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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

President Donald Trump has many verbal ticks that often act as tells about what he is really thinking or doing. For example, CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale has argued that when the president tells a story in which someone calls him “sir,” he’s usually lying. Another tell is that when Trump refers to a true fact that “no one ever knew” or that “people have no idea about,” it almost certainly means that the president himself just learned about this fact, even though it’s widely known.

Trump indulged in this tick during a gaggle with the press Friday morning when discussing the House of Representative’s ongoing efforts to get witnesses and officials involved in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to testify.

Yet again, the president tried to argue that all the questions raised by the Mueller report about Trump’s ties to Russia and his potential obstruction of the investigation were moot.

“[Former Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein and [Attorney General] Bill Barr said there’s no obstruction,” Trump told reporters. “And also interesting: Number one, there’s no crime. And how do you obstruct when there’s no crime? Also, take a look at one other thing. It’s a thing called ‘Article II.’ Nobody ever mentions Article II. It gives me all of these rights at a level that nobody has ever seen before. We don’t even talk about Article II. So: They ruled no collusion, no obstruction. Very simple.”

There were many things wrong in these brief comments.

First, you can obstruct justice even if there was no underlying crime to be discovered; the law is written to allow for that possibility. Second, there were many crimes that Trump may have been trying to cover up by obstructing justice, including the criminal lies of his subordinates and his own involvement in a criminal hush money scheme during the 2016 election.

And with regard to “Article II,” Trump is referring to the second article of the Constitution that lays out presidential power. In fact, this is discussed all the time in politics, and it has come up frequently throughout Mueller’s investigation and in the aftermath of former FBI Director James Comey’s firing. Trump’s claim that “nobody ever mentions” it and that it gives him authorities and rights to act that “nobody has ever seen before” suggests that he has only recently become aware of Article II, its provision, and the debates over its scope.

Bringing it up in this context, Trump seems to be referring to an argument made most prominently by legal scholar Alan Dershowitz that presidents cannot obstruct justice by using the powers granted to them in Article II. Dershowitz’ view seems to be relatively idiosyncratic in the legal profession — most scholars likely wouldn’t buy this argument — but it’s worth considering. One person who did consider this argument, though, is Mueller. He argued forcefully in his report that president’s can, in fact, obstruct justice using presidential authorities if they do so with corrupt intent. Moreover, some of the acts of potential obstruction of justice that Mueller describes don’t even involve Trump’s presidential powers, so this argument may not even be relevant to many of the key episodes under scrutiny.

Watch the clip of Trump’s comments below:

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.