Declaring it dirty, filthy and disgusting, President Trump often refers to impeachment, as the “I” word. For the Narcissist in Chief, it’s interesting how many words that begin with “I” will define Trump’s presidency. Impeachment. Iran. Incredible. Imprisonment. Imminent.
Let’s immediately consider the word imminent, derived from the Latin, imminere, “to overhang.” Something is imminent when it’s hanging over someone and about to drop, in a metaphorical sense.
The word implies an occurrence, most often ominous, that will occur momentarily. Picture a hangman placing a noose around a neck.
With the impeachment trial hanging over his head, Trump ordered the killing of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s military boss, claiming an imminent threat of attack.
Nancy Pelosi, almost 80, is not intimidated by President Trump or his pal Vladimir Putin. The speaker’s called them both out — in the White House no less — jabbing her finger at Trump while proclaiming, “All roads lead to Putin.” Prove that and the president just might be removed.
When Putin assassinates enemies, he cares not about legal terms such as imminent. Unless intelligence reveals an attack is imminent, the U.S. Congress claims it needs notice before armed conflicts begin.
In real American trials following a homicide, evidence of imminence determines innocence or imprisonment. Intentionally killing a person is unlawful here in Colorado unless the deceased posed an imminent and serious physical threat.
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Donna Yaklich hired two Colorado brothers to assassinate her husband, Pueblo police detective Dennis Yaklich. Charles and Eddie Greenwell shot and killed Detective Yaklich in the driveway of his own home on Dec. 12, 1985. Donna Yaklich was sleeping inside at the time.
When her murder-for-hire plot unraveled, Donna Yaklich announced she’d been a battered woman who lived in constant fear of her husband.
The defense contended this widow had to act to avoid imminent death or great bodily injury. The trial court gave a self-defense instruction, and the Pueblo jury acquitted Donna Yaklich of murder (but convicted her of conspiracy). Pueblo police and prosecutors were angry.
So was the Colorado Court of Appeals. The Pueblo court was scolded, and told to better comprehend the word, imminent. Judge Sandra Rothenberg wrote, “Yaklich’s evidence, even if taken as true, was insufficient as a matter of law to support her theory that she was in imminent danger at the time her husband was killed.”
In 2017, the battered woman defense found a better reception in the Court of Appeals in Maryland. That court ruled that a wife, charged with contracting a third party to kill her abusive husband, was entitled to a self-defense instruction based on imminent danger. This was so even though the husband was shot to death far from home, by his wife’s contract killer.
Trump loyalist Mike Pompeo offered a similar defense midweek, admitting America didn’t know precisely where or when the abusive Qassem Soleimani would attack, but the Iranian general had a history of violence and was an ongoing threat.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and others felt insulted by that theory of imminence, and said so vociferously. Not to worry. Late last week, President Trump asserted new specifics, claiming he believed deadly attacks on four U.S. embassies were imminent. Yeah, right.
On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper admitted he didn’t see any intelligence about Iran posing an imminent threat to multiple U.S. embassies. Regardless, this new cabinet lackey hastened to add, he believes whatever the president believes. Wow! There you have it. Intelligence and evidence be damned.
In American courtrooms, evidence matters, and inconsistent statements destroy the credibility of witnesses. Trump’s claim about Soleimani’s imminent attacks on four embassies is not believable to U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. Colorado’s senior senator, a Democrat, told CNN this past weekend:
“I have been told nothing matching that specificity in the (Senate) briefings, not remotely. I would have thought that if that were the truth, we would have heard that in the very first briefing that we had. And not only did we not hear it then, we have to wait till the president goes on Fox News three or four days later for his latest justification.”
Bennet finds the president’s claims incredible, telling CNN, “He lies when it would be easier to tell the truth.” Incredible means “not credible, or not believable.” Regardless, Trump loves the word and frequently brags that his accomplishments are incredible.
Trump’s incredible actions continue to please Putin. Russia wants to dominate the Middle East and beyond. Putin doesn’t want Trump removed from office. In mid-December, Putin told the world that Trump’s impeachment was based on “made-up reasons.”
The stakes of this Senate trial are huge for America and the man on trial. If he becomes the first president ever removed, Trump realizes imprisonment may next be imminent. Presidents may be immune from prosecution, but ex-presidents are not. Donald Trump will do and say incredible things to avoid incarceration. This could get wild.
Craig Silverman is a former Denver chief deputy DA who also has worked in the media for decades. Craig is columnist at large for The Colorado Sun. He practices law at the Denver law firm of Springer & Steinberg, P.C.