"...nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb..." --Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The government in America is out of control.

Last week, this column discussed the unconstitutional efforts of federal prosecutors in Chicago to punish an American citizen for crimes that had not yet been committed. This week, I address the wish of federal prosecutors in Alabama to charge and to punish a man for a crime for which he had already been convicted and punished.

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Last week, special counsel Robert Mueller -- who had been appointed by the Department of Justice two years earlier to investigate the nature and extent of Russian attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and to determine, if those attempts did occur, whether the Russians had any willing American collaborators in the Trump campaign -- came to the cameras and announced his resignation. He also underscored some of his findings and did so in such a manner as to gin up House Democrats in their march toward impeachment.

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"Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." -- First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

When James Madison agreed be the scrivener at the Constitutional Convention during the summer of 1787, he could not have known that just three years later he'd be the chair of the House of Representatives committee whose task it was to draft the Bill of Rights.

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"If the president does it, that means it is not illegal." -- Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994)

The revelation last weekend by Michigan Republican Congressman Justin Amash that he believes the Mueller Report accuses President Donald Trump of impeachable offenses has ignited firestorms in both major political parties on Capitol Hill. Amash's argument is simple and essentially unassailable, though his fellow congressional Republicans don't want to hear it and Democrats don't know what to do with it.

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William Barr, the attorney general of the United States, now faces a likely contempt citation for failing to comply with a congressional subpoena and for misleading Congress. This is about the Mueller investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Isn't the investigation now complete? How did the attorney general's veracity become an issue and thereby extend the life of the investigation?

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When the Department of Justice designated Robert Mueller as special counsel to take over the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign in May 2017, Mueller's initial task was to determine if there had been a conspiracy -- an illegal agreement -- between the campaign and any Russians to receive anything of value.

When former FBI Director James Comey informed Mueller that he believed Trump fired him because he had declined Trump's order to shut down the investigation of Trump's campaign and of his former national security advisor, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Mueller began to investigate whether the president had unlawfully attempted to obstruct those investigations.

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That God, which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.
      --Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

When America was in its infancy and struggling to find a culture and frustrated at governance from Great Britain, the word most frequently uttered in pamphlets and editorials and sermons was not "safety" or "taxes" or "peace"; it was "freedom." And two intolerable acts of Parliament assaulting freedom broke the bonds with the mother country irreparably, precipitating the Revolution.

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When Attorney General William Barr released his four-page assessment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's 400-page report, I was disappointed at many of my colleagues who immediately jumped on board the "no collusion" and "no obstruction" and "presidential exoneration" bandwagons.

As I write, Barr and his team are scrutinizing the Mueller report for legally required redactions. These include grand jury testimony about people not indicted -- referred to by lawyers as 6(e) materials -- as well as evidence that is classified, pertains to ongoing investigations or the revelation of which might harm national security.

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"If the provisions of the Constitution be not upheld when they pinch, as well as when they comfort, they may as well be abandoned." -- Justice George Sutherland (1862-1942)

Here we go again. The legal battle over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare -- will soon be back in court due to the largely unexpected consequences of a series of recent events.

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Last Sunday afternoon, U.S. Attorney General William Barr released a letter, which he said summarized the report he had received from special counsel Robert Mueller about alleged crimes committed by President Donald Trump. Barr wrote that the president's exoneration is complete with respect to any conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. He also wrote that though Trump will not be prosecuted by the Department of Justice for obstruction of justice, the special counsel did not exonerate him.

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"When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal." -- Richard M. Nixon (1913-94)

Legal scholars have been fascinated for two centuries about whether an American president can break the law and remain immune from prosecution. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln ordered troops to arrest, without warrant, and incarcerate, without due process, many peaceful, law-abiding journalists and newspaper editors -- and even a member of Congress -- in the Northern states. Wasn't that kidnapping?

During World War I, Woodrow Wilson ordered federal agents to arrest people who sang German beer hall songs or read aloud from the Declaration of Independence in public. Wasn't that infringing upon the freedom of speech?

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"Emergency does not create power. Emergency does not increase granted power or remove or diminish the restrictions imposed upon power granted or reserved. The Constitution was adopted in a period of grave emergency. Its grants of power to the federal government and its limitations of the power of the States were determined in the light of emergency, and they are not altered by emergency." -- Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948)

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In an ideal world, the president of the United States would succeed in negotiating a nuclear arms treaty with a foreign government -- and do so with full congressional support; his lawyer would respect the attorney-client privilege and not reveal confidences publicly; Congress would abide the old adage that politics ends where the water's edge begins and lie low when the president is overseas on a delicate mission; the president would not engage in a grievous constitutional overreach that provokes a congressional negation; no one in his administration would have a top-secret security clearance who failed to be truthful to the law enforcement and intelligence folks investigating him; and the president would not fear RICO.

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 Earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a group of supporters and journalists that in her view, gun violence is the real emergency. Such a statement, in the context in which she made it, should send shivers down the spines of all who believe in personal liberty protected by the Constitution.

Notwithstanding the terrifying analogy she made about gun violence -- terrifying to those who believe in the individual right to keep and bear arms as articulated by the Second Amendment and interpreted and upheld by the Supreme Court -- Pelosi wasn't really speaking about guns. She was speaking about the presidency and the Constitution.

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Much has been made lately of language in a recently enacted New York state statute that permits abortion up to the time of birth if necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother. New Jersey has had the same provision for two generations via a regulation of the Board of Medical Examiners.

Sadly, when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the new legislation into law two weeks ago, he did so in a joyful and celebratory atmosphere. What moral person could find joy in this?

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Last Friday, on a quiet residential street at 6 in the morning, the neighborhood exploded in light, noise and terror. Seventeen SUVs and two armored vehicles arrived in front of one house. Each vehicle had sirens blaring and lights flashing. The house, which abutted a canal, was soon surrounded by 29 government agents, each wearing military garb, each carrying a handgun and most carrying high-powered automatic rifles.

In the canal were two amphibious watercraft, out of which more heavily armed government agents came. Circling above all this was a helicopter equipped with long-range precision weaponry and high-powered spotlights.

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Mike Scruggs