Tuesday Reads: Democrats Must Recognize That We Have a Lawless “President” And Act AccordinglyPosted: April 9, 2019
Cover-Up General William Barr is testifying before members of the House Appropriations Committee. He has steadfastly refused to give any straight answers about how he managed to review nearly 400 pages along with background materials in order to produce a “summary” in his letter to Congress 48 hours later. He hasn’t explained why he didn’t quote even one complete sentence from the report in his “summary.”
The bottom line from Barr is that the likely heavily redacted report will be released to the public in about a week.
One question that Barr has repeatedly refused to answer is whether the White House has been given a copy of the report. I assume that means that the answer is yes.
Perhaps that partially explains Trump’s unhinged behavior over the past week or so. We know he doesn’t read, but perhaps his attorneys or his son-in-law explained to him that the report is very bad for him. I’m sure the cover-up general will do everything he can to conceal (i.e. redact) negative information about Trump.
It’s very difficult for me to listen to Barr; because, as he speaks, I feel a powerful urge to slap this self-satisfied man across the face. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. Perhaps some comic relieve will help.
Andy Borowitz at The New Yorker: Redaction of Mueller Report Halted as Barr Passes Out from Sharpie Fumes.
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The redaction of the Mueller report stalled on Monday after the Attorney General, William Barr, passed out from inhaling fumes from multiple Sharpie markers.
Barr, who had been working around the clock to redact the report before its release, reportedly lost consciousness while trying to black out a seventy-four-page section detailing Donald Trump, Jr.,’s contacts with more than three dozen Russian individuals.
“You cannot use that many Sharpies, for hours on end, without proper ventilation,” a Justice Department staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. “This was a disaster waiting to happen.”
According to Borowitz, the cover-up general’s condition was described as “Ben Carson–like.”
More expert tweets on the hearing:
Barr was asked about why members of Mueller’s team have been reported in the press to be unhappy with Barr’s characterization of their report.
And consider this tweet from last night:
Another topic that Barr has been asked about is his decision to go along with rump’s insistence that the DOJ not defend the Affordable Care Act in court even though he (Barr) disagreed with Trump. Barr insisted that he represents the American people, not the “president,” but he then admitted that he went along with Trump’s demand that he not defend a law passed by Congress. He would not answer why he did that, but he snottily remarked that if Democrats the DOJ action is so ridiculous then they should trust that the courts will make the right decision.
Kyle Cheney tweeted:
As Rep. Cartwright presses Barr on DOJ’s effort to strike down Obamacare, Barr asks the congressmanwhether he thinks the effort is likely to prevail.: “If you think it’s such an outrageous position, you have nothing to worry about. Let the courts do their job.”
You can watch that testimony at PBS News Hour.
That’s about all I can stomach about the Barr hearing. Can I just say that William Barr is a fucking asshole? Thank you.
In other news, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal has sent letters to the IRS and the Treasury Department asking for 6 years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. The law is clear that the IRS must release them.
Yesterday Larry Summers made that clear in a Washington Post op-ed: The IRS chief must release Trump’s tax returns — and Mnuchin must not stop him. Here’s the gist:
As best I can determine, the appropriate response of the treasury secretary is very clear: Under a long-standing delegation order, the secretary does not get involved in taxpayer-specific matters and has delegated to the IRS commissioner as follows: “The Commissioner of Internal Revenue shall be responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Internal Revenue laws.”
Moreover, this is not a delegation that is readily revocable. Federal law provides that if the secretary determines not to delegate a power, such determination may not take effect until 30 days after the secretary notifies the tax-writing (and other specified) committees.
So for the secretary to seek to decide whether to pass on the president’s tax return to Congress would surely be inappropriate and probably illegal. I would surely not have done it. Rather, I would have indicated to the IRS commissioner that I expected the IRS to comply with the law as always.
What would that mean? The relevant provisions date from 1924, and I have not been able to find any case where the IRS did not promptly provide full disclosure to a tax-writing committee. The statute is entirely clear regarding the right of the committee to request individual taxpayer information. And Congress explicitly prohibits the IRS from withholding information from inquiries such as this one: Section 1203 of the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act details the “10 deadly sins” for which IRS employees can be fired. Number 7 is “willful misuse” of the provisions of Section 6103 — invoked last week by Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), the chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee — to conceal information from a congressional inquiry.
Treasury Department lawyers consulted with the White House general counsel’s office about the potential release of President Trump’s tax returns before House Democrats formally requested the records, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday.
Mnuchin had not previously revealed that the White House was playing any official role in the Treasury Department’s decision on releasing Trump’s tax returns.
Democrats are asking for six years of Trump’s returns, using a federal law that says the treasury secretary “shall follow” the request of House or Senate chairmen in releasing tax return information. The process is designed to be walled off from White House interference, in part because of corruption that took place during the Teapot Dome scandal in the 1920s.
Mnuchin revealed the discussions during a congressional hearing. He said he had not personally spoken with anyone from the White House about the tax returns, but he said that members of his team had done so.
We’re dealing with a rogue “president” who is shamelessly getting rid of anyone in his administration who still thinks the “president” should not be above the law. Yesterday it became clear that Trump is carrying out a Stalinesque purge of the Department of Homeland Security leadership.
The New York Times: Trump Purge Set to Force Out More Top Homeland Security Officials.
President Trump moved to clear out the senior ranks of the Department of Homeland Security on Monday, a day afterforcing the resignation of its secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, as he accelerated a purge of the nation’s immigration and security leadership.
The White House announced the departure of Randolph D. Alles, the director of the Secret Service, who had fallen out of favor with the president even before a security breach at his Mar-a-Lago club that the agency effectively blamed on Mr. Trump’s employees.
Government officials, who asked not to be identified discussing personnel changes before they were announced, said at least two to four more high-ranking figures affiliated with Ms. Nielsen were expected to leave soon, too, hollowing out the top echelon of the department managing border security, presidential safety, counterterrorism, natural disasters, customs and other matters.
The wave of departures of officials originally appointed by Mr. Trump underscored his growing frustration with his own administration’s handling of immigration and other security issues. In recent days, Mr. Trump has threatened to close the southwestern border altogether only to back off and give Mexico a one-year notice in the face of warnings about deep economic damage from such a move.
The shake-up, coming more than two years into Mr. Trump’s term, indicated that he is still searching for a team that will fulfill his desire for an even tougher approach to immigration. It also signaled the enduring influence of Stephen Miller, the president’s hard-line senior adviser who has complained about recalcitrant homeland security officials.
Supposedly, some Republicans are *concerned* about this dictatorial behavior. Two stories to check out:
Politico: Trump’s DHS purge floors Republicans.
The Washington Post: Grassley warns White House not to oust any more top immigration officials.
Ioffe, an expert on Russia, adds the following: “…history doesn’t actually repeat itself, but sometimes things remind you of other things and a comparative approach to history is often fruitful.”
We now have acting heads of a number of cabinet departments. That means that Trump is bypassing the Senate advise and consent process in order to concentrate more power in the executive.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation may have come as a surprise, but it’s part of a pattern for the Trump administration. Replacing Cabinet secretaries has become a feature, not a bug, of this White House.
And it means that after Nielsen leaves her post later this week, three of the president’s Cabinet members will be serving in an acting capacity.
Kevin McAleenan was named acting secretary of homeland security to replace Nielsen. Patrick Shanahan has been acting defense secretary since Jan. 1. And David Bernhardt has been acting interior secretary since Jan. 2, though he has been nominated to become the permanent interior secretary.
Trump sees an advantage in their status.
“I like ‘acting’ because I can move so quickly,” he told CBS’ Face The Nation in February, adding, “It gives me more flexibility.”
The New York Times: Another Day, Another ‘Acting’ Cabinet Secretary as Trump Skirts Senate.
Temporary status is a seemingly permanent condition of the Trump administration.
The resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen as homeland security secretary on Sunday means that another cabinet officer who reports directly to President Trump will have the word “acting” next to the official title at a major department of government.
Interim secretaries are also in place at the Departments of Defense and of the Interior, and at the Office of Management and Budget, the Small Business Administration and ambassador’s office at the United Nations. Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, is also serving in an acting capacity.
“I like acting. It gives me more flexibility. Do you understand that?” Mr. Trump told reporters in January before departing to Camp David. “I like acting. So we have a few that are acting. We have a great, great cabinet.”
But there are concerns about having men and women in such high-level jobs without having been subjected to Senate confirmation for those posts. Leaving cabinet secretaries unconfirmed in their roles could give the president even more leverage over them, or could leave them without full authority in the job.
There are *concerns.* Meanwhile, Trump has two more years as “president,” and we’re well on the way to a Putinesque autocracy. It’s an emergency, and Democrats need to recognize that and act swiftly and decisively.
What do you think? What stories are you following today?