Tag Archives: abuse of power

Abuse of power and obstruction of justice in plain sight

Russian asset and crime family boss Donald Trump just keeps digging his hole deeper with the Special Counsel’s investigation.

Yesterday he added two more counts, for abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The GOP House Freedom Caucus co-conspirators who are aiding and abetting his crimes should also be charged.

Steve Benen does a good job of breaking it down. Trump ignores security, crosses ‘red line’ with declassification gambit:

Donald Trump’s abuses have become routine, but that doesn’t make them any easier to tolerate. The president’s move yesterdayafternoon, for example, is awfully tough to defend.

In an unprecedented move that stunned current and former intelligence officials, President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the public release of highly classified documents and text messages related to the FBI investigation into whether his campaign conspired with Russia.

A statement by the White House press office said Trump had directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Department of Justice and the FBI to declassify about 20 pages of a highly sensitive application for surveillance against Carter Page, a one-time Trump foreign policy aide.

The president suggested two weeks ago that he was considering such a move, but many hoped Trump was just blowing off steam and he’d end up in a more responsible place. That’s obviously not what happened.

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The GOP’s war on the Department of Justice and the rule of law

When President Trump publicly demanded that the Justice Department open an investigation into the F.B.I.’s scrutiny of his campaign contacts with Russia, he crossed over a well-established bright line norm of constraint on executive power: The White House does not make decisions about individual law enforcement investigations. The independence of the Department of Justice is to be respected and preserved.

This is especially true when the president himself is the subject of a criminal investigation, or he would abuse the Department of Justice and use it as a weapon against his political opponents. This is what authoritarian despots do in a dictatorship or a banana republic.

This is precisely where the authoritarian Donald Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress are taking this country. They are engaged in the destruction of our long-cherished democratic institutions and norms, and the rule of law.

Charlie Savage writes at the New York Times, By Demanding an Investigation, Trump Challenged a Constraint on His Power:

“It’s an incredible historical moment,” said Rebecca Roiphe, a professor at New York Law School who helped write a coming scholarly article on the limits of presidential control over the Justice Department. Mr. Trump’s move, she said, “is the culmination of a lot of moments in which he has chipped away at prosecutorial independence, but this is a direct assault.”

Almost since he took office, Mr. Trump has battered the Justice Department’s independence indirectly — lamenting its failure to reopen a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton that found no wrongdoing, and openly complaining that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia inquiry. But he had also acknowledged that as president, “I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department,” as he told a radio interviewer with frustration last fall.

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Trump’s personal animosity for Jeffrey Bezos results in abuse of power a la Nixon

Included in the Articles of Impeachment for President Richard M. Nixon adopted by the House Judiciary Committee on July 27, 1974 was Article 2 for “abuse of power,” which included ordering the IRS to audit his “political enemies” list.

We are now confronted with a parallel abuse of power by President Donald Trump, albeit by a different federal agency. The Washington Post reports, Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, other firms:

President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.

Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.

The Wall Street Journal  reported last month that White House officials, eager to help the president understand reality, have put together “PowerPoint presentations and briefing papers they believed debunked his concerns.”

Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery. See, Bloomberg, Trump Orders Post Office Review After Attacks on Amazon.

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Trump again improperly attempts to influence Department of Justice

Last summer we witnessed one of the more truly bizarre incidents in American history, President Donald Trump belittling and berating his Confederate Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III — his earliest and most loyal supporter — for having recused himself from the Russia investigation by the Department of Justice and the FBI because of his undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, leading to Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointing Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

For some reason, Trump appears to believe that the Department of Justice is his personal law firm, and that the Attorney General is his consigliere whose duty it is to protect the president from any legal investigations, and to pursue his political opponents with retaliatory prosecutions. This is what authoritarian tin horn dictators from banana republics do.

This is America: the independence of federal law enforcement from interference by the office of the president is sacrosanct.

Trump’s goal was to make life so miserable for Jeff Sessions that he would feel compelled to resign, since it would not look good to fire him after having fired FBI Director James Comey.  Sessions did offer his resignation, but Trump refused his resignation. Sessions offered to resign before Trump’s trip abroad:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered his resignation to President Donald Trump amid Trump’s rising frustration with the series of events that culminated in the appointment of a special counsel to investigate his campaign’s contacts with Russian officials during last year’s election.

Trump ultimately refused Sessions’ offer, which came just before Trump embarked on his first international trip in late May, according to a person who regularly speaks with Sessions.

Trump later demanded Sessions’ resignation, but he decided not to accept it at the urging of White House advisers.

Sessions has sought to get back in the president’s good graces by pursuing policies he favors, and the Twitter-troll-in-chief quieted down his bizarre belittling and berating of his Attorney General on Twitter.

But after a busy week last week for the Special Counsel racking up plea deals and filing criminal indictments against multiple persons in the Russia investigation, Trump is now in a panic.

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Bipartisan Senate rejection of House GOP spending bill leads to ‘shit-show’ shutdown

We have a dysfunctional government because Tea-Publicans are in charge. They do not believe in government, only the control of absolute power, and they possess no demonstrable skills at governing responsibly or effectively.

Late last night, a bipartisan vote of the Senate rejected the House GOP short-term spending bill (CR) on a vote of 50-49, well short of the 60 votes necessary to proceed under the Senate’s cloture rules. Of course, the House GOP leadership knew its CR bill, negotiated only among the competing factions of the GOP to the exclusion of any Democrats, was DOA on arrival in the Senate where Democratic votes would be necessary to pass it, even before the House held a vote on its CR bill. It was political gamesmanship and brinksmanship designed to provide propaganda talking points to the conservative media entertainment complex in an election year. Senate rejects funding bill, partial shutdown begins:

Senators voted late Friday to reject a House-passed bill that would have funded the government until Feb. 16, beginning a partial government shutdown.

Most Democrats voted to block the bill as part of a risky strategy to force Republicans to negotiate with them on a legislative fix for “Dreamers,” immigrants who illegally came to the country at a young age and now face the prospect of deportation. The procedural motion on the bill failed 50-49.

Only five Democrats voted to advance the bill — Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.), who are all up for reelection this year in states carried by President Trump in 2016 election, and newly elected Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.).

Republicans were also not united, as Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) also voted against advancing the legislation. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is battling brain cancer, was absent.

The procedural vote remained open for roughly two hours on Friday night, remaining well below the needed 60 votes to pass.

What should have happened next is that the Senate GOP leadership walk over to the House side and bitch slap House Speaker Paul Ryan and his lieutenants for sending them a bill that they knew was DOA on arrival in the Senate. “Stop wasting our time!”

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Latest developments in the Trump-Putin campaign investigation

With each new revelation, Donald Trump and his campaign move the goalposts in the Russia investigation. At first there was the flat denial that anyone in the campaign had contacts with the Russians. Then the campaign had to concede, OK there were contacts with the Russians, but we did not discuss collusion. Then it was revealed that the Trump campaign did attempt to collude with the Russians to “get dirt” on Hillary Clinton, but the campaign was unsuccessful in obtaining that information, so “we’re good.”

Trump and his apologists appear to be unaware of “inchoate” crimes—attempts, conspiracy, and solicitation—actions that fall short of the final act of commission, but may still be a prosecutable crime.

George Papadapolous has already plead guilty for lying to the FBI about his multiple contacts with the Russians to “get dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Papadapolous reported on his activities to several senior Trump campaign officials: his supervisor Sam Clovis, then campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, subsequent campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates, and foreign policy adviser Walid Phares. Who’s who in the George Papadopoulos court documents (there are additional persons not identified).

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