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Happy ‘PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT’ Day! [UPDATE-5]

[NB: Updates at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

We’ve been waiting too long for this day.

Not this day:

But this day:

UPDATE-1 — 11:05 a.m. ET —

A reminder not to get too excited about tax documents being produced before November:

And Rep. Ted Lieu continues to press for expanded inherent contempt powers:

UPDATE-2 — 11:43 a.m. ET —

Could Trump be indicted by Vance’s office before November?

Fingers crossed.

UPDATE-3 — 11:58 a.m. ET —

Yup…and a specific reason why we can’t expect a speedy resolution.

This will have to work its way through the system.

UPDATE-4 — 2:08 p.m. ET —

Rep. Adam Schiff’s take on SCOTUS’ decision:

Another important SCOTUS decision today, which should not be lost to the hubbub over Trump v. Vance:

In a 5-4 decision, the Muscogee tribe of eastern Oklahoma has won in McGirt v. Oklahoma. Justice Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion.

JUSTICE GORSUCH delivered the opinion of the Court.
On the far end of the Trail of Tears was a promise. Forced to leave their ancestral lands in Georgia and Alabama, the Creek Nation received assurances that their new lands in the West would be secure forever. In exchange for ceding “all their land, East of the Mississippi river,” the U. S. government agreed by treaty that “[t]he Creek country west of the Mississippi shall be solemnly guarantied to the Creek Indians.” Treaty With the Creeks, Arts. I, XIV, Mar. 24, 1832, 7 Stat. 366, 368 (1832 Treaty). Both parties settled on boundary lines for a new and “permanent home to the whole Creek nation,” located in what is now Oklahoma. Treaty With the Creeks, preamble, Feb. 14, 1833, 7 Stat.418 (1833 Treaty). The government further promised that “[no] State or Territory [shall] ever have a right to pass laws for the government of such Indians, but they shall be allowed to govern themselves.” 1832 Treaty, Art. XIV, 7 Stat. 368.
Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.

The opinion is filled with remarkable little bites which have pointed teeth, like the first sentence in Sect. II:

Start with what should be obvious: Congress established a reservation for the Creeks. In a series of treaties, Congress not only “solemnly guarantied” the land but also “establish[ed] boundary lines which will secure a country and permanent home to the whole Creek Nation of Indians.” 1832 Treaty, Art. XIV, 7 Stat. 368; 1833 Treaty, preamble, 7 Stat. 418. …

Right there, in the text of the law, even.

And then this closing in the last graf of the majority opinion — whew, this seems like a message to another audience altogether:

…If Congress wishes to withdraw its promises, it must say so. Unlawful acts, performed long enough and with sufficient vigor, are never enough to amend the law. To hold otherwise would be to elevate the most brazen and longstanding injustices over the law, both rewarding wrong and failing those in the right.

This decision will likely result in a few death sentences being overturned, according to Sister Helen Prejean.

One might wonder at the impact on the ongoing threat to the Mashpee Reservation.

 
UPDATE-5 —  by Ed Walker, a very long comment

SCOTUS handed down two decisions in cases involving Trump’s tax returns: Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP, the House subpoena case, an Trump v. Vance, the New York State subpoena case. Here are some preliminary thoughts.

1. In both cases SCOTUS is forced to pretend that Trump is a normal President. This is from Vance, discussing Clinton v. Jones, the case about Clinton’s sex life.

The Court recognized that Presidents constantly face myriad demands on their attention, “some private, some political, and some as a result of official duty.” Id., at 705, n. 40. But, the Court concluded, “[w]hile such distractions may be vexing to those subjected to them, they do not ordinarily implicate constitutional . . . concerns.” Ibid.

No one thinks Trump is normal. His only time constraint is his TV schedule, and his need to spend quality time with his friends at Fox News. So, when reading these cases we have to remember that they apply to normal presidents of both parties, mostly, at least we hope so.

2. In Mazars, Roberts says that Congress can only issue subpoenas in pursuit of information needed for legislative purposes. Therefore, the only issue is whether this subpoena exceeds the authority of the House, considering that it makes demands on a different branch of government. SCOTUS makes up some considerations for balancing the need for information with the demands on the President. This makes sense in the normal run of things. As the Courts says, prior demands have been resolved without the courts. However a normal President doesn’t hide his tax returns, and doesn’t have significant business dealings with traditional enemies of the US.

This case exposes the Democrats as failures. They had information suggesting that Trump or his businesses or both had extensive business dealings with Russians, including some connected to Putin, and had reason to suspect that those relationships affected his official actions towards Russia. Two obvious points: Trump ignored and denied Russian meddling in US elections; and Mike Flynn explicit kowtowed to Putin over sanctions. Why wasn’t this the explicit rationale for the subpoena for his transactions with Deutsche Bank, which is thought to be the vehicle for those transactions. The grounds would be impeachment, which is a power solely reserved for Congress, and one in which the role of SCOTUS would be severely reduced.

This was a specific decision by Speaker Pelosi and the rest of the House Leadership Gerontocracy. Pelosi resisted demands for an investigation of the lies of the Bush/Cheney administration that led to the sickening attack on Iraq. She resisted any effort at serious investigation of Trump, and had to be forced into investigating the extortion of Ukraine.

3. The underlying problem in Mazars is the weakness of Congress. Trump and his contemptible lackeys refuse to cooperate with Congress. Bill Barr thinks the President has absolute authority, and can ignore Congress.

The Constitution provides that each house sets its own rules. Each house could easily set up its own rules about subpoenas and enforcement of subpoenas. One possibility would be that an administrative official who refused to comply with a subpoena could be held in contempt, and then that person and all underlings would lose all authority to act under any law or regulation.

4. The delay issue in Vance is similar. We’ve wasted a year on arguments that had no possibility of success except in the minds of Presidential absolutists. Now we can expect Trump to move to quash the Vance subpoena in New York state courts, starting the whole thing over. Neal Katyal disagrees; he thinks the matter can be settled quickly in New York courts. We’ll see.

5. Trump has damaged America and Americans while this case stumbled along. One obvious remedy is a law that Congressional subpoenas are deemed enforceable by Congress unless there is a final court decision within a short period, say two months. Current court rules ignore the speed with which legal matters can be handled with the internet. Legal research is easier and quicker, filing is trivial, and video-conferencing solves all travel and scheduling problems. The rest of us have had to speed up. So should Courts.

A Tale of Celebrity Bon Vivant Civil Servants and Access Journalism

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 12.27.12 PMThere is a distinct problem in this country with excessive inbreeding of politicians, lobbyists and journalists. In a country where so many are now ruled by so few in power, it is becoming, if not already become, the biggest threat to American democracy. I would add in corporations, but, heck, who do you think the politicians, lobbyists and journalists represent at this point?

Now, corporations and their money through their mouthpiece lobbyists have long had a stranglehold on politics, whether through the corps themselves or their wealthy owners. But the one saving mechanism has historically been claimed to be the “Fourth Estate” of the American press who were there on behalf of the people as a check on power. But what if the Fourth Estate becomes, in fact, part of the power? What then?

What if the crucial check on federal and state power is by journalists who are little more than stenographers clamoring for access and/or co-opted social friends and elites with the powers that be? What if the sacrosanct civil servants of this country are nothing but Kardashian like shills out for a free gilded ride before they leave office to cash in with private sector riches befitting their holiness?

Golly, if only there was an example of this incestuous degradation. Oh, wait, get a load of this just put up by Kate Bennett’s KGB File at Politico:

In a generally stay-at-home administration, one member of the Obama Cabinet is proving to be the toast of the town. Jeh Johnson, the oh-so-serious-on-the-outside secretary of Homeland Security, is fast becoming Washington’s No. 1 social butterfly, dining out at posh restaurants like CityCenter’s DBGB, as he did last week with a small group that included Amy Klobuchar, Steny Hoyer, CNN’s Jim Sciutto, the New York Times’ Ashley Parker, author Aaron Cooley, and lobbyist Jack Quinn and his wife Susanna.

For a guy who’s been running a 24/7 war against terror since 2013, Johnson seems to have a lot of time to trip the light fantastic. He can often be seen enjoying regular catch-up sessions with BFF Wolf Blitzer at Café Milano (back table, naturally); and mingling at black-tie soirées, such as the Kennedy Center Spring Gala, the Opera Ball, or a champagne-fueled VIP garden party at Mount Vernon to toast French-American relations, all of which Johnson attended—and stayed at beyond the requisite cocktail-hour schmooze.
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“There’s rarely an invitation he’ll turn down,” says an aide to Johnson, who prefers to remain anonymous, of his boss’s penchant for spending three-to-four evenings a week at social functions — and actually enjoying them.

I am not going to bother to dissect that, it speaks all too clearly for itself. And it is hard to figure which is more pukeworthy, the bon vivant civil servant or the elitism displayed by the supposed watcher last bastion journalists. It is all of the same cloth.

What’s wrong in Washington DC? Here you go. When the pathology on the boneyard of American democracy is run, this vignette will appear.

Maybe this is why Tom Vilsack could find a spare couple of hours out of one of his days to explain in a deposition why he and the Obama Administration knee jerkily demanded Shirley Sherrod’s resignation based upon a crank fraudulent video by a schlock like Andrew Breitbart.

Because “Executive Privilege” now means “Privileged Executives” who can party all night with their elitist journalistic pals and screw the rest of the government, and people it serves, during the day. Just like the Founders envisioned obviously.