Saturday, June 2, 2018

It's Mueller Time, Con't

The NY Times drops a copy of a Trump regime memo to Special Counsel Robert Mueller written back in January that asserts that Mueller has no power to subpoena Donald Trump, and that Trump has absolute power over the investigation into his own malfeasance.

President Trump’s lawyers have for months quietly waged a campaign to keep the special counsel from trying to force him to answer questions in the investigation into whether he obstructed justice, asserting that he cannot be compelled to testify and arguing in a confidential letter that he could not possibly have committed obstruction because he has unfettered authority over all federal investigations.

In a brash assertion of presidential power, the 20-page letter — sent to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and obtained by The New York Times — contends that the president cannot illegally obstruct any aspect of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling because the Constitution empowers him to, “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon.”

[Read the Trump lawyers’ confidential memo to Mr. Mueller here.]

Mr. Trump’s lawyers fear that if he answers questions, either voluntarily or in front of a grand jury, he risks exposing himself to accusations of lying to investigators, a potential crime or impeachable offense.

Mr. Trump’s broad interpretation of executive authority is novel and is likely to be tested if a court battle ensues over whether he could be ordered to answer questions. It is unclear how that fight, should the case reach that point, would play out. A spokesman for Mr. Mueller declined to comment.

“We don’t know what the law is on the intersection between the obstruction statutes and the president exercising his constitutional power to supervise an investigation in the Justice Department,” said Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor who oversaw the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush administration. “It’s an open question.”

Hand-delivered to the special counsel’s office in January and written by two of the president’s lawyers at the time, John M. Dowd and Jay A. Sekulow, the letter offers a rare glimpse into one side of the high-stakes negotiations over a presidential interview.

Though it is written as a defense of the president, the letter recalls the tangled drama of early 2017 as the new administration dealt with the Russia investigation. It also serves as a reminder that in weighing an obstruction case, Mr. Mueller is reviewing actions and conversations involving senior White House officials, including the president, the vice president and the White House counsel.

The letter also lays out a series of claims that foreshadow a potential subpoena fight that could unfold in the months leading into November’s midterm elections.

We are reminded of our duty to protect the president and his office,” the lawyers wrote, making their case that Mr. Mueller has the information he needs from tens of thousands of pages of documents they provided and testimony by other witnesses, obviating the necessity for a presidential interview.

The problem with such an argument is that it assumes the Executive cannot be checked by any power in the Executive, only by the Judicial or the Legislative, and that describes a country where the president is above the law.  Trump is now resorting to not only attacking his critics openly on Twitter, and at rallies, but now he's using the Oval Office's weekly address to attack Democrats directly.

In his weekly address, Trump blamed Democrats for slow-walking many of his nominees through the confirmation process, saying that Senate Democrats had "shamelessly obstructed" hundreds of qualified picks.

"Senate Democrats call it 'the resistance,' " he said.

"From day one, Senate Democrats have shamelessly obstructed, stalled, and filibustered the confirmations of hundreds of talented men and women who are eager to come to Washington, D.C., to make a difference," he said. "They want to serve our country."

Trump also blasted the party's opposition to his hard-line demands on border security and immigration. He said that Democrats were withholding support for his policies because the party is "afraid it’s going to make me and the Republicans look good."

"They have blocked every effort to close deadly loopholes, to keep out vicious criminals, and to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs," Trump said. "They are a disaster at the border."

"These actions are endangering our citizens, threatening our communities, and undermining our national security," he continued.

Pay very, very close attention to that last part.  In just the last few days, the President has declared that foreign trade practices by our closest allies like Canada constituted a national security threat that required action through punitive tariffs.  His EPA has determined that solar and wind power are national security threats that require America to force utilities to buy coal and nuclear power.

Now he has determined that Democrats are "undermining our national security" along with critics, and he has asserted absolute power over the investigation into his campaign.

He will soon take action against those critics.  Very soon, I fear.

Trump Cards, Con't

With renewable power sources like wind and solar becoming more cost-effective and efficient every month, the Trump regime has declared war on the planet and is looking to instead prop up coal and nuclear plants by using the power of the government to mandate environment-wrecking energy companies and throttle green initiatives.

Trump administration officials are making plans to order grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants in an effort to extend their life, a move that could represent an unprecedented intervention into U.S. energy markets.

The Energy Department would exercise emergency authority under a pair of federal laws to direct the operators to purchase electricity or electric generation capacity from at-risk facilities, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg News. The agency also is making plans to establish a "Strategic Electric Generation Reserve" with the aim of promoting the national defense and maximizing domestic energy supplies.

“Federal action is necessary to stop the further premature retirements of fuel-secure generation capacity,” says a 41-page draft memo circulated before a National Security Council meeting on the subject Friday.

The plan cuts to the heart of a debate over the reliability and resiliency of a rapidly evolving U.S. electricity grid. Nuclear and coal-fired power plants are struggling to compete against cheap natural gas and renewable electricity. As nuclear and coal plants are decommissioned, regulators have been grappling with how to ensure that the nation’s power system can withstand extreme weather events and cyber-attacks.

Although the memo describes a planned Energy Department directive, there was no indication President Donald Trump had signed off on the action nor when any order might be issued. The document, dated May 29 and distributed Thursday, is marked as a "draft," which is "not for further distribution," and could be used by administration officials to justify the intervention.

While administration officials are still deciding on their final strategy -- and may yet decide against aggressive action -- the memo represents the Energy Department’s latest, most fully developed plan to intervene on behalf of coal and nuclear power plants, pitched to the president’s top security advisers.

Energy Department representatives did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

The notion that solar and wind power are unreliable to the point of constituting a potential threat to national security is ludicrous, especially when pitched against the proven dangers of nuclear power.  Of course this is Trump paying off energy executives who supported him, because this is what Trump does. Paul Waldman:

You might think that Republicans would be outraged about this. We’re talking about the federal government not just “picking winners and losers,” something free-marketeers claim to abhor, but literally ordering utilities to buy a certain kind of fuel, which just happens to be the kind that creates the most pollution and in many cases costs more (don’t worry about the inclusion of nuclear energy; this is really about coal).

But Republicans are not outraged, because as former House speaker John Boehner said yesterday, “There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump party.” And the rule in the Trump party is: Reward those who serve you, and punish those who don’t.

Any ideological considerations must take a back seat to that principle. Sometimes it means cutting regulations, and sometimes it means increasing regulations; it just depends on who the winners and losers are. Liberals may say mockingly that this proposed rule smacks of socialism, but it isn’t guided by any kind of philosophy of governing. It’s a payoff.

In 2016, Trump repeatedly promised the residents of states such as West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania that he was going to revive the coal industry. He went to West Virginia, donned a helmet, pantomimed digging with his lips pursed, and said, “For those miners, get ready because you’re going to be working your a–––– off.” Everyone cheered, and it’s hard to blame them, since many of their communities have been devastated by the steady loss of what were once well-paid jobs with good benefits (negotiated by a union, of course). Unlike Clinton, who accepted the reality of coal’s decline and wanted to help those communities find other ways of reviving themselves, Trump simply said that he’d bring back coal.

But the idea that we could eliminate some environmental regulations and thereby bring all the coal jobs back was always ludicrous. Estimates of the number of coal jobs in America vary slightly (see here or here), but they generally come in between 50,000 and 75,000, which means that there are more Americans who work at Arby’s than there are in the entire coal industry. That’s the product of a long-term decline attributable mostly to automation (you don’t need to send 1,000 miners down into the hole with pickaxes anymore) and competition, especially from natural gas, the price of which has plummeted with the fracking boom.

No reasonable person thinks that the coal jobs are coming back, but this was one of the most explicit promises Trump made, and if he doesn’t deliver, it will make everything he said in 2016 look like a scam. And if the market no longer wants coal, Trump will force power plants to buy it.

Trump made promises.  He will keep them by abusing the powers of his office, no matter how much damage it does to the country and the planet, because only his supporters matter to him.  The rest of us are just collateral damage, we're not even Americans, we're not even human, we're "animals".  The irony is that his promises will damage his supporters the most, but as long as they can be convinced that those who are the "enemy" and didn't support Trump are in an even worse place, they'll vote for Trump and the GOP every time.

The constant dehumanization and demonization of the Obama coalition has metastasized into today's GOP.  We are chattel to be ruled, kine to be slaughtered by Trump and his forces, and they want to be on the "winning" side even as it costs them everything.

History says this road leads to apocalypse, and we're running out of time to prevent it.
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