Trump continues to build his Article of Impeachment for Obstruction of Congress

0
347

Richard Nixon was going to be impeached for the very same misconduct Donald Trump is engaged in now, before he resigned. Article 3 of Nixon’s Articles of Impeachment was for “obstruction of Congress,” i.e, his failure to comply with the lawful subpoenas from Congress.

The latest on the Trump administration’s “total obstruction” of Congress:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), whose panel already voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for defying its separate subpoena for the report and underlying materials, sent a letter to White House Counsel’s Office on Thursday rejecting its call for him to end his investigations into wrongdoing by President Trump and his associates.

Nadler wrote that his committee has a right to continue seeking information about Russian interference in the 2016 election, particularly in light of the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

“As a threshold matter, your failure to comprehend the gravity of the Special Counsel’s findings is astounding and dangerous,” Nadler wrote, adding that Mueller’s report outlined how vulnerable America was to another attack.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter to Nadler on Wednesday telling him he doesn’t have the right to a “do-over” of the Russia investigation, calling Congress’s own probes “duplicative.”

Nadler suggested in his response that staff from the committee and the White House counsel meet in person to hash it out.

Earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the White House counsel’s letter challenging Nadler’s probe “a joke.”

Roll Call reports, Judiciary Democrats may ask full House to formally approve their investigation into Trump:

Some Judiciary Committee Democrats, concerned about the Trump administration escalating its stonewalling into their investigation of potential obstruction of justice and abuses of power by the president and his associates, want the full House to approve their probe.

“I believe we are at a point now that we should issue a resolution of investigation,” senior Judiciary member Shelia Jackson Lee said Thursday.

“That resolution would come to the Rules Committee and ultimately to the floor of the House, which would then instruct the Judiciary Committee to have a full fledged investigation, which could not be challenged or would be difficult to be challenged by the president’s whimsical comments of who can testify and who cannot,” the Texas Democrat said.

* * *

House rules allow for a resolution of investigation to be brought before the Rules Committee, which would refer it to the floor for a vote of the full body.

“The resolution of investigation gives the force of the whole House and instructions to the Judiciary Committee to do a litany of things that we believe is part of our duty of educating the public, members of Congress and proceeding in the way that will be in consistency with the fact that we’re doing other work,” Jackson Lee said. “We cannot have an administration that seeks to undermine the order of three branches of government. And this would be a procedure that would work to frame our investigation.”

She noted that the panel wouldn’t need to pursue the resolution of investigation “if we can have our hearings and have the Article II body respond as it should and not pretend that blanket executive privilege can be utilized.”

No decisions have been made yet about when or if to file a resolution of investigation, Jackson Lee said.

“This is something that has to be discussed and deliberated on and that will be the case,” she said.

Bond villain, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, will again fail to comply with the law today by failing to produce Donald Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee. Treasury, IRS set to miss subpoena deadline on Trump tax returns:

The Treasury Department and IRS are set to miss a Friday deadline to comply with subpoenas for Trump’s tax returns, setting up a prolonged legal battle.

Democrats are examining options for their next steps. But both sides agree the matter is headed to the courts.

“I think Friday is the turning point,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.). “There’s no more letters to be written.”

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) issued subpoenas to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig last week for 6 years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns, giving them a deadline of Friday at 5 p.m.

All indications are that Treasury and the IRS won’t provide the requested documents, since Mnuchin already rejected Neal’s requests for the returns made in letters that cited Section 6103 of the federal tax code. Mnuchin said Wednesday that he expects Treasury to provide some type of response by the deadline and that “you can guess which way we’re leaning on our subpoena.”

Neal has long said that he expects the dispute over Trump’s tax returns to result in a court case, and Mnuchin also said Wednesday that he thinks the issue will end up in the courts. Those closely following the issue expect that Democrats will pursue a lawsuit to enforce their subpoenas and Section 6103.

A court case could be lengthy, but legal experts say it could be effective in achieving Democrats’ goal of obtaining Trump’s returns.

It’s not certain exactly what the process for Democrats to bring a lawsuit would look like, but they would be expected to get authorization.

Legal experts say that there have been questions about whether the full House would need to vote to authorize a lawsuit, or whether the House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) could do so. The experts say that it would be best for the House to vote to authorize a lawsuit, since it’s unclear whether House rules allow the BLAG to authorize lawsuits to enforce subpoenas.

“I would imagine that if they try to do that, there would be protests from the minority and appeals to the parliamentarian,” Mike Stern, a former senior counsel in the House counsel’s office, said of using the BLAG.

In addition to filing a lawsuit, there have been growing calls for action to be taken against Mnuchin if he doesn’t comply with the subpoena.

* * *

Neal told reporters last week that holding Mnuchin or Rettig in contempt hadn’t been discussed.

The House could vote to refer a criminal contempt citation against Mnuchin to the Justice Department, but the department would be unlikely to prosecute him. House Democrats could also try to impeach Mnuchin, but the GOP-controlled Senate would be unlikely to vote to convict him.

House Democrats can also sue for civil contempt.

Another option would be for Congress to use its inherent contempt authority to detain or fine Mnuchin until he complies with the subpoena for Trump’s tax returns.

When asked Thursday about using inherent contempt to fine people who are defying subpoenas, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that “nothing is off the table” but did not say that the House was planning it.

University of Southern California law professors Samuel Erman and Edward Kleinbard suggested in a Washington Post op-ed this week that Congress use its inherent powers in order to put the burden on seeking court action on the administration rather than on Congress.

“Congress should not be required to go cap in hand to go to the judicial system,” Kleinbard told The Hill.

The most likely option is to impose large personal fines that accrue daily until comtemners comply. In the case of Mnuchin, who is extremely wealthy, that could take awhile. But taking his money would be sweet.

Democrats could also obtain some of Trump’s tax documents if the state of New York enacts a law that allows the chairmen of Congress’s tax committees to request state tax returns from New York’s commissioner of taxation and finance. The state senate passed the bill last week, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) backs it.

University of Chicago law professor Daniel Hemel called the New York bill “an ace in the hole” for Democrats.

He said the documents that could be turned over to New York wouldn’t tell Democrats everything they want to know about Trump’s taxes, but would tell them if Trump has reported an adjusted gross income of zero in recent years. A New York Times story published earlier this month found that Trump’s large business losses from 1985 to 1994 meant that he only paid income taxes in two of those years.

The New York returns would show “whether there are any real whoppers,” Hemel said.

Neal may opt against seeking Trump’s state tax returns if the bill allowing him to request them becomes law. Neal’s stated purpose for requesting Trump’s federal returns focuses on interest in oversight about the IRS’s audits of sitting presidents.

“Our request is in furtherance of the committee’s investigation into the mandatory presidential audit program and to decide whether that program needs to be codified into federal law,” Neal spokesman Dan Rubin said. “This is part of our oversight over the IRS. State returns from NY would not help that investigation.”

There are other congressional committees looking to the same information that may not be so constrained and would accept the offer from New York.

UPDATE: Steve Mnuchin brazenly tells Congress that the administration refuses to comply with subpoena:

Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin put in writing on Friday that President Donald Trump’s administration is refusing to comply with a subpoena for President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Mnuchin argued that Attorney General Bill Barr has declared that the administration won’t abide by the law that requires the IRS to turn over Trump’s tax returns to House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal.

“In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, we have determined that the Committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose, and pursuant to section 6103, the Department is therefore not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information,” Mnuchin claimed.

As I have pointed out before, the tax code, Section 7214(a), provides that “Any officer or employee of the United States acting in connection with any revenue law of the United States… who with intent to defeat the application of any provision of this title fails to perform any of the duties of his office or employment… shall be dismissed from office or discharged from employment and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $10,000, or imprisoned not more than 5 years or both.”

This includes President Trump, Attorney General Barr, Secretary Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Rettig. This provision should be part of any Democrats lawsuit. There are no exceptions to this “good faith” provision.

House Democrats may bundle contempt resolutions against Trump officials to be voted on together. If they were to take that route, they said, it wouldn’t happen until at least next month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said nothing is “off the table” in how the Democrats respond to the Trump administration’s refusal to cooperate with congressional subpoenas.

It appears to me that all of this is all going to come to a head sometime in June. Do it before the July 4th recess.