By Robert A. Vella
Today’s planned vote in the House Oversight Committee to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress, for refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas regarding the proposed addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census, led Barr to ask President Trump for assistance in efforts to conceal Republicans’ underlying reason for adding the census question (i.e. it would undercount minorities in the U.S. and reduce Democratic Party representation in Congress). Trump subsequently declared “executive privilege” to keep that documentary information secret. As expected, the House of Representatives voted yesterday along party lines to allow its committees the authority to seek enforcement of congressional subpoenas in federal court. The move initially will put pressure on former White House counsel Don McGahn who has so far refused to testify. Trump has told his officials to ignore or lie about a series of opinion polls showing very poor prospects for his reelection chances. One of the leading architects of the regressive Trump tax cuts has admitted that it is worsening the federal budget deficit and national debt. One of Trump’s judicial nominees was withdrawn because he wasn’t socially conservative enough for Republicans. Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are being violently put down by authorities. There are three important climate change news stories today, and a warning about cancer-causing glyphosate (the herbicide chemical in Monsanto’s product Roundup) in breakfast cereals.
Battle over subpoenas heats up
Attorney General William P. Barr will ask President Trump to assert executive privilege to shield documents from the administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census if Democratic lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee proceed toward holding Barr in contempt, the Justice Department revealed in a letter Tuesday.
The revelation came on the eve of an expected Oversight Committee vote to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for failing to turn over documents that lawmakers had subpoenaed, as well as stopping a witness from testifying without a Justice Department lawyer.
Later Tuesday, Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) responded in a letter that because the department had made “no commitments to provide any portion of the critical documents required by the subpoena,” he would not postpone the contempt vote.
The House Judiciary Committee chairman says his panel will move “as quickly as possible” to seek court enforcement of a subpoena against former White House Counsel Don McGahn.
New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler spoke after the House approved a resolution that makes it easier to file lawsuits against witnesses who defy subpoenas. That includes McGahn, who declined last month to provide documents or testimony at the urging of the White House. McGahn is the most-cited witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
The resolution passed 229-191 Tuesday, along party lines. Democrats have moved toward lawsuits as they investigate President Donald Trump and his administration.
Trump’s brutal poll numbers
As with all polling at this early a juncture, it should not be used to predict any outcomes. Things can and will change.
But these polls are beginning to paint a pretty unified picture of Trump’s current political standing as the 2020 race lurches to a start, and it’s decidedly not a strong one. And if there’s one thing the last two years have shown us, it’s that Trump’s political standing hasn’t changed much.
The Times reports this has begun to register with Trump, so much that he has instructed aides to pretend the polls don’t say what they do:
As ominous as the general election matchups in the new Quinnipiac poll are some of the other questions it posed. For instance, the vast majority of the country (7 in 10 people) regards the economy as good — a finding that would appear to be Trump’s ace in the hole. But 41 percent say it’s good and also credit Trump for that. Among independents, 6 in 10 either say the economy is not good or that Trump deserves no credit. Thirty-four percent think it’s good, thanks to Trump.
A GOP tax cut admission
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), a lead architect of the GOP tax bill, suggested Tuesday the tax cuts may not fully pay for themselves, contradicting a promise Republicans made repeatedly while pushing the law in late 2017.
The federal government’s deficit typically shrinks during strong economic times, but the deficit is up nearly 40 percent so far this fiscal year, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office report released Friday.