Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Last Call For The GOP Goes Viral, Con't

As the Trump Depression becomes more apparent by the day and Trump needs a steady stream of villains to blame for it all, some Republican governors and senators are starting to get, well, pretty sick, of Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Anthony Fauci came to the Senate, virtually, to issue a dire warning against reopening the country too soon amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic. But his message fell flat with some of his intended audience. 
Republicans, led by President Donald Trump, are eager to revive the flailing economy. And resuming commerce at some level this spring and summer is central to the GOP’s message that it can turn around the economy before November. They’re also aiming to do so without adopting House Democrats’ plans for more multi-trillion-dollar stimulus bills. 
But Fauci’s Tuesday testimony clashes with the GOP’s vision, and it’s fueling growing fatigue among Republicans with one of the government’s most trusted public health leaders at a critical moment.

“There’s a spectrum of everything. And I think he’s on the overly cautious end of the spectrum,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said after parrying with Fauci at the hearing. “I don’t think he’s doing it because he’s a bad person, but if we’re overly cautious and we wait until all infectious disease goes away… we’ll wait forever and the country is going to be destroyed.” 
Sen. Mike Braun said Paul's view will be vindicated. 
“When we get this in the rearview mirror and do the dispassionate debrief, Sen. Paul’s going to be closer to right than Fauci,” said the Indiana Republican, who also attended the hearing. “I never did like the idea that you treated the entirety of the country, and even counties within a state, the same way.” 
The nation’s top infectious disease expert testified to the Republican-controlled Senate that there could be “serious” consequences if states open up too early, and he urged them to follow federal guidelines to prevent a second wave of outbreaks. Fauci also downplayed the prospects of a quick vaccine or treatment for the disease this fall. 
Meanwhile, GOP senators and governors in both parties say that lifting stay-at-home orders can be done safely and have begun to crack open a diverse array of states before meeting federal benchmarks. 
Fauci’s testimony comes as House Democrats are preparing to pass a $3 trillion relief bill later this week. But rather than plunge immediately into talks with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his members are banking on the idea that as states reopen, less money will need to come from Washington.

Asked whether Americans should be listening to Fauci’s caution or Trump’s economic-focused optimism, McConnell said they can do both. 
“We can’t spend enough money to prop this economy up forever. People need to be able to begin to be productive again,” McConnell told reporters. 
Fauci has served six presidents and knows how to offer advice in Washington without being thrown overboard. And aside from Paul, few senators took direct shots at him in interviews with a wide array of lawmakers on Tuesday afternoon. 
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has been viewed by both parties as a plain-spoken, commonsense guide during the frightening coronavirus crisis even as Trump himself has oscillated between urging a quick reopening to adopting Fauci’s approach. 
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called Fauci “the gold standard” and said he will “continue to listen to him.” And Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Fauci and other public experts have “spoken truth to power as best they can, obviously with some degree of diplomacy and qualification.” 
Yet as Americans grow weary of isolation, with some states’ shutdowns entering their third month, Paul showed that sentiment is extending toward Fauci himself in some parts of the GOP. 
At one point, Paul questioned Fauci’s methodology on coronavirus’ effects on children and said that he is not “the end all" of decison-making. Fauci responded that he has “never made myself out to be the end all and only voice on this.” 
“He has a very valuable voice in this discussion. He’s got a field of expertise that’s important to hear from,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). “But it’s only one of many considerations we have to make as a society. Because we have to make trade-offs.”

Senate Republicans and governors don't want to go down with the SS Trumptanic in November, but they are starting to look at maybe Fauci as being a possible fall guy.  At the very least, Fauci still has support of most of DC, but some Senate Republicans are openly signaling that they won't be sad to see him go should Trump cut him loose.

We'll see how long he lasts.  My guess is much like Alex Azar, he won't be around much longer.  Azar has survived one storm at least, but again, Trump will need a constant stream of scapegoats, and November is a long, long way off as far as daily news cycles to be controlled.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion, Con't

Time magazine interviewed Trump Regime VP of Fraud, Jared Kushner, about COVID-19 and the election, and while Kushner is still a deeply sociopathic automaton with no capability of empathy other than to fake it, it's his response on the November election that should have all of us in the streets with pitchforks and tumbrels.

While much of the country remains locked down, Congress has passed a series of stimulus measures and sent checks to millions of Americans to help stabilize the economy as it suffers the worst unemployment levels since the Great Depression. Critics have noted that certain provisions in the CARES Act, like the joint tax break in Section 2304, will disproportionately benefit wealthy Americans.

When asked if he personally stands to benefit from the bill, Kushner said he doesn’t know how it will affect him, because he doesn’t manage his personal finances and has recused himself from his businesses. “I have no knowledge of any of this that was designed to help me personally, or the President,” Kushner said. (Kushner also denied that the volunteer force he organized to work on procuring medical supplies kept a “V.I.P.” spreadsheet to prioritize tips from political allies, as the New York Times had reported.)

Americans’ economic distress could hurt Trump’s re-election prospects. Kushner himself had previously told TIME that Trump’s pitch to voters this fall was going to focus on a booming economy. Now, Trump is trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in both national and swing-state polls. Kushner said Trump is “looking forward” to debating Biden and dismissed the polls as “inaccurate.” Kushner said he believes the choice in the election will come down to: “Who do you trust to build the economy back?”

When asked if there was a chance the presidential election could be postponed past November 3 due to the pandemic, Kushner said that isn’t his decision. “I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan,” he said.

“Hopefully by the time we get to September, October, November, we’ve done enough work with testing and with all the different things we’re trying to do to prevent a future outbreak of the magnitude that would make us shut down again,” Kushner continued. “I really believe that once America opens up, it’ll be very hard for America to ever lock down again.”

Wait, what?

He's not sure if he can commit to free and fair elections in November?

Nobody in their right mind would say this unless there's a plan to not commit to having an election.

I mean, states decide this, we've been over this, but what?  It's not up to Kushner or even Trump at all here, but this is something you say if you've been giving an awful lot of thought about not having an election.

A Supreme Disappointment, Con't

The best we can hope for at this point on the Supreme Court and Trump's taxes is that Trump is defeated in November, because oral arguments in the cases went so badly for House Democrats it was comical.  The reality is that Trump should lose both cases 9-0, as Vox's Ian Millhiser points out.

It’s tough to exaggerate just how thoroughly current Supreme Court precedents cut against Trump. The Court has repeatedly emphasized that Congress must have a broad power to conduct investigations, because it is not possible for Congress to make informed law-making decisions without such investigations.

As the Supreme Court explained in Eastland v. United States Servicemen’s Fund (1975), “the power to investigate and to do so through compulsory process ... is inherent in the power to make laws.” Without such a power, “a legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or change.”

Eastland is one of many Supreme Court decisions emphasizing that Congress may conduct nearly any investigation, so long as that investigation is “intended to gather information about a subject on which legislation may be had.”

Courts, moreover, are forbidden to dig into the legislature’s reasons for conducting a particular investigation. “So long as Congress acts in pursuance of its constitutional power,” the Court held in Barenblatt v. United States (1959), “the Judiciary lacks authority to intervene on the basis of the motives which spurred the exercise of that power.”

So that’s what the law says. And under that law, the House wins both Mazars and Deutsche Bank. The first case involves a House Oversight Committee investigation targeting the president’s accounting firm, Mazars USA. It seeks information on whether existing presidential financial disclosure laws are sufficiently robust, or whether they need to be stricter.

Similarly, the Deutsche Bank case involves two parallel House investigations targeting banks that possess some of Trump’s financial records. Among other things, those investigations seek information on whether there are “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government, or related foreign actors, and individuals associated with Donald Trump’s campaign, transition, administration, or business interests, in furtherance of the Russian government’s interests.” These investigations could inform legislation seeking to reduce foreign money laundering and to reduce foreign interference in US elections.

But the court, or at least five justices on it, are purely political creatures now.

Not long after Letter began his argument, Chief Justice Roberts revealed just how sympathetic he is to Trump’s position. Letter’s brief, Roberts noted, states that a congressional investigation must “concern a subject on which legislation can be had.” According to Roberts, this “test is really not much of a test” because it doesn’t impose significant limits on congressional investigations of the president.

Roberts isn’t wrong that the test laid out in Letter’s brief is very permissive of congressional investigations. But it’s not like Letter just made that test up. The idea that Congress may conduct any investigation that concerns “a subject on which legislation can be had” was endorsed by many prior Supreme Court decisions over the course of many decades.

Roberts’s disdain for this longstanding standard was echoed by several of his colleagues. Justice Neil Gorsuch dismissed it as “limitless.” Justice Brett Kavanaugh worried that it would permit congress to declare “open season” on presidents. And Letter was unable to offer a new limit on congressional investigations that would satisfy these justices.

Meanwhile, Justice Samuel Alito repeatedly accused the House of issuing these subpoenas to harass the president — a fact that is irrelevant under Barenblatt’s holding that “the Judiciary lacks authority to intervene on the basis of the motives which spurred the exercise of that power.”

Even Justice Stephen Breyer, a Clinton appointee, appeared to lose confidence in Letter’s arguments. Shortly before those torturous arguments came to an end, Breyer said that he’s concerned that the House is seeking “a lot of information and some of it is pretty vague,” and that the task of sorting through these requests and figuring out what information is being turned over could prove too much of a distraction.

It would be hard to sugarcoat this: It was a disaster for Letter and the House. Letter began his argument with a wealth of precedents that clearly support his client’s position, and he appeared completely unprepared for a Court that just does not believe that existing law should apply to President Trump.

So yes, absolute best case scenario here is that Roberts punts this back to the lower courts to examine the question of if an Congressional investigation is just too hard for the Executive to put up with unless Congress can specify before the investigation what it should have found, or some other time travel/psychic nonsense, after the election.

By then it'll either be moot because of a President Biden, or moot because we won't have a democracy.


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