By Robert A. Vella
He didn’t want to, but former Special Counsel Robert Mueller will comply with a subpoena to testify in public before the House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees next month. Whether or not Democrats will ask probing questions about his truncated prosecutorial decisions, as well as about his reluctance to investigate leads implicating President Trump in criminal behavior, will reveal how serious they really are about impeachment and their constitutional duty to check abuses of power by the executive branch. Government secrecy, a trademark of authoritarian regimes, is obviously increasing under Trump as Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are being undermined by administrative actions and policies on top of Monday’s egregious ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Addition of the contentious citizenship question to the 2020 census has run into a logistical obstacle which can now only be overcome by overt intervention by the Supreme Court – something Chief Justice John Roberts wanted to avoid. Trade wars involving China now openly include Canada which has triggered retaliation for its arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. Internal turmoil in the National Rifle Association (NRA) has caused the cancellation of its broadcast media entity NRATV. Finally, I’ve included a link to an insightful article about how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been infiltrating local law enforcement agencies to find and deport undocumented residents.
Mueller to testify
Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will testify to Congress in a public session next month about his investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump, a reluctant witness long sought by House Democrats.
The House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, in an announcement late Tuesday, said that “pursuant to a subpoena,” Mueller has agreed to appear before both panels on July 17. Mueller, who oversaw the 22-month inquiry, is perhaps the one person lawmakers and the nation have been wanting to hear from the most.
A new EPA rule would allow political appointees to review and withhold documents requested by the public under the Freedom of Information Act.
The final rule, published Wednesday in the Federal Register, was signed by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on June 14 and takes effect July 25. It was not preceded by a public comment period.
It comes one week after a similar policy was reported by CQ Roll Call at the Department of the Interior. The practice drew criticism from lawmakers and advocates of public access to records.
In another FOIA-related matter, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that companies sharing information with the government will no longer have to show “substantial competitive harm” in order to keep the information confidential. The decision was in a case involving food stamp sales data.
Supreme Court news
In a 2-to-1 ruling on Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit halted its review of a decision in two Maryland lawsuits challenging the citizenship question and returned the case to United States District Judge George J. Hazel. The judge had asked last week to reopen the case so that Mr. Hofeller’s newly discovered files could be factored into his ruling.
Judge Hazel now has license to explore the issue and indicated this week that he would give plaintiffs in the Maryland lawsuit 45 days to gather new evidence. One appeals court judge suggested in the ruling on Tuesday that Judge Hazel should issue an injunction barring the addition of the question to the census until the new proceedings are finished.
Should that happen, as appeared likely on Tuesday, the Census Bureau could print forms with a citizenship question on schedule only if the Supreme Court intervened. On Tuesday, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court in a letter to step into the Maryland lawsuit and resolve the issue itself. Otherwise, the letter stated, the administration would ask the justices to lift any injunction that Judge Hazel might impose.
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court denied the conservative legal movement something it has long sought Wednesday, refusing to strip federal agencies of the power to interpret ambiguous regulations.
The decision was unanimous because while upholding agencies’ authority, the justices defined new parameters. Deference “is sometimes appropriate and sometimes not,” Associate Justice Elena Kagan said in her opinion.
“Deference can apply only when a regulation is genuinely ambiguous,” Kagan said, and “the agency’s construction of its rule must still be reasonable.” But when those and other conditions are met, she said, courts must accept agency interpret
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that even sex offenders deserve to have the reasons for their sentences determined by a jury, not a judge.
The justices ruled 5-4 that a federal law requiring sex offenders to return to prison based on a judge’s new findings is unconstitutional. Supreme Court precedent gives juries, not judges, the power to determine criminal conduct.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday tossed out a Tennessee law that required liquor store owners to live in the state two years before they could open a business here.
In a 7-2 decision, the justices said the regulation illegally infringed on interstate commerce protections provided by the U.S. Constitution. Their ruling eliminates a barrier for out-of-state owners trying to get a liquor license and conduct business in Tennessee.
The Chinese government has announced a suspension on imported meat products from Canada over claims of forged customs documents, the latest sign of deteriorating relations between the two countries.
Diplomatic relations between Beijing and Ottawa have remained fraught following the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Canada in December 2018.
The N.R.A. on Tuesday also severed all business with its estranged advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen, which operates NRATV, the N.R.A.’s live broadcasting media arm, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The New York Times.
The move comes amid a flurry of lawsuits between the N.R.A. and Ackerman, and increasing acrimony that surfaced after two prominent N.R.A. board members first criticized NRATV in an article in The Times in March. The separation had become inevitable: The two sides said last month that they were ending their three-decade-plus partnership.