The Trump regime's refusal to cooperate with House Democrats is now total, and nobody can hold them accountable because the Trump regime has all the state's enforcement power at its command. Josh Marshall:
Attorney General Bill Barr has dramatically escalated his Mueller Report coverup and effort to effectively end independent oversight of his Department by Congress. According to this report, he is refusing to show up to testify this week before the House Judiciary Committee unless he is accorded a veto right over the questioning format.
As the fight over the Congress’s oversight rights has heated up, it’s been increasingly clear that the committees should either designate one or two committee members experienced in questioning or have a committee counsel do the questioning. Absent that approach, you get what we’ve seen in other recent hearings. The members have a great range of issue knowledge and questioning abilities. Even to the extent that they’re pursuing good lines of questioning, they each get five minutes. So the person testifying can pretty easily run out the clock with non-answers. For really effective questioning you need a solid and knowledgable questioner who has a sustained period of time to pursue lines of questioning. The other approach is fine for garden variety testimony where there’s some degree of good faith give and take. It doesn’t work here.
For just this reason, Chairman Nadler has proposed having one round of questioning where every member gets their five minutes – basically the normal routine. Then he has a second round in which both sides’ committee counsels get thirty minutes of time in alternating five minute segments. (Nadler is also proposing that the committee go into closed session to discuss the redacted parts of the report.) Neither of these decisions are remotely controversial or unprecedented, especially when the subject matter is of great moment. But Barr is saying he may not show up if Nadler doesn’t change to what Barr considers a more friendly questioning format.
A window of good faith negotiation about format is not unprecedented or wrong in itself. But we’re far past that. Barr is pretty clearly trying to exercise a veto right over how the Judiciary Committee conducts its hearings, which are a bedrock constitutional function with respect to the Attorney General and the Department of Justice. In this sense, Barr’s antics are part of President Trump’s strategy of massive resistance to any congressional oversight whatsoever.
How Nadler responds to this will be important to watch. For all the talk about impeachment, stand-offs like this are where power and brakes on the President’s power will be determined. If you want to do things to stiffen Democrats’ spines, these are the standoffs where it counts. As I was writing this, CNN updated its story. Nadler apparently told CNN that if Barr won’t comply he’ll move to subpoena him. “The witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period.”
A lot hangs on this.
If Barr is subpoenaed, if any member of the Trump regime is subpoenaed, then what?
What actually happens then?
My guess is nothing, because if Jerry Nadler or Elijah Cummings actually try to enforce this, Trump will simply refuse.
Who will make Trump comply? It sure isn't American voters.
As House Democrats return this week to Washington after a two-week recess, they will find a Capitol consumed by the report of Mr. Mueller, the special counsel. A private meeting of the House Democratic caucus on Tuesday promises to be heated, as do Senate and House hearings on Wednesday and Thursday with Attorney General William P. Barr.
But rank-and-file Democrats are not being propelled by their constituents into a headlong confrontation over impeaching the president. In town hall-style meetings and meet-and-greets across the country last week, constituents bemoaned Mr. Trump’s policies, groaned at his refusal to heed congressional subpoenas and fretted over what they saw as an erosion of the rule of law.
There were few signs of an uprising to demand a quick judgment that the misdeeds laid out in the special counsel’s report constituted the kinds of “high crimes and misdemeanors” worthy of trying to remove the president from office.
“It’s not a top half-dozen. It may be down at the No. 12 spot” in terms of priorities, said Ms. Porter, a freshman Democrat of California, who hears far more from her Orange County constituents that dissatisfaction with Mr. Trump should be channeled into voting him out of office in 2020.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Friday appeared to underscore Democrats’ dilemma. It found that roughly six in 10 Democrats supported beginning impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump, most of them strongly. But almost nine in 10 Republicans and six in 10 independents, whom Democrats need to defeat Mr. Trump, opposed the idea.
Democratic leaders in the House have pledged a series of hearings intended to ferret out the details of Mr. Mueller’s investigation and air the testimony of key witnesses. Rather than jump to conclusions — and there are some liberal lawmakers arguing in favor of prompt impeachment — party leaders say they want to build a case on live television before the public and see where that leads.
The future of America as a country under rule of law depends on that answer, but the fact is these hearing will almost certainly lead nowhere.
And then what?
Better figure that out, or Trump wins it all, and America is gone.