Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Last Call For Her Turn

Hillary Clinton takes to the Washington Post to opine on what Dems should do in the post-Mueller report era, and frankly, it's solid, reasonable advice.

First, like in any time our nation is threatened, we have to remember that this is bigger than politics. What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. Mueller’s report leaves many unanswered questions — in part because of Attorney General William P. Barr’s redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless.

Second, Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps, not jump straight to an up-or-down vote on impeachment. In 1998, the Republican-led House rushed to judgment. That was a mistake then and would be a mistake now.

Watergate offers a better precedent. Then, as now, there was an investigation that found evidence of corruption and a coverup. It was complemented by public hearings conducted by a Senate select committee, which insisted that executive privilege could not be used to shield criminal conduct and compelled White House aides to testify. The televised hearings added to the factual record and, crucially, helped the public understand the facts in a way that no dense legal report could. Similar hearings with Mueller, former White House counsel Donald McGahn and other key witnesses could do the same today.

During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee also began a formal impeachment inquiry that was led by John Doar, a widely respected former Justice Department official and hero of the civil rights struggle. He was determined to run a process that the public and history would judge as fair and thorough, no matter the outcome. If today’s House proceeds to an impeachment inquiry, I hope it will find someone as distinguished and principled as Doar to lead it.

Third, Congress can’t forget that the issue today is not just the president’s possible obstruction of justice — it’s also our national security. After 9/11, Congress established an independent, bipartisan commission to recommend steps that would help guard against future attacks. We need a similar commission today to help protect our elections. This is necessary because the president of the United States has proved himself unwilling to defend our nation from a clear and present danger. It was just reported that Trump’s recently departed secretary of homeland security tried to prioritize election security because of concerns about continued interference in 2020 and was told by the acting White House chief of staff not to bring it up in front of the president. This is the latest example of an administration that refuses to take even the most minimal, common-sense steps to prevent future attacks and counter ongoing threats to our nation.

Fourth, while House Democrats pursue these efforts, they also should stay focused on the sensible agenda that voters demanded in the midterms, from protecting health care to investing in infrastructure. During Watergate, Congress passed major legislation such as the War Powers Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973. For today’s Democrats, it’s not only possible to move forward on multiple fronts at the same time, it’s essential. The House has already passed sweeping reforms that would strengthen voting rights and crack down on corruption, and now is the time for Democrats to keep their foot on the gas and put pressure on the do-nothing Senate. It’s critical to remind the American people that Democrats are in the solutions business and can walk and chew gum at the same time.

We have to get this right. The Mueller report isn’t just a reckoning about our recent history; it’s also a warning about the future. Unless checked, the Russians will interfere again in 2020, and possibly other adversaries, such as China or North Korea, will as well. This is an urgent threat. Nobody but Americans should be able to decide America’s future. And, unless he’s held accountable, the president may show even more disregard for the laws of the land and the obligations of his office. He will likely redouble his efforts to advance Putin’s agenda, including rolling back sanctions, weakening NATO and undermining the European Union.

Of all the lessons from our history, the one that’s most important may be that each of us has a vital role to play as citizens. A crime was committed against all Americans, and all Americans should demand action and accountability. Our founders envisioned the danger we face today and designed a system to meet it. Now it’s up to us to prove the wisdom of our Constitution, the resilience of our democracy and the strength of our nation.

 While the first piece of advice is wishful thinking, as the Republican party is hopelessly and completely corrupted and produced the Trump cancer on the body politic, the rest is absolutely correct.  We do have to get this right, and that means laying out the case with subpoenas and using the tools House Democrats have available.

It also means giving Trump enough agita that he slips up and very possibly commits even more impeachable offenses trying to cover up the mess he's in now.  And yes, it means proving Dems can chew gum and walk at the same time and pressing on the Democratic agenda as a positive alternative to Trump's garbage universe while pursuing impeachment at the same time.

Again, this is eminently solid advice from Clinton.  Will anybody listen or even remember she said this when the "Where was Hillary when the impeachment debate was going on?" inevitably begins?

We'll see.  Mark this one down.

Meat The Press, Con't

Donald Trump's slow vengeance against a free American press who dares to question him continues, this time with his edict banning anyone from the regime attending the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner this weekend.

The White House has ordered Trump administration officials to boycott the White House Correspondents' Association dinner, according to a senior administration official. 
The order was issued Tuesday morning by White House Cabinet Secretary Bill McGinley, who announced that all Trump administration officials are being ordered to boycott the dinner, scheduled for Saturday night. 
An administration official adds that the order came from Trump personally, though staffers have been trying to talk him out of it. 
The move marks yet another deterioration in relations between the White House press office and the press corps, though President Donald Trump had announced earlier this month that he would be skipping the annual dinner for the third year in a row. The President will instead hold a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the same evening. 
"The dinner is so boring and so negative that we're going to hold a very positive rally," Trump told reporters at the time. 
The usual tensions between reporters and government representatives have escalated to extreme levels in the Trump age, due largely to the President's near-daily attacks against the media. His portrayal of the people who cover him as his "enemy" and the "enemy of the people" has been denounced by historians, press freedom advocates and politicians in both parties. 
Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, responded to the boycott saying: "We're looking forward to an enjoyable evening of celebrating the First Amendment and great journalists past, present and future." 

I would expect that House and Senate Republicans and their staff will skip the dinner as well.

Trump has always held a special hatred of this event and this is why.

He's all but destroyed it in three years, along with our free press (although to be fair they have done plenty of work in destroying themselves.)  But there's still a lot of damage Trump will continue to do to the media.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Greg Sargent argues that Donald Trump is 100% terrified of former WH lawyer Don McGahn going before the House to testify, because he's got the keys the kingdom...and Trump's jail cell.

Democrats have now subpoenaed former White House counsel Donald McGahn to appear before Congress and testify about his direct involvement in some of the most explosive revelations in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report.

Trump’s allies, led by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, have ramped up their attacks on McGahn. The New York Times reports that they are escalating for a very specific reason: because they fear that McGahn will help build the case for Trump’s impeachment.

As the Times reports, some White House officials believe the attacks on McGahn are counterproductive. But the most important White House official of all sees things quite differently: 
Mr. Giuliani’s attacks on Mr. McGahn have unnerved some senior White House officials, who have argued privately that the president and his legal team should stop drawing attention to damaging episodes in the report, according to two people close to the White House.

But Mr. Trump has privately complained about the accounts, particularly the ones given by Mr. McGahn, and has said the only way to protect himself from impeachment is to attack Mr. Mueller and Mr. McGahn, the people said

Why would Trump fear such a thing, if the Mueller report totally exonerated Trump? Because Mueller’s recounting of episodes involving McGahn are profoundly damning, and highlight Trump’s corruption, bottomless capacity for official deception and contempt for our democracy and the rule of law with great vividness.
As Mueller documents, McGahn testified that Trump tried to instruct him to carry out one of his most glaring efforts to obstruct justice — and then to lie to cover it up. After the Times reported that Trump had ordered McGahn to fire Mueller, and then backed down when McGahn threatened to quit, Trump dismissed the story as “fake news.”

Trump then tried to get McGahn to deny this had happened — and even tried to get McGahn to put that in writing. But McGahn refused, claiming the story was accurate.

As Mueller recounts, Trump then demanded this in a face-to-face meeting with McGahn, claiming: “You need to correct this. You’re the White House counsel.” As always, here Trump seemingly treated McGahn as his personal lawyer, not the White House’s institutional one.

In a particularly revealing passage, Mueller recounts that Trump repeatedly told McGahn that despite any recollections otherwise, he never ordered Mueller’s firing. As the report puts it: “McGahn thought the President was testing his mettle to see how committed McGahn was to what happened." In other words, Trump was probing how much he could get away with in pushing McGahn to lie for him.

And then the Mueller report ties it all up in a neat little bow:

The President then asked, “What about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes." McGahn responded that he keeps notes because he is a “real lawyer” and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing. The President said, “I’ve had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes."

Hopefully, McGahn will soon testify to all this — and much, much more — on live television.

McGahn under oath on national television is going to make for some riveting drama, and Donald Trump will do anything to stop that from happening.

The White House plans to fight a subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee for former White House counsel Donald McGahn to testify, according to people familiar with the matter, setting up another showdown in the aftermath of the special counsel report.

The Trump administration also plans to oppose other requests from House committees for the testimony of current and former aides about actions in the White House described in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report, according to two people familiar with internal thinking who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke of the plans on the condition of anonymity.

White House lawyers plan to tell attorneys for administration witnesses called by the House that they will be asserting executive privilege over their testimony, officials said.

So there's little hope this will happen.  Again, the battle will be tied up in the courts, ideally for Trump past November 2020. 

On the other hand, Trump may decide he'll stop anyone from testifying by obstructing justice again...

Stay tuned.


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