By Robert A. Vella
Yesterday’s announcement that Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and now-convicted felon Michael Cohen will testify in public before the U.S. House of Representatives on February 7th is very bad news for America’s megalomaniacal president who is obsessed about his image to a degree far exceeding what would be considered psychologically healthy for the average person. Although his testimony will not cover details relevant to the ongoing Mueller investigation of collusion with Russia to affect the 2016 presidential election, it is likely to be as embarrassing and politically damaging to the president as was John Dean’s congressional testimony in 1973 which led to the downfall of Richard Nixon.
Knowing Trump as Americans do now after two tumultuous years in office, it is conceivable that the president will attempt to divert attention away from Cohen’s televised testimony through some contrived wag-the-dog maneuver. Such a ploy opens up a wide array of possibilities – any one of which could present disturbing or even frightening consequences. I’m not trying to scare anyone, but I am convinced that Trump won’t sit idly by without taking preemptive or peremptory action.
On the government shutdown front, the tide is turning even more sharply against the president and his border wall demands. This morning, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) gave an impassioned speech on the U.S. Senate floor to reopen the federal government. Her speech not only exhibited growing discontent among Republicans, it was also a deliberate shot-across-the-bow to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has been protecting Trump by blocking Senate votes on bipartisan continuing budget resolutions passed by the Democratic-controlled House.
Trump has only two viable options remaining. He can concede by reopening the government while continuing to negotiate on border security funding, or he can take the extraordinary step of declaring a national emergency which would unconstitutionally bypass the legislative process and attempt to redirect previous appropriations to pay for his nonsensical border wall project. Not surprisingly, it appears he will choose the latter. From: Trump could take billions from disaster areas to fund wall
President Donald Trump has been briefed on a plan that would use the Army Corps of Engineers and a portion of $13.9 billion of Army Corps funding to build 315 miles of barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the briefing.
The money was set aside to fund projects all over the country including storm-damaged areas of Puerto Rico through fiscal year 2020, but the checks have not been written yet and, under an emergency declaration, the president could take the money from these civil works projects and use it to build the border wall, said officials familiar with the briefing and two congressional sources.
The plan could be implemented if Trump declares a national emergency in order to build the wall and would use more money and build more miles than the administration has requested from Congress. The president had requested $5.7 billion for a wall stretching 234 miles.
Under the proposal, the officials said, Trump could dip into the $2.4 billion allocated to projects in California, including flood prevention and protection projects along the Yuba River Basin and the Folsom Dam, as well as the $2.5 billion set aside for reconstruction projects in Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria.
Senior Defense Department officials discussed the proposal with Trump during his Thursday flight to the southern border, according to officials familiar with the briefing.
On the legal front, the White House is hiring a slough of lawyers to counter potential obstruction of justice charges against the president by evoking executive privilege as a defense strategy. This tactic was employed by Nixon during the Watergate scandal and it failed.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office is now investigating pro-Putin Ukrainians who attended the Trump inauguration who sought to ease economic sanctions on Russia which might have violated the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.
After a closed-door meeting yesterday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi expressed great skepticism about his rationale for planning to ease economic sanctions on the business entities of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska who is a close ally of Vladimir Putin. Unless Congress acts to block it, the sanctions could be lifted as soon as January 19th.
In environmental news, scientists have announced that the world’s oceans are warming faster than expected and that a new high temperature was recorded for 2018.