Monday, May 15, 2017

Ending Our Long National Nightmare -- It's All About Subpoena Power

The modern Republican party controls all three branches of government, and it is demonstrating quite clearly that it is not up to even the most essential task of protecting the institutions it controls from the ravings of a wild man -- Charles Pierce
As the rancid orange shit-gibbon continues his destructive march through the various articles and clauses of the Constitution, it becomes clearer every day that he is intellectually, morally and mentally unfit for office.  This ignorant, corrupt, lying malignant narcissist has got to go before he takes us down -- or, at minimum, does lasting damage to our democracy.  As former director of National Intelligence James Clapper has just warned:  "I think in many ways our institutions are under assault both externally -- and that's the big news here is the Russian interference in our election system -- and I think as well our institutions are under assault internally," i.e., by the aforementioned shit-gibbon. 

Trump's most recent round of stunning insensitivity to fundamental norms of governance includes, of course, the firing of the FBI Director just as he was ramping up an investigation of possible Russian collusion.  The comparison to Watergate and the removal of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who demanded Nixon's oval office tapes, is apt -- and, as James Fallows compellingly argues, based only on what we know so far, this scandal is worse:  "Worse for and about the president. Worse for the overall national interest. Worse in what it suggests about the American democratic system’s ability to defend itself."

I'm not sure I totally agree with Fallows, but one way the current "Gate" is dangerously worse is the absence of principled Republicans who are willing to ask what Trump knew and when he knew it -- and take the steps necessary to get the answers to those questions.  Sure, a few Republicans have paid lip service to being "troubled" by Trump's brazen obstruction of justice -- but that's as far as they'll go.  Republicans want their tax cut for the wealthy, their repeal of Obamacare, and their dominance over the Supreme Court and lower federal courts to further their regressive agenda.  And they will overlook all the craziness, corruption and abuse of power until they accomplish these goals.

But we can't let them.  We must demand that Democrats utilize every procedural tool they have as the minority party to shut down or slow down committee hearings and delay business as usual.  As Adam Jentleson, former deputy chief of staff to Sen. Harry Reid, explains, in the Senate, they must also "use the Senate’s rules encouraging free and open debate to take advantage of every opportunity to press Republicans directly and publicly on why they continue to cover for President Trump instead of holding him accountable. Senators can and should flood the floor with speeches and hold frequent news conferences on Trump’s ties to Russia.  But they can also engage Republicans directly on the Senate floor and force them to publicly defend their blind obedience to the most conflicted and compromised president in recent history."

At minimum, there should be no lifetime appointments for federal judges while there is a cancer on the presidency.  There should be no tax reform while Trump refuses to hand over his tax returns and disclose the extent and nature of his business entanglements.

There are essentially two options for removal of a president:  The 25th Amendment (See It's Medication Time) and impeachment.  (See, e.g., Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Emoluments Clause But Were Afraid To Ask)  But until the Democrats can take back at least one house of Congress, neither option seems even remotely possible.

But if the Democrats win a majority in the House in the 2018 midterms -- an idea that is not as farfetched as it seemed a month or so ago -- they will be able to take control of the current meandering investigations from the Republicans and initiate others into Trump's corruption and abuse of power.  As Evan Osnos, who provides a great (pre-Comey firing) historical perspective on removing presidents, writes in The New Yorker, "if Democrats retake the House, the Judiciary Committee could establish subcommittee to investigate potential abuses and identify specific grounds for impeachment."

Most importantly, majority control would give Democrats subpoena power -- which will allow them to obtain Trump's tax returns, financial records of his business dealings, documents involving meetings or contacts between Trump and his associates and the Russians, and more.  And once they get access to Trump's papers -- or spark a Watergate-like confrontation over access to those papers -- all bets are off. 

Short of a mid-term victory for Democrats, the only other hope is that enough Republicans discover, if not their principles, at least their political savvy, as Trump's erratic conduct threatens to take down their Party and impede their ability to govern.  Only three Republicans in the Senate are needed to cross the aisle and vote with Democrats to establish an independent commission.  Three.

The Republican majority's refusal to use its considerable powers to the check the president and conduct meaningful investigations is shameful, cowardly and deeply unpatriotic.  Democrats need to keep the pressure on them by throwing sand in the gears and forcing them answer for their recalcitrance and hypocrisy.  And we need to pressure the Democrats to keep at them.  And we need to make them pay in 2018.


John Fike said...

Thanks Andy, great piece. Crazy times, huh? Will even a few Republicans have the courage to put their country over their party?

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