Tuesday Reads: Fear of Fascism; Time to Impeach?Posted: May 7, 2019
A few days ago, the Los Angeles Times published an article about the boom in books about fascism: Fascism is on the minds of book buyers — and publishers are taking notice, by Scott Timberg. Timberg interviewed fascism expert Elizabeth Drummond, “who spent the 1990s studying at Georgetown University.”
“There was a lot of optimism,” Drummond remembered. The topic of her studies — European Fascism of the 1920s and 1930s — seemed distant in both time and place.
But a quarter-century later, things look a bit different. Around the world, democracy appears to be losing ground to authoritarian populism in places like Hungary, Poland and the Philippines. Neo-Fascist, anti-immigrant movements brew in much of Europe and the United States. American politics is polarized in a way it’s not been in a century. And whatever’s going on in Venezuela, Turkey, Russia and North Korea, it’s hard to describe them as democracies.Today, the subject of Drummond’s research no longer feels like a black-and-white film from decades ago.
Drummond is not alone in seeing these connections. College students, book buyers and newspaper columnists are taking a renewed interest in the bad old days of interwar authoritarianism, as well as books about threats to the present. Several scholars have even started a crowd-sourced website called The New Fascism Syllabus.
The last few years have not been great for democracy around the world. But they have been, for people who write about or teach the subject, good for business. As a book review from the Washington Post put it, “Fascism is back in fashion.”
Read the rest at the LA Times.
Yes, fear of fascism is real for those of us who have closely watched Donald Trump in action. There’s no doubt anymore that his goal is to be another Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong Un or at least President-for-life Xi Jinping of China.
I still believe that Congressional hearings will lead inevitably to impeachment, but perhaps even I’m too complacent? Brian Klaas, the author of several books on authoritarianism, thinks we need impeachment now. The Washington Post: It’s time to start impeachment hearings. Today.
If Donald Trump weren’t president, he’d probably be in jail.
That’s the view of a bipartisan group of hundreds of former federal prosecutors, who have signed an open letter stating that Trump’s conduct would warrant criminal obstruction of justice charges if he lived anywhere except in the White House.
And yet, somehow, the accepted wisdom is that beginning impeachment hearings is not worth the risk. That argument is based on three assumptions. First, that impeachment will make Trump more popular. Second, that impeachment is worthwhile only if it actually ends with removing a president from office. And third, that Trump will lose in 2020, so voters, rather than Congress, can deliver the consequences that he deserves.
All three of those assumptions are shaky. Few Americans have actually read the Mueller report, and walking the country through all the damning material in high-profile public hearings has the potential to hurt Trump far more than the Democrats in Congress. Moreover, impeachment isn’t just a tool to remove a president — it’s also a way to mark a presidency with historic disapproval, thereby deterring similar conduct for future presidents. And finally, though Trump’s poll numbers are abysmal now, it’s entirely possible that he could get reelected in 2020.
If he wins reelection without even enduring so much as an impeachment hearing, then that will encourage future presidents to commit corrupt or criminal acts. After all, Trump will have gotten away with it “Scott Free.”
Impeachment hearings should therefore begin immediately to preserve the rule of law and protect democracy.
At HuffPost, Igor Bobic and Matt Fuller argue that Congress is Failing.
As House Democrats dither over moving forward with impeachment in a divided government and Senate Republicans are satisfied confirming judges rather than passing legislation, a pressing question is emerging: What the hell is Congress good for, anyway?
The House and Senate have been divided many times. Congress and the presidency are rarely controlled by one party. But the extent to which this Congress is already proving itself worthless as a legislative body and as a check against the president is historic.
“This is the worst I’ve seen it,” congressional historian and American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein told HuffPost this week. “With Nixon, we had people like Howard Baker, Hugh Scott, Barry Goldwater, Bill Cohen and John Rhodes. There is no equivalent today. And we have far worse corruption and lying.”
Ornstein added that Trump and his Cabinet are taking “defiance of Congress to a level we have not seen before.”
For the past century, the legislative branch has steadily handed its authority to the executive on various issues like trade, regulations and war-making powers. Lawmakers continued that tradition earlier this year, allowing Trump to circumvent the appropriations process with his emergency declaration and let him build portions of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The unprecedented move ― which a majority of Republicans supported ― opened the door for future presidents to similarly fund their priorities without the explicit approval of Congress.
Read the rest at HuffPo.
Meanwhile, Trump and Cover-Up General Bill Barr–along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin–seem to be inviting impeachment. Trump has announced that he won’t comply with any Congressional subpoenas and Barr and Mnuchin are carrying out Trump’s orders.
Grant Stern at Washington Press blog: Barr just wrote a stunning Mueller Report letter that dares Dems to start impeachment.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) subpoenaed the unredacted Mueller Report the day after Trump’s AG led the country through a series of misleading efforts to spin its contents.
Instead of providing the report, the Attorney General sent a reply to Nadler and the House Judiciary Committee that practically dares them to initiate impeachment proceedings with a formal resolution of inquiry.
Shockingly, Barr revealed that there are greater than two dozen ongoing criminal cases and investigations stemming from the Mueller Report. [Stern quotes from the Barr letter in which Barr argues that Nadler has not articulated any legal arguments that would justify releasing grand jury testimony about ongoing criminal cases]
“The Trump Administration is trying to box the Democrats in, to get them to make a decision about the formal process of impeachment,” says former federal prosecutor and Pace University School of Law professor Mimi Rocah.
“They know that it could cause dissension because some people in the party want impeachment,” says Rocah, “and others do not want to start the formal process.”
She’s one of more than 400 [now more than 500] former federal prosecutors from around the country who signed an open letter to the Department of Justice saying that President Trump would’ve been charged with criminal obstruction of justice based on the Mueller Report, were he not in the office.
If Democrats initiated impeachment hearings, they would be justified in demanding such information.
House Democrats are expected to file a lawsuit or a subpoena with the federal tax authorities for Donald Trump’s returns now that the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, has refused to hand them over – in the latest twist of an escalating war between Congress and the executive branch of the US government.
The Treasury department on Monday afternoon denied a request by Congress for copies of Trump’s tax returns, saying that Congress had overstepped its bounds in requesting them.
The moves came as the president’s bitter confrontation with his political opponents continues to intensify. Democrats will meet with officials from the Department of Justice on Tuesday, having set up a vote in the House on Wednesday to hold Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, in contempt of Congress.
Jerry Nadler, the Democratic chair of the House judiciary committee, proposes to hold Barr in contempt after the justice department refused to provide the panel with an unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report of the Trump-Russia investigation. The committee had given Barr until 9am on Monday to comply, after a redacted version of the report was issued last month.
House Democrats will get some support from the New York AG. The Daily Beast: New York Attorney General Sues Trump Treasury Department, IRS.
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Monday that her office has filed a lawsuit against the Trump Treasury Department and its subsidiary, the Internal Revenue Service, for failing to respond to legally mandated records requests. The suit targets a reporting standard released in July 2018, which eliminates donor disclosure requirements for non-501(c)(3) tax-exempt groups for donors who give more than $5,000. The statement alleges that after James’ office sent a FOIA seeking more information about the decision to implement the standard, the IRS did not adequately respond within the mandated time limit. It also claims that the revised standards impede the AG’s ability to regulate those organizations.
“My office depends on these critical donor disclosure forms to be able to adequately oversee non-profit organizations in New York,” James said in the statement. “Not only was this policy change made without notice, the Treasury and the IRS are now refusing to comply with the law to release information about the rationale for these changes. No one is above the law—not even the federal government—and we will use every tool to ensure they comply with these regulations to provide transparency and accountability.”
The House Judiciary Committee will proceed with a vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress on Wednesday, Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) confirmed late Monday, as the Justice Department attempts to fend off the effort ahead of a negotiating session with the Democratic-led committee on Tuesday.
Nadler’s firm stance comes as he seeks punitive actions against the attorney general for defying a subpoena for special counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report on the Russia investigation and its underlying evidence. It also comes hours after the Justice Department put forward a last-ditch plea to negotiate with the panel, offering a Wednesday meeting but later agreeing to Nadler’s demand for a Tuesday sit-down.
“At the moment, our plans to consider holding Attorney General Barr accountable for his failure to comply with our subpoena still stand,” Nadler said in a statement. “My hope is that we make concrete progress at tomorrow’s meeting towards resolving this dispute. The committee remains committed to finding a reasonable accommodation.”
In a letter to Nadler earlier Monday, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd invited the chairman to a negotiation session on Wednesday to discuss an “acceptable accommodation” that would potentially give more lawmakers access to a less-redacted version of the report, in addition to “possible disclosure of certain materials” cited in Mueller’s report.
Boyd’s letter came hours after the committee took its first formal step toward holding Barr in contempt of Congress for defying the panel’s subpoena for Mueller’s unredacted report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, when Nadler announced that it planned to consider a contempt citation against Barr on Wednesday morning.
It certainly feels as if we are headed inevitably toward impeachment. I still think House Democrats need to exhaust all other means of getting the information they need; but it appears that Trump is almost asking to be impeached. So that’s where we are today; I’m sure there will be more dramatic news coming as the week goes on.
What stories are you following today?