Thursday Reads: Constitutional Crisis

Mice Factory from The Brambly Hedge, by Jill Barklem.

Good Afternoon!!

Wednesday was one of those huge news days that would have been shocking if any other president had been in charge. But with Trump in the White House, it was just another incredible day among hundreds of other incredible days since November 8, 2016.

Wednesday’s Breaking News Events

The biggest news of the day: The House Judiciary Committee voted to find Cover-Up General William Barr in contempt of Congress.

The New York Times: House Panel Approves Contempt for Barr After Trump Claims Privilege Over Full Mueller Report.

The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to recommend that the House hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over Robert S. Mueller III’s unredacted report, hours after President Trump asserted executive privilege to shield the full report and underlying evidence from Congress.

The committee’s 24-to-16 contempt vote, taken after hours of debate over the future of American democracy, was the first official House action to punish a government official in the standoff over the Mueller report. The Justice Department denounced the move as unnecessary and intended to stoke a fight.

After the vote, the Judiciary Committee chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, swatted away questions about possible impeachment, but added, “We are now in a constitutional crisis.”

The contempt vote raised the stakes in the battle over evidence and witnesses as Democrats investigate Mr. Trump over behavior detailed by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, in his report into Russian election interference and possible obstruction of justice. By the day’s end, it seemed all but inevitable that the competing claims would have to be settled in the nation’s courts rather than on Capitol Hill.

CNN posted House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler’s grave remarks following the contempt vote.

In addition, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff subpoenaed Barr and the DOJ. Politico: Schiff subpoenas DOJ for unredacted Mueller report and counterintel info.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff issued a subpoena to the Justice Department on Wednesday for the unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, in addition to all of the foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information collected during the 22-month investigation.

The subpoena comes after Schiff (D-Calif.) and his Republican counterpart, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, made a rare joint request for the documents. Schiff said the Justice Department had yet to respond to the committee’s request, prompting him to issue a subpoena.

Brambly Hedge illustration, by Jill Marklem

“The department has repeatedly failed to respond, refused to schedule any testimony, and provided no documents responsive to our legitimate and duly authorized oversight activities,” Schiff said in a statement.

“The department repeatedly pays lip service to the importance of a meaningful accommodation process, but it has only responded to our efforts with silence or outright defiance,” Schiff added. “Today, we have no choice but to issue a subpoena to compel their compliance.

Somewhat surprisingly, it was revealed (leaked by Don Jr.?) that The Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to testify about contradictions in his previous testimony. There have been suggestions that Republican Chairman Richard Burr may just want to give Junior an opportunity to clean up his previous lies to the committee.

CNN: Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenas Donald Trump Jr.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. for him to return and testify again, and the committee is now at a standoff with President Donald Trump’s eldest son, according to sources familiar with the matter.

One option Trump Jr. is considering in response to the subpoena is to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights, and another is just to not appear at all, according to one source. The subpoena from the Republican-led Senate Intelligence panel is believed to be the first issued to one of Trump’s family members.

Jill Barklem illustration

Discussions for Trump Jr.’s testimony began several weeks ago before special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released, the sources say. Trump Jr.’s team resisted giving testimony, in part, because the findings of the Mueller report were still not known.

During the negotiations, the idea to use written questions and answers was floated, and at another time it was proposed that Trump Jr. sit for an untranscribed interview, according to one source.

The subpoena was issued more than two weeks ago, according to a source familiar with the matter, and it compelled Trump Jr. to testify before the committee, the source said.

The White House is escalating its war on the press. The Washington Post: White House imposes new rules on reporters’ credentials, raising concerns about access.

The White House has implemented new rules that it says will cut down on the number of journalists that hold “hard” passes, the credentials that allow reporters and technicians to enter the grounds without seeking daily permission.

The new policy has been met with some confusion and even worry among journalists, some of whom suspect that the ultimate aim is to keep critics in the press away from the White House and President Trump.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders explicitly denied that, saying the changes were prompted by security concerns, not to punish journalists. “No one’s access is being limited,” she said Wednesday night.

Fact Check: Sanders is a notorious liar. Dana Millbank’s press pass has been permanently revoked.

And yes, yesterday there was another school shooting in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, not far from Columbine HS. And last night, Trump held another hate rally in the Florida Panhandle, at which he joked and laughed when an audience member said immigrants should be shot.

Reactions to the Constitutional Crisis

The Guardian: #ConstitutionalCrisis? Trump’s battle with Congress comes to a head, by David Smith.

From Autumn Story, by Jill Barklem

Police this week arrested an alleged arsonist who started a fire outside the National Archives building in Washington, claiming that voices told him to “burn buildings down”. The archives display a four-page handwritten document to countless tourists and schoolchildren: the US constitution.

While the physical object remains fragile but secure, the political framework it represents is facing one of the severest threats in its 232-year history. The arsonist is Donald Trump and he is getting ever closer with his tiki torch.

On Wednesday, the House judiciary committee voted to hold Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, in contempt of Congress. It was a seminal moment in Democrats’ legal battle with the White House over access to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on how Russia helped Trump win the 2016 election….

“We are now in a constitutional crisis,” Nadler told reporters after the hearing. “Now is the time of testing whether we can keep our republic, or whether this republic is destined to change into a different, more tyrannical form of government. We must resist this.”

Hyperbole? I don’t think so. A bit more from The Guardian:

Alarm bells not heard before are ringing. Not because Trump has got worse – he doesn’t – but because events have forced the matter to a head. Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives in last November’s midterm elections, obliging them to wheel out a “subpoena cannon” and end the Trump honeymoon in Washington. Then Mueller produced his long-awaited report, chronicling 10 incidents in which the president may have attempted to obstruct justice but stopping short of indictment, an unsatisfactory conclusion that made all-out political war inevitable.

Dismayingly, Barr has behaved like a political stooge, the sort of apologist one would expect in a slow-moving coup. Now Trump’s assertion of executive privilege – a move normally designed to protect the confidentiality of the Oval Office decision-making process – to hide part of the report and its underlying evidence seems baseless, intended only to trigger a long court battle and run down the clock to election day in November 2020.

By Jill Barklem

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School, says: “This is more than minor fireworks. It’s a fundamental challenge to the structure of checks and balances. In particular, the president’s wholesale, blunderbuss assertion of executive privilege over the entirety of the Mueller report is legally groundless to the point of being preposterous.

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board: Trump’s contempt for Congress is dangerous and self-serving.

After special counsel Robert S. Mueller III filed his report on his investigation into possible ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, the president hailed the report as a “total exoneration.” His attorney general has since released a redacted version of the document, which elicited a similar reaction from Trump. But now that Democrats in Congress are seeking to gain a fuller understanding of Mueller’s reasoning — including why the special counsel reached no decision about whether Trump obstructed justice — the White House is stonewalling.

On Wednesday, hours before the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Atty. Gen. William Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena for an unredacted version of Mueller’s report, Trump, following Barr’s advice, asserted “protective” executive privilege in connection with the report and its underlying evidence. The administration already had moved to prevent former White House counsel Don McGahn from fully cooperating with the committee. And earlier, Trump tweeted that “Bob Mueller should not testify” before Congress.

The invocation of executive privilege, even on a preliminary basis, is hard to justify. By allowing McGahn to talk to Mueller’s investigators, Trump in effect waived any privilege. Congress should be free not only to question McGahn about what he told Mueller (including his sensational assertion that Trump directed him to have Mueller removed), but also to seek documents from him.

Read the rest at the LA Times.

NBC News: Suzanne Garment AG Barr’s contempt charge won’t force Trump to give House Democrats what they want. Here’s what might. A brief excerpt:

The Palace of the Old Oak, by Jill Barklem

The most straightforward procedural suggestion for addressing executive branch noncooperation is to subpoena documents and testimony and, if they aren’t produced, hold the responsible individuals in contempt of Congress. This, it turns out, is not such a great idea.

For one thing, a congressional contempt citation like the one the House Judiciary Committee issued for Barr on Wednesday is evanescent. The process is almost comically inefficient, and requires the contempt citation to be eventually approved by the full House. The citation also expires at the end of the Congress that issued it. When a new Congress is seated, it can start again. In contrast, the executive branch marches on as an enterprise, legally speaking, from one presidency to the next. In a power struggle between president and Congress, this is a big advantage for the executive.

Then, there’s the enforcement dilemma. Criminal enforcement of a congressional contempt citation falls to the Justice Department. If you’re asking the current Department of Justice to move against executive branch officials, good luck to you. (This goes double for Barr himself, who of course leads the Justice Department.)

Read suggested solutions at the link above.

Vox: “The Republican Congress created Trump”: Harry Reid’s thoughts on a fallen Senate.

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks Republicans have been seduced by President Donald Trump and forgotten the whole point of the US Senate.

Sitting at his desk in his old Senate chair with his name engraved on the back, Reid complained that the Republican-led upper chamber has become too subservient to the president under current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“I can’t imagine how the Republicans are being so compliant on everything [Trump] wants,” Reid told me during a recent interview in his Las Vegas office. “What’s the Senate all about?”

It’s not because Trump is an aberration, he cautions: “Trump did not create the Republican Congress; the Republican Congress created Trump.”

Read the whole thing at Vox.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


22 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Constitutional Crisis”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Trump may be getting disillusioned with John Bolton.

    The Washington Post: A frustrated Trump questions his administration’s Venezuela strategy

    President Trump is questioning his administration’s aggressive strategy in Venezuela following the failure of a U.S.-backed effort to oust President Nicolás Maduro, complaining he was misled about how easy it would be to replace the socialist strongman with a young opposition figure, according to administration officials and White House advisers.

    The president’s dissatisfaction has crystallized around national security adviser John Bolton and what Trump has groused is an interventionist stance at odds with his view that the United States should stay out of foreign quagmires.

    Trump has said in recent days that Bolton wants to get him “into a war” — a comment that he has made in jest in the past but that now betrays his more serious concerns, one senior administration official said.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    NPR: FBI Is Investigating 850 Cases Of Potential Domestic Terrorism.

    The FBI is investigating some 850 cases of domestic terrorism and considers it serious and persistent threat, the FBI’s Michael McGarrity told the House Committee on Homeland Security on Wednesday.

    McGarrity and his fellow national security officials then went on to explain to committee members why the U.S. doesn’t have an explicit law allowing the federal government to criminally charge extremists with domestic terrorism.

    The federal government, law enforcement and even civil rights groups like the ACLU all consistently say that free speech rights under the First Amendment would make it problematic to define U.S. groups as terrorist organizations.

    In an exchange with Democratic Congresswoman Yvette Clarke of New York, McGarrity noted that law enforcement has expanded powers when dealing with suspects linked to international terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida.

    “How does it give you more latitude?” asked Clarke.

    “Because they’re actually designated as a terrorist organization,” McGarrity responded.

  3. NW Luna says:

    The illustrations are a nice interlude to the avalanche of corruption, fraud and treason news. Good to see the Dems issuing subpoenas and contempt citations!

    Wednesday was one of those huge news days that would have been shocking if any other president had been in charge. But with Trump in the White House, it was just another incredible day among hundreds of other incredible days since November 8, 2016.

    It keeps getting worse, doesn’t it? No depth to the depravity.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    • joanelle says:

      If for nothing else he should go to jail just for tax evasion just like Capone did because he too is a crook.

  5. bostonboomer says:

  6. Pat Johnson says:

    Call me a cynic but I am feeling that we are on the verge of some very bad domestic terrorist outbreaks that are being encouraged in large part by Trump.

    His “base” is armed to the teeth and itching tp “prove themselves” as “patriots” who are more than willing to take up arms in service to him. Last night’s latest rally had some loon shouting out “shoot them!” with regard to the immigrants crowded at the border. Trump laughed and made some bogus comment about the Panhandle which was inappropriate to say the least.

    He is lying about the Dems and abortion placing providers in precarious positions and again singling out the press as “enemies of the people”. This is inflammatory rhetoric that can easily set off some of the fools who follow him.

    My guess is that he would like nothing better to succeed. He has hinted enough about blood shed. Nothing will deter him until real harm is exerted that would signify that his “fans” are listening.

    None of this is normal. Not since he announced his candidacy has a day gone by that could be judged as normal when it comes to Trump. The man is a moron. A real threat to the nation and the globe at large.

    Impeachment is going to bring out the real nut jobs acting in defense of their “leader”. Not sure if any of us are actually prepared.

  7. dakinikat says:

    What’s going on with the White House Press Corps is frightening. It’s another step towards shutting down the truth and and truth seeking and moving towards pure propaganda. They want their lies repeated.

  8. joanelle says:

    Good grief, what a mess, I hope that the Republicans one day soon realize the shameful situation they created by propping up Trump.
    they carry a huge burden because of their financial greed and hunger for power.

  9. Sweet Sue says:

    I’ve had a rough night and I’m so mad I could spit. We’re all past the judging one another for strong language, right? Thanks with love to our JJ.
    Okay, so I’m never watching Ari Melber again. I’ve never watched “Veep, ” and you can bet the farm I never will. Melber had the producers of “Veep” on as guests and this fat fuck (whose name I don’t know) and the lisping Frank Rich (relax, he’s straight) said that after the fourth season, the antiheroine became Hillary Clinton, a horrible person. They drew parallels between Hillary and Trump (!) as both dishonest individuals who pretend to love their families. I wish I were kidding. I screamed out “Motherfuckers” and refrained from hurling my wine glass into the TV (it’s a very good TV). These smug, self satisfied, rich white men trot out all the old canards because when, for example, Roe v. Wade is struck down it won’t affect them in the slightest and, most importantly, because they will never, ever admit to their part in putting that monster in the White House with all of that “they’re all the same,” and what’s the difference?” Goddamn them and their progeny to hell.

    • NW Luna says:

      “Anti hero” WTAF again. All I can think is that these men really hate women who are smarter and more experienced than they are. Hell, they probably hate women period.

  10. Sweet Sue says:

    Later, I made the mistake of watching Goody Comey’s town hall with Squire Vanderbilt. Someone had the balls to ask Dudley Do Right, if had made a mistake having that infamous press conference scolding HRC for being “so, so reckless.” He mused and said “no.” Comey really thinks his shit doesn’t stink and, let me tell you something, those models of rectitude (in their own minds) sometimes do more harm than actual bad, bad actors.

    • NW Luna says:

      Still effing clueless. I only wish someone had asked him “So, did you use your hatred of a woman boss who was more accomplished than you as an excuse to commit a policy violation?”

  11. Sweet Sue says:

    There had better be a woman on our Ticket.
    Last week, some Sanders jackass asked me if I was a “crotch voter?'” You’re damn right I am.

    • NW Luna says:

      “crotch voter” WTAF? They must be really insecure to insult and then keep ratcheting up their insults. He’s obviously voting with his own crotch since he doesn’t give a shit about women’s. Plus he’s a Trump voter since he thinks not voting for Hillary was worth more than getting Trump.

      He’d better have a vasectomy or be gay since them wimmenz crotch voters won’t be able to get birth control or abortion.

      • quixote says:

        The OBLIVIOUSNESS.

        “You’re not voting based on experience and capability? You’re not even a crotch voter. Just a dick.”

  12. Sweet Sue says:

    Well, the crotch voter insult came from a woman.

  13. NW Luna says:

  14. NW Luna says: