By Robert A. Vella
President Trump went crazy yesterday when CBS’ 60 Minutes factually refuted his politically-motivated attempts to blame China for the coronavirus pandemic (see: Trump accuses CBS, ’60 Minutes’ of ‘doing everything within their power’ to defend China). In its lead segment on Sunday, the program’s investigative journalists not only revealed the total absence of evidence which might support Trump’s claim that COVID-19 was engineered and released (accidentally or intentionally) by a research lab in Wuhan, they also discovered that all the genetic evidence indicates that the virus originated from the selling of wild animal products in so-called “wet markets.” Furthermore, the segment exposed the Trump administration’s cancelling of a valuable and respected research project – which had been long supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) – as a political maneuver aligned with Trump’s conspiracy theory. Here’s the link to that program segment plus another for the following segment on Amazon‘s unsafe working conditions and retribution against its frontline employees:
Trump also went apeshit after NBC’s Meet the Press host Chuck Todd quoted Attorney General William Barr saying that “history is written by the victors” in regards to the DOJ dropping the criminal case against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his secret discussions with the Russian ambassador (see: Trump Blasts Comcast’s NBC and Calls for Firing Host Chuck Todd). That highly controversial move by the Department of Justice has sparked a firestorm of condemnation from nearly 2,000 former DOJ officials.
More than 1,900 former Justice Department employees on Tuesday repeated a call for William P. Barr to step down as attorney general, asserting in an open letter he had “once again assaulted the rule of law” by moving to drop the case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn.
The letter, organized by the nonprofit Protect Democracy, was signed by Justice Department staffers serving in Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to President Eisenhower. The vast majority were former career staffers — rather than political appointees — who worked as federal prosecutors or supervisors at U.S. Attorney Offices across the country or the Justice Department in downtown D.C.
The top prosecutor of Roger Stone — who quit the Justice Department when his superiors overruled his team’s work on the case before Stone’s sentencing — slammed Attorney General William Barr for influencing cases against President Donald Trump’s friends and accused him of undermining the integrity of the department, in a Washington Post op-ed published Monday.
Jonathan Kravis and the other federal prosecutors who quit the Stone case had not spoken publicly about it, and the op-ed breaks Kravis’ silence on why he left and how he thought Barr had handled the case.
It adds to a growing backlash against Barr’s moves in the cases from top former officials; a day earlier, former Justice Department national security chief Mary McCord also condemned Barr in a New York Times op-ed.
“In both cases, the department undercut the work of career employees to protect an ally of the president, an abdication of the commitment to equal justice under the law,” Kravis wrote. “Prosecutors must make decisions based on facts and law, not on the defendant’s political connections. When the department takes steps that it would never take in any other case to protect an ally of the president, it betrays this principle.”
More news and headlines:
A second wave of coronavirus cases would quash hopes for a swift recovery and push the US into a depression, Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told CNBC on Friday.
States have begun reopening their economies to keep businesses afloat, but public-health experts have said that a return to pre-virus norms could drive a surge in new infections.
Zandi defined a depression as at least a year of unemployment above 10%. Labor-market data released Friday showed that the joblessness rate spiked to 14.7% in April.
The US economy sits in “quicksand” until a vaccine can reverse the damage to consumer confidence and business operations, Zandi added.
This unassuming statute, buried four paragraphs under the heading “Reports” in 31 U.S.C. § 331(d), requires the Treasury secretary to provide the House or Senate with any information they request. It reads: “The [Treasury] Secretary shall report to either House of Congress in person or in writing, as required, on matters referred to the Secretary by that House of Congress.” By law, therefore, the House could order Mnuchin to investigate and report (in person, no less) on the president’s taxes, and he would have to obey.
The statute has sweeping implications for our modern understanding of separation of powers law, and the authority of each chamber of Congress relative to the president. For one, the statute is constitutional. The Supreme Court has said that existing laws originally passed by Congress in 1789, the same year the Constitution went into effect, must be interpreted today as Congress interpreted them immediately after passage—that those laws are de facto constitutional unless specifically found otherwise. This statute, which has been used often throughout U.S. history, has always been followed by the executive branch and, accordingly, never been challenged in court.
The 1789 statute also refutes the Justice Department’s OLC memo. The memo, which contends Congress doesn’t have the authority to compel the executive branch to supply information, reasoned by analogy from a handful of modern Supreme Court decisions on separation of powers. But the “duty to report” provision predates those decisions by more than a century, calling into question not only the memo but also the assumptions underlying those Supreme Court opinions.