March 6, 2019

House Dems Launch New Probe

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

Dozens of people with connections to President Donald Trump and his associates will receive document requests this week, as the House Judiciary Committee starts a broad new probe looking at possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power. The panel sent letters to 81 people asking a flurry of questions about Trump’s activities before and after he was elected president. Those included family, former business associates and current and former White House advisers.” AP News

On Sunday Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told ABC, “It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice.” ABC News

See past issues

From the Left

The left believes Congress is fulfilling its constitutional duties by investigating the President.

“Democrats have long said they want to wait to act on impeachment until after Mueller issues his final report. But Attorney General William Barr’s refusal to commit to providing Mueller’s findings to Congress—combined with the recent testimony by Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen that Trump implicitly asked him to lie to Congress—has given Democrats a new sense of urgency.”
Natasha Bertrand, The Atlantic

“I do not know whether former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s explosive testimony before the House Oversight Committee last week is sufficient to prove that there are grounds to impeach Trump. But Cohen’s testimony, coupled with the indictments of many of Trump’s other close advisers and the federal and state investigations into Trump’s business affairs, compels Pelosi to authorize a formal impeachmentinquiryAt this point, it would be an abdication of responsibility for the House not to pursue [an investigation].”
Philip Allen Lacovara, Washington Post

“In many ways, the congressional investigation offers advantages that Mueller’s probe lacks… While Mueller is bound by grand jury secrecy rules and Department of Justice policies to prevent public disclosure of matters under investigation, congressional committees operate largely in the public…

“Mueller is [also] limited to looking for federal crimes. But just because conduct does not amount to a violation of the criminal code does not mean that Congress should permit it to occur unchecked.”
Barbara McQuade, New York Magazine

“Political investigations tend to be marathons rather than sprints, requiring the slow, meticulous accretion of evidential layers. It’s easy to forget how slowly and painfully the Watergate investigation unfolded. It was more than a year after John Dean’s congressional testimony that President Richard Nixon resigned. With his investigation, Mr. Nadler is looking to build a case for impeachment so compelling that it will have enough bipartisan support to survive the Republican-controlled Senate… This is what oversight looks like.”
Michelle Cottle, New York Times

Some posit that “the Framers fantasized that the Senate would be made up of disinterested natural aristocrats who would always put country above party… [But] it hasn’t exactly turned out that way. In a two-party system with roughly equal distribution of power, whichever party holds the presidency will almost inevitably be able to block removal in the Senate, provided its members think the party has more to lose from removal than to gain from it…

“Constitutionally, this aggressive exercise of oversight may answer a question that has troubled many observers, myself included: What happens to the rule of law if there is evidence that the president is guilty of serious crimes, but there’s insufficient political will to impeach him? The answer may well be that such a president can be made to twist slowly in the wind, provided the opposition party controls one chamber of Congress.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) “insisted the president couldn’t possibly have done anything wrong because, in the end, Ukraine got its money without committing to any investigations. This point of view has radical implications for America’s system of justice and overcrowded prisons, if Mr. Jordan in fact truly believes that all inmates convicted of attempted crimes are innocent of wrongdoing… Perhaps the most telling remark was offered by a Republican staff lawyer, Stephen Castor, who suggested that while the president’s behavior may have been highly irregular, ‘it’s not as outlandish as it could be.’ Here’s a tip: When ‘not as outlandish as itcould be’ is your strongest defense, it’s time to rethink your position.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

From the Right

The right dismisses the investigation as politically motivated, and believes Democrats have already made up their minds to impeach Trump.

From the Right

The right dismisses the investigation as politically motivated, and believes Democrats have already made up their minds to impeach Trump.

“Until recently, the left routinely claimed Mueller was essential to the survival of our democracy. Now they seem prepared to skip right past his final conclusions… While ‘collusion’ is fading away, the Democrats are ready to deploy ‘obstruction’ and ‘tax returns’ in its place as their anti-Trump mantra. This is Congressional Democrats showing us what their true motive has been all along: Get Trump in any way, at any cost.”
Buck Sexton, Fox News

“A President can obstruct justice while in office but only if he is committing a per se illegal offense. That is, if he suborns perjury or destroys evidence, or commits ‘any act deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence,’ as [Attorney General William Barr] put it. Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton committed such acts in Mr. Barr’s view, but Mr. Trump has not as far as we can see…

“A President cannot obstruct justice when he takes actions that are consistent with his Article II powers under the Constitution. That includes in particular firing inferior executive-branch officers such as Mr. Comey. Such acts may be politically stupid, but they aren’t obstruction.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Unfortunately, “Nadler sounded less like a man weighing the evidence than a man who has has made up his mind… Nadler's talk with ABC was the clearest indication yet that Democrats have decided to impeach Trump and are now simply doing the legwork involved in making that happen. And that means the debate among House Democrats will be a tactical one — what is the best time and way to go forward — rather than a more fundamental discussion of whether the president should be impeached.”
Byron York, Washington Examiner

Meanwhile, “because investigations by Mueller, the House, the Senate, and the national news media have only produced evidence of process crimes or years-old bank fraud and tax evasion, it’s not obvious that Americans even know what they’re supposed to be alarmed about.”
Eddie Scarry, Washington Examiner

Some argue that “this Dem investigation blitz is going to be the most ambitious taxpayer-funded oppo research project for an election in the history of the country. Democrats are much less interested in the ostensible and futile goal of that research, the president’s removal by the Senate, than they are in winning next November and hoping that the blue tide carries them to a new Senate majority as well. They won’t impeach. They’ll ask voters to do it for them.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

Others note that Congress’s ability to conduct these investigations shows there was no need for the special counsel in the first place. This is “how the process should work. Congressional Democrats, who are politically accountable, will now decide how to investigate and handle inherently politically charged matters out in the open; they will pay the price if they seem unreasonable or like they are going too far. This work never should have been wedged into the executive branch via the special counsel.”
Rich Lowry, National Review

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

She read the fine print on her insurance policy. It won her $10,000 in a contest.
Tampa Bay Times

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