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May 22 2019

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

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Dahlia Lithwick: Democratic Reluctance to Even Utter “Impeachment” Is Becoming Untenable

There is perhaps no better encapsulation of the difference between the two modern American political parties than this one: Republicans start from the presumption that “treason” and “spying” will be prosecuted without actual evidence, while Democrats start from the presumption that only once they have seen all the evidence of everything ever, they might conclude that some further investigation is warranted. Donald Trump leads deranged stadium rallies in chanting “lock them up” without ever specifying who committed what alleged crime. Democrats, faced with a case of what would be felony obstruction of justice but for a legal guidance against prosecuting a sitting president, insist that they cannot initiate impeachment proceedings because they need to gather more information. Republicans standing two inches away from a Seurat painting see a still life in crimes committed, while Democrats standing six feet back are certain that just one more blue dot would help them see the whole picture. [..]

Democrats in leadership pretend at conviction and lack courage. The president is lawless and corrupt and surrounding himself with the machinery of lawlessness and corruption. These same Democrats are waiting for the full picture staring them right in the face to emerge. Every step they take closer allows them to miss the big picture, distort the narrative, and chase an ever more elusive final dot. If the public isn’t with them yet, it’s because the public doesn’t have all day to spend in a museum and needs to have the picture presented to them where they live. Congressional Democrats have to repaint the picture that is already directly before them. This shouldn’t be complicated. It’s proving beyond their competence.

Bob Bauer: William Barr’s Bet on Don McGahn Is Likely to Backfire

This administration now seems fully dug in against former White House counsel Don McGahn’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee. Evidence to the contrary may still surface, but it appears that the White House is not maneuvering for an eventual compromise. Consistent with the president’s political—and probably his attorney general’s constitutional—preferences, it is fighting any request or subpoena on the broad ground that the committee does not have the authority to compel McGahn to appear before Congress in the Russia (or any other) matter. The current White House counsel requested an opinion to this effect from the Office of Legal Counsel and got what he wanted and no doubt expected.

What OLC produced is not surprising. It reflects the position that the executive branch has routinely taken over time. Whether, if push came to legal shove, the White House could sustain this position in a core challenge is another question.

It’s highly unlikely the Trump White House will find vindication in the courts. At least one court has confronted an absolute immunity claim advanced by a prior administration. George W. Bush sought to prevent testimony from a White House counsel and another senior adviser about controversial firings of U.S. attorneys, but in a lengthy and carefully reasoned opinion, the court found that any such immunity was qualified only and had to yield to demonstrated congressional need for the information. It did not find that it was a close call: “The Executive’s current claim of absolute immunity from compelled congressional process for senior presidential aides is without any support in the case law.” The White House and Congress eventually reached an accommodation consisting of closed-door interviews coupled with the requirement of an interview transcript for public release. OLC dismisses this case as entitled to no or little weight, since the accommodation cut short the appellate process and prevented a definitive resolution of the issue.

Harry Litman: McGahn ignored a congressional subpoena. A legal mess will follow.

The gloves are definitively off now that former White House counsel Donald McGahn ignored a congressional subpoena and failed to show up to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning.

The legal questions are nuanced, and precedent is particularly sparse, because past controversies have generally worked themselves out through negotiations between Congress and the White House.

That means that if the White House sticks to its guns, the parties will be headed to court, and the issue will be settled no lower than the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and very possibly at the Supreme Court.

Moreover, since the issue turns in large part on first assumptions about executive power, we could be heading for a Supreme Court split along its own fault lines of the various justices’ views of executive power. And that raises the ugly prospect that Trump-appointed justices could provide the president’s margin of victory in a critical political battle.

And that would be, in legal parlance, one big fat mess.

Katrina vanden Huevel: Trump is embracing climate destruction

Amid the daily infamies of Donald Trump’s presidency, his greatest dereliction of duty is his decision not to confront but to accelerate the greatest threat facing this country: the clear, present and growing danger of catastrophic climate change.

Trump is called a climate denier. He is actually a warrior for climate calamity. In many ways, Trump is the first president of the climate catastrophe era. We’ve already witnessed the undeniable first terrors: the fires that erased Paradise, Calif., in a day, the storms that savaged Houston and Puerto Rico, floods in the Midwest, droughts that forced millions to migrate from what used to be called the Fertile Crescent. In the face of this and more, Trump has chosen to go all in on the side of this direct security threat to our people, our country and our world.

Last week in Hackberry, La., Trump celebrated his collusion with the furies that threaten us, hailing the United States as the “energy superpower of the world.” Trump’s speech consisted of his stale stew of lies, exaggerations, boasts and insults, claiming credit for transformations that began long before his presidency, and scorning alternative views and opponents. Yet in the midst, he made it clear: He is proud to contribute to the horrors that now threaten us.

Jim Hightower: Here’s why even our weakling president doesn’t really want a border wall

The most ridiculous thing about Donald Trump’s xenophobic, demagogic assault on Central American amnesty seekers is that his frantic demand to build a $5 billion border wall to deny them entry to the U.S. is not his most ridiculous ploy.

Even more ridiculous is his panicky political assertion that the caravans coming north through Mexico are gangs of rapists, murderers and assorted terrorists out to slaughter and conquer us! Never mind that the migrants he demonizes are overwhelmingly women, children and peaceful families who, in fact, are fleeing the terrifying gangs, extortionists and corrupt officials who’ve turned their lives in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras into hell. But rather than greet these refugees with a policy of common compassion and long-term solutions, Trump and his fellow Republican screechers have militarized the border to shut them out, separate them from their children, incarcerate them and turn them into political pawns for Trump’s reelection campaign.

But wait — it gets more ridiculous. Crying that the three countries should simply stop these desperate families from fleeing the horrors of home, Trump has peevishly, crudely — and stupidly — cut off U.S. aid intended to battle the gang violence driving so many thousands of Central Americans from their homes. OK, Trump is entirely lacking in empathy and has no skill in the art of subtlety, but come on. How smart do you have to be to see that if you have no strategy to help mitigate the nightmarish conditions, constant fears and economic desperation of neighbors just to the south of us, you’ll have to cope with the fallout on your own doorstep?