Thursday, May 9, 2019

Pay No Attention To the Man Behind the Curtain

No, seriously, there's nothing going on there.  No need to look.  Just trust me, everything's okay.

I'm mean I'm an open book, you can look into anything you want.  Except that over there.  And that to over in that corner.  And I can't even imagine why you would look over here.

You definitely don't want to talk to him.

No, no, I have nothing to hide.  Why would you ask?




So, here we are with an impending Constitutional crisis.  President Trump has asserted executive privilege over the entire Mueller report to prevent the unredacted version from being shared with Congress.  Coming just hours before the House Judiciary committee voted along party lines to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress for ignoring a congressional subpoena.

Trump's reasoning - partisan politics.  He's said it before, basically refusing to comply with any subpoenas against his administration.  "We're fighting all the subpoenas.  These aren't, like, impartial people.  The Democrats are trying to win 2020."  So, instead, he's decided to get into a power struggle with Congress to protect himself.

"We have talked for a long time about approaching a constitutional crisis; we are now in a constitutional crisis," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said moments after the contempt vote.  "Now is the time of testing whether we can keep this type of republic, or whether this republic is destined to change into a different, more tyrannical form of government."

This is in addition to Trump refusing to comply with the Congressional Order to remit six years of his tax returns for Congressional review.

And objecting to Robert Mueller testifying before Congress regarding his report and what he believes may be inaccuracies reported in Barr's summary.

All from a man who wrote about the Mueller report "No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.  KEEP AMERICA GREAT!"  Methinks he doth protest too much.  I'm guessing we're a little closer to his reaction when he found out that a Special Counsel had been appointed as reported in the Mueller report itself.  "Oh my God.  This is terrible.  This is the end of my Presidency.  I'm fucked."

Here's the thing - it just gets worse from here.  What happens next?

Who bypasses the courts or defies the courts first?

What happens if the President refuses to comply with a court ordered subpoena?

What happens when the nation's Attorney General is found in contempt?  When Barr is taken to civil court to try and force compliance with the subpoena requests?

Likewise for ex-White House counsel like Donald McGahn if he refuses to comply, with Trump already threatening to exert privilege?

Does Congress use an "inherent contempt" authority under the Constitution to fine officials who refuse to cooperate?

This isn't necessarily new.  Executive privilege has been a sticking issue in national scandals like the treason trial of Aaron Burr and the Watergate Scandal. In fact, Chief Justice Warren Burger used the Burr trial to decide that President Nixon had to comply with a subpoena by the special counsel for his taped conversations.  And while the variations have been different, the main idea is that while presidents should be able to keep secrets from Congress in order to do their jobs, that power is not absolute.  That we balance the need for president's to get candid advice and the need for transparency.

"The weakest claims of executive privilege involve administrations attempting to cover up embarrassing or politically inconvenient information, or even outright wrongdoing."  Mark Rozel of George Mason University and Mitchel Sollenberger of the University of Michigan-Dearborn in their study.

I think we're here.

"In this case, the President has claimed some 'protective' executive privilege which is entirely too broad and without any precedent (excepting equally broad claims such as President Nixon's that failed the constitutional standard).  It seems the President believes he can wall off any and all information by merely uttering the words 'executive privilege.'"  Rozell in an email to CNN.

Whatever happens, it's going to be long and it's going to be ugly.  It took a year from the time Nixon refused to release the tapes until the Supreme Court ruled against him.  That would put it at a very inconvenient time in the 2020 election.  It could be worse though.  It was four years from the time Obama made his executive privilege claim regarding Fast and Furious documents before a judge rejected it.  That just got resolved on Wednesday this year.

I think what's most disturbing is that this will continue to be a partisan fight.  When did basic Constitutional provisions like checks and balances become a partisan issue?  Shouldn't we all be concerned about Executive overreach?  Shouldn't we all want greater transparency?

How long can the Republican party continue to defend his actions?  Or has that ship sailed for good?

Welcome to the new normal, I guess.  Another day, another obfuscation. The dance just continues on and on.

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