Federal judge Amit Mehta could not believe the arguments the president's lawyer, William Consovoy, made on Monday:
Consovoy, a beefy former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, offered two related points:
(A) Congress can’t issue a subpoena or otherwise probe a president unless it is doing so for a “legitimate legislative purpose.”
(B) Any “legitimate legislative purpose” Congress could conceivably devise would be unconstitutional.
As a result, Consovoy argued, Congress can’t investigate to see if a law is being broken, can’t inform the public of wrongdoing by the executive and can’t look for presidential conflicts of interest or corruption, because that would be “law enforcement.”
I can't believe these arguments either. Dana Milbank suggests that Consovoy expects to drag out the appeals process and essentially run out the clock on Congress's ongoing investigations.
This may explain why Democratic activist Tom Steyer released this ad yesterday:
Pretty damning stuff. And it gets to the frustration that many of us feel.
I'm willing to give the House Democrats more time. But just a little. Because we need to get the facts out there before the next election.
Everyone knew that Donald Trump lost millions on bad business deals and bad management in the 1980s and 1990s. But we never knew how badly he dealt and managed until now. The New York Times obtained official IRS data on Trump's tax returns from the years 1985 to 1994, showing he lost a staggering $1.17 billion during that period—equivalent to more than $2 billion today:
Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, The Times found when it compared his results with detailed information the I.R.S. compiles on an annual sampling of high-income earners. His core business losses in 1990 and 1991 — more than $250 million each year — were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the I.R.S. information for those years.
Over all, Mr. Trump lost so much money that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years. It is not known whether the I.R.S. later required changes after audits.
The new information also suggests that Mr. Trump’s 1990 collapse might have struck several years earlier if not for his brief side career posing as a corporate raider. From 1986 through 1988, while his core businesses languished under increasingly unsupportable debt, Mr. Trump made millions of dollars in the stock market by suggesting that he was about to take over companies. But the figures show that he lost most, if not all, of those gains after investors stopped taking his takeover talk seriously.
Jennifer Rubin finds five takeaways from the report, and Trump's non-denial of it. Her final point is spot-on:
Finally, do not expect the revelations to dim the Trump cult’s reverence for its leader. If he isn’t really as rich as he said, they will commend him for pulling a fast one (even on voters). If the story is false, it’s one more bit of evidence for their media paranoia. Sadly, the Fox News and talk-radio crowd long ago jettisoned any concerns that they’ve invested their hopes in a con man, someone who has lied and finagled his way through life and into the White House. To admit that would be to recognize they were dupes, victims of another Trump scam. That, they will never do.
The Trump cultists have gone this far and they will go farther. As Matt Ford says, we have not even begun to approach "peak Trump." It's going to be a very long 18 months until the next election.
So far, 657 former Federal prosecutors, appointed by presidents from both parties, have signed a letter pointing out the obvious conclusions of the Mueller Report:
Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.
The Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming. These include:
· The President’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort;
· The President’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; and
· The President’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign.
As former federal prosecutors, we recognize that prosecuting obstruction of justice cases is critical because unchecked obstruction — which allows intentional interference with criminal investigations to go unpunished — puts our whole system of justice at risk. We believe strongly that, but for the OLC memo, the overwhelming weight of professional judgment would come down in favor of prosecution for the conduct outlined in the Mueller Report.
At some point, the president will leave office. Could the DOJ indict him at that point? The statute of limitations on obstruction is 5 years.
Each of the Republicans in the Senate who continue to cover for the president are complicit in this obstruction. So are the cabinet officials, including Attorney General Barr, who continue to obfuscate or outright lie about it.
The election is in 546 days.
Fordham Law School professor Jed Handelsman Shugerman says Attorney General Robert Barr got it exactly backwards:
The Mueller report, holding itself to the higher standard, concluded that it did not find proof beyond a reasonable doubt of criminal conspiracy with Russia. It also offered an explanation: Lies by individuals associated with the Trump campaign “materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference.” Witnesses deleted emails and used applications with encryption or deletion functions, which also thwarted fact-finding. Part II of the report on obstruction explains why Part I may have fallen short of such a high burden.
Mr. Barr had the analysis backward in his summary letter. The failure to prove an underlying crime does not mean there was no obstruction. The obstruction meant that it became impossible to know whether there was a conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt — and it impeded the Russian investigation. Mr. Barr then used that doubt to question whether there was the corrupt intent required by obstruction statutes. To the contrary, the preponderance of conspiracy evidence confirms the corrupt intent.
This conduct by President Trump, his son and his campaign manager and deputy campaign manager are probably civil violations of coordination for enforcement by the F.E.C. Presidents should not be impeached for civil election violations, but one should still be able to conclude that Mr. Mueller established coordination with the Russian government as a factual matter. And it may have been so egregious that it was a “high misdemeanor,” and the obstruction was not faithful execution of the law, especially in light of new historical evidence of its meaning.
Meanwhile, the machinery of congressional investigation churns along...
A large number of articles bubbled up in my inbox (and RSS feeds) this morning. Some were just open tabs from the weekend. From the Post:
In other news:
And now, to work, perchance to write...
The day after a 3-day, 3-flight weekend doesn't usually make it into the top-10 productive days of my life. Like today for instance.
So here are some things I'm too lazy to write more about today:
Now, to write tomorrow's A-to-Z entry...
The always-incisive Alexandra Petri provides a more honest view of AG William Barr's press conference yesterday:
Hello, everyone. I am here to repeat the words “no collusion” as many times as I can without sounding suspicious, but first, I would like to thank Rod Rosenstein. He is here standing behind me. He had plans to step back from public service before I came along and asked him to assist me. Then again, some would argue that by assisting me, he did not perform a public service. Anyway, he is here.
I would also like to thank Robert Mueller for making this report for me to redact. I feel like it is a joint creation between the two of us. He is not standing here with me today. Instead, there is a bearded man who, no doubt, is familiar to you all. I will certainly not introduce him at any point. I will leave his identity to your imagination! Worst-case scenario, this will just accustom you to seeing strange facts without context, something that will help you as you consume the report!
The good news is that, although the Russian government did interfere in the 2016 election with hacking and disinformation campaigns, it did not do so literally at the behest of the Trump campaign, in my opinion. Was that the opinion of the Mueller team? Who can say? But if it wasn’t, it should have been, I think. Make no mistake, Russia did interfere to help him, but this effort was just sort of a fun lagniappe. Nobody asked for it.
The Post has the full (redacted) Mueller report online. I'll be reading it on a plane today.
We have actual spring weather today, so instead of reading things while eating lunch I was watching things, like this corgi:
I do have a few things to read while coordinating a rehearsal later tonight. To wit:
- New York City declared a public health emergency because of measles. Measles. A childhood disease we almost eradicated before people started believing falsehoods about vaccination.
- White House senior troll Stephen Miller has the president's ear, with predictable consequences.
- Where did all of Chicago's taverns go? We used to have two to a block.
- Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin admitted that the White House and the IRS have discussed releasing the president's tax forms, contrary to the statute meant to keep the White House from influencing the IRS.
- Why is Canadian PM Justin Trudeau imploding so fast?
- The UK Government has started preparing for EU elections next month, a sign that they expect to get an extension on the Brexit timeline from the EU. If not, then they will crash out of the union at 5pm Chicago time Thursday, scoring one of the worst own-goals in the history of world politics. (It's worth noting that losing the American colonies was another one.) I can't wait for PMQs tomorrow.
Today's weather, of course, is just a teaser. We even have snow flurries in the forecast for Friday. Welcome to Chicago.
After President Trump disbanded the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment in August 2017, the group got back together on its own:
The panel is now known as the Science to Climate Action Network (Scan) and has now completed work it would have finished for the federal government, releasing a report on Thursday warning that Americans are being put at risk from the impacts of a warming planet due to a muddled response to climate science.
“We were concerned that the federal government is missing an opportunity to get better information into the hands of those who prepare for what we have already unleashed,” said Richard Moss, a member of Scan and a visiting scientist at Columbia University, who previously chaired the federal panel.
“We’re only just starting to see the effects of climate change, it’s only going to get much worse. But we haven’t yet rearranged our daily affairs to adapt to science we have,” he added.
The fourth National Climate Assessment, released on the day after Thanksgiving last year, detailed how climate change is already harming Americans, with sobering findings on future impacts. At the time, Trump said he didn’t believe the report.
Columbia University and the American Meteorological Association are funding the reconstituted panel.
I had planned to talk about this thoughtful article on congestion pricing and how free roads aren't really free, but just a few minutes ago I saw a headline that made me laugh out loud:
President Trump is planning to nominate former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain to the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, two people familiar with the push said, a move that would significantly escalate the White House’s effort to exert political pressure on the U.S. central bank.
A Senate GOP leadership aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the nominee’s prospects, predicted that Cain would ultimately not have the support to be confirmed.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), the ranking Democrat on the Banking Committee, suggested Cain and Moore were both underqualified for the Fed board.
"I thought it was a joke at first when I heard that, but I guess it's at least as serious as Stephen Moore," he said. "I'll just leave it at that for now."
"Underqualified." No, I'm underqualified for the Fed. The administration's proposed nominees are so unqualified laughter is the only option at this point. Remember, Cain is the guy who ran for president in 2012 without the slightest guess about the location (or names) of several strategically-important countries, making Rex Tillerson look like a Rhodes scholar.
Remember, these guys hate competence, especially in government. But wow, I didn't think they'd go this far. It's hard to believe Trump filed for bankruptcy all those times, with his giant brain.