Tuesday Reads: Fear of Fascism; Time to Impeach?

Good Morning!!

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.

The Guardian: Democrats to fight for Trump’s tax returns after Mnuchin says no.

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.”

Politico: Nadler and Barr steam toward clash over contempt.

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?

39 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Fear of Fascism; Time to Impeach?”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    My fear is that nothing will change.

    Why? Because back in the Nixon years we had the courts that were considered independent. Today we are witnessing a “packed” court system – particularly on the Supreme Court – that is owned and controlled by the GOP.

    Resisting subpoenas then charging the courts to determine the law is going to be risky at best. Trump “owns” these courts. I do not trust the outcome to be in favor with the law but in favor of Trump who placed 2 of these hacks himself. They “owe” him.

    Since we no longer can trust the Dept of Justice, the GOP congressional chambers, Fox News, or a braindead 38% who still support President Stupid, I have little reason to expect the courts to rule in favor of the law. Along with gerrymandering and voter suppression we are at an impasse.

    Trump is a Russian stooge. Couple that with all that he presently “owns” I am not convinced that he will face defeat in 2020.

    So demoralizing. We are at the brink of failure never before seen in our lifetimes as democracy slowly shrivels away and this monster claims “victory”.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    • NW Luna says:

      War is peace, slavery is freedom, the end of the world is an opportunity for fireworks displays… They can’t talk without turning everything into sordid corruption.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      • bostonboomer says:

      • palhart says:

        Throw all the subpoena snubbers in jail. It’s past time to wait for compliance or “compromises.” Now is the time to begin making Congress a co-equal branch of government. Be tough, do NOT waste anymore time, and vote for Barr’s impeachment on the heels of Trump’s ouster. We demand it!

        • bostonboomer says:

          Well said!

        • quixote says:

          He’s running out the clock. He knows how to do that. He’s been doing it his whole gross life.

          And he has to stay President to run out the clock, so he wants to stay in office forever.

          He’s also figured out how to “executive time” and golf his way through the days, so it’s not too bad.

          Meanwhile, Congress — and the media — keeps being polite which props up the transnational crime syndicate.

          Like everyone else here: /*endless screaming*/

        • dakinikat says:

          Well this all certainly amped up the constitutional crisis

    • dakinikat says:

      He may not be able to shoot a guy on Park Avenue and get away with but he’s damned sure able to kill our democracy in the District and get away with it (so far)

  4. bostonboomer says:

  5. bostonboomer says:

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. dakinikat says:

    • quixote says:

      Why does he stand like that? I know it’s probably the least important question in the world, but WHY? I know the theory is he’s wearing elevator shoes, which I’m sure he is, it would fit his fake style, but that can’t be right. Lots of guys wear elevator shoes; they’re not all hanging forward from an invisible string like that. Women wearing six inch heels don’t stand like that, for heaven’s sake. And having a massive burger gut is no explanation either. That makes the shoulders lean back to maintain center of gravity.

      Honest to god, all I can think every time I see that, “Don’t make it so obvious Putin is pulling your chain.”

      • NW Luna says:

        LOL. Disequilibrium.

        • quixote says:

          That would actually make sense. It would fit with all his other neurodegenerative symptoms. The garble-speak, obviously, and the wandering off in the middle of bill-signings and major ceremonies. But also little things like having to hold a glass of water with two hands to hide tremor.

          His proprioception could be going, and leaning forward is one classic compensation for problems with balance, isn’t it?

          • Enheduanna says:

            Would his difficulties with stairs fit into that?

          • bostonboomer says:

            I think it has to do with his fronto-temporal dementia. He loses balance when he’s walking sometimes.

  8. dakinikat says:

  9. bostonboomer says:

    This is huge! Remember the poolboy?

  10. dakinikat says:

  11. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

      Mr. Trump was able to lose all that money without facing the usual consequences — such as a steep drop in his standard of living — in part because most of it belonged to others, to the banks and bond investors who had supplied the cash to fuel his acquisitions. And as The Times’s earlier investigation showed, Mr. Trump secretly leaned on his father’s wealth to continue living like a winner and to stage a comeback.

      One number from Mr. Trump’s tax returns is particularly striking — and particularly hard to explain: the $52.9 million in interest income he reported in 1989. And to make $52.9 million in interest, for example, Mr. Trump would have had to own roughly $378 million in bonds generating 14 percent a year.

      Hard data on most of Mr. Trump’s business life is hard to come by, but public findings from New Jersey casino regulators show no evidence that he owned anything capable of generating close to $52.9 million annually in interest income.

      That article narrates example after example of deceit, stupendously bad judgement, and what’s got to be money laundering. He’s got to have been involved with mob dealings — whether U.S. or Russian — all his life.

    • RonStill4Hills says:

      Something else that will have to be unpacked is what part, if any, did fraud play in racking up those huge losses.

      If Trump counters that he wasn’t really a loser, he was “being smart” and limiting his tax liability with creative accounting, that is potentially an admission of tax fraud.

      • dakinikat says:

        Those investment earnings are unusually large for some one not know to do stuff in equity or bond markets. I’d like to seethe docs on that. My guess is money laundering.

  12. NW Luna says:

    A court decision based with current medical evidence! (Although I wish journalists would realize that “doctor” does not refer to MDs and DOs only, but is simply the term for a person with a doctoral degree.)

    Non-doctors can perform first-trimester abortions in Virginia, federal judge rules

    The decision from U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson is a victory for abortion rights advocates locally and nationally, who have long argued that first-trimester abortions are simple and safe enough to be performed without a physician.

    Hudson agreed in his opinion with a group of clinics and abortion rights advocates that “a consensus appears to have evolved” on the issue, making Virginia’s current medical requirements “unduly burdensome” and therefore unconstitutional. It’s the first time a federal judge anywhere in the country has come to that conclusion.

    Once the ruling takes effect, midwives, nurse practitioners, and physicians assistants with the proper training will be able to perform abortions in Virginia, Ma said. They are awaiting a final order from the judge on the date.

  13. NW Luna says:

  14. NW Luna says:

    Endless screaming…

  15. palhart says:

    Today (May 8th), Nadler says we’re in a Constitutional crisis. If Trump’s delay tactics, campaign lies, and the continuing Russian election interference win him a 2nd term, we will officially be living under tyranny January, 2021. Trump will have produced the dark future his campaign foretold at the Republican Convention 2016.

    It’s early, but none of the Democratic Party Presidential candidates give me an ounce of hope.