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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

 
Stonewall Strategy

by digby



Politico reports:

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler wrote to the White House last month demanding information about President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to fund the construction of a southern border wall.

Yet Nadler’s Feb. 22 deadline came and went with no response. Not only did the Democratic congressman not receive the documents he wanted, he didn’t even receive a customary letter back from the White House acknowledging his request.

It was just one example of the Trump White House’s unusually hostile — or in this case, non-existent — response to congressional investigators.

In their early response to an onslaught of Democratic requests, Trump officials are breaking from norms set by previous administrations of both parties, according to people who worked in the White House or Capitol Hill during the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Over the last two months, Trump’s intent has become clear: He doesn’t plan to negotiate with Congress over their demands for information and witnesses the way his predecessors did. Instead, House Democrats are going to have to fight him for everything.

POLITICO contacted the 17 House committees that unsuccessfully requested records or witnesses from the Trump administration over the last two months. In most cases involving the White House itself, as opposed to agencies and departments, the request was ignored altogether. In at least one instance, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone responded with an aggressive letter questioning the committee’s authority to even ask for information. (In contrast to the White House, departments and agencies often delivered requested information politely.)

Another deadline came and went on Monday. The White House ignored Nadler’s latest request for a slew of documents about fired administration officials, Russian nationals and Trump businesses, according to a person familiar with the situation. The White House and Committee declined to comment.

As a result — despite high hopes among Democrats that they would quickly be in possession of troves of internal Trump administration documents, and grilling a succession of administration witnesses — a long and frustrating fight with Trump lawyers lies ahead, a fight that could end up in court. Splashy demands of the White House made in the early days of the new House Democratic majority, could take many months, possibly stretching well into 2020, to produce results.

Democrats are already furious over what they call the brazen stonewalling. But David Bossie, a Trump confidant and adviser who served as the House GOP’s lead investigator into the Clinton White House in the 1990s, predicted that Trump officials will face no serious legal consequences for ignoring the requests — and said they are justified in doing so because Democrats are waging what they call nakedly partisan inquiries.

“The White House is taking the exact right tactic to ignore the requests and see what comes of it,” he said. “I wouldn’t respect [the Democrats’] process.”

The White House failed to provide information about the national emergency to the Intelligence and Judiciary committees by their January and February deadlines, according to information obtained by POLITICO. It didn't send documents about Trump’s communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees by last Friday's deadline. And the House Oversight Committee did not receive information about possible breaches of the security clearance system before its March 4 deadline. Cipollone argued that the committee “has failed to point to any authority establishing a legitimate legislative purpose for [its] unprecedented and extraordinarily intrusive demands.”

I doubt that the House chairmen are surprised by this. Stonewalling isn't unprecedented, although it appears they aren't going to even pretend to cooperate. And it's possible that the Democrats are depending on the Mueller investigation to provide a lot of this information, which the White House did cooperate in providing. Since we have no idea whether the Mueller report will provide any details, that's a big risk.

Mostly, I think they're running out the clock, hoping to get to the election before anything substantial is revealed. It makes sense. Trump knows he's going to get substantial help and he'll have masses of money to help him destroy his "socialist" opponents. If he can make it to a second term this whole thing will likely be dropped under the assumption that "the people" have spoken and they didn't care about any of it. It's Trump's best get-out-of-jail card.


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