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Wednesday, October 09, 2019


Donald, Queen of Hearts

by Tom Sullivan

President Donald J. Trump has stepped through the looking glass, the same mirror on the wall that told him his poll numbers have increased "17 points in the last two or three days."

Things work differently in Donald's looking-glass world. The U.S. Constitution neither defines his responsibilities nor limits his powers. He is the law. His rule is imperial.

The State Department on Tuesday refused to allow U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland to appear before House committees engaged in the impeachment inquiry. Sondland, a key figure in the Ukraine investigation, had flown in from Europe and made arrangements to appear. But first he turned over to the State Department personal devices holding Ukraine-related documents committees wish to examine. His superiors now refuse to release them to Congress.

"The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress," said Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Democrats swiftly issued a subpoena and set a date for Sondland to appear.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone Tuesday evening sent House committee leaders and Speaker Nancy Pelosi a hyperventilated and nonsensical letter accusing House Democrats' inquiry of being, well, unfair to the president, of abusing their power under the Constitution and attempting to overturn the results of the 2016 election.

The White House flatly refuses to cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry, declaring "constitutionally invalid" the House of Representatives' "sole Power of Impeachment" under Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution. As taxpayers, we are paying Cipollone for this legal expertise.

Constitutional crisis? "Ok, *now* there’s a constitutional crisis," tweets Orin Kerr, professor of law at Berkeley law school.

The Washington Post Editorial Board writes:
PRESIDENT TRUMP is attempting to rewrite the norms of presidential behavior in two fundamental ways in the Ukraine affair. He is claiming the right to directly seek the assistance of foreign governments in pursuing compromising information about his political opponents, even in the absence of any legitimate U.S. investigation. He is also asserting the power to block congressional oversight by prohibiting administration officials from testifying about their official activities, even in private.

These are gross abuses of Mr. Trump’s oath of office. If they are allowed to stand, they will open the way for more offenses in the coming year — including more appeals for foreign intervention in the 2020 election — and they will establish new baselines for future presidents. So congressional Republicans, as well as Democrats, have reason to act forcefully to check Mr. Trump.
Republicans will do nothing. What Democrats will do to enforce their subpoenas remains unclear. These are uncharted waters.

Pelosi told a May press conference nothing was off the table, including inherent contempt powers:
HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: Well, that is a path. That would be inherent contempt. The contempt civil contempt, criminal contempt, and inherent contempt. And if they fail to--to a path I'm not saying an intent but I'm saying again then I mentioned to Katie that this is one of the possibilities that is out there. I am not saying that we are going down that path, I'm just saying it is not to be excluded. Nothing is to be off the table. So in inherent contempt you send a subpoena, they don't honor it then hold them in contempt and if they do not comply then you can fine them. And then you can hold them accountable for the money that you fine them.
Hold them accountable how? How do Democrats enforce their Article 1 authorities against an administration that has declared itself a law unto itself?

Pelosi needs law enforcement powers to do more than use harsh language against an imperial administration. True believers will not comply unless they are fined to within an inch of their net worths or frog-marched to jail under the gaze of 100 cameras. But since appointing the House Sergeant at Arms as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal overlaps Executive Branch authorities, a separation of powers issue results. Attorney General William Barr clearly will not accede to any effort to empower law enforcement in these matters.

So then what? Does the fate of the republic depend on White House, State and DOJ staff finding their consciences, lawyering up and sacrificing their careers in defense of the Constitution? We ask more of our military. Why not civilians? They took oaths to defend it as well.
Malone : And *then* what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way.
Trumplandia more resembles Wonderland than Looking-glass world, and Trump the Queen of Hearts more than the Red Queen.
The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. 'Off with his head!' she said, without even looking around.
Place your bets. He's well on his way.