trial where he and 13 other parliamentarians were on trial for bribery ended in a guilty verdict against all fourteen.  Pipite then promptly exercised the president’s constitutional pardon power, excusing himself and the other defendants from any criminal wrongdoing. 

The validity of a Trump self-pardon would surely come before the Supreme Court, and it has long looked to decisions of foreign courts when deciding its cases (here). Indeed, one of the most influential justices of the 20th century, whose acolytes include the current Chief Justice, was a firm believer in looking to decisions of foreign courts for guidance when deciding constitutional issues. Nor did then Chief Justice Rehnquist limit what foreign court decisions should be examined. 

“Now that constitutional law is solidly grounded in so many countries, it is time that the United States courts begin looking to the decisions of other constitutional courts to aid in their own deliberative process” (here).

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Can Trump Be Prosecuted?

President Trump and diehard supporters continue to maintain on Twitter, in interviews, and at press conferences that tens of thousands of votes at the November 3rd election were fraudulently cast and that once these ballots are excluded, he will be declared the winner. But under American law only a judge can invalidate a vote, and unlike Trump sympathizers, judges demand clear and convincing evidence of voter fraud — something Trump has yet to produce (here) and is quite unlikely to be able to (here). So Joe Biden will indeed take office January 20.

While President Trump’s term in office ends at noon that day, his legal problems will not.  Indeed, they are likely to accelerate.  For whatever immunity he enjoyed from prosecution as a sitting president ends too. 

By far the greatest threat Trump faces are the investigations led by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. and Letitia James, New York’s attorney general. Both are independently investigating criminal charges related to Trump’s dealings while a New York businessman. James may also be continuing her investigation of abuses involving Trump’s now defunct New York charity. The charges both are pursuing involve violations of New York state law, meaning a presidential pardon would do him no good. It excuses only violations of federal law.  

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Sins of the Father: Keiko Fujimori’s Presidential Candidacy in Peru

Dynastic politics are still strong across the globe. Hillary Clinton seems poised to follow in her husband’s footsteps and become President of the United States. Another Trudeau was elected Prime Minister of Canada last October. Chinese President Xi Jinping is a so-called “princeling.” And, as has been well documented on this blog, dynasties rule the political scene in the Philippines.

The front runner in Peru’s presidential election also has a familiar last name: Fujimori. Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori is the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, who held office from 1990 to 2000. Ex-President Fujimori’s regime did some good in Peru; for example, his liberal economic reforms helped to launch a period of economic growth. But his regime was also brutal and plagued by corruption. President Fujimori is in prison today, serving a 25 year sentence for human rights violations. He’s also been convicted of a number of corruption-related offenses, including using his spy chief to bribe journalists, business people, judges, and opposition politicians.

Despite this legacy of corruption, and the fact that Peruvians view corruption as one of the most serious problems facing the country, Congresswoman Fujimori sits atop the polls of the 2016 election. Is this a problem? How much should Peruvian voters consider Alberto Fujimori’s corruption and human rights abuses when they vote next month? And to what extent should the Fujimori family legacy affect their assessment of Congresswoman Fujimori’s approach to corruption?

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