Tuesday, April 30, 2019

In Fighting All Oversight, Trump Has Made His Most Dictatorial Move

Robert Reich. (photo: Unknown)
By Robert Reich, Guardian UK
30 April 19
Robert Reich. (photo: Unknown)
The president is treating Congress with contempt. This cannot stand – and Congress must fight back

e’re fighting all the subpoenas,” says the person who is supposed to be chief executive of the United States government.

In other words, there is to be no congressional oversight of this administration: no questioning officials who played a role in putting a citizenship question on the 2020 census. No questioning a former White House counsel about the Mueller report.

No questioning a Trump adviser about immigration policy. No questioning a former White House security director about issuances of security clearances.

No presidential tax returns to the ways and means committee, even though a 1920s law specifically authorizes the committee to get them.

Such a blanket edict fits a dictator of a banana republic, not the president of a constitutional republic founded on separation of powers.

If Congress cannot question the people who are making policy, or obtain critical documents, Congress cannot function as a coequal branch of government.

If Congress cannot get information about the executive branch, there is no longer any separation of powers, as sanctified in the US constitution.

There is only one power – the power of the president to rule as he wishes.

Which is what Donald Trump has sought all along.

The only relevant question is how to stop this dictatorial move. And let’s be clear: this is a dictatorial move.

The man whose aides cooperated, shall we say, with Russia – the man who still refuses to do anything at all about Russia’s continued interference in the American political system – refuses to cooperate with a branch of the United States government that the Constitution requires him to cooperate with in order that the government function.

Presidents before Trump occasionally have argued that complying with a particular subpoena for a particular person or document would infringe upon confidential deliberations within the executive branch. But no president before Trump has used “executive privilege” as a blanket refusal to cooperate.

How should Congress respond to this dictatorial move?

Trump is treating Congress with contempt – just as he has treated other democratic institutions that have sought to block him.

Congress should invoke its inherent power under the constitution to hold any official who refuses a congressional subpoena in contempt. This would include departmental officials who refuse to appear, as well as Trump aides. (Let’s hold off on the question of whether Congress can literally hold Trump in contempt, which could become a true constitutional crisis.)

“Contempt” of Congress is an old idea based on the inherent power of Congress to get the information it needs to carry out its constitutional duties. Congress cannot function without this power.

How to enforce it? Under its inherent power, the House can order its own sergeant-at-arms to arrest the offender, subject him to a trial before the full House, and, if judged to be in contempt, jail that person until he appears before the House and brings whatever documentation the House has subpoenaed.

When President Richard Nixon tried to stop key aides from testifying in the Senate Watergate hearings, in 1973, Senator Sam Ervin, chairman of the Watergate select committee, threatened to jail anyone who refused to appear.

Congress hasn’t actually carried through on the threat since 1935 – but it could.

Would America really be subject to the spectacle of the sergeant-at-arms of the House arresting a Trump official, and possibly placing him in jail?

Probably not. Before that ever occurred, the Trump administration would take the matter to the supreme court on an expedited basis.

Sadly, there seems no other way to get Trump to move. Putting the onus on the Trump administration to get the issue to the court as soon as possible is the only way to force Trump into action, and not simply seek to run out the clock before the next election.

What would the court decide? With two Trump appointees now filling nine of the seats, it’s hardly a certainty.

But in a case that grew out of the Teapot Dome scandal in 1927, the court held that the investigative power of Congress is at its peak when lawmakers look into fraud or maladministration in another government department.

Decades later, when Richard Nixon tried to block the release of incriminating recordings of his discussions with aides, the supreme court decided that a claim of executive privilege did not protect information pertinent to the investigation of potential crimes.

Trump’s contempt for the inherent power of Congress cannot stand. It is the most dictatorial move he has initiated since becoming president.

Congress has a constitutional duty to respond forcefully, using its own inherent power of contempt.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Trump's new big lie: Women and doctors are plotting to execute newborn babies

Donald Trump returned over the weekend to what CNN accurately described as his “incendiary falsehood” that parents and doctors are “executing” newborn babies.

Trump’s brazen lie came in response to Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers saying that he would veto a Republican “born alive” bill, one of the latest Republican efforts to use legislation to spread lies about abortion. 

According to Trump, “The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby. I don't think so.”

No, I damn well don’t think so, because it’s a lie. 

In reality, what happens on some heartbreaking occasions is that a fetus has abnormalities so severe as to mean certain, often painful death—conditions “not compatible with life,” as writer Dana Zirlott described being told.

In humane states, when this is discovered before birth, women have the option to have a second- or third-term abortion and spare themselves and their children the misery of labor and delivery and a painful death. The decisions that Trump and Republicans want to deny women are first having that abortion when abnormalities are discovered and then choosing to allow their dying babies to die quickly and in peace. Instead, they want to force women and their doctors to subject dying newborns to further horrific medical intervention, to needles and lights and loud voices and scalpels and machines that will only prolong the inevitable, only prolong their pain. 

“Execute”? Seriously? Even by Trump’s standards, this is an outrageous lie, though again we see how Trump and his party are fully aligned. Because those “born alive” bills are intended to more subtly convey the same lie: that there are babies being wantonly killed by doctors and parents. No. We’re talking about parents deciding not to put babies through pointless and traumatizing medical intervention, just as cancer patients might decide that suffering through another round of chemotherapy isn’t in their best interest when the chances it will work are tiny compared to the misery it will cause.

Trump’s lie has women carrying pregnancies to term for what?

For the sport of executing a “beautifully wrapped” baby?

Pregnancy and delivery are major stresses on a woman’s body. Women die all the time from them. When, usually around the 20th week of pregnancy—a point where, not coincidentally, Republicans focus their efforts toward banning abortion—women typically find out that the fetus they are carrying has conditions too severe for survival in anything but the most elemental and painful sense, a decent society allows women to terminate their pregnancies. U.S. society not always being decent, some women are denied that choice and instead have to face it in the form of a living, but dying, baby. Now Republicans are trying to deny women the choice to protect their babies from more pain, and Donald Trump is out there calling that execution.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Congress Has the Power to Stop the 'Imperial Presidency.' Now It's Time to Act.

Sunset at the U.S. Capitol. (photo: Alex Brandon/AP)
Sunset at the U.S. Capitol. (photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

By Adam Peck, ThinkProgress
27 April 19

The mistake in assuming Democrats would finally have the power to impose oversight was thinking their authority would be recognized by the White House.

t was reasonable to think that when Democrats swept the majority in the House of Representatives earlier this year, the American people would finally get what they were owed: accountability for President Donald Trump’s aggressive administration.

For the first two years of the Trump presidency, with Republicans in control of two branches of government, any hope of congressional oversight rested in the disinterested hands of then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Democrats in the minority lacked any authority to hold hearings or issue subpoenas, or enough votes pass legislation to place checks on the White House.

When Democrats picked up 40 seats in the House last November, many victorious candidates promised they would put a swift end to what author and historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. famously dubbed the imperial presidency — that is, an administration that willfully detaches itself from any system of checks and balances.

Kevin Kruse, a history professor at Princeton University and outspoken critic of the current administration, was equally optimistic. “With Democrats now in control of the House of Representatives and the Mueller investigation seemingly coming to a conclusion as well, Mr. Trump will likely be held to account, in one form or another,” he and a colleague, historian Julian Zelizer, wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times. “But it’s important to remember that the ‘imperial presidency’ will outlive any one president unless more is done to institute real checks and balances on the office itself.”

Three months later, with the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report finally public and Democrats sitting atop powerful congressional committees, one thing is clear: the imperial presidency might be even harder to dismantle than many feared.

As it turns out, the mistake in assuming that Democratic lawmakers would finally have the power they needed to do their jobs was thinking their authority would be recognized by the White House.

Earlier this month, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) formally requested the IRS turn over the past five years of Trump’s tax returns, long sought-after documents Trump has repeatedly refused to disclose himself. Federal law is unambiguous: Congress has the absolute right to request the tax returns of a sitting president.

Under normal circumstances, that would be the end of the story: the IRS complies, Democrats and the American people have an opportunity to finally see the extent to which Trump and his family are financially linked — or perhaps even indebted — to foreign investors, and oversight is finally achieved.

Instead, the White House has refused to comply. Chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters the public would “never” see Trump’s tax returns, and this week Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress his department needed more time to assess the “lawfulness” of their request. It’s the second time he’s missed a deadline imposed by Congress.

The White House has similarly refused to comply with requests by Congress to allow administration officials to testify, and are now in open defiance of at least one subpoena, issued to former personnel security director Carl Kline to provide answers regarding senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner’s questionably obtained security clearance. The White House instructed Kline, who now works at the Defense Department, not to comply.

The White House has also telegraphed its intention to defy another subpoena, this one issued to former White House counsel Donald McGahn, whose name appears frequently in the Mueller report.

In an administration defined by scandal and lawlessness, Kruse has watched the last few weeks unfold with particular alarm.

“The refusal to turn over documents that have been subpoenaed, the refusal to appear before Congress, lawful congressional orders they’re just going to balk at — this is a real crisis moment for our constitutional system,” Kruse told ThinkProgress this week.

It is an unprecedented one, as well. Even at the height of administrative corruption during the darkest days of Watergate, the Nixon White House felt compelled to obey congressional oversight thanks in part to Republican lawmakers who put their constitutional duty above party loyalty. When officials in the Nixon White House were reportedly considering ignoring subpoenas, Congress threatened to hold them in contempt and have them arrested.

Similar threats have begun to surface out of this Congress as well, at least among Democrats. House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who issued the subpoena to Kline, said this week that he plans to schedule a vote to hold Kline in contempt, further escalating tension between Congress and the White House.

So alarming is the White House’s cavalier approach to congressional authority that even some of its staunchest Republican allies on Capitol Hill are beginning to apply pressure on behalf of the legislative branch.

On Friday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, sent a letter to the White House urging officials to allow Kline to appear before the committee, in accordance with the subpoena issued by Congress. Even so, Republicans — Jordan included — have opposed any effort to hold hearings into the findings of the Mueller report, which detailed no fewer than 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice involving Trump.

Whether or not other Republicans recognize the serious jeopardy in which they are placing the nation’s foundational system of checks and balances by capitulating to the whims of the White House is the central question.

“If Congress and the courts refuse to apply any oversight, all that is going to do is encourage [the White House] to continue this behavior,” Kruse said.

“Much of our system has worked on the assumption that people don’t want to violate the norm,” he added.

In this White House, where nothing is normal, there is no way to assume.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Trump's Stephen Miller and Hitler's Joseph Goebbels are chillingly similar.

Joseph Goebbels and Stephen Miller bear an uncanny physical resemblance - and also share the ability to spread nationalistic hate

Trump’s hate-stoking policy guru may be Jewish — but he still bears a scary resemblance to the Nazi Propaganda Minister in both substance and style.

another in my series comparing hitler’s GOONS to TRUMP’S

Many people consider J.D. Vance’s brilliant book Hillbilly Elegy as the quintessential portrayal of the anger in white America which brought Donald Trump a victory in the Electoral College. Without mentioning Trump once by name, Vance captures this festering nativism.

While Vance explained the source of the latent anger, there still have to be those who manipulate that hatred in both rhetoric and policy. Enter Stephen Miller, whose (embarrassingly for me) Duke University education seems to be put to use developing both the strategies and messaging of the politics of white resentment that personify Donald Trump.

More forebodingly, Miller is Jewish, and should know the lessons history teaches about nativist politicians turning one group of citizens against another.  Instead, he seems to channel the skills of Joesph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda.

Miller is a truly chilling figure, He resembles Goebbels physically, as well as in his willingness to provoke the dark side of humanity.

Goebbels of course was the master of simplified hate-mongering, Among his most infamous quotations is this, for which the average Trump voter can certainly relate:

“...the rank and file are usually much more primitive than we imagine. Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious.”
Goebbels had no aversion to lying to gain an advantage, as he once said:

“A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth” 
For Goebbels the bogeyman was primarily the Jew, at whose feet he helped Hitler lay the blame for the ills of Germany in the years after the “War to end all Wars”.

For Miller, it’s hispanics, blacks and anyone he deems not “100% American”. As the New York Times put it in a recent profile:

Mr. Miller has rocketed to the upper reaches of White House influence along a distinctly Trumpian arc — powered by a hyper-fluency in the politics of grievance, a gift for nationalist button-pushing . . .”
Miller started early with his demonizing of others, once infamously declaring as a 16 year old at Santa Monica High School.  

Am I the only one,” he asked, “who is sick and tired of being told to pick up my trash when we have plenty of janitors who are paid to do it for us?”
John Oliver labeled Stephen Miller “a revolting human.”  While it’s easy to accept that characterization, my concern is the Goebbels-like deviousness of the man, combined with a total lack of Jewish values. As a Jew myself, it’s appalling and frightening to see another so-called Member of the Tribe who is so bereft of character that he aligns himself with Trump’s legions of hate.

Note:  A point about conservative jews who get exploding heads at any comparisons between trumpism and Nazism:

Jewish conservatives are quick to take offense at any comparison between Hitler/Naziism/Fascism and Trump. I made that analogy before, and was excoriated by something called Jewish Journal for that.  In truth, I am immensely proud to have been listed right alongside such luminaries of progressive thought as Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews of MSNBC, Dana Milbanks and Richard Cohen of The Washington Post, and Charles Blow and Paul Krugman of The New York Times, who have made similar comparisons — and received similar criticism.  

Maddow: “By studying the first few months of Adolf Hitler’s tenure as German chancellor, beginning in 1934.”
Richard Cohen, Washington Post: Trump “is Hitlerian in his thinking.”
Henry S. Rosen, Daily Kos: “Any student of history can compare current times to the rise of fascism in the 1930s — when an electorate reeling from The Great Depression brought to power Hitler and emboldened Mussolini.”
Neal Gabler, “Like Goebbels before them, conservatives understood that they had to create their own facts, their own truths, their own reality.”
Dana Milbank, Washington Post: “Anti-Semitism is no longer an undertone of Trump’s campaign. It’s the melody. … When the election returns come in Tuesday night, it will be Nov. 9 in Germany — the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the ‘Night of Broken Glass’ at the start of the Holocaust when Nazis vandalized synagogues and businesses.”
Charles Blow, New York Times: “[Trump is] the demi-fascist of Fifth Avenue … an arguably fascist and racist demagogue.”
Paul Krugman, New York Times: “It takes willful blindness not to see the parallels between the rise of fascism and our current political nightmare.”
 Jewish apologists for Trump would be well advised to study the history of fascism in the 1930’s. Or perhaps they should just take in the movie Ship of Fools, set in the 1930’s, in which:

“ . . . the unflappably amiable Jewish salesman Lowenthal” naively proclaims: "There are a million Jews in Germany! What're they going to do . . .kill us all?"
Maybe that will be reminder enough of the danger of ignoring both Jew baiting and demonization of other minorities as well — whether it’s done by an original Nazi propagandist, or a modern day traitorous, Jewish demon.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Only Rebellion Will Prevent Ecological Apocalypse

'Catastrophe afflicts people now and, unlike those in the rich world who can still afford to wallow in despair, they are forced to respond in practical ways.' (photo: Guillem Sartorio/AFP/Getty Images)
'Catastrophe afflicts people now and, unlike those in the rich world who can still afford to wallow in despair, they are forced to respond in practical ways.' (photo: Guillem Sartorio/AFP/Getty Images)

By George Monbiot, Guardian UK

No one is coming to save us. Mass civil disobedience is essential to force a political response

ad we put as much effort into preventing environmental catastrophe as we’ve spent on making excuses for inaction, we would have solved it by now.

Everywhere I look, I see people engaged in furious attempts to fend off the moral challenge it presents.

The commonest current excuse is this: “I bet those protesters have phones/go on holiday/wear leather shoes.” In other words, we won’t listen to anyone who is not living naked in a barrel, subsisting only on murky water. Of course, if you are living naked in a barrel we will dismiss you too, because you’re a hippie weirdo. Every messenger, and every message they bear, is disqualified on the grounds of either impurity or purity.

As the environmental crisis accelerates, and as protest movements like YouthStrike4Climate and Extinction Rebellion make it harder not to see what we face, people discover more inventive means of shutting their eyes and shedding responsibility. Underlying these excuses is a deep-rooted belief that if we really are in trouble, someone somewhere will come to our rescue: “they” won’t let it happen. But there is no they, just us.

The political class, as anyone who has followed its progress over the past three years can surely now see, is chaotic, unwilling and, in isolation, strategically incapable of addressing even short-term crises, let alone a vast existential predicament. Yet a widespread and wilful naivety prevails: the belief that voting is the only political action required to change a system. Unless it is accompanied by the concentrated power of protest – articulating precise demands and creating space in which new political factions can grow – voting, while essential, remains a blunt and feeble instrument.

The media, with a few exceptions, is actively hostile. Even when broadcasters cover these issues, they carefully avoid any mention of power, talking about environmental collapse as if it is driven by mysterious, passive forces, and proposing microscopic fixes for vast structural problems. The BBC’s Blue Planet Live series exemplified this tendency.

Those who govern the nation and shape public discourse cannot be trusted with the preservation of life on Earth. There is no benign authority preserving us from harm. No one is coming to save us. None of us can justifiably avoid the call to come together to save ourselves.

I see despair as another variety of disavowal. By throwing up our hands about the calamities that could one day afflict us, we disguise and distance them, converting concrete choices into indecipherable dread. We might relieve ourselves of moral agency by claiming that it’s already too late to act, but in doing so we condemn others to destitution or death. Catastrophe afflicts people now and, unlike those in the rich world who can still afford to wallow in despair, they are forced to respond in practical ways. In Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, devastated by Cyclone Idai, in Syria, Libya and Yemen, where climate chaos has contributed to civil war, in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador,, where crop failure, drought and the collapse of fisheries have driven people from their homes, despair is not an option. Our inaction has forced them into action, as they respond to terrifying circumstances caused primarily by the rich world’s consumption. The Christians are right: despair is a sin.

As the author Jeremy Lent points out in a recent essay, it is almost certainly too late to save some of the world’s great living wonders, such as coral reefs and monarch butterflies. It might also be too late to prevent many of the world’s most vulnerable people from losing their homes. But, he argues, with every increment of global heating, with every rise in material resource consumption, we will have to accept still greater losses, many of which can still be prevented through radical transformation.

Every nonlinear transformation in history has taken people by surprise. As Alexei Yurchak explains in his book about the collapse of the Soviet Union – Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More – systems look immutable until they suddenly disintegrate. As soon as they do, the disintegration retrospectively looks inevitable. Our system – characterised by perpetual economic growth on a planet that is not growing – will inevitably implode. The only question is whether the transformation is planned or unplanned. Our task is to ensure it is planned, and fast. We need to conceive and build a new system based on the principle that every generation, everywhere has an equal right to enjoy natural wealth.

This is less daunting than we might imagine. As Erica Chenoweth’s historical research reveals, for a peaceful mass movement to succeed, a maximum of 3.5% of the population needs to mobilise. Humans are ultra-social mammals, constantly if subliminally aware of shifting social currents. Once we perceive that the status quo has changed, we flip suddenly from support for one state of being to support for another. When a committed and vocal 3.5% unites behind the demand for a new system, the social avalanche that follows becomes irresistible. Giving up before we have reached this threshold is worse than despair: it is defeatism.

Today, Extinction Rebellion takes to streets around the world in defence of our life-support systems. Through daring, disruptive, nonviolent action, it forces our environmental predicament on to the political agenda. Who are these people?

Another “they”, who might rescue us from our follies? The success of this mobilisation depends on us. It will reach the critical threshold only if enough of us cast aside denial and despair, and join this exuberant, proliferating movement. 

The time for excuses is over. The struggle to overthrow our life-denying system has begun.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Trump is deliberately bringing on a clash with Congress that puts the entire nation at risk

 US President Donald Trump meets with US Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp in the Ward Room aboard the USS Kearsarge, off Puerto Rico on October 3, 2017. - Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria thrashed through the US territory, much of the islands remains short of food and without access to power or drinking water. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Trump has decided to shrug off the last vestiges of pretense and go full authoritarian—denying laws that require the IRS to turn over his tax forms, launching a lawsuit to prevent Congress from seeing his financial documents, and ordering a former White House staffer to ignore a subpoena on a matter of national security. Trump is deliberately bringing on a collision with Congress that's been avoided for 230 years—and the wreckage threatens to include the entire government.

That picture of Andrew Jackson that Trump keeps on his wall isn’t just there because it allows Trump to bask in the history of racism and cruelty. Jackson is also there for his most famous response to a court decision that he didn’t like: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" With Trump gleefully defying every law he faces, and Attorney General William Barr standing by to administer absolution for all sins, just what action can be taken?

The direct order from Trump to block the testimony of former White House personnel security director Carl Kline is likely to be the first of Trump’s beyond-unitary-executive claims to get a further test. House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings has already announced his intention to hold a vote on a motion of contempt directed at Kline. And he has pulled no punches in describing where things stand: “The White House and Mr. Kline now stand in open defiance of a duly authorized congressional subpoena with no assertion of any privilege of any kind by President Trump.”

Rep. Cummings states that Trump “believes that the Constitution does not apply to his White House” and that he can order his staff to do anything, legal or not. And he cites an astounding point: Since Democrats took control of the House, the Trump White House has not produced a single official to testify or turned over “a single scrap of paper.”

This is an existential fight for the Constitution of the United States, and the battle is already well underway.

As this 2007 article from the Associated Press makes clear, Cummings can launch a contempt citation in the Oversight Committee, and it would then move to the full House for a vote. Assuming a majority votes to support the citation—as it surely will in this case—that citation is then turned over to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action.”

In legal terms, “shall” is not optional—but that’s certainly not how the Trump administration has been treating it. After all, the instructions to the IRS are also that it “shall” produce the documents upon request, but the Treasury Department is refusing to act on the plain meaning of the law. William Barr could easily instruct the U.S. attorney to simply not take up the charge, putting attorney Jessie Liu in exactly the same position as Kline: obey Trump, or obey the law.

And when it comes to refusing to take up a charge of contempt of Congress … this wouldn’t be the first time. Because another Republican has already blazed this trail.

In 1982, then-EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch refused to turn over documents subpoenaed in relation to Ronald Reagan’s rollback of environmental regulations.

A contempt citation passed the House 259-105, and the Justice Department … simply refused to take up the case, “shall” be damned. Instead, the Justice Department sued the House of Representatives, claiming that trying to look at the documents was “interfering with the authority of the executive branch.”

It’s easy to predict that this is exactly where the contempt case against Kline is heading. The legal case Trump has launched against the House Oversight Committee regarding his own finances serves as a reminder that Trump loves to sue. He’s long found success in dragging cases from one court to another, wearing out opponents and making issues irrelevant by the simple agency of delay.

Trump will not produce his taxes. Trump will take every step to block the release of his financial forms. He will go the wall to block Kline, or any other official, from giving testimony before Congress.

Trump is escalating his war with Congress deliberately. This is his 2020 campaign.

The results of that court case in 1982 may at first seem hopeful, because in the final result Reagan and Gorsuch produced the requested documents. But they did so only after the court essentially turned the case back to Congress and the White House, telling them to work it out on their own.

It is hard to imagine any circumstance where Trump, without some compelling force, would accede to requests from the House. It doesn’t matter that the House has a perfect right to the information and testimony it’s requested. For Trump, knowing that he is generating strife and division isn’t a side effect: It’s the goal.

And for Barr and Mitch McConnell, this is a perfect time to force their long-held vision of a unitary executive perched atop the mechanisms of government unchallenged.

In fact, Elijah Cummings has already tried to negotiate with the White House for Kline’s testimony. The result was exactly as expected.
“The White House claims that ‘under no circumstance’ will it provide to Congress any information about any specific White House employee—regardless of whether that employee lied to federal investigators about communicating with the Russians or continued working in the White House after the FBI reported derogatory information involving domestic violence.  The White House has disregarded numerous examples of the Committee obtaining exactly this type of information under previous Chairmen.”
Trump’s goal here isn’t just to protect himself. It’s to demean Cummings, diminish the role of Congress, and simply break the government.

Assuming that Kline or other officials are held in contempt, and assuming that some attorney, somewhere, is eventually ordered to take them into court, the charge is only a misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of a $100,000 fine and a one-year sentence in federal prison. And there is nothing—nothing—that would stop Trump from simply pardoning Kline if the case reached that point.

There’s also the possibility that this case, or others involving Trump’s resistance to Congress, could reach the Supreme Court. Neither the executive branch nor the legislative branch has been in a hurry to get there in the past, because a definitive ruling on the limits of executive privilege vs. congressional authority could make life difficult for either side. However, now that beer fan Brett Kavanaugh has been seated, Trump may actually be in a hurry to get a case before that court and simply have it grant him the power to kick Congress every day and twice on Sundays.

For more than two centuries, the United States has operated not just on laws, but on the understanding that the people at the highest level of government would be embarrassed to be found in violation of those laws. Trump isn’t embarrassed. He’s excited. Barr has made it clear that, no matter the severity of his actions, there will be no consequences. Trump can stand “in open defiance” of Congress all day, every day. Trump will tweet about it. Barr will smirk about it. McConnell will joke about it. Republicans will fundraise off of it. 

Endgame may not open in theaters until Friday, but in Washington, it’s already playing.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

America Has Already Fired Trump!

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog
Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)he question on everyone’s mind is whether Trump will be impeached. In other words, will America fire Trump?

Well, I have news for you. America has already fired him.

When the public fires a president before election day – as it did with Richard Nixon and Herbert Hoover– they don’t send him a letter telling him he’s fired. They just make him irrelevant. Politics happens around him, despite him. He’s not literally gone, but he might as well be.

It’s happened to Trump. House Democrats are moving against him. Senate Republicans are quietly subverting him. The courts are pushing back. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told him to end the shutdown.

The Federal Reserve is running economic policy. Top-level civil servants are managing the day-to-day work of the agencies. States are taking up the slack: California, for example, is now running environmental policy.

Departments and agencies are being run by lobbyists and insiders busily carving out loopholes, cutting taxes, and slashing regulations on behalf of the wealthy and big corporations.

Isolated in the White House, distrustful of aides, at odds with intelligence agencies, distant from his Cabinet heads, Trump has no system to make or implement decisions.

His tweets don’t create headlines as before. His rallies are ignored. His lies have become old hat.

Even America’s adversaries just humor him. Kim Jong Unand Xi Jinping give him tidbits to share with the American public, and then do whatever they want.

Action and excitement have shifted elsewhere – to Democratic challengers, even to a 29-year-old freshman congresswoman too young to run for president.

Energy is now coming from the grassroots – from people all over the country who are determined to reclaim our democracy and create an economy that works for all.

According to polls, most Americans want Medicare-for-All and higher taxes on the wealthy. And they don’t want a wall along the southern border.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Trump is still dangerous, like an old land mine buried in the mud. He could start a nuclear war. And his court picks are a terrifying legacy.

But in an important sense, he’s already gone.

Mr. President: In the words you yourself have often used, “You’re fired.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

This much is certain: Trump tried to cover up a 'sweeping' Russian attack on the U.S.

The bar has been set so low for this president that a damning report that can’t conclusively point to criminal wrongdoing is somehow being spun as a glorious triumph for Donald Trump and his skittering phalanx of swamp rodents.

And damning it is. For this reason alone, if nothing else:
“Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities[.]”
And yet …

If you’ll recall, Donald Trump repeatedly denied Russia was definitively tied to illegal hacking, going so far as to say the culprit could have been a 400-pound dude sitting in his basement.

And then, during the Helsinki Surrender Summit, he (in)famously said this:
"[Putin] just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be."
So he took the word of a man who attacked our country, undermining our nation’s faith in our own intelligence services and crippling our ability to respond, when he knew the man he was defending attacked us … and knew that man had helped his own campaign in what the Mueller report later described as a “sweeping and systematic” fashion. 

Let that sink in.

I mean, what if George W. Bush had blamed a completely uninvolved party — like, say, Saddam Hussein — for the 9/11 attacks?

Okay, bad example.

What if FDR had blamed anyone other than Japan for Pearl Harbor, even as he was trying to negotiate a massive real estate deal in Tokyo?

That would sound a lot like treason, right?

Republicans are ferociously spinning this report as a win for Donald Trump, when it’s clearly a huge loss.

We can’t let them get away with it.