WASHINGTON — It may not have been his intention, but special counsel Robert Mueller has forced a momentous choice on the Democrats who control the House of Representatives. How they navigate the next several months will matter not only to politics but, more importantly, to whether the rule of law prevails.
If we lived in a normal time with a normal president, a normal Republican Party and a normal attorney general, none of this would be so difficult. Mueller’s report is devastating. It portrays a lying, lawless president who pressured aides to obstruct the probe and was happy — “Russia, if you’re listening … ” — to win office with the help of a hostile foreign power. It also, by the way, shows him to be weak and hapless. His aides ignored his orders, and he regularly pandered to a Russian dictator.
Mueller’s catalogue of infamy might have led Republicans of another day to say: Enough. But the GOP’s new standard seems to be that a president is great as long as he’s unindicted.
And never mind that the failure to charge Donald Trump stemmed not from his innocence but from a Justice Department legal opinion saying that a sitting president can’t be indicted. Mueller explained he had “fairness concerns” — a truly charming qualm in light of the thuggishness described in the rest of the report — because the no-indictment rule meant there could be no trial. The president would lack an “adversarial opportunity for public name-clearing before an impartial adjudicator.”
And perhaps Mueller did not reckon with an attorney general so eager to become the president’s personal lawyer and chief propagandist. William Barr sat on the document for 27 days and mischaracterized it in his March 24 letter. He mischaracterized it again just an hour before it was released.
This leaves Democrats furious — and on their own. Unfortunately, it is not news that this party has a nasty habit of dividing into hostile camps. On the one side, the cautious; on the other side, the aggressive. The prudent ones say that members of the hit-for-the-fences crowd don’t understand the political constraints. The pugnacious ones say their circumspect colleagues are timid sellouts.
Sometimes these fights are relatively harmless, but not this time. Holding Trump accountable for behavior that makes Richard Nixon look like George Washington matters, for the present, and for the future.
Those demanding impeachment are right to say that Mueller’s report can’t just be filed away and ignored. But being tough and determined is not enough. The House also needs to be sober and responsible.
This needle needs to be threaded not just for show, or for narrow electoral reasons. Trump and Barr have begun a battle for the minds and hearts of that small number of Americans who are not already locked into their positions. Barr’s calculated sloth in making the report public gave the president and his AG side-kick an opportunity to pre-shape how its findings would be received. The uncommitted now need to see the full horror of what Mueller revealed about this president. A resolute but deliberate approach is more likely to persuade them.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joins her caucus on a conference call on Monday, she will reiterate her “one step at a time” strategy. The bottom line is that rushing into impeachment and ruling it out are equally foolish. What this means is that the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform Committees should and will begin inquiries immediately. Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler took the first step on Friday by subpoenaing the full, unredacted Mueller report. Mueller himself has already been asked to appear before both Judiciary and Intelligence.
Nothing is gained by labelling these initial hearings and document-requests as part of an “impeachment” process. But impeachment should remain on the table. Since Trump and Barr will resist all accountability, preserving the right to take formal steps toward impeachment will strengthen the Democrats’ legal arguments that they have a right to information that Trump would prefer to deep six.
Of course, Trump is not the only issue in politics. Democratic presidential candidates are already out there focusing on health care, climate, economic justice and political reform. The House can continue other work while the investigators do their jobs.
In an ideal world, the corruption and deceitfulness Mueller catalogued would already have Trump flying off to one of his golf resorts for good. But we do not live in such a world. Defending democratic values and republican government requires fearlessness. It also takes patience.
(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group
U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton is the latest Democrat to jump in the race for the White House.
The Massachusetts lawmaker and Iraq War veteran made the announcement on his website Monday.
Moulton first came to prominence in 2014 when he unseated long-term incumbent Rep. John Tierney in a Democrat primary and went on to represent the state’s 6th Congressional District, a swath of communities north of Boston including Salem, home of the infamous colonial-era witch trials.
Speculation about a possible Moulton run has been simmering as far back as 2017 when he spoke at a Democrat political rally in Iowa, home of the first-the-the-nation presidential caucuses. At the time he brushed aside talk of a presidential run.
Talk of possible run ramped up during last year’s election when the former U.S. Marine helped lead an effort to get other Democrat military veterans to run for Congress — a cause he continues to push.
“16 years ago today, leaders in Washington sent me and my friends to fight in a war based on lies. It’s still going on today,” Moulton said in a recent tweet. “It’s time for the generation that fought in Iraq to take over for the generation that sent us there.”
The 40-year-old Moulton also gained national attention for helping lead an effort within the party to reject Nancy Pelosi as House speaker after Democrats regained control of the chamber. Moulton said it was time for new leadership.
Moulton has also been a frequent critic of President Donald Trump — from foreign policy, including Trump’s recent veto of a resolution to end U.S. military assistance in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, to his push for a wall at the southern border.
And when Trump claimed to be the target of the “single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history,” Moulton responded that “as the Representative of Salem, MA, I can confirm that this is false.”
Despite occasionally differing with some on the most liberal wing of the party, Moulton has staked out familiar policy positions for those seeking the Democrat presidential nomination.
He’s called health care “a right every American must be guaranteed,” pushed to toughen gun laws, was a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, has championed a federal “Green Corps” modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, and has called for an end to the Electoral College.
Money could prove a challenge to Moulton, who has raised $255,000 so far this year and had about $723,000 in his campaign account as of the end of March.
Moulton is now the third political figure from Massachusetts to take a stab at a White House run. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren — a Democrat — and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld — a Republican — are also running.
Source: NewsMax Politics
Top congressional Democrats left the door open on Sunday to pursue the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump, but said they would first need to complete their own investigations into whether he obstructed justice in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Democratic Party leaders have cautioned against impeachment just 18 months before the 2020 presidential election, although prominent liberals have called for the start of proceedings to remove Trump from office since the release on Thursday of Mueller’s report.
U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, whose panel would spearhead any impeachment proceedings, said Democrats would press ahead with investigations of Trump in Congress and “see where the facts lead us.”
“Obstruction of justice, if proven, would be impeachable,” Nadler said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
A redacted version of Mueller’s long-awaited report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, the product of a 22-month investigation, built a broad case that Trump had committed obstruction of justice. While it stopped short of concluding Trump had committed a crime, it did not exonerate him.
Mueller noted that Congress has the power to address whether Trump violated the law, and Democrats said it would be a matter of discussion in the coming weeks.
“That’s going to be a very consequential decision and one I’m going to reserve judgment on until we have a chance to fully deliberate on it,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Nadler has issued a subpoena to the Justice Department to hand over the full Mueller report and other relevant evidence by May 1, although the Justice Department called the request “premature and unnecessary.”
With Republicans standing by Trump, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has cautioned against an impeachment effort that would have no chance of success in the Republican-led Senate.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren became the first major contender for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination to call for the start of impeachment proceedings, saying on Twitter on Friday that “the severity of this misconduct” demanded it.
Democratic House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Congress needed to look at Trump’s finances and gauge Mueller’s intentions with his report.
He said even if Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic impeachment effort, “I think history would smile upon us for standing up for the Constitution.”
Democratic presidential contender Tim Ryan, a member of the House, said the party should wait until the multiple ongoing investigations of Trump in Congress have had a chance to uncover more evidence.
“Let the process play itself out,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” show. “I would just rather us take this next step: educate the American people, really get these details out, let the Judiciary Committee do its work.”
Trump, who has repeatedly called the investigation a “witch hunt,” has claimed vindication from Mueller’s report. Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers, tried to undermine the credibility of Mueller’s investigators on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I don’t think his people are fair,” Giuliani said of Mueller’s team. “I don’t think that report is fair.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
U.S. Attorney General William Barr departs after speaking at a news conference to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, in Washington, U.S., April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
April 19, 2019
By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Attorney General William Barr could have buried Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report deep in the recesses of the U.S. Justice Department and simply told the public that President Donald Trump would not face criminal prosecution.
“These reports are not supposed to be made public,” he said at a news conference on Thursday morning.
By releasing a redacted version of the report on Thursday, Barr followed through on a promise he had made months earlier to make as much of Mueller’s findings public as possible.
But that opened Barr up to widespread criticism from Democrats and some legal experts, who questioned his decision not to charge Trump with obstruction of justice, and accused him of acting like the president’s personal defense lawyer.
Mueller’s 448-page report outlined 10 episodes in which Trump tried to get the special counsel fired, limit the scope of his investigation, or otherwise interfere with the probe.
Mueller stopped short of concluding that Trump had committed a crime, but did not exonerate him of wrongdoing either, leaving Barr or Congress the option to take action against the Republican president.
Some experts said Barr should have brought charges.
“To me, they laid out a chargeable obstruction case,” said Shanlon Wu, a former federal prosecutor who represented Rick Gates, the former Trump deputy campaign chairman who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements and is cooperating with the investigation.
Barr’s news conference, held before the report’s release, provided more fodder for his critics.
Barr praised the White House’s cooperation with the investigation and said Trump’s public and private efforts to interfere with the probe could have been fueled by a “sincere belief” that the investigation was “propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks.”
At several points, Barr echoed Trump’s mantra that Mueller had found “no collusion” with Russia.
To some, it was a disappointing performance from a man who had been praised for upholding the Justice Department’s independence during a previous stint as attorney general from 1991 to 1993.
“He’s really shown himself to be principally focused on defending the president,” said Robert Litt, a former federal prosecutor who had supported Barr’s nomination for the job.
A Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Barr did not mislead the public because the White House cooperated with the probe despite Trump’s numerous statements criticizing it. The official also said Mueller had a choice to either recommend charges against Trump or not, and he had decided against it.
The top two Democrats in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, accused Barr of deliberately distorting Mueller’s findings.
Representative Eric Swalwell, one of the more than 15 Democrats running for president, called on Barr to resign.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, had a different perspective. “I think Barr is a straight lawyer. He’s an honest man,” he said.
GOING EASY ON THE REDACTIONS
In one area at least, Barr exceeded expectations. Democrats had worried that he might use too heavy a hand when redacting portions of the report that dealt with sensitive material, such as ongoing investigations, confidential legal proceedings and matters of national security.
In the end, 6 percent of the report was blacked out, according to ProPublica.
“The redactions seemed to me to be reasonable,” said Jack Sharman, a lawyer who worked on the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton during the 1990s. “I was a little surprised.”
Starting next week, 12 top lawmakers and their staffers will be able to see a more complete version in a secure reading room.
Still, if Democrats were pleasantly surprised by the extent of the redactions, they were not saying so, and Barr is sure to face pointed questions when he testifies before Congress in May.
Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, compared Barr to Trump’s early mentor Roy Cohn, a political fixer best known for his involvement in Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist scare campaigns of the 1950s.
Trump “may have found his Roy Cohn in Attorney General Barr. But it may be too late, because the truth has come out about how the White House operates in the Mueller report,” Raskin said.
To some in Trump’s camp, the criticism was a sign of a job well done.
“Attorney General Barr knew every step of the way that people are going to unload on him today,” said Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign adviser. “He had a role to play and he played it.”
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld, Sarah N. Lynch, Nathan Layne and David Morgan; Editing by Leslie Adler)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday declined to comment on whether Congress might launch impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, saying it was not appropriate to criticize him while she was abroad, visiting the Irish border.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his inquiry into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election provided extensive details on Trump’s efforts to thwart the probe, but Democratic party leaders have played down talk of impeachment just 18 months before the 2020 presidential election.
“Whatever the issue and challenge that we face, the Congress of the United States will honor its oath of office to protect and defend the constitution of the United States, to protect our democracy,” Pelosi told journalists in Belfast when asked about possible impeachment proceedings.
“The legislative branch has a responsibility of oversight of our democracy and we will exercise that,” she said.
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks next to Ways and Means Commitee Chairman, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) as Mayor of Derry City John Boyle looks on near an anti-Brexit protest banner during her visit to the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland in Bridgend, Ireland April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
April 19, 2019
DUBLIN (Reuters) – An influential U.S. congressman has warned the European Union that any Brexit arrangement that undermines Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace agreement could endanger a proposed EU-U.S. trade deal, the Irish Times reported on Friday.
The European Union last week said it was ready to start talks on a trade agreement with the United States and aims to conclude a deal before year-end.
“If America wants a trade agreement with the European Union, which I think is very desirable – I want it – at the same time you are back to the same issue on the border if you do anything that dampens or softens the Good Friday Agreement,” Democratic Congressman Richard Neal was quoted as saying.
Neal is visiting Ireland with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who on Wednesday said the United States would also not agree to any trade deal with Britain if future Brexit arrangements undermine peace in Ireland, reiterating comments made by the congressman in February.
The European Union has insisted it will not accept any British withdrawal agreement that results in any infrastructure on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, something that would anger Irish nationalists and could become a target for militants.
But some British politicians have called on Brussels to soften this demand to get a deal done.
Neal, chairman of the Congressional committee overseeing trade, said any Brexit deal must maintain the sanctity of the peace agreement, the Irish Times reported.
How to keep EU-member Ireland’s 500km (350 mile) border with Northern Ireland open after Brexit is proving the most intractable issue in Britain’s tortuous efforts to leave the EU.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is in talks with the opposition Labour Party to build support for a Brexit divorce deal that parliament has already rejected three times, potentially delaying the UK’s departure date from the European Union until the end of October.
Much of the opposition to May’s deal within her own party is centered on fears that it would not provide a clean enough break to allow the United Kingdom to forge new trade deals around the world, especially with the United States.
(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)