Lazy Caturday Reads: These Are Dark DaysPosted: April 13, 2019
These are dark days in the United States of America, as our Congressional representative leave town for their 2-week spring recess. Cover-Up General Barr deliberately waited for this. while the Capital is deserted, he’ll reportedly release his heavily redacted version of the Mueller report just when it will be more difficult for Democrats to respond to his treachery.
Have we finally reached the breaking point? Are we at last in a constitutional crisis? I think so. David Rothkopf posted an important thread on Twitter yesterday. I’m going to post the whole thing.
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo: In the Dark Times: Understanding a Critical Four Weeks of History.
Over the last three weeks a series of events have taken place which may seem individual but need to be viewed in a joined context. Together they’ve put us in a much different, darker place as a country. I think many of us sense this intuitively. I see it in public reactions. I see it in your emails but more as an attitude. But what it is needs to be sketched out explicitly and seen for what it is.
Back on March 24, Attorney General Barr released his initial letter, the clear purpose of which was to hide the findings of the Mueller probe and issue a unilateral exoneration of the President. President Trump picked up the ball and ran with it. More than Trump’s personal lawyers or the White House Counsel’s Office, Barr was operating as Trump’s personal lawyer and advocate. Wednesday he went up to Capitol Hill and intentionally validated the conspiracy theories about Deep State “spying” on the President’s 2016 presidential campaign. He then caveated and quibbled and danced around the wording to provide some veil of plausible deniability. But his intention was clear. He also explained that he is on his own going to review whether laws were broken (whether the President’s campaign was “spied” on) during the election. There was already an Inspector General’s probe into just this question. Another is underway. Barr provided no rationale for launching this new probe, apparently under his direct control, other than his belief that something may have been amiss and his desire to do so.
Also on Wednesday, Secretary Mnuchin replied to House Ways and Means Chairman Neal refusing to provide the President’s tax returns to Neal’s Committee. It was no secret that the quest for the President’s tax returns would generate a court fight. But Mnuchin’s letter was telling. He invoked a series general areas of concern but no specific legal argument in a way that suggested very little concern for or interest in the actual law and statute. The truth is the law in this case is really pretty clear and dispositive. In constitutional terms, the Congress’s standing and need is equally clear. But in Mnuchin’s letter and other comments from administration officials and actions over the last week, the White House has made pretty clear they don’t care about that. The House just isn’t going to get Trump’s tax returns, period. Either it’s none of Congress’ business or the question was “litigated” in 2016: the bottom line, it’s not going to happen.
The big picture here is that President Trump now has lieutenants in place who will much more freely bend the powers of the state to defend his personal interests. Some of this is simply the shake-out of the 2018 election. Congress was supine for two years and either ignored presidential law-breaking or oversight or actively worked to cover for the President. Now you have a House focused on oversight. So we’re seeing more specifically and concretely how the President and his advisors see him as above the law and how they mean to protect him from the law.
Please read the rest at TPM.
Charles Pierce on Trump’s promise to pardon border patrol officials who break the law for him: The American Republic Is Crumbling, Piece by Piece. Soon There Won’t Be Anything Left.
Quoted from CNN:
During President Donald Trump’s visit to the border at Calexico, California, a week ago, where he told border agents to block asylum seekers from entering the US contrary to US law, the President also told the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, that if he were sent to jail as a result of blocking those migrants from entering the US, the President would grant him a pardon, senior administration officials tell CNN. Two officials briefed on the exchange say the President told McAleenan, since named the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, that he “would pardon him if he ever went to jail for denying US entry to migrants,” as one of the officials paraphrased.
Not to be too much of an old fud or anything but, if the president* said this, no matter whether McAleenan stuffed his socks in his ears so he wouldn’t hear the offer or not, he committed an impeachable offense. In fact, he committed two of them. The first one was ordering a member of the Executive branch to commit a crime. The second was promising that the employee would be pardoned if he did. And this is just something that happened to come to light on an average Friday in April. Things are breaking, one after another, and pretty soon, there won’t be anything left. The government is losing the ability to defend itself against this guy.
Russia chimes in to gloat about how the U.S. has lost its leadership position in the world.
Newsweek, via MSN: Russia: World No Longer Trusts U.S., Others Stepping In.
Russia’s top diplomat has argued that the world is losing faith in the United States as a global leader and that the international community has sought a more diverse approach to global decisionmaking.
At an annual address to Moscow’s diplomatic academy, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hailed on Friday a new geopolitical era marked by “multipolarity,” stating that “the emergence of new centers of power to maintain stability in the world requires the search for a balance of interests and compromises.” He said there is a shift in the center of global economic power to East from West, where a “liberal order” marked by globalization was “losing its attractiveness and is no more viewed as a perfect model for all.”
“Unfortunately, our Western partners led by the United States do not want to agree on common approaches to solving problems,” Lavrov continued, accusing Washington and its allies of trying “to preserve their centuries-old domination in world affairs despite objective trends in forming a polycentric world order.” He argued these efforts were “contrary to the fact that now, purely economically and financially, the United States can no longer—single-handedly or with its closest allies—resolve all issues in the global economy and world affairs.”
Jennifer Rubin: Mnuchin’s act of abject lawlessness.
The announcement that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would not provide six years of President Trump’s tax returns by the deadline given by the House Ways and Means Committee chairman was just the latest in a long series of egregious attacks on the rule of law. Perhaps it felt more egregious than some because the law at issue is so clear (the Treasury Department “shall” provide them) and the administration’s conduct is so indefensible.
The Post reports:
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said his department would not meet the Wednesday deadline set by congressional Democrats to turn over copies of President Trump’s tax returns, escalating a clash between the White House and Congress.
Mnuchin said he was consulting with the Justice Department as to the constitutional questions raised by the Democrats’ request and appeared deeply skeptical of the lawmakers’ intentions. He did not flatly reject the notion that he might ultimately comply, but his letter to the House Ways and Means Committee suggested that Mnuchin would not hold himself to any timeline.
Even jaded legal experts versed in the Trump administration’s lawlessness were taken aback by this brazen defiance of the law.
“When Democrats first made their request Trump stated that he ‘wasn’t inclined’ to turn over his returns as if he had a choice,” recalls former prosecutor Mimi Rocah. “That seemed like a preposterous statement because the law seems very clear. But it now appears that the Treasury Department is taking that same lawless position playing defense for a President that is terrified for the public and Congress to see his tax returns.” She adds, “The law is written in a mandatory way so that politics won’t influence the process. But unfortunately that’s exactly what’s happened.”
I’ll end with another Twitter thread, this time from Phillip Reines:
Our nation is in serious trouble. We must demand that our representatives act decisively to check Trump’s march toward tyranny.
(I know my chosen images are in stark contrast to the darkness of this post, but I’m leaving them up anyway.)
One more thing: HAPPY BIRTHDAY JJ!!!!!