• Trump Meets, Greets, and Tweets
• GOP Members of Congress Not Sure What to Do About Trade Wars
• House Democrats Prepare to Hold Barr in Contempt
• Is the Right Time to Impeach...November 2, 2020?
• Facebook, Google Get Some Bad News from the House
• Another Mueller Indictment Is Revealed
Donald Trump and his administration have not done too well in court recently, losing several cases in a row as he tries to keep his personal financial records a secret. On Monday, however, he got a win, courtesy of Trevor McFadden, who just so happens to have been appointed to the bench by one Donald Trump. After hearing three hours of oral arguments last week, McFadden ruled that he will not stop the administration from repurposing Dept. of Defense funds in order to build his border wall.
The Judge's ruling, which can be read in its entirety at the above link, decreed that it is not the place of the judiciary to referee disputes between the other two branches over the implementation of legislation and over the exercise of their respective constitutional powers. Consequently, he concluded that House Democrats did not have standing to file the lawsuit, and he tossed it.
McFadden may have been driven by partisan sentiment, or may not have been, but his ruling is at odds with two others that consider the same basic questions. The first of these came a little over a week ago, from the court of Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. (an Obama appointee). In response to suits filed by the ACLU and 19 state attorneys general, he granted a temporary injunction against part of Trump's wall-building plan, declaring that House Democrats (although they were not the plaintiff before him) have a good chance of ultimately prevailing on the merits of their argument. In other words, Gilliam thinks the blue team has an excellent case, and McFadden thinks they have no case at all. So, the two judges don't exactly see eye-to-eye.
If you're trying to figure out who has the right of it, the tiebreaker might be the other relevant case, which was adjudicated in 2015. In United States House of Representatives v. Azar, the roles were reversed, with the Obama administration spending money without approval and House Republicans crying foul. Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, a George W. Bush appointee, largely sided with the Republicans. However, she also observed that it was not a slam dunk, and stayed her ruling pending appeal. In the end, the matter was resolved before that appeal could be heard, and so no higher court ever weighed in.
McFadden, Gilliam, and Collyer are (or were, in Collyer's case) at the same level of the federal judiciary, so none of their rulings is binding on the others. With that said, if House Democrats do not appeal McFadden's ruling, then that will be the end of the line for them in this particular matter (although the ACLU and the attorneys general made other arguments before Gilliam that could still be litigated without the House's involvement). A spokesperson for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that she and her colleagues are deciding on their next move. The smart money, of course, says that they do end up filing an appeal. But in the short term, at least, the President has a pretty big victory to enjoy. (Z)
Donald Trump spent the first of three days in the U.K. on Monday, marking his first official state visit to one of the United States' closest allies (his past visit was not given that status). If one did not have an Internet connection, and was a witness to only the in-person portions of the festivities, it did not look much different from any other presidential state visit. There were tours of museums, and inspections of British soldiers in funny hats, and a banquet with lots of nice toasts on both sides.
At the exact same time, though, Trump went on something of a rampage on Twitter. The general impression is that the price of his screwing on a smile and putting on a good public face is that his Twitter feed has to get uglier and uglier. Kind of like a 21st century version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Anyhow, the President was clearly sneaking away, once in a while, to vent on social media. One can just picture him holed up in a cubicle in a men's restroom, furiously pounding away at his iPhone.
The tweet that got many Brits' knickers in a twist was this one, sent early in the morning, just as Trump was touching down in London:
.@SadiqKhan, who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly “nasty” to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom. He is a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2019
....Kahn reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job - only half his height. In any event, I look forward to being a great friend to the United Kingdom, and am looking very much forward to my visit. Landing now!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2019
It's a two-fer, in that Trump also got a shot in at potential presidential rival Bill de Blasio. One wonders if the misspelling of Khan's name was deliberate, or if the President actually struggles to remember how to spell a four-letter name. Or, maybe he's just been watching too many Mel Brooks movies.
That was not the total output of the day, of course. The President found some time to wage his two trade wars:
China is subsidizing its product in order that it can continue to be sold in the USA. Many firms are leaving China for other countries, including the United States, in order to avoid paying the Tariffs. No visible increase in costs or inflation, but U.S. is taking Billions!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2019
As a sign of good faith, Mexico should immediately stop the flow of people and drugs through their country and to our Southern Border. They can do it if they want!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2019
Trump also railed against the media:
Just arrived in the United Kingdom. The only problem is that @CNN is the primary source of news available from the U.S. After watching it for a short while, I turned it off. All negative & so much Fake News, very bad for U.S. Big ratings drop. Why doesn’t owner @ATT do something?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2019
I believe that if people stoped using or subscribing to @ATT, they would be forced to make big changes at @CNN, which is dying in the ratings anyway. It is so unfair with such bad, Fake News! Why wouldn’t they act. When the World watches @CNN, it gets a false picture of USA. Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2019
Just your everyday case of the President of the United States using the bully pulpit to try to destroy a major American corporation because one of its subsidiaries dares to say critical things about him.
That was not the only story on the thin-skinned front on Monday, incidentally. Still lingering from the President's last foreign visit (to Japan) is an item we have thus far not touched upon: the U.S.S. John S. McCain. As most politics-watchers have heard by now, there was allegedly an effort on the part of the White House to get the ship moved (not possible, because it's being repaired) or to get the name covered up when Trump passed by. Anyhow, after several days of hemming and hawing, the navy confirmed late this weekend that the story is true. There's absolutely no evidence that the President had anything to do with the request, but it certainly does make clear that his staff thinks it is necessary to shield him from even the faintest hint or reminder of criticism. (Z)
Speaking of Donald Trump's trade wars, Senate Republicans are in quite a quandary about exactly how to deal with them. By all evidences, they were willing to grit their teeth and bear the trade war with China, since a correction of the United States' trade relationship with that country is probably needed, anyhow. But the president's threatened trade war with Mexico is a different matter. First, because it appears to be driven by his personal irritation, not by any semblance of sound economic policy. Second, because it would be the second trade war. And third, because it is likely to hit home more quickly and in a more damaging fashion.
Anyhow, there is a heated debate underway among Republicans on the Hill about how to get the President to back off of his threats against Mexico. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his closest allies would prefer to work through backchannels, and try to persuade Trump with soothing words and shallow flattery. Others, including Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Rob Portman (R-OH) have been telling their colleagues that legislation to curtail the President's tariff powers may be necessary. The careful reader will note that all three of those men represent states that will be particularly hard-hit by a trade war with Mexico.
To a large extent, the outcome here depends on Trump's purpose in threatening the tariffs in the first place. If this was just an expression of post-Mueller anger, or it was a bluff to try to get NAFTA v2.0 passed, then he might well back down. On the other hand, if he's persuaded that this is a great way to please his base by showing them that Mexico is going to pay for the wall he dearly wants, he will likely stick to his guns. After all, this is his pet issue, the one that has remained constant while he shifted back and forth on virtually every other issue under the sun.
If Trump does indeed hold firm, well, 45 Democrats plus 3 Republicans plus 2 independents is nowhere near enough to overcome a presidential veto, especially since the blue team might not remain united (Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, is actually pretty ok with trade wars, for example). Still, if the President's policies appear to be sending the U.S. economy into recession, as economists say they will, then Grassley & Co. might discover quite a few more allies very quickly. (Z)
The blue team may have suffered a defeat in court on Monday (see above), but that's not going to stop them from moving forward on other fronts. The House Judiciary Committee has, of course, asked for the unredacted version of the Mueller report, along with the underlying evidence. Attorney General William Barr has, of course, told them to pound sand. On Monday, Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) announced that his committee is now ready to move forward with holding Barr in contempt. They will vote on June 11. It's probably just a coincidence that June 11 is famously the day that Troy was sacked and burned to the ground, though Barr should probably be wary of any strange wooden horses that show up in front of his house. Former White House counsel Don McGahn will also come up for a contempt vote on the same day.
In the short term, nothing much is going to change, as Barr and McGahn will continue to ignore House Democrats, and House Democrats will presumably appeal to the courts and wait for a ruling. And this is the kind of thing that could theoretically drag out for years—Obama AG Eric Holder did it when he was held in contempt by House Republicans. On the other hand, the Trump administration has generally made pretty clumsy and unsophisticated arguments to support its lack of cooperation, and the courts have been dismissing those with unusual rapidity. Further, even if Team Trump's foot dragging does work, it could give the blue team justification for impeachment. "We exhausted all other options," they could say, "And so we turned to the remedy laid out in the Constitution itself." In a related development, the number of House Democrats openly calling for impeachment proceedings exceeded 50 on Monday. (Z)
As long as we're on the subject of impeachment, let us make mention of this very interesting item in The Week by David Faris (full disclosure: (Z) and Faris are friends by virtue of having once played in the same fantasy baseball league). Faris proposes that House Democrats should spend August 24-27 of next year holding hearings into the possibility of impeachment. Those days would just so happen to coincide with the Republican National Convention. Then, after taking time to "consider" what they've heard, Faris says they should adopt the actual articles of impeachment the day before the 2020 election.
The potential benefits of the first part of the plan (hearings during the RNC) are fairly obvious: stealing the GOP's convention thunder, and—quite likely—triggering the mother of all Twitter benders from the President, one that could last for weeks and weeks. As to the second part of the plan, the notion is that it would not afford the Senate time to "save" Trump by exonerating him, while casting a pall over the President's reelection bid. Further, if Trump did lose the election, a December impeachment trial may well be the only plausible scenario in which the necessary number of Republican senators vote for conviction. They would be largely free from Trump's recriminations, and could use the opportunity to make a statement that they were never really with the President in the first place.
It's a good thought piece, and since readers are clearly interested in hypotheticals like this (judging from the Q&A questions we get), we thought we would pass it along. Of course, if the Democrats actually did this, it would make it pretty clear that they were using impeachment as a political tool more than anything else. On the other hand, and as Faris alludes to, we may well be in an era of realpolitik, with the Democrats forced to choose between playing dirty, or else losing the game. (Z)
Facebook, Google, and other e-titans wield enormous economic, political, and cultural power. They have operated in something of an online version of the Wild, Wild West, in which almost anything goes. They have also demonstrated virtually no ability to self-police, or to curb the worst abuses of their platforms, from the spreading of hate speech and propaganda, to the unethical harvesting of users' data, to keeping things like credit card numbers secure.
Allegedly, Wild West legend Wyatt Earp once warned his enemies that, "[T]he law is coming. I'm coming! And Hell's coming with me!" That would have been good advice for Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, et al. to take note of, because their time as largely unregulated entities is surely headed for a rapid and dramatic end. And that time, at least in America, probably arrived on Monday (in Europe, the heat has already been on for several years). In an uncharacteristic bipartisan move on Monday, the House Judiciary Committee revealed that Donald Trump is not their only topic of discussion, and that they are launching an antitrust probe targeted at Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, among others. This is the first major antitrust investigation into a specific sector of the economy in many decades (looking at an entire sector, like oil refining or meatpacking, used to be somewhat common, but in recent times antitrust actions have tended to focus on single companies, like Microsoft).
There is zero chance that the tech giants escape this process without additional oversight of some sort. The best case scenario for them is that they manage to set up some sort of meaningful self-policing that the government is persuaded is viable, along the lines of the Motion Picture Association of America (which gives ratings to films). The more likely scenario is that they are subject to some sort of government bureaucracy, like public utilities or the post office. In any event, several of the Democratic presidential contenders, particularly Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), have made this issue one of the key planks of their campaigns. So, if it heats up and gets some attention, it will presumably work to their benefits. (Z)
When former special counsel Robert Mueller submitted his report, there remained about a dozen sealed indictments that were not yet public knowledge. And in the three weeks or so between that event and his resignation from the Dept. of Justice, only one of those was unsealed. On Monday, however, the number increased to two, and this one's something of a doozy: George Nader was indicted on several charges of possessing child pornography.
Nader was one of the key witnesses in Mueller's report. Does it weaken confidence in his testimony, now that it is publicly known what kind of person he is accused of being? Maybe. He was also in very close orbit to the Trump campaign. Does it reflect badly on Team Trump, now that it is publicly known what kind of person he is accused of being? Probably so, especially since this is not the first time he's gotten in hot water for this particular offense. He was also charged in 1985 in the Netherlands (dismissed), 1991 in Virginia (six months in prison), and 2003 in the Czech Republic (1 year in prison). Only the best people, indeed. In any case, Nader was given immunity for any Russia-related charges in exchange for his testimony. What he did not know, however, is that when authorities raided his residence in 2018 and seized phones and computers, they also found explicit videos featuring underage boys. The kiddie porn indictment was sealed so that Nader would not figure out he was in deep trouble, and flee or destroy evidence before he'd spilled his guts to Team Mueller.
Nader was arraigned in New York on Monday, and will eventually be transported to Washington to face trial. However, things are moving somewhat slowly, because the accused has heart issues and recently had heart surgery. "He's a sick man," said his lawyer on Monday. A true statement, on many levels. In any case, Trump & Co. continually avoid any damage from these sorts of revelations, so there's no particular reason to think Nader's being outed will hurt the President. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun03 California Democrats Elect a Union Leader as Party Chairman
Jun03 Labor and Progressives Are at Odds over the Green New Deal
Jun03 Deutsche Bank Appeal Will Be Fast Tracked
Jun03 Trump Will Launch His Campaign in Florida in 2 Weeks
Jun03 Iowa and New Hampshire Are No Longer the Only Games in Town
Jun03 Trump's Approval Holds Steady but Support for Impeachment Rises
Jun03 Hoyer Supports Statehood for D.C.
Jun03 Monday Q&A
May31 About That Citizenship Question...
May31 Trump Lashes Out, Part I: Mueller
May31 Trump Lashes Out, Part II: Mexico
May31 Moore Punches Back
May31 Kushner Peace Plan
May31 Democratic Presidential Candidate Update: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
May30 Mueller: Congress, the Ball is in Your Court
May30 How the Media Reported Mueller's Speech
May30 Fox News Legal Analyst: Mueller Wanted to Indict Trump but Couldn't
May30 Trump Is Restructuring His Legal Team
May30 Perez Raises the Bar for the Third Debate
May30 Poll: Americans Don't Believe China Is Paying the Tariffs
May30 National Journal Ranks the Most Competitive Senate Races
May30 Trump Warns Moore Not to Run for the Senate
May30 Democrat Jaime Harrison Will Challenge Lindsey Graham
May30 Not so Fast, Bibi
May30 Thursday Q&A
May29 To Impeach or Not to Impeach, That Is the Question
May29 SCOTUS Sends Mixed Messages on Abortion
May29 McConnell to Ginsburg: Don't Die
May29 Elaine Chao Turns Out to Be Kinda Swampy
May29 The States of the Democratic Field
May29 Roy Moore Plans to Run
May29 Texas Secretary of State Falls on His Sword
May28 Trump Sides With Kim Again
May28 Bolton Under Attack
May28 Judge Halts Border Wall Construction
May28 Trump's Clumsy Legal Strategy
May28 Bernie Sanders Wants to Be President
May28 The War Against Climate Science Is in Full Swing
May28 Voter Registration Meets Voter Suppression
May28 With Women Candidates, GOP Not Putting Its Money Where Its Mouth Is
May28 Faithless Electors Hit With Fines
May27 In Japan, Trump Plays Golf and Supports Kim Jong-Un
May27 Deutsche Bank Case Will Be Expedited
May27 Some Candidates Are Betting the Farm on the Early States
May27 SCOTUS Blocks Gerrymandering Rulings
May27 Perez Is Scared Witless of the One Percenters
May27 Buttigieg Is Pushing for a Massive Q2 Money Haul
May27 Republicans Have Spent $4 Million at Trump Properties
May27 Trump Takes Steps that Hurt His Base--Again