Vladmir Putin is said to be suffering from Parkinson’s disease, and might end up leaving office. Given that he is a criminal gangster, he would naturally want to make sure that does not expose him to potential prosecution. Hence, this:
Russian lawmakers submitted a draft bill that could grant former presidents lifelong immunity from criminal prosecution beyond their terms of office, state-run news agency TASS reported Thursday.
Such a bill would give current President Vladimir Putin protection from prosecution if and when he decides to leave office.
Under current Russian law, presidents cannot be prosecuted for crimes committed while in office. The proposed change seeks to extend the immunity beyond their terms of office so it would apply to offenses committed in the president’s lifetime.
. . . .
“After the expiration of his term of office, such person has the right to count on the level of protection and legal guarantees that is not lower than those provided to him while he exercised presidential powers,” senator Andrey Klishas, the group’s co-chair which submitted the bill, told TASS.
“This order acts as a guarantee against unjustified persecution of the former head of state and recognizes the importance of his role in the general system of public authority.”
At first blush this might sound like totalitarian insanity — but when you think about it, all this law does is bring Russia in line with American standards.
America, too, has a rule that Presidents cannot be prosecuted (at least by the federal government) while in office. Given the recent proof that impeachment is impossible in a partisan two-party system, this means presidents are above the law until and unless voted out of office.
But once out of office, they have a de facto immunity, as the high priests and priestesses of the chattering classes find it too nasty and divisive to confront the possibility of prosecuting even the most criminal former presidents in criminal court.
Here is a perfect example of that strain of thought offered by a Washington Post columnist — a grand philosopher of the intellectual class at the vanguard of educated thought in this country:
I’m not sure what role the word “immediately” plays in that statement. Does McArdle think prosecutions are OK after a sufficient waiting period? Like after the statute of limitations has run?
Putting that quibble aside, it’s interesting both to examine her reasoning and compare it to those of the Russians looking to give Putin lifetime immunity. First: given our partisan nature, roughly half of the country will always see a prosecution of a former president as a political show trial, so she is suggesting lifetime immunity for all presidents, not just Trump. And to the extent that she would dispute that, is she saying that a president who received one-third of the re-election vote could be prosecuted, but not one who received one-half of the vote? That is incoherent, which further proves she is suggesting no ex-president should ever be prosecuted (OK, “immediately”). As for the concern that future presidents will “note the risk” of leaving after losing an election . . . what does that mean? That we should refrain from prosecuting a criminal after he leaves office because that might want to make him attempt to stay in office in defiance of election results and our constitutional system of government? (Never mind that could be what is playing out right now.) Is that a valid argument? Really?
Doesn’t this all sound a little bit like the Russian justification for lifetime immunity? The notion that such immunity, as the Putin stooge sponsoring the bill said, “acts as a guarantee against unjustified persecution of the former head of state”?
Given the sweeping nature of McArdle’s proposed de facto immunity for ex-presidents, I asked McArdle what makes such a president different from a king. Her answer was on fire!
What a burn!
But, like Columbo, I had one last question:
I never got an answer.
And so I congratulate Vladmir Putin on his expected lifetime immunity from criminal prosecution. We in the West have often said that we want Russia to begin to emulate our high political standards. Ensuring that criminal presidents escape consequences for their crimes is an important step in the right direction.