Oct 02 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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Laurence H. Tribe: The House must flex its constitutional muscles to get to Trump

Only the procedures enshrined in the impeachment process have the power to cut through the president’s smokescreens

There is now powerful evidence that Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses by using his foreign policy and military powers to solicit (and all but coerce) Ukraine’s president to interfere with the 2020 presidential election. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, has confirmed that the House will move swiftly to investigate this threat to democracy, national security, and the separation of powers.

The first stages of that impeachment inquiry are already under way. It’s therefore important to think ahead about what should happen as the House inquiry unfolds – especially in the House intelligence and judiciary committees, chaired respectively by Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler. If the House is going to impeach the president, it better have a plan. [..]

Eventually, if impeachment is warranted, the judiciary committee – acting closely with the other investigating committees – will need to produce a detailed factual and legal report making that case, along with specific proposed articles for the House to vote on. The judiciary committee report recommending articles of impeachment against Nixon is one of the great works of constitutional law of the 20th century.

They should follow that model here, both to present the strongest possible case to the public and the Senate and also to document for history the record of Trump’s outrageous misconduct. But it will have to do so expeditiously. Time is not the friend of this indispensable effort to hold a renegade president properly to account – and to protect the republic from his continued and seemingly escalating abuses.

Harry Litman: Did William Barr break any rules? Only the most important one.

Multiple news agencies reported Monday that Attorney General William P. Barr has had extensive personal involvement in the Justice Department’s investigations into the origins of the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

That involvement — including trips abroad for personal meetings with foreign officials — is certainly “fairly unorthodox,” in the words of a former Justice Department official. Is it also inappropriate?

After all, part of an attorney general’s job is to liaise with foreign counterparts. It’s not unusual to have in-person meetings, especially at the beginning of an attorney general’s tenure, both to meet and greet and to discuss mutual priorities.

Moreover, Barr is the head of the Justice Department. No department business is beyond his concern. Unlike, say, the barriers that are supposed to stand between the White House and the Justice Department, there is no out-of-bounds area for the department’s political appointees, much less the attorney general.

Thus, during Barr’s first tenure as attorney general, he personally argued a case in the Supreme Court, a task normally reserved to the solicitor general and his or her assistants. No one took him to task for weeding in the solicitor general’s garden.

So what, if anything, might be worrisome about Barr’s conduct now?

Katrina vanden Heuvel: What the godfather of modern whistleblowing can teach us now

After House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry last week, President Trump condemned the person responsible for the whistleblower complaint that set the wheels in motion, likening the whistleblower to “spies” who are guilty of “treason.” It may be tempting to attribute this rhetoric to the president’s dictatorial streak, but the sentiment behind Trump’s words is all too familiar. Yes, many are portraying the anonymous intelligence official who blew the whistle on Trump as a hero, but all too often Americans who reveal truths about government misdeeds are treated as traitors.

Take Edward Snowden. It has been six years since Snowden leaked a trove of secret documents that exposed the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance program. For this act of public service, Snowden was charged with violating the Espionage Act, forcing him to live in exile in Russia. And even as the latest whistleblower scandal was breaking, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Snowden over the release of his new memoir, “Permanent Record” — an absurd act of spite considering that the book contains no details about surveillance that have not been previously reported.

“When the government is embarrassed after being caught breaking the law, they say the people who revealed that lawbreaking have caused serious harm to national security,” Snowden explained in a recent interview on CBS. “This was the case of Daniel Ellsberg way back in the Vietnam War with the Pentagon Papers.”

Catherine Rampell: There’s another whistleblower complaint. It’s about Trump’s tax returns.

Hey, have you heard about this whistleblower complaint?

An unnamed civil servant is alleging serious interference in government business. If the allegations are true, they could be a game-changer. They might set in motion the release of lots of other secret documents showing that President Trump has abused his authority for his personal benefit.

Wait, you thought I meantthe whistleblower from the intelligence community?

Nope. I’m talking about a completely different whistleblower, whose claims have gotten significantly less attention but could prove no less consequential. This whistleblower alleges a whole different category of impropriety: that someone has been secretly meddling with the Internal Revenue Service’s audit of the president.

In defiance of a half-century norm, Trump has kept his tax returns secret.

We don’t know exactly what he might be hiding. His bizarre behavior, though, suggests it’s really bad.

Eugene Robinson: Impeachment is serious. Trump trying to avoid it is good comic relief.

Impeachment of a president is a deeply serious affair. Efforts by President Trump and his defenders to explain away his clear-as-day abuse of power are providing a bit of comic relief.

The problem for the president and his amen chorus is that the White House released a document proving Trump guilty of an impeachable act. In the official memorandum of a July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — at a time when Trump was unilaterally withholding $391 million in military aid for Ukraine, which Congress had approved — Zelensky expresses a desire to purchase U.S. antitank missiles. Trump replies: “I would like you to do us a favor though.”

Book him.

The “favor” includes firing up an investigation of Joe Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Trump ignores U.S. national security interests and uses taxpayer funds as leverage to coerce a foreign leader into interfering in the 2020 election. For such conduct, he not only can be impeached but also must be impeached.