By Robert A. Vella
One day after William Barr appeared before hearings held by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, the Attorney General failed to show up today for a similar hearing held by the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. Obviously, Barr feels cornered by the public exposure of his concealment and mischaracterization of the Mueller report in continued efforts to protect President Trump from political and legal jeopardy. But, the charade is now over and his actions are forcing congressional Democrats to take extraordinary steps to fulfill their constitutional duties and to hold the Attorney General accountable.
So far, Democrats have been more bluster than bite; but, that may be changing. Aside from their commitment to uphold the U.S. Constitution which is difficult for outsiders to assess, Democrats must be seen as strongly opposing a renegade president or they risk losing support among their base ahead of the 2020 election. However, their opposition must not appear overly partisan or they could lose support among moderate swing voters who were key to their great success in the 2018 midterms. It’s a fine line to walk, but that is the situation they find themselves in thanks to the megalomaniacal Trump.
The courts are now involved in this crisis, and it will be even more so going forward. In the meantime, Democrats must weigh the efficacy of citing Barr for contempt of Congress and possibly conducting impeachment proceedings against him. By late last year, mindful observers expected that 2019 would be a wild ride of political contentiousness in America. They were right.
On a side note, the Special Counsel regulations which governed Robert Mueller’s investigation have been criticized in recent weeks (including on this blog) as being too weak and as being too vulnerable to obstruction by a hostile Attorney General. Neal Katyal, one the principal authors, is pushing back against such criticism. His editorial is linked below.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday accused Attorney General William P. Barr of the crime of lying to Congress, further escalating a bitter feud between House Democratic leaders and the nation’s top law enforcement officer.
Pelosi’s accusation stemmed from a response from Barr during a congressional hearing last month. At the time, Barr said that he was not aware of any concerns that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team might have expressed about a four-page summary he wrote regarding Mueller’s findings in his probe of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.
That appeared to contradict a memo that surfaced this week in which Mueller wrote to Barr raising concerns that Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of his investigation.
Pelosi’s news conference came shortly after Barr was a no-show for the House Judiciary Committee hearing on his handling of Mueller’s report, angering House Democrats who moved closer to holding him in contempt of Congress.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is threatening a contempt citation against Attorney General William Barr if the Justice Department (DOJ) does not comply with a subpoena for special counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted report.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday evening, Nadler said that if he is unable to reach a “reasonable” agreement with the DOJ “in the next day or two” he would seek a contempt citation against Barr.
“I will continue to work with the attorney general to reach a reasonable accommodation on the access to the full report and the underlying evidence — but not for much longer,” Nadler said. “There are many questions that must be answered.”
Democratic senator and 2020 candidate Kamala Harris garnered praise from legal experts on Wednesday after she appeared to stump Attorney General William Barr more than once during his congressional testimony on his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report.
“This is what happens when Barr is asked a carefully worded question,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti tweeted in response to the tense exchange. “He can’t figure out how to answer it the way he wants to without outright lying, which would be a crime.”
“In reaching your conclusion, did you personally review all of the underlying evidence?” Harris asked the attorney general. Barr responded that he did not.
Later on, Harris tripped up Attorney General Barr again when she asked if Trump or any other officials in the White House asked or suggested that he investigate certain individuals, a question Barr ultimately couldn’t answer.
In other news:
(Bloomberg) — The House of Representatives has agreed to extend the time for Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp. to respond to subpoenas seeking the bank records of President Donald Trump, his family and several of his companies, until seven days after a federal judge rules on the Trumps’ request to block them.
The Trumps, who sued the banks on Monday to block them from complying with the subpoenas, said in court papers that the institutions were prepared to start turning over the documents beginning May 6. The Trumps said in a filing Wednesday that they’ve agreed to a schedule that would allow for a hearing by the week of May 20.
They also said that the House of Representatives plans to file a formal request, by Friday, to join the suit.
WASHINGTON — House Democrats say the White House’s decision to withhold information from a key committee is impeding their investigation into the issuance of security clearances for White House officials and are considering a subpoena for the documents and, potentially, more witnesses.
Democrats’ reactions came after a day of questioning behind closed-doors of Carl Kline, the former White House official in charge of issuing security clearances, and after the Trump administration refused to provide the committee with documents they requested about the process.
“We are at a point right now where we are at a critical time in our country’s history because we have a president who is acting like a king and who has instructed his folks not to give us one document and not allow us to have witnesses,” House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said.
The U.S. State Department allowed at least seven foreign governments to rent luxury condominiums in New York’s Trump World Tower in 2017 without approval from Congress, according to documents and people familiar with the leases, a potential violation of the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause.
The 90-story Manhattan building, part of the real estate empire of Donald Trump, had housed diplomats and foreign officials before the property developer became president. But now that he is in the White House, such transactions must pass muster with federal lawmakers, some legal experts say. The emoluments clause bans U.S. officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments without congressional consent.
The rental transactions, dating from the early months of Trump’s presidency and first revealed by Reuters, could add to mounting scrutiny of his business dealings with foreign governments, which are now the subject of multiple lawsuits.
(Reuters) – The Trump administration will unveil on Thursday its final plan to roll back offshore drilling safety measures put in place by the Obama administration after the fatal 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the worst in U.S. history, raising concerns by some groups over potential risks to workers and the environment.
WASHINGTON – Sexual assaults in the military rose nearly 38% from 2016 to 2018, according to survey results obtained by USA TODAY.
That spike in crime within the ranks comes after years of focused effort and resources to eradicate it.
The report, due to be released Thursday by the Pentagon, surveyed Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine personnel in 2018. Based on the survey, there were an estimated 20,500 instances of unwanted sexual contact – an increase over the 14,900 estimated in the last biennial survey in 2016. Unwanted sexual contact ranges from groping to rape.