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Friday, February 10, 2017


The heat is on

by Tom Sullivan

Being president is not like being a billionaire patrician. Donald Trump is accustomed to lots of bowing and scraping and sucking up from eager sycophants and contractors. But outside his White House and Republican political circles, he's not seeing as much of that as president. He hasn't even had a "honeymoon." Last night in San Francisco, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the temporary restraining order on his travel ban from seven Muslim countries. The decision was unanimous:

The three-judge panel, suggesting that the ban did not advance national security, said the administration had shown “no evidence” that anyone from the seven nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — had committed terrorist acts in the United States.

The ruling also rejected Mr. Trump’s claim that courts are powerless to review a president’s national security assessments. Judges have a crucial role to play in a constitutional democracy, the court said.

“It is beyond question,” the decision said, “that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.”
Last night's decision is likely to wind up before the evenly divided U.S. Supreme Court before Trump's nominee, Neil Gorsuch, can be confirmed by the Senate. But even a 5-4 conservative court is not going to relinquish its authority to review executive branch decisions.

Democrats in the U.S. House are applying heat to Trump's business dealings by deploying a seldom-used procedure:
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) filed a “resolution of inquiry” Thursday, a relatively obscure parliamentary tactic used to force presidents and executive-branch agencies to share records with Congress. Under House practice, such a resolution must be debated and acted upon in committee or else it can be discharged to the House floor for consideration.

Nadler’s resolution asks Attorney General Jeff Sessions to provide “copies of any document, record, memo, correspondence, or other communication of the Department of Justice” that pertains to any “criminal or counterintelligence investigation” into Trump, his White House team or certain campaign associates; any investment made by a foreign power or agent thereof in Trump’s businesses; Trump’s plans to distance himself from his business empire; and any Trump-related examination of federal conflict of interest laws or the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
Nader's move has an ice cube's chance in hell of making it to a floor vote, but he's getting press for it and making sure the issue doesn't fade from public view.

So far, Trump is finding out it's not easy being king in a democracy (a republic, Republican friends are quick to correct).

Outside the capitol, the strengthening opposition to the Trump administration has taken a few pages from the T-party playbook. Trump's opponents have taken to showing up en masse at town hall events held in congressional districts:
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz was home in his district Thursday night to hold a town hall at a high school in the suburbs of Salt Lake City. It did not go well. The crowd well exceeded the auditorium’s 1,000-person capacity and the event kicked off to chants of “kick him out!” (re: Chaffetz) mixed with “let them in!” (re: the some 1,000 person overflow crowd locked out of the event).
Several video clips at the Slate link.

For a bit of contrast, let's look at who is not feeling any of the heat going around: business. U.S. New & World Report:
CNBC obtained a memo that suggests Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas – the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee who has championed the regulation-stripping Financial Choice Act on Capitol Hill – is backing new legislation that would further peel back Dodd-Frank regulatory layers by taking particular aim at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The new bill in question reportedly would limit the bureau's ability to police the private sector and scrap its consumer complaint databases. It also would change the structure of the agency's directorship – making it an appointed position open to at-will termination.
In Washington, a lot of politicians are all about protecting the little people from terrorists and big gummint. But from businessmen? Not so much. When you view the economic world through Darwin-colored glasses, you dislike checks on apex predators as much as the Trump administration dislikes checks on lies, torture and profiting from government service.