Trump, Netanyahu, and the Witch-Hunters

As we watch the spectacle of Donald Trump being vilified 24/7 by the leftist media, leftist politicians, and the left-leaning legal establishment through lies, innuendo, and extreme pressure put on his associates to get them to give false testimony, the similarity to what is being done to the leader of one of our most important allies, the extremely popular Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, is startling.  

Both men govern from the right and are supported by and represent those who feel ignored by most political leaders. Both men were lawfully elected but are not accepted by the leftist political establishment in their countries, who seem to believe that less-educated, lower-income individuals simply do not have the right to put someone the elite does not like into power with their votes. Hence, the nonstop campaign to delegitimize the elections of both men.

Sadly because of different laws in Israel the situation Trump faces pales in comparison to that facing Netanyahu.

Unlike the U.S. and most other Western democracies, where the national leader is immune from criminal indictment or prosecution in criminal courts while in office, this is not the case in Israel.  U.S. public policy and legal reasoning is the prevention of politically motivated investigations and the undoing of national elections as decided by the voters.

It seems that in Israel, not only can an attorney general indict a very popular sitting prime minister, but he can announce his intentions to indict, pending an indictment hearing, only weeks before the General Election set for April 9.  Furthermore, he will do it, not based on precedents established in Israel or other democracies, but make the decision based on past consultations with ex-Supreme Court justices and attorneys general he handpicked randomly.

According to Israeli law, after an attorney general announces his intent to indict, a preindictment hearing requested by the defendant will begin, after which the final decision to indict will be made by the attorney general and a trial will follow.

Early polling indicates that Netanyahu would easily win the election again and his Likud Party is leading by a huge margin.  The problem is that the timing of such public announcement will severely impact the election results by making a legally innocent-until-proven guilty prime minister appear guilty, without affording him the time needed to defend himself in a complete indictment hearing prior to the election.

In previous high-profile criminal cases, the preindictment hearings took several months and even longer.  In 2012, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman managed to avoid obstruction of justice and money laundering charges, after a hearing process that lasted over a year. In a past case against former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the preindictment hearing in which evidence was put forth persuaded prosecutors to drop the case entirely.  

But in  the U.S.,  the prevailing view among most legal experts  is that a sitting president is immune from prosecution or indictment so long as he is in office. However, the Constitution includes detailed instructions about how Congress may remove a president who has committed serious crimes of bribery, treason, or other high crimes or misdemeanors, through impeachment in Congress, setting a high bar to convict and remove.  That’s  why in the U.S. a majority vote in the House of Representatives to impeach a President and a two-thirds majority of senators is needed to convict him and remove him from office.    

Consequently, in the last 230 years of American history, only two presidents were impeached by the House of Representatives, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

In the U.S., we have repeatedly seen Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller indict associates of Trump for alleged crimes not connected to any Russian collusion and apply intense pressure on them to turn against the President. Just recently we have witnessed the predawn storming of the home of Trump associate Roger Stone by 29 FBI agents in full combat gear with weapons drawn for a perjury charge against an individual with no record of violence who does not even own a weapon. But he was released soon after by posting a bond.

However, In Israel, the ability of the state to intimidate witnesses far exceeds that permitted in the U.S.  Israeli law permits the actual arrest of witnesses and suspects without being charged. Shockingly , under Israeli law, a suspect can be in jail without being charged for up to 75 days by lower courts , and the Supreme Court may order an extension of the arrest, or new arrest, for a period not exceeding 90 days.

In the U.S., as interpreted by the Fifth and Sixth amendments to the Constitution, and state laws, a suspect can be held without being charged only up to three days, and in my home state of Missouri only up to 20 hours in criminal cases. One of the purposes of such a law is to prevent false or coerced confessions and testimony by major witnesses or suspects. 

The number of former confidants of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turning state’s witness after spending time in detention has opened the eyes of many Israelis to the country’s broken and abusive legal system.  For example, the prime minister‘s former spokesman, Nir Hefetz, was the latest Netanyahu associate to agree to cooperate with police and turn state’s witness against him after being in detention for 15 days and being held in severe conditions, which included sleep deprivation, hundreds of flea bites and blisters, and a lack of access to immediate medical care.  In the U.S., such detention would be found unconstitutional and any testimony or evidence from such a witness would be inadmissible under the “Fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine.

In both the Trump and Netanyahu investigations, no actual evidence of serious wrongdoing has come to light.  The indictments against Trump associates have nothing to do with Russian collusion, which was the stated purpose of the Mueller investigation.  As for Netanyahu, it seems that there is collusion among police, prosecutors, and the media to remove him from office after 12 years as prime minister.  The minor charges against Netanyahu are part of the everyday political process and are not criminal in nature.  The attempted criminalization of political differences by those on the left is a grave threat to freedom in both nations -- even more so in Israel where laws exist to make the witch hunt even easier and much more dangerous.

Shoula Romano Horing Israeli born and raised attorney. Her blog; ; her twitter @RomanoHoring  

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