October 23, 2019 / by 

 

Thread: House Judiciary Committee Hearing with John Dean

Here’s a post dedicated to the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing today at 2:00 p.m. EDT. I will add content as we go along.

Former White House counsel John Dean will testify today. You’ll recall he served under Richard M. Nixon’s administration. The right-wing media sphere has already been making noise about the HJC taking testimony from a convicted felon.

Except he’s *their* convict, a Republican who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for his role in covering up Nixon’s Watergate scandal. I’m sure he’ll have plenty to say about criminality in the White House and subsequent cover-ups.

More here later — bring related chatter here.

UPDATE — 2:30 p.m. —

Via CNN: Justice Department strikes deal with House Democrats over Mueller report evidence, Nadler says

Yeesh. This is like Watergate all over again. Back then Nixon had agreed to accommodate the HJC with access to some of the Oval Office tapes, but the person who would screen them was Senator Stennis who had a hearing disability. We won’t know if Barr truly fulfills the spirit of this agreement with Nadler or pulls a Nixonian Stennis compromise. The HJC took Nixon to court.

Minority Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA) attacked Dean as expected and attacked the hearing saying the committee’s priorities are upside down. If the country had been attacked as Nadler said then committee should be focused on that.

Which we all know is bullshit since the House has already passed legislation  — the very first bill of the 116th Congress, H.R. 1 For The People Act 2019 — intended to secure elections from attack by foreign influence which paid legislators to skew districts via gerrymandering, manipulated races by way of dark money donations to legislators, and hid additional financial influence through undisclosed financial statements including tax returns.  That bill is sitting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk, buried under ~150 other bills he’s bottlenecked. If Collins has a problem with priorities he should have a chat with McConnell and ask why McConnell is uninterested in protecting this country’s elections.

UPDATE — 2:35 p.m. —

Following John Dean’s opening statement, former U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance is up. Nice to see a familiar face which will be helpful in news coverage. She’s definitely read the Special Counsel report, and she’s able to explain what she’s seen in it as a former prosecutor which would spur her to indict.

UPDATE — 2:40 p.m. —

Heritage Foundation’s John G. Malcolm, vice president of the Institute for Constitutional Government. “Less enthusiastic” about Mueller because he didn’t make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” for Barr, blah-blah. Followed by apologia for Trump who must surely be innocent because he was so cooperative providing “over a million pages of documents, allowed key members of his staff to be interviewed, and submitted written answers to questions.” Sure, sure, right.

You know this is what Collins will tee off, the beat down on Mueller’s job performance while disregarding SCO report Volume II, pages 1-2 in which Mueller explains why he can’t make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment.”

UPDATE — 2:45 p.m. —

Another familiar face, former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, has also read the SCO report. She’s explaining the obstruction of justice charges she read in the report.

I’m sure the GOP will come out swinging but it’s really tough to get around this wham-wham-wham beat down ticking off the obstruction.

____

I’ll add the panelists’ statements here after the hearing. ~Rayne


History’s Rhyme, Part 4: Contempt Then, Contempt Now

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

I’ve previously looked at example Articles of Impeachment against Trump in this series of posts:

History’s Rhyme: Nixon’s Articles of Impeachment — focus on Obstruction of Justice

History’s Rhyme, Part 2a: ‘Abuse of Power’ Sounds So Familiar — Abuse of Power (may include Public Corruption)

History’s Rhyme, Part 3: How Nixon’s Impeachment Unfolded — Watergate and Nixon’s near-impeachment timeline

I still plan to return to do Part 2b to address more abuses of power in the near future. He’s racking them up faster than I can record and draft the rest of Article 2.

I’m still working on Article 4 and more related to violations of treaties and foreign policy failures, as well as human rights violations.

Let me note at this point the curious coincidence that The New York Times’ editor has published an article today with spiffy graphics comparing Nixon and Clinton Articles of Impeachment to articles Trump might face. What a topic; what amazing timing, six weeks after I began this series…

~ ~ ~

As noted before, the 93rd Congress’ House Judiciary Committee drafted five Articles of Impeachment against Richard M. Nixon in 1974. Only three of the five were passed by the committee; the first two were related to Obstruction of Justice and Abuses of Power. The misuse of government resources to spy on individuals and political opponents combined with Nixon’s efforts to thwart subsequent investigations into these abuses were impeachable on their own.

Nixon, however, doubled down and tried to withhold materials responsive to the Senate Watergate Committee’s, the special prosecutor’s, or the House investigation into the abuses of power which were revealed by the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate break-in.

How very familiar this feels, given how utterly uncooperative Trump and his administration have been in response to House Committee requests and subpoenas.

In July 1973 the Senate Watergate Committee and special prosecutor Archibald Cox both requested tapes recorded in the Oval Office; Nixon refused to comply.

On October 19, Nixon instead offered a compromise: Senator John C. Stennis would listen to the tapes for the special prosecutor’s office. Stennis had a hearing disability making this compromise untenable; Cox refused the offer.

Nixon ordered the Attorney General Eliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. They chose to resign instead. Next at bat was the Solicitor General Robert Bork who fired Cox on October 20, 1973. The resignations and Cox’s firing became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.”

Cox’s successor Leon Jaworski subpoenaed the tapes on April 16, 1974. The White House offered only partial compliance by offering edited transcripts of the tapes on April 30.

Jaworski and the House Judiciary Committee insisted unedited actual tapes must be released in full; a deadline of May 31 was set for compliance.

Nixon’s special counsel James D. St. Clair went before Judge John Sirica of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to quash the subpoena. Nixon’s motion was denied. Sirica ordered Nixon to turn over the tapes by May 31, 1974.

Special prosecutor Jaworski and Nixon appealed directly to the Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon. The court began to hear arguments on July 8.

The court delivered a unanimous decision on July 24, affirming the D.C. District Court’s order that subpoenaed materials be transmitted to that court.

Three days after the legal battle over the tapes ends, the House Judiciary Committee drafted and began to pass three of five Articles of Impeachment.

Sixteen days after the United States v. Nixon decision, Nixon resigned rather than face a trial before the Senate.

~ ~ ~

The third Article of Impeachment against Nixon was the simplest of the three the House Judiciary Committee passed. In essence it said Nixon had

…  failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives on April 11, 1974, May 15, 1974, May 30, 1974, and June 24, 1974, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas. …

This itemization was sandwiched an opening and a closing statement in total, Article 3 was a whopping 281 words long. Short and sweet, it only addressed contempt of Congress and not Nixon’s failure to comply with the special prosecutor’s requests or the Senate Watergate Committee’s requests.

Now compare that to a theoretical Article 3 against Trump:

Article 3 – Contempt of Congress

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, contrary to his oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce testimony, papers and things as directed by duly authorized requests and subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives.

On the matter of Security Clearance:

The House Oversight Committee, while investigating the White House and Transition Team disregard for established procedures for safeguarding classified information, requested voluntary testimony from U.S. Defense Department’s Carl Kline on four occasions – January 23, 2019, February 11, 2019, March 1, 2019, and March 18, 2019. Mr. Kline failed to respond to these requests, and the White House refused to make him available. After testimony from whistleblower Tricia Newbold on April 1, 2019, the Committee received last-minute letters from Mr. Kline’s lawyer and the White House saying he would voluntarily comply. However, they made clear that he would not answer questions about specific officials, specific security violations, or specific security clearance adjudications, but instead would speak only about general policies and procedures.

On the matter of 2020 Census:

During the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into the Trump Administration’s secret efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, Secretary Ross and other Department of Commerce (DOC) officials asserted multiple times before House Oversight Committee (May 8, 2018), House Committee on Appropriations (March 20, 2018), the House Committee on Ways and Means (March 22, 2018), the Senate Committee on Appropriations (May 10, 2018) that the decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census arose from a request from the Department of Justice in December 2017. Internal documents dated March 10, 2017; April 5, 2017; May 2, 2017; July 21, 2017; August 9, 2017; and September 16, 2017 made public show that Secretary Ross took steps to add the citizenship question to the 2020 Census months before the DOJ’s request. The House Oversight Committee identified priority documents, extended deadlines, and offered to review certain documents in camera. The White House continued to avoid compliance with requests for information necessary to determine the real reason Secretary Ross added the citizenship question, obliging the Committee to subpoena Secretary Ross for testimony and documents.

On the matter of Potential Foreign influence on the U.S. Political Process:

As part of their oversight authority and their subsequent investigation into allegations that Russia and other foreign entities influenced the U.S. political process during and since the 2016 U.S. election, both House Committees on Intelligence and on Ways and Means have sought Donald J. Trump’s financial records to determine whether U.S. financial system was used for illicit purposes including unlawful influence through foreign banks operating in the U.S. with longtime relationships with Trump and past ties to Russian money laundering. Subpoenas were served on Deutsche Bank and Capital One for records related to their business transactions with the Trump family and Trump Organization. On April 30, 2019, the Trump family and Trump Organization filed a lawsuit against these financial institutions to prevent them from complying with the Congressional subpoena, thereby obstructing the Committees’ investigation. The D.C. District Court ruled on May 22, 2019 against the Trump family and Trump Organization but they have since filed an appeal.

On the matter of the Special Counsel’s Investigation:

The House Judiciary Committee, while investigating the Trump administration for possible obstruction of the Special Counsel’s investigation into foreign interference with the 2016 election, has subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn to appear before the committee to discuss Donald J. Trump’s attempt to remove Special Counsel Rober Mueller and possible subornation of perjury. Special Counsel had previously interviewed Mr. McGahn while Mr. McGahn was still employed as White House counsel. Mr. McGahn no longer works for the White House and was subpoenaed after his employment ended. Donald J. Trump has since said he does not want his aides to testify before Congress. He also said, “We’re fighting all the subpoenas.” Attempts to obstruct justice and suborn perjury are not reasons for compelling confidentiality.

— TO BE CONTINUED — ]

Donald J. Trump has willfully disobeyed, or directed, or authorized disobedience by executive branch officials of such requests and subpoenas. The requested and subpoenaed testimony, papers, and things were deemed necessary by the Committee in order to resolve by direct evidence fundamental, factual questions relating to Presidential acts, direction, knowledge or approval of actions demonstrated by other evidence to be substantial grounds for impeachment of the President.

In refusing to produce these testimony, papers, and things Donald J. Trump, substituting his judgment as to what materials were necessary for the inquiry, interposed the Article II powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested by Article I of the Constitution in the House of Representatives.

In all of this, Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Take careful note: this theoretical article of impeachment is not complete, both because I haven’t fully documented every occasion when Trump and his administration have failed to comply with Congress’s requests and subpoenas, and because noncompliance is ongoing. The itemization of acts of contempt of Congress could be at least twice as long.

What else should be added which would qualify as contempt of Congress by the Trump administration?

~ ~ ~

Now here’s where it gets sticky, before I even look at another theoretical Article of Impeachment as I intend to do. We are at the point right now in the timeline that the Senate Watergate Committee, Special Prosecutors Cox and Jaworski, and the House Judiciary Committee were at in between October 1973 and May 1974, before the House began an impeachment inquiry. Trump and his administration have already ignored or rejected requests for testimony, papers, and things issued by both the Special Counsel’s Office and by Congress.

What Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not do was fight all the way to the Supreme Court to revisit United States v. Nixon.

At this point I want to make very clear what follows is my personal speculation, along with a reminder that I am not a lawyer.

I believe Mueller did not want to take the demand for Trump’s testimony and other papers and things all the way to the Supreme Court because the court’s current composition and its decisions have not instilled confidence in its ability to recognize the United States v. Nixon decision as settled, let alone trust the court will recognize Congress’s Article I powers of oversight and its co-equal status.

I believe Mueller recognized that Trump has no respect for the law or norms; it would be a horrible sacrifice to disturb the court’s decision in United States v. Nixon only to have Trump refuse to recognize the authority of any decision the court made against him.

I believe Mueller may have made an impeachment referral for exactly this reason — the solution isn’t to take this matter to the Supreme Court which is what Trump wants, before a bench which was skewed in 2016 by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to allow former President Obama his nominated choice, Merrick Garland.

The solution is for the House to impeach Trump based on his ample failings to date as president.

Further, I believe it is up to the public to demand the Senate do its duty to try, convict, and remove Trump from office before he does any more damage to the nation including undermining Congress’s Article I powers. As long as Trump remains in office he poses a threat to the Constitutionally-described three co-equal branches of government which have served this nation since ratification of the Constitution 230 years ago.

Some will say that we can remove Trump ourselves as voters at the polls in 2020. Should we really wait that long when we have already made a choice at the polls to elect representatives who are enabled by the Constitution to rectify gross failings of civil officers who have committed High Crimes and Misdemeanors?

~ ~ ~

A republic, if you can keep it,” Ben Franklin explained when asked what form our government would take upon leaving the Constitution Convention.

What will you do to keep it? I’m looking at you, all 538 members of Congress elected to represent us, who swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.

I’m looking at you, the people referred to in the Constitution’s Preamble; will you call your representative and two senators and insist on impeachment and removal?


History’s Rhyme, Part 3: How Nixon’s Impeachment Unfolded [UPDATE-2]

[NB: Check the byline, thanks!  UPDATES at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

I’ve previously looked at example Articles of Impeachment against Trump in these posts:

History’s Rhyme: Nixon’s Articles of Impeachment — focus on obstruction of justice

History’s Rhyme, Part 2: ‘Abuse of Power’ Sounds So Familiar

I’ll return to do Part 2a to address more abuses of power in the near future. I’m still working on Articles 3 and more related to violations of treaties and foreign policy failures, as well as human rights violations.

This post is one that I didn’t foresee needing. Where the previous posts in this series have direct parallels to the Articles of Impeachment against former president Richard Nixon, this post is about the sequence of events leading to Nixon’s eventual resignation in 1974.

What follows is an abbreviated timeline including what I think were the biggest benchmarks between the beginning of Nixon’s first term in office and his resignation. If I miss something you believe was instrumental in his exit, let me know in comments.

I wanted to look from a 50,000 foot level at the amount of time it took for Nixon to leave office from the beginning of investigations into the Watergate break-in, and particular actions on the part of investigators and Congress as well as Nixon and some of the co-conspirators. I’ll offer observations after the timeline.

Keep in mind as you read this that impeachment and removal are spelled out in the Constitution:

Article I, Section 2, subsection 5: 

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Article I, Section 3, subsection 6: 

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Article I, Section 3, subsection 7:

Judgment in Cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Article I, Section 4:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Article III, Section 2, subsection 3: 

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

~ ~ ~

Timeline of Richard M. Nixon’s terms in office including impeachment effort

20-JAN-1969 — Nixon inaugurated and installed in office.

18-MAR-1969 — Unauthorized by Congress, secret bombing of Cambodia under ‘Operation Menu‘ begins.

09-MAY-1969 — NYT revealed secret bombing based on information leaked by an administration source. Nixon demanded the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) find the source of the leak; then National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger‘s NSC aide Morton Halperin was illegally wiretapped for 21 months.

XX-OCT-1969Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo photocopy what would become known as the ‘Pentagon Papers‘ — compiled study of the Vietnam War commissioned in 1967 by then Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.

~ ~ ~

26-MAY-1970 — Secret bombing of Cambodia under Operation Menu ended.

~ ~ ~

XX-FEB-1971 — Ellberg discussed the Pentagon Papers with NYT reporter Neil Sheehan, turning over some of the materials to Sheehan.

XX-FEB-1971 — Illegal wiretap of NSC aide Halperin ended.

13-JUN-1971 — NYT began publishing portions of the Pentagon Papers

20-JUN-1971 — Senator Mike Gravel entered thousands of pages of the Pentagon Papers into Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds’ record to assure public debate.

~ ~ ~

17-JUN-1972 — Five “plumbers” were caught breaking into Democratic Party headquarters in Watergate; these burglars include a GOP security aide.

20-JUN-1972 — Based on a tip from anonymous source referred to as ‘Deep Throat,’ Washington Post reported that one of the burglars had Howard Hunt’s name in an address book as well as checks signed by Hunt in their possession. Deep Throat also said Hunt was affiliated with Charles Colson, Nixon’s Special Counsel.

20-JUN-1972 — Recordings made in the Oval Office this day eventually contain erasures including an 18-1/2 minute gap. Some of the material recorded included a conversation between Nixon and White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman.

23-JUN-1972 — Nearly a week after the burglary at DNC offices, Nixon and Haldeman were recorded discussing how to stop the investigation into the break-in. Nixon agreed upon Haldeman’s suggestion that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Richard Helms and Deputy Director Vernon A. Walters should contact FBI’s Acting Director L. Patrick Gray and ask the FBI to stand down on the investigation, calling it a matter of “national security.” This conversation would become known as the “Smoking Gun” tape. [UPDATE-2]

01-AUG-1972 — Washington Post reported one of the Watergate burglars had a $25,000 cashier’s check in their bank account.

15-SEP-1972 — G. Gordon Liddy, Howard Hunt, and the five Watergate burglars — the first Watergate Seven — were indicted by a federal grand jury.

29-SEP-1972 — Washington Post reported that former Attorney General John Mitchell used a secret GOP slush fund to pay for opposition research including intelligence on the Democratic Party.

07-NOV-1972 — Nixon reelected in landslide. The race had been substantively shaped by dirty tricks conducted by Nixon’s aides.

~ ~ ~

08-JAN-1973 — The first Watergate Seven are tried by Judge John Sirica.

30-JAN-1973 — G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord, former Nixon staffers, were convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and wiretapping related to the break-in of DNC offices in Watergate.

07-FEB-1973 — Senate Watergate Committee formed by 93rd Congress under S.Res. 60, to investigate the break-in at DNC, “all other illegal, improper, or unethical conduct occurring during the presidential election of 1972, including political espionage and campaign finance practices,” and subsequent cover-up.

21-MAR-1973 — White House counsel John Dean, who’d been tasked with tracking and updating Nixon on the progress of the Watergate investigation, discussed the hush money payments to the team of burglars calling the mounting obstruction of justice a “cancer on the presidency.”

17-APR-1973 — Dean informs Nixon that he had been cooperating with the U.S. Attorneys investigating the Watergate break-in. Nixon is informed the same day by U.S. Attorneys that White House counsel Dean, Chief of Staff Haldeman, and aide Ehrlichman were involved in the cover-up.

30-APR-1973 — Nixon fires Dean; he had asked for the resignations of Haldeman and Ehrlichman as well as Attorney General Richard Kleindienst who had been friends with Haldeman and Ehrlichman.

17-MAY-1973Senate Watergate Committee hearings began.

19-MAY-1973 — Special prosecutor Archibald Cox appointed to begin investigation into presidential impropriety.

25-JUN-1973 — Dean testified before the Watergate Committee. He had been granted limited immunity and eventually pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, for which he eventually served several months in prison. [UPDATE-1]

13-JUL-1973 — White House aide Alexander Butterfield testified before Congress that Nixon secretly taped phone calls and conversations in Oval Office.

18-JUL-1973 — Nixon had recording system disconnected in White House.

23-JUL-1973 — Nixon refused to turn over presidential tapes to Senate Watergate Committee or to special prosecutor.

20-OCT-1973 — Nixon fired Special Counsel Archibald Cox and replaced him with Leon Jaworski (Saturday Night Massacre).

23-OCT-1973 — In the furor of the public’s displeasure about the firing of Cox, Nixon agrees to release some of the Oval Office tapes.

17-NOV-1973 — Nixon said during a Q&A on TV, “Well, I’m not a crook.

21-NOV-1973 — A number of erasures amounting to 18-1/2 minutes were discovered in released Oval Office tapes. Nixon’s personal secretary Rose Mary Woods claimed responsibility for the erasures, blaming the loss on accidentally depressing a pedal on a transcription device while answering the phone.

~ ~ ~

01-MAR-1974 — The second Watergate Seven, all advisors and aides to Nixon, were indicted by a grand jury; Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator.

18-APR-1974 — Special prosecutor Jaworski subpoenaed Nixon for his presidential tapes.

09-MAY-1974 — House Judiciary Committee launched impeachment hearings.

24-JUL-1974 — Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn tapes over to investigators.

27-JUL-1974 — Over the course of three days, the House Judiciary passed three of five articles of impeachment which include charges against Nixon of obstruction of justice and other unlawful acts, abuse of power, and failure to uphold his oath of office.

XX-AUG-1974 — A White House tape from 23-JUN-1972 was released; referred to as the “Smoking Gun” tape, Nixon and co-conspirator Haldeman are heard plotting obstruction of justice.

07-AUG-1974 — A few key GOP Senators told Nixon there are enough votes in the Senate to convict and remove him from office.

08-AUG-1974 — Nixon gave his resignation speech to the American public over national broadcast television.

09-AUG-1974 — Nixon resigned.

~ ~ ~

I was a tweenager at the time the Watergate Committee hearings commenced. I remember watching them on black-and-white television and thinking them the most boring events in the world at the time. There was nothing else on to watch; it didn’t help that it was during summer vacation in remote northern Michigan and there was only one television station.

But now I wish I’d paid attention to those suited old white dudes droning on in the Senate and in the House. I might have realized much sooner there is something very different about the way the Trump-Russia investigation has unfolded compared to the Watergate investigation.

Note very carefully when the first Congressional hearing was held in May of 1973.

It took roughly 15 months to remove the president from the beginning of these hearings until Nixon was persuaded to resign instead of being forced out by conviction and removal by the Senate.

The first hearing was convened by the Senate Watergate Committee — not the House Judiciary, and without the additional implicit constitutional power conferred upon a House impeachment inquiry.

Why is the Senate under Mitch McConnell’s leadership utterly supine in the face of attacks on our election infrastructure by a hostile nation-state?

Why has McConnell done absolutely nothing to further the investigation into the attacks nor into the possible obstruction of justice the Special Counsel’s report outlined, from which the Special Counsel could not exonerate Trump?

Why is McConnell doing nothing at all except waving through a train of poorly-qualified and often compromised presidential nominees for various posts including judgeships with lifetime appointments?

Why is McConnell proving the value of John Dingell’s recommendation that the Senate be abolished since McConnell has refused to submit at least a hundred of the House’s passed legislation for a Senate vote — including a bill which is intended to bolster election security?

By the time the House Judiciary Committee began its impeachment hearings almost exactly one year after the Senate Watergate Committee hearings had begun, the House did not have much to do. Only three months transpired between the launch of the House Judiciary Committee hearings and Nixon’s resignation.

Only a little over two months passed between the House Judiciary beginning impeachment proceedings and the passage of the three Articles of Impeachment which encouraged Nixon’s departure.

For all the complaining about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership with regard to investigations into Trump-Russia and subsequent impeachment, the press has not held McConnell to account for his failure of leadership.

Of course McConnell is a Republican and belongs to the same party as Trump; the Senate is led by the GOP now and both houses of Congress were majority Democratic Party in 1973-1974. But this is a nation of laws; a Republican-appointed, Republican-approved Special Counsel conducted an investigation which did not lead to the exoneration of the president. The GOP-majority Senate helmed by McConnell is just as capable of conducting an investigation into alleged White House misdeeds, could form a dedicated investigatory committee just as the 93rd Congress did back in 1973.

But no. Not Mitch McConnell, who has been compromised in several ways that we know of and has himself obstructed both the investigation into Trump-Russia and prevented the public from knowing they were under attack.

What else do you see in this timeline which is relevant to today’s investigations into Trump-Russia, Trump’s obstruction of justice, his abuses of power, and other failures to uphold the oath of office?

~ ~ ~

While House Committees have already begun hearings into Trump administration activities as part of their oversight responsibilities, formal impeachment proceedings have not yet begun. Following are the anticipated next steps which should happen sooner rather than later; compare them to the Nixon timeline:

  • One of two paths open the impeachment process: 1) A resolution to impeach a civil officer may be referred to the House Judiciary Committee, or 2) a resolution to authorize an investigation as to whether grounds exist for impeachment is referred to the House Committee on Rules; the resolution is then referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
  • The House Judiciary drafts and approves a bill for House consideration and approval outlining the authorization to investigate fully grounds for impeachment, the powers the investigative committee may use in the course of its investigation, and the budget for such an investigation.
  • As specified in the authorizing bill, the House Judiciary or other House committee, perhaps even select or special for the purpose of the investigation alone, conducts its investigation and reports as required by its authorization or House rules.
  • Assuming adequate grounds for impeachment have been found, the House Judiciary drafts and approves articles of impeachment outlining the “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” against the civil officer in question.
  • The entire House votes to impeach the civil officer based on the articles approved by the House Judiciary; it votes on a resolution to inform the Senate of the impeachment.
  • The Senate, being responsible for trial and possible conviction, should take up a trial at this point with the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice presiding. What’s not clear is if the Senate can refuse to begin a trial once the House has impeached; once the Senate begins, the steps it takes are governed by the Rules of Procedure and Practice in the Senate when Sitting on Impeachment Trials.

This last bullet point is no small hiccup.

You can learn more about Congress’s power to impeach and remove civil officers by reading these two Congressional Research Service papers:

Impeachment and Removal, R44260 (pdf)

Recall of Legislators and the Removal of Members of Congress from Office, RL30016 (pdf)

I note the first was prepared in 2005 during the Bush administration. I wonder who requested this paper; I also wonder who requested the second paper in early 2012.

That second paper might be a particularly worthwhile read if one were interested in how to go about removing an obstructive member of Congress or a cabinet member who has proven unsuited to their office. Imagine what could happen if enough Senators decided they needed to change things up on their side of the legislative branch.

UPDATE — 03-JUN-2019 — 

Timeline items (highlighted in yellow above) have been added related to Nixon’s White House counsel due to new developments reported today:

Former White House counsel John Dean will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on June 10, committee chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Monday. The hearing, titled “Lessons from the Mueller Report: Presidential Obstruction and Other Crimes,” will also feature former U.S. attorneys and legal experts. (via HuffPo)

John Dean will convey the import of the Special Counsel’s report since Trump’s White House counsel Don McGahn will not comply with the House Judiciary request for his appearance to testify.

UPDATE — 05-JUN-2019 — 

A reader pointed out the origin of the “Smoking Gun” tape, a conversation on June 23, 1972, was not included in my timeline and has now been added (highlighted in turquoise above). The tape captured Nixon’s direct involvement in obstruction of justice less than one week after the break-in at the Democratic Party HQ in the Watergate complex. We may not have anything quite as tidy as the “Smoking Gun” produced by the Special Counsel’s investigation, but repeated efforts by Trump to shut down the Trump-Russia investigation documented by witnesses are quite damning when combined with the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the harassment and termination of FBI employees Andrew McCabe and Peter Strozk.


Whip It, Whip It Good: Who’s Read the Report? [Updated]

[NB: Yeah. Not Marcy. Post has now been updated to reflect Special Counsel’s statement today. /~Rayne]

By now you know Robert Mueller gave a statement today in which he both resigned as Special Counsel and offered a summation of the Special Counsel’s report on the Trump-Russia investigation.

Marcy has a post up summarizing Mueller’s statement.

Bottom line: the evidence needed to launch an impeachment inquiry is in the Special Counsel’s report.

He further made a remark about Attorney General Bill Barr’s release of the report which should be scrutinized carefully.

Mueller’s statement makes yesterday’s piece on Rep. Justin Amash in the Washington Post more important. Amash published a Twitter thread yesterday criticizing Attorney General Bill Barr’s handling of the Special Counsel’s report:

Amash now has primary opponents including Michigan state representative Jim Lower. This bit is telling:

Two Republicans have filed to run against him in the primary; one of them, state Rep. Jim Lower, told The Washington Post that he raised $60,000 since Amash’s impeachment tweets. The wealthy DeVos family, a force in western Michigan and supporters of Amash’s previous campaigns, said through a spokesman last week that they would support another Republican for the 3rd Congressional District seat; Lower said he’d been in touch with the family.

In an interview, Lower said he had not read Mueller’s report but agreed with the assessment of most Republicans that it ended questions about Trump’s conduct. On Monday, as he greeted voters at a Memorial Day event, several Republicans told Lower they were ready to help him get Amash out of office, citing his criticism of the president.

“Those voters do not want the president to be impeached, and they disagree with the congressman’s conclusion,” Lower said. “Throughout this primary campaign, I will be the voice for those voters.”

Lower is yet another Republican legislator who has made a pro-Trump assessment without having read the Special Counsel’s Report on the Trump-Russia investigation.

He’s absolutely certain Trump didn’t do anything wrong but he couldn’t tell you what in the report exonerates Trump because he couldn’t be bothered with reading it.

Now Lower is a state level elected at the moment, running for the House in 2020 with the aim of replacing Amash. What of the other elected Republicans who are already in the House and the Senate who are pro-Trump? Have they read the report? Have their staff members read the report?

The report’s been out now for more than a month; if they read 5-10 pages a day they should have finished reading it by now so they don’t have a legitimate complaint that the report is too long.

And yet many GOP electeds may stick their neck on the line for Trump, going to stake their credibility on something they haven’t read.

Note Mitt Romney’s feedback about the Special Counsel’s report, keeping in mind Romney was once in the anti-Trump camp:

We should take Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) at his word when he says, as he did on CNN’s “State of the Union,” that he has read the entire Mueller report. He told the show’s host, Jake Tapper: “I just don’t think that there is the full element [of intent] that you need to prove an obstruction of justice case. I don’t think a prosecutor would actually look at this and say, okay, we have here all the elements that would get this to a conviction.”

The 2012 Republican presidential nominee added, “I think, in part — one of the things that is difficult in order to make a case for obstruction of justice or impeachment is whether or not there was intent. And when there’s not an underlying crime, I think it’s difficult to put together an effective case to prosecute for those crimes.” So Romney is merely “troubled by it” and found it “very disappointing, for a number of reasons.”

Here’s Romney a month earlier:

Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican, said Friday that he was “sickened” by President Trump’s behavior as detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s newly released report.

The former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee shared his reaction on social media after reviewing the sprawling report summarizing the special counsel’s investigation into the 2016 race and related matters.

“It is good news that there was insufficient evidence to charge the President of the United States with having conspired with a foreign adversary or with having obstructed justice. The alternative would have taken us through a wrenching process with the potential for constitutional crisis. The business of government can move on,” wrote Mr. Romney.

“Reviewing”??

Yet nearly a thousand prosecutors feel there was ample evidence in the report to conclude Trump obstructed justice. Did Romney really read the report? Is he going to stake his credibility and rally behind Trump based on a bad interpretation of what he may have read, which may or may not be the entire redacted report?

The Washington Post this past week surveyed members of Congress to learn who had and hadn’t read the report. It won’t surprise you that the number of Republicans who haven’t read it outnumber Democrats who haven’t read it.

But now they’ve had a long holiday weekend to read it. Have they? Are they still going to claim that the report exonerates Trump even after Robert Mueller clearly said today Trump isn’t out of the woods?

Are they still going to ignore the hundreds of federal prosecutors across the country who say the report reveals Trump obstructed justice?

Let’s find out. If you’re up to it let’s make phone calls to find out if the lawmakers have still not read the report.

Share your findings in comments and I will update this chart.

Let’s whip it good.

One last observation: Rep. Amash’s townhall last night in a staunchly GOP city, home of the DeVos family, drew a capacity audience and earned him a standing ovation.

Amash stressed how appalled he was at the conduct spelled out in Volume II of the Special Counsel’s report and that he felt those who read the report would likewise be offended.

Why aren’t more GOP members of Congress offended? Because they can’t be bothered to read it?

Whip it — Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

WaPo used these questions which are still a pretty good script for callers:

1. Did members of [lawmaker]’s senior staff read the executive summaries for both Volume I and II of the redacted Mueller report, or not?

2. Did members of [lawmaker]’s senior staff read the redacted Mueller report in its entirety, or not?

3. Did members of senior staff brief [lawmaker] on the contents of the redacted Mueller report, or not?

4. Did [lawmaker] read the executive summaries for both Volume I and II of the redacted Mueller report, or not?

5. Did [lawmaker] read the redacted Mueller report in its entirety, or not?

Make the calls. Whip it good.


History’s Rhyme, Part 2a: ‘Abuse of Power’ Sounds So Familiar

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

In a previous post I looked at the first of three Articles of Impeachment passed by Congress in 1974 against then-president Richard Nixon and suggested a parallel between Trump’s presidential acts and Nixon’s.

There had been five articles drafted; only the first three were approved by the 93rd Congress. Of them one article focused on Abuse of Power — acts which may be malfeasance and/or unlawful, as well as acts which may not have been strictly unlawful/illegal but were unethical and a breach of the trust the public places in the executive and a violation of the executive’s oath of office to take care the laws are faithfully executed.

You can read the second article at this link; now compare it to a theoretical article of impeachment which could be drafted against Trump today.

Article 2: Abuse of Power

Using the powers of the office of President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impeding the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposes of these agencies.

This conduct has included one or more of the following:

1. He has violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution which provides that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Donald J. Trump, has a financial interest in vast business holdings around the world that engage in dealings with foreign governments and receive benefits from those governments. He has refused to divest himself of those interests and inherent conflicts of interest. He has accepted “Emolument[s]” from “foreign State[s]” while holding the office of President of the United States. He has accepted numerous benefits from foreign states without first seeking or obtaining congressional approval as specified by the Emoluments Clause, and further maintains that no Congressional approval is required. He has rejected Congress’s Article I authority by refusing to seek its consent.

2. He misused the Secret Service by interfering in their ability to perform their duties with regard to protecting the presidency, refusing them necessary access to public and private facilities where foreign nationals visit frequently. He has interfered with the Secret Service’s ability to operate, draining their budget by deploying them excessively at his private business facilities when not executing his presidential duties.

3. He has, acting personally and or through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 (PRA), concealed or destroyed presidential records, or prevented presidential records from being made appropriate to the execution of his office. He has terminated the practice of publishing public summaries of presidential phone calls with world leaders thereby evading creation of presidential records. He has ignored warnings of the National Archives to comply with the PRA.

4. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens and the human rights of visiting foreign nationals, unilaterally drafted, issued without adequate prior legal review, and permitted to be maintained Executive Orders 13769 and 13780, violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, the Fifth Amendment’s Equal Protection, Substantive Due Process, and Procedural Due Process clauses, the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and violating in both substance and procedure the Administrative Procedure Act in the process of discriminating against persons both citizens and foreign nationals on the basis of religion and national origin by illegal detention and refusal of their admittance to this country.

5. In disregard of the rule of law: he knowingly misused the executive power by interfering with agencies of the executive branch, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, in violation of his duty to take care that the laws by faithfully executed. He rejected the expert advice of then Deputy Attorney General as to the unlawfulness of his Executive Order 13769. He has authorized Department of Homeland Security personnel to commit illegal acts against asylum seekers and refugees. He interfered with the Department of Justice in its investigation into interference with the 2016 election by repeated disparagement.

6. He has retaliated against federal employees, including but not limited to the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Director of Secret Service, and National Archives personnel, disparaging, harassing, and or firing them without adequate legal cause for conducting their lawful duties. He has ordered other federal personnel to disparage and fire federal personnel without adequate legal cause for conducting their lawful duties. He has maliciously attempted to interfere with federal employees’ ability to draw their rightful benefits.

7. He misused the Department of Justice, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, by tacitly directing or implicitly authorizing the Attorney General to conduct or continue investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office. He has expressed repeatedly his intent to use the Department of Justice and U.S. intelligence agencies for the purposes of punishing political opponents. He has failed to take care that the laws were faithfully executed by failing to act when he knew or had reason to know that his close subordinates endeavored to investigate political opponents.

8. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of press under the First Amendment and of citizens under the Fifth Amendment, authorized and permitted the indefinite revocation of White House press credentials for arbitrary and non-compelling reasons, including punishment for and suppression of perceived criticism. He has frequently undermined the First Amendment rights of the press by calling them “the enemy of the people.

9. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), allowed the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (PACEI) to meet without public notice; without making PACEI meetings open to the public; and without timely notice in the Federal Register. He has failed to ensure PACEI operated so that any of its “records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendixes, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, or other documents which were made available to or prepared for or by” the PACEI were “available for public inspection.” He has further failed to ensure that the PACEI was fairly balanced and free of inappropriate influence as required under the FACA to ensure public accountability.  Based on spurious claims of voter fraud and without adequate data security in place, he has ordered the PACEI to obtain private voter data from the fifty states for the purposes of a voter roll purge using questionable and opaque methods.

[ — TO BE CONTINUED — ]

In all of this, Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article 2 against Nixon only contained five subjects. How quaint; it’s like Tricky Dick wasn’t even trying.

In contrast Trump might have racked up a new subject every other month in office to add to this list. I have at least six more subjects to add in a followup post.

After I finish the Abuses of Power I plan to look at Article 3: Contempt of Congress — which is very nearly writing itself — and an Article 4: Violation of Treaties including those covering refugees and international human rights. There could be an Article 5 covering action in Yemen and other foreign policy and military failures.

I still don’t know if this shouldn’t include his ridiculously expensive golf. Assuming he’s not removed by the time his term is up in early January 2021, and assuming he continues his current rate of play, Trump will have burned through nearly $200,000,000 taxpayer dollars, a considerable chunk of which will go into his pocket for golf cart fees alone. What a parasite; imagine how many teachers could have received pay increases with that, or how many Pell Grant scholarships that could have funded.

Or how much of his ‘fucken wall‘ that could have bought.

This is an open thread. Be sure to let me know what other topics you think should be added under this Article 2: Abuse of Power.


History’s Rhyme: Nixon’s Articles of Impeachment

[NB: Byline check, please. /~Rayne]

History, as they say, doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.

By now many of us have heard or read discussions comparing the actions of Trump and his administration with those of Richard Nixon — actions for which Nixon was nearly impeached.

(Bill Clinton’s impeachment surfaces only as an example of what a joke impeachment can be when a partisan hack investigator is intent on creating a mountain out of a consensual blowjob molehill.)

Though he resigned before the House could vote on them, Articles of Impeachment were drafted against Nixon. The first three of five had been passed by the House Judiciary Committee:

Article I: Obstruction of Justice

Article II: Abuse of Power

Article III: Contempt of Congress

Article IV: Cambodia bombing

Article V: Failure to pay taxes

Article I outlined a list of obstructive behaviors Nixon engaged in the lead up to and during the Watergate scandal. They read like a list of indictable offenses with the exception of an abuse of power in seeking the CIA’s efforts to interfere with the FBI.

Article II outlined Nixon’s abuses of power; the behaviors were unethical.

Article III charged Nixon with contempt after he refused to cooperate with Congress’s investigation into Watergate.

The third article has drawn the most reconsideration in the last 24-48 hours after Trump announced “We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” saying the administration would not comply with House committees’ requests for witnesses and documents.

While Trump hasn’t an unauthorized bombing of Cambodia under his belt addressed by the fourth article in 1974, he does have ongoing violations of international treaties for which he should answer, and for which the Republicans in Congress should be held accountable by a vote on an article about crimes against humanity.

We don’t yet know if a fifth article related to taxes may yet be needed but we shouldn’t be surprised if the tax returns Trump is so desperate to hide do not provide grounds for one.

What a lot of familiar rhyming. One might wonder what Articles of impeachment would look like against Trump. Let’s take a look at a possible Article I.

~ ~ ~

Article 1

RESOLVED, That Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanours, and that the following articles of impeachment to be exhibited to the Senate:

ARTICLE 1

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice, in that:

Beginning March 2016, and prior thereto, agents of Russia knowingly accessed computers without authorization belonging to or used by U.S. presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and volunteers (“Clinton Campaign”), of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (“DCCC”), and the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) in Washington, District of Columbia, for the purpose of securing political intelligence.

In April 2016, Conspirators including agents of Russia and persons know and unknown to a Grand Jury began to plan the release of materials stolen from the Clinton Campaign, DCCC, and DNC.

Beginning in or around June 2016, the Conspirators staged and released stolen materials. The Conspirators continued their U.S. election-interference operations through in or around November 2016 with the intent to support the campaign of Donald J. Trump and deter the Clinton Campaign.

Subsequent thereto, Donald J. Trump, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such unauthorized access and use of stolen materials; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.

The means used to implement this course of conduct or plan included one or more of the following:

1. making false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;
2. withholding relevant and material evidence or information from lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;
3. approving, condoning, acquiescing in, and counseling witnesses with respect to the giving of false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States and false or misleading testimony in duly instituted judicial and congressional proceedings;
4. interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of Special Counsel, and Congressional Committees;
5. approving, condoning, and acquiescing in, the surreptitious payment of substantial sums of money for the purpose of obtaining the silence or influencing the testimony of witnesses, potential witnesses or individuals;
6. endeavoring to misuse the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Office of White House Counsel of the United States;
7. disseminating information received from officers of the Department of Justice of the United States to subjects of investigations conducted by lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States, for the purpose of aiding and assisting such subjects in their attempts to avoid criminal liability;**
8. making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States into believing that a thorough and complete investigation had been conducted with respect to allegations of misconduct on the part of personnel of the Presidential Campaign and on the part of the personnel of the executive branch of the United States, and that there was no involvement of such personnel in such misconduct: or
9. endeavoring to cause prospective defendants, and individuals duly tried and convicted, to expect favored treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony, or rewarding individuals for their silence or false testimony.

In all of this, Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

_________

** Did Trump share/receive material through the Joint Defense Agreement not for the purposes of defense but to obstruct the Special Counsel’s investigation?

~ ~ ~

Well now…the potential parallels are quite striking. Because there’s so much to ponder in this one possible Article, I’ll leave evaluation of other possible Articles to another post to follow.

What do you think? Is there more which an Article focused on obstruction might include? Is there wording which needs revision based on what we now know?

This is an open thread.


You’re Fired (Undocumented Trump Worker): What Odd Timing

[NB: Byline — check it!/~Rayne]

I’ve had this squirreled away in the cupboard; I was working on it just as the government shutdown ended. But now there’s good reason to dust it off and air it out.

~ ~ ~

The issue of Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) remains critically important even though government has been reopened and Trump received a pittance toward a wall.

The Washington Post reported on January 26 that undocumented workers were fired from their long-time jobs with Trump organization businesses.

What odd timing. Take a look at the sequence of events:

06DEC2018 — NYT, CNN other outlets reported the Trump organization employed undocumented workers.

22DEC2018 — Shutdown began at midnight

10JAN2018 — Citizenship applicant Matthew Helmsley was called a year earlier than expected by U.S. immigration for a pre-naturalization interview; he was asked after the interview if he was available on Saturday, January 19.

11JAN2019 — First government employee paycheck missed.

17JAN2019 — Trump announcement scheduled for Saturday, January 19, after a swearing-in ceremony for newly naturalized immigrants; the announcement regarded the ongoing government shutdown.

18JAN2019 — Media speculated about Trump’s proposal. After exchanging emails for a week with immigration personnel, citizenship candidate Helmsley received an email in that morning advising the swearing in would be at the White House the next day.

18JAN2019 — Undocumented immigrants terminated at Trump org facilities.

19JAN2019 — Trump’s proposal including tweaks to TPS and DACA floated some time between late Friday and early Saturday. House Democrats rejected the proposal ahead of Trump’s television speech — they insisted on funding and reopening government without conditions, and no money wall.

19JAN2019 — Just before his speech, Trump swore in Helmsley and a cohort of carefully selected naturalize immigrants, handpicked for political optics, in the Oval Office.

19JAN2019 — Trump gave a televised speech after 3:00 p.m., added limited TPS extension and modified DACA to his demand for wall funding.

25JAN2019 — Trump ‘caved’.

26JAN2019 — WaPo reports on firing of undocumented employees.

29JAN2019 — Original date scheduled for State of the Union address from House chambers

See that right in the middle? Undocumented personnel were fired roughly 24 hours before Trump made his special address making a counter offer.

The White House as well as the Trump organization knew more than a month before Trump’s counter proposal that undocumented workers were employed at multiple Trump business locations.

They waited until after the holidays to terminate them so as to avoid a stink.

They waited until they could use TPS and DACA as proposal items to demand wall funding, hoping the workers’ terminations would be lost in the noise about the shutdown.

And news media missed the timing.

Now here’s the other point the media missed within the last week: if Trump’s government funding proposal including limited TPS and modified DACA were offered immediately following termination of undocumented workers at Trump organization businesses — the two events coordinated and synced as if by one entity — is there any separation at all between Trump as president and Trump as head of the Trump organization?

If there isn’t, wouldn’t that make the DOJ’s so-called “narrow interpretation of a law ” this week, allowing federal officials to attempt to influence Trump by doing business with the Trump organization, really a permission slip for outright corruption via emoluments?

Meanwhile, DACA’s repeal remains up in the air, leaving roughly 800,000 residents up in the air. And TPS for Hondurans has been terminated effected November this year, forcing 86,000 to uproot from the U.S.


Three Things: This Ain’t No Fooling Around

[NB: The byline, check it as always. /~Rayne]

It may be April Fool’s Day but this isn’t a joke. We have some serious matters to tackle urgently today. Let’s get to them pronto.

But first, write down this number or add it to contacts, you’re going to need it:
Congressional switchboard (202) 224-3121

~ 3 ~
Mitch McConnell is expected to bring a Senate rule change to a vote, possibly today; he wants to shorten the amount of time for the Senate to debate nominees before approval 30 from hours to 2 hours. This move was approved by the Senate Rules Committee along party lines and is horribly anti-democratic (little d) as it provides an inadequate amount of time for both senators and their constituents to air problems with nominees and evaluate their suitability for office, which in some cases are lifetime appointments.

McConnell, the man who refused to allow a vote on an Obama SCOTUS nominee, claimed this rule change was necessary because of “‘unprecedented obstruction’ by Democrats.” What amazing projection.

The media also did a pissy job informing the public about this change.

Call your senators, tell them to vote NO on SRes 50. This rule change is unacceptable. You need to know they are fulfilling their role to advise and consent — and that role doesn’t mean rolling over and doing the White House’s bidding. If they don’t fully debate nominees’ qualifications, why do we even need the Senate?

~ 2 ~
And now for the perfect example why the previous rule change is unacceptable: Stephen Moore, economics hack extraordinaire, deadbeat father, and one of the reasons the GOP members of Congress have been especially jacked up since January 2017. McConnell doesn’t want a full debate about him.

This guy is Trump’s nominee for the Federal Reserve and he’s completely out of his depth. I’ll point you to economist Justin Wolfers for details, though — start at the top of his Twitter thread (click on the dte to open it):

And here:

Back when the 115th Congress was sworn in, the House GOP caucus was corralled into a closed door session. Few details have emerged but we know Moore was used to persuade the caucus members they were “no longer the party of Reagan” because popularism. This laid the opening for the POS tax cuts passed last year which were supposed to lead to all kinds of economic growth due to reinvestment. Psych! It was either a massive snow job by Moore on behalf of corporations or it was utter stupidity about the stickiness of corporate profits (they go into shareholders’ pockets, not reinvestment into workers or equipment).

If we ignore the red flags waving about Moore — including a $75,000 tax lien for 2014 income — the ridiculousness of the tax cuts points to Moore’s unsuitability for the Fed Reserve. He’s a complete hack who offers little more than a front to which the GOP can point to legitimize their ransacking the country.

Call your senators: No on Moore for Federal Reserve.

~ 1 ~
This sums up the problem:

A senior administration official with direct knowledge of the meeting described Trump’s stance: “He doesn’t want another single dollar going to the island.”

Puerto Rico is still in very bad shape 19 months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. I can’t begin to do the scale of the additional problems inflicted on Puerto Ricans by the horrible management of financial aid. Please read this piece at the Washington Post for a better take on how bad things are:

Puerto Rico faces food-stamp crisis as Trump privately vents about federal aid to Hurricane Maria-battered island

The Bigot-in-Chief continues his deadly vendetta against Puerto Rican Americans still badly affected by Hurricane Maria’s devastation. He doesn’t want to send them any additional aid for reasons which are opaque to the rest of the country but are readily guessed at based on his past behavior.

He couldn’t bother to do adequate pre-hurricane preparation; he sat on his goddamn fat ass and bitched about NFL players taking a knee rather than get off his ass and make sure Puerto Rico was prepared. We know he had ample time and instead he was either malignant in his duties or incompetent, take your pick.

— He had to be shamed by Hillary Clinton into dispatching the Navy’s hospital ship. The ship did not treat as many patients as it should have nor did it stay long enough. At least one entire ICU ward on the island died because medical attention didn’t get to the most obviously needy places fast enough.

— Under his watch management of disaster recovery services was totally botched, from water bottles sitting on the tarmac undelivered to electrical service contracts let to what appears were profiteering outfits unprepared to deal with the scale of the problems. So much money was wasted because of this gross incompetence.

— Too little attention was given to Puerto Rico’s businesses as critical national infrastructure. The entire country faced medical supplies shortages because manufacturers in PR were the only sources in the U.S. and they were ignored rather than treated as essential.

Three thousand Americans died after the hurricane; most of them died because of the fucked up and opaque personal agenda Trump has against Puerto Rico. More people may have been affected here on the mainland but I’ll bet there’s no way to record the impact.

Me, for example — I had to manipulate the schedule for major surgery back in early 2018 because the hospitals here in Michigan were reporting tight supplies of IV equipment made in Puerto Rico. Thank goodness it worked out, that I didn’t have another episode requiring transfusions and days of IVs. But I couldn’t help think of patients elsewhere across the country who were negatively impacted; there were reports of reusing disinfected IV equipment because supplies had run out.

Trump thinks Puerto Rico has received too much money already. I suspect Trump’s real issues are:

1) He has a personal bias against Puerto Rico because a Trump-branded golf course there failed in 2015;
2) He simply hates brown and non-English speaking people — just look at how he responds to situations where persons of color need help versus whites;
3) He doesn’t see Puerto Rico as part of the U.S.

American persons of color are highly aware of the treatment of Puerto Rico. How the White House and Congress respond to Puerto Rico shapes their opinion, and failure to do right by Puerto Ricans can affect these voters’ attitudes going into 2020.

But Puerto Ricans don’t have a senator, one might say. True — but it’s estimated 6% of the population left the island after the hurricane and more may still leave. They’ve been moving to Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and Wisconsin because it’s cheaper to live in these states than it is now in Puerto Rico. What a pity for GOP senators in those states up for re-election in 2020 who continue to vote against aid for Puerto Rican recovery — they’ll have more Democratic voters to contend with at the polls.

Call your senators — tell them to ensure Puerto Rico has more financial assistance for post-hurricane recovery. We owe it to our fellow Americans just as we would if they were in North Carolina, Florida, Texas, or California after a major disaster. We owe them for the failure to provide equal protection under the law before, during, and after the hurricane resulting in nearly as many Americans’ deaths as 9/11.

~ 0 ~
Lock and load, people, this ain’t no disco. Roll out to the phones. When you’re done you can use this as an open thread.

P.S. For those of you who aren’t on broadband or have challenges making calls, try sending a fax to your members of Congress. There are sites on line which offer free faxes to Congress; my personal favorite is FaxZero.com as they have the numbers for each member already listed. Just type up a short note — be sure to included your real name and address so they can verify your residency in their district/state — then follow the instructions at the site. I keep a blank letterhead template with address header for each of my members of Congress just for this purpose. All I have to do is fill in the body and send. I have a nice copy in my records of what I sent and when. But do keep in mind these fax services will send an email immediately after you press Send to validate your email address. Check the link the fax service emails before confirming.


Three Things: Hey You, Mr./Ms./Mx. Pissed-Off

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

I get it. You’re furious, en fuego, royally pissed off. You’ve traveled through shock and traversed anger, raging for days now since Attorney General Bill Barr issue that POS four-page letter chock full of holes big enough to drive a 40-foot dry van through again and again.

And now you’ve hit bottom, burned out and blue having reached another stage in the grieving process.

We all know this isn’t the end of it, no matter how much gaslighting and abuse the White House, its proxies, the right-wing horde, and asshats like David fucking Brooks spew. You know what you saw in the speaking indictments, plea agreements, and sentencing memos produced over the last two years.

We all know who ‘Individual 1’ is no matter how much he and his myriad minions and handlers would like us to forget his role as an unindicted co-conspirator who denied the public the right to know the truth about his past during the 2016 election.

At least one conspiracy to defraud the American public is right there spelled in black and white under our noses, and again in congressional records as part of Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House. Trump worked with Cohen to lie to the voting American public, violating campaign finance laws in doing so.

“If the people don’t have the facts, democracy doesn’t work,” as Judge Amy Berman Jackson told former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort during his sentencing hearing, another liar Trump brought into his team, allowing Manafort to change the Republican’s platform on Ukraine without a wide and open discussion among conservatives about it.

Trust your eyes and ears. You’re right to be angry and disappointed. Take a deep cleansing breath in and center yourself, feel that righteous burn of indignation, then let out the poison.

And then take another deep breath, roll up your sleeves, grab your phone, and let’s kick some ass.

~ 3 ~
What: Barr didn’t confine himself to his four-page POS summary on Sunday. Oh no. He had to make it really fucking personal for a huge swath of Americans by refusing to allow the DOJ to defend the Affordable Care Act. From the ABA Journal:

The DOJ’s new stance would strike down additional provisions that allow children to have coverage on their parents’ policies until age 26 and that guarantee “essential health benefits” such as mental health, maternity and drug coverage. The stance also would eliminate an expansion of Medicaid and free preventive services for people on Medicare.

Quite literally Americans could die because of this move.

Needed:
— Call your representatives and tell them you support the current ACA legislation in the absence of a better, Medicare for All replacement.
— Ask your reps to do what’s necessary to ensure the DOJ fulfills its mission to enforce the laws of this country, which at this time includes ACA.

You can see Barr is now setting a precedent for a unilateral executive branch which can pick and choose the laws it will enforce in spite of precedent backing existing laws. This can’t go any further.

Congressional Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

~ 2 ~
What: Betsy ‘Multi-Yacht’ Devos decided disabled Americans do not merit an opportunity to achieve; she’s proposed ending funding for Special Olympics.

That shallow, stupid wretch has no real idea what Special Olympics means to the disabled, especially children and their parents. One of my family members has worked for more than a decade at a Special Olympics camp, spending weeks with children who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to camp like abled children. The kids meet other kids like themselves, make new friends, learn new skills, hone their physical abilities, begin to see themselves as capable of so much more. And their parents get a much-needed respite from caring for children who may need around-the-clock monitoring.

But as the former director of the Office of Government Ethics says, the cruelty is the point. Devos is Cruella De Ville who will kill puppies for their coats given the chance. Pro-life, my foot; she cares not a whit what life is like for the disabled after birth.

She quite literally wants to axe Special Olympics and take the money to give to charter schools, which fail at around 25% rate. The money she will steal from the disabled will literally go down a rat hole and nobody except the charter school profiteers will benefit from this scam.

In fact the amount we spend as taxpayers providing additional support to Special Olympics could be offset easily if Trump spent four less weekends at his golf courses on our dime.

There are those who argue it’s really Trump who insisted on this cut and Devos is merely is grunt doing the scut work of hurting the disabled. Sure — but a person whose values are genuinely aligned with caring for fellow humans would have told Trump to stick this sidewise and quit their post instead.

The chances of this proposal passing the House are slim to none, especially after Devos was grilled by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) on Tuesday, but it’s a line in the sand we should draw.

Needed: Call your members of Congress in both houses and let them know this kind of cruelty to disabled Americans is unacceptable and it will not fix the inherent problem of making schools into privatized profit centers with an unacceptably high rate of failure.

Congressional Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

~ 1 ~
What: Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is appearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as Trump’s corrupt nominee for Interior Secretary.

If you have a moment or two, watch for the swamp monster — the one in the green mask sitting behind Bernhardt, not Bernhardt (because when you’ve seen one of the fleshy pink swamp monsters, you’ve seen many).

Needed: This guy is selling out our national resources. Call your senators and tell them hell no on this dirtbag, we don’t need another swamp monster helming the Interior Department.

Congressional Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

~ 0 ~
Don’t forget to check your phone’s battery charge. Get calling!

This is an open thread, by the way.


Foiling a Good Walk

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

Don’t be surprised if Donald Trump decides to spend even more time at his golf courses between now and 2020. He should be worried if the courses will remain a part of the Trump organization let alone how much more time he can spend golfing in his lifetime.

At two points during the House Oversight Committee hearing this past Wednesday, Trump’s golf courses came up.

When Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) asked Michael Cohen about the “catch-and-kill” program by which Trump avoided being publicly exposed by his extra marital sexual partners, Cohen explained why he ended up financing the payment to Stormy Daniels (Miss Clifford).

Transcript (01:45:13) —

Cohen: Well, going back into the story as I stated when we — Allen Weisselberg and I — left the office and went to his office to make the determination on how the money was going to be wired to the IOLA, the interest on the lawyer’s account for Keith Davidson in California, I had asked Allen to use his money. I didn’t want to use mine. He said he couldn’t. We then decided how else we could do it and he asked me whether or not I know anybody that wants to have a party at one of his clubs that could pay me instead or somebody who may have wanted to become a member of one of the golf clubs. And I also don’t have anybody that was interested in that. And it got to the point where it was down to the wire. It was either we — somebody — wire the funds and purchase the life rights to the story from Miss Clifford or it was going to end up being sold to television and that would have embarrassed the president and it would have interfered with the election.

In his response, Cohen shares three different methods used to launder money, two of which would have gone through a Trump golf course. In a previous post examining profiteering and money laundering through a golf club, these same methods were mentioned as possibilities. A new member’s initiation fee could easily match the amount needed to pay off Miss Cliffords as could charges or fees for a single event held at a Trump course.

Given Cohen’s inability to say how many ‘catch-and-kill’ stories Trump or his organization had to pay off, it’s reasonable to suspect golf courses have been used this way to launder hush money let alone launder money for other purposes.

Toward the end of the hearing, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortes asked Cohen about the property value of a Trump golf course after noting the exceptionally sweet deal Trump org received when developing the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, New York.

Transcript (04:50:13) —

Ocasio-Cortes: Thank you very much. The last thing here. The Trump golf organization currently has a golf course in my home borough of the Bronx and Queens. In fact, the Washington Post reported on the Trump links Bronx course in an article titled, ‘Taxpayers Built this Golf Course and Trump Reaps the Rewards’. Many learned that taxpayers spent $127 million to build Trump links in a, quote, generous deal allowing President Trump to keep almost every dollar that flows in on a golf course built with public funds. And this doesn’t seem to be the only time the president has benefited at the expense of the public. Mr. Cohen, I want to ask you about your assertion that the president may have improperly devalued his assets to avoid paying taxes. According to an August 21st 2016 report by the Washington Post, while the president claimed in financial disclosure forms that the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, was worth more than $50 million, he had reported otherwise to local tax authorities thaAt the course was worth, quote, no more than $5 million. Mr. Cohen, do you know whether this specific report is accurate?

Cohen: It’s identical to what he did at Trump National Golf Club at Briarcliff Manor.

Briarcliff offers a good example of Trump org’s treatment of municipal regulations as well as state and local laws. The course management damaged the local storm sewage system with unauthorized modifications, causing damage to residents’ and Ossining’s property. Goodwill was further damaged by years of fighting local tax assessments:

Nowhere has the conflict between the tax assessments on Trump’s properties and his claims of soaring value been more apparent than in Ossining, New York, where his lawyers argued to the city assessor that his Westchester County golf club was worth $1.4 million in 2015, less than a tenth of its appraised value. On the financial disclosure statement candidates are required to file, he valued it at more than $50 million. The city assessor’s office, which valued the property at $15 million, did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump and his organization fought the valuations of all Trump courses in Florida over the last handful of years as well as Mar-a-Lago and several small non-golf estates. The value of the Jupiter course, reported as $50 million on financial disclosure forms furnished to the government, was estimated by Palm Beach County at $19.7 million. But Trump org sued Palm Beach for a fifth time disputing the county’s valuation, electing to pay taxes on a property worth $5 million less than the county’s estimate.

Trump org also appealed its tax bill for the Trump National Doral Golf Club; they’ve tried for each of the last five years to shave its tax liability with Miami-Dade county. They weren’t sucessful.

Briarcliff and the Florida golf clubs aren’t the only courses for which Trump’s organization claimed lower property values in order to avoid tax obligations.

Trump National Golf Course in Hudson Valley, New York, was assessed at $6 million; the organization claims the property is only worth $2 million. The Trump organization doesn’t own the real estate, operating instead as a lessee. It’s not clear if ownership factors into Trump org’s argument against paying higher taxes; the municipality charges the lessee, however.

The Bedminster course was used to claim a $39.1 million federal tax deduction in 2005 relying on a land conservation rule, and a deduction as farmland because the course kept a small number of goats on the premises.

The Los Angeles course may be the most confusing to make sense of its value. Trump said it was worth $264 million when it opened in 2006, claimed it was worth at least $50 million on federal financial disclosure filings, but only $10 million when filing property taxes in 2008.

While the average business makes a reasonable effort to reduce its tax burden, the Trump organization made it a pattern of habit, particularly with its golf course businesses. It’s odd that each course’s asset valuation established by a local municipality was questioned multiple years in a row, even when the municipality had already gone out of its way to provide unusual benefits to the Trump organization (ex. a long-term lease of county-owned property adjoining the West Palm Beach airport while allowing the course to contest the value the county assigned to the real estate).

The pattern of behavior was tightly entwined with asset inflation for other purposes. One reason was for bank loans, elevating the amount the Trump organization could borrow. Cohen testified that he knew Deustche Bank had received these arbitrary numbers.

Rep. William Clay (D-MO) asked about specific Trump organization financial statements from 2011, 2012, and 2013 Cohen had in his possession pertaining to Trump and his organization, with regard specifically to manipulation of asset values.

Transcript (01:48: ) —

Clay: Thank you…can you explain why you had these financial statements and what you used them for?

Cohen: These were used by me for two purposes. One was discussing with media, whether Forbes or other magazines, to demonstrate Mr. Trump’s significant net worth. That was one function. Another was when we were dealing later on with insurance companies. We would provide them with copies so that they would understand that the premium on the individuals’ capabilities to pay would be reduced.

It’s not clear whether Cohen meant individuals singular or plural. The proliferation of disparities between asset valuations reported by media, by members of the Trump family and organization, and by different government entities now makes more sense — the confusion allows easy misrepresentation of value for insurance purposes.

Transcript (04:43.46) —

Ocasio-Cortes: Okay, thank you. Secondly, I want to ask a little bit about your conversation with my colleague from Missouri about asset inflation. To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?

Cohen: Yes.

Mr. Trump’s federal financial disclosure statements need to be audited for false statements if they were completed using manipulated asset data.

The House Oversight Committee now has testimony and evidence suggesting further investigation into bank and insurance fraud by Trump and the Trump organization is warranted.

But it isn’t the House Oversight Committee alone which should now investigate insurance fraud. While insurance in the U.S. must comply with federal law, it’s regulated at state level. Insurance commissioners and state attorneys general in each state where the Trump organization owns, operates, and insures businesses including golf courses should now review Trump’s insurers and policies. How did insurers write policies for Trump organization for so long given the disparities between property values established by municipalities and the asset values published by so many different media outlets?

It’s easy to see there’s a problem with the perception of Trump org’s asset valuations by comparing a few articles written about the golf courses. Outside Florida it’s not well known that Trump org doesn’t own the real estate underneath Trump International Golf Club, West Palm Beach, Florida. It’s even less well known that Trump org does not own the real estate beneath the Hudson Valley, New York course. Many articles reported, however, that these courses are wholly owned by Trump without any additional detail about what assets are included.

How has this gap in public knowledge been used?

The entire financial industry needs to take a good look at itself and consider how it may have been played. Cohen mentioned media outlets like Forbes coming to him for asset valuations which they published, replicating and dispersing deceit read most often by finance people. Because he appeared to own multiple golf courses in addition to other real estate, the perception of Trump’s wealth wasn’t adequately questioned.

It will hurt not only municipalities if Trump org golf courses were to suddenly cease operations.

This is an open thread.

Copyright © 2018 emptywheel. All rights reserved.
Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/congress/page/3/