Trump Accepts Government Shutdown Deal Minus Wall Money

Prologue:   From Wednesday, January 23 to Saturday, January 26, crucial events caught up with Donald Trump.  He had been in a power struggle over his State of The Union address scheduled for January 29.  Speaker Pelosi had written and asked him to postpone it for “security reasons” until after the government reopened.  Democratic leaders had also said they would give him substantial dollars, $5.7 billion for “border security” not a wall.

On Wednesday, the president wrote back that he had checked with The Secret Service and they had no such “security concerns.”   Hours later, she wrote that she would not pass a resolution authorizing him to come until the government reopened.  Trump knew nothing about a “concurrent resolution” where the House and the Senate could vote unanimously to do just that.  If he wanted to give a SOTU  from The White House or in written form as she had suggested, he was free to do that.  Of course, he would not have the traditional setting with dramatic entry to applause , standing ovations from Republicans and the Supreme Court in the front  row.  Trump pledged to do “something in the alternative, possibly a rally”.

Meanwhile the House passed a series of spending bills aimed at reopening the government.  Speaker Pelosi urged the Democratic Caucus in a closed door meeting to stay united and not start to negotiate separately with the president.  Federal workers at the Hart Senate Office Building protested the shutdown.

The president said  to reporters at the White House on Wednesday, “Nancy Pelosi, or Nancy as I call her doesn’t want to hear the truth.”  When he tried to undercut her during their December Oval Office meeting, she replied, “Don’t characterize the strength I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats” .  It went viral in seconds across the nation and the world.

Thursday, January 24:  Cable news carried live interviews with the 800,000 plus federal workers furloughed without pay.  This included the United States Coastguard and civilian Army, Marine  and Navy veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Men and women told of not being able to meet grocery bills, mortgage and car payments.  The accounts were very personal and powerful.

Congressmen  and women as well as Senators were besieged by unending telephone calls and visits from their constituents blasting the president and them for keeping the government closed.  Air traffic controllers were being interviewed and reported they were working sixty hour weeks and feared dangerous results from fatigue.  They warned of a catastrophe if an airplane crash occurred.

Newspapers and Cable television were interviewing the families of the furloughed government workers, telling of their hardships.  There were millions of people directly affected when one counts their nuclear and extended families.

National polls showed that the most of the American people blamed Trump and the Republicans for the Shutdown.  In addition, the president’s  job approval rating  had fallen into the mid and lower 30’s, down 8 points since the Shutdown.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mc Connell realized Speaker Pelosi would not cave and decided to finally do something. He scheduled two votes for two plans on Thursday  to end the stalemate. One was  the president’s plan and the other was the Democratic version. He wanted   to show the president that he didn’t have enough votes to prevail.  Both bills failed to get the required sixty votes; the Democratic bill came closer.

The president told Mike Pence and Jared Kushner to give him options to reopen the government.  They came back with four:  A three week spending bill with a down payment for the wall and further negotiations.  A “clean”  short term spending bill that included no such money.  A “clean” short term spending bill with a bi-partisan House- Senate conference committee to negotiate border security; or A declaration of a national emergency which would give the president authority to use money on his own for the rest of the year.

Friday, January 25:  On Friday morning,  Trump  seemed  set to make an emergency declaration. But when he told McConnell and Kushner , they both argued against doing it. Trump finally backed away and agreed to the short term reopening without wall money.  He told aides it would result in a bad news cycle for several days, but it was the right thing to do and eventually would bring him a long-term victory.  He scheduled an announcement in the afternoon and appeared in the Rose Garden with White House aides lined on the sides and reporters ready and eager to hear his announcement.  When he began, it sounded as if he was declaring victory ….”I am proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown.”

Trump then said he was reopening the government since so many people were suffering, the first time he referred to them over the 35 days.   He had accepted the third option Pence and Kushner had offered.  He gave the Democrats and Republicans three weeks to form a bi-partisan committee and come up with the money for the wall.  February 15 was the deadline.  Or he would declare an Emergency and shut the government again.

Ann Coulter immediately attacked Trump, writing on Twitter, “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush.  As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp to serve as President of the United  States.”  Conservative papers ran banner headlines: The Daily Caller: “Trump Caves” and The Washington Examiner, “Trump Blinks”.

Saturday, January 26:  New York Times:  Trump Accepts Deal With No Wall Money”.   Two lead columns: “Government Will Reopen as Two Sides Talk.”  And “A Stinging Defeat for the President”, analysis by Peter Baker, Chief White House Reporter.   The sub heading: “Pelosi, Powerful Woman Who Answers to Herself , Has Trump Flummoxed.”

………………………………………………..Joyce S. Anderson

Government Shutdown, Day 31:President Trump v. Speaker Pelosi!

 

Prologue: President Trump began his recurrent tirade against “illegal immigrants” when he first descended the escalator in Trump Tower in 2015 describing them as  “rapists and murderers”.  During his campaign rallies, he always included the promise of a concrete wall stretching for two thousand miles across the Mexican border to keep out the “thousands of men, women and children” walking up from Central America.  He emphasized the “criminals” among them.  Before the midterm elections he exaggerated “the caravans approaching as thousands who would flood the country and menace the citizens In the border states.”

When the midterms brought the Blue Wave of Democrats flipping Republican seats in the House of Representatives,  Trump stopped talking about the  “caravans of dangerous people” getting closer.  Television coverage of mothers and children being tear gassed at an entrance point showed brutality at the border.  The separation policy of taking children from their parents and holding them in cages in Texas   brought an intense response from Democratic members of Congress, and newspaper  and  TV   reporters.  The White House was under siege.

White House Meeting, December 12:  The president,  Pelosi, Speaker of The House and Schumer, Minority Leader of the Senate were to meet in the Oval Office to discuss “The Wall” and the  impending government shutdown.  Trump invited the  Press to attend against the wishes of Pelosi and Schumer.

What followed was a fifteen minute televised exchange rather than a negotiating session between an experienced Congressional leader and the president who is rarely challenged in public –especially by a woman.  She called him “Mr. President” and he called her “Nancy”.  Chuck Schumer took part and his comments goaded the president to declare, “I would be proud to shut down the government for border security.”  The meeting ended with no resolution of the differences between the two sides.  Trump’s threat to “shut down the government” had gone viral.

Government Shutdown:  At midnight Friday, December 28, the United States Government was shut down by order of President Trump.  800,000 government employees were either furloughed or working without pay.  The number ran into the millions with their nuclear and extended families. Congress was closed and the Democrats would not take their new offices until January 3rd. Trump demanded that Congress approve 5 billion $ as a down payment on his border wall.

On January 3, Democrats took control of The House of Representatives and Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker.  “We will vote swiftly to reopen government and show that Democrats will govern responsibly in stark contrast to this chaotic White House”,   Pelosi said in a statement.  The Democrats were seeking the cooperation of the Senate to affect this change.  Unfortunately, Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader of the Republican controlled Senate would not bring to a vote the previous motion that had passed 98 to 2 to do that. He said the president would veto it. Therefore, he would not act.

In the weeks that followed,  government workers without their paychecks faced mortgage payments, car payments, food needs and ongoing stressful days .

Power Plays:  On Wednesday, January 16, Speaker Pelosi asked president Trump to delay his State of The Union address on January 29 citing “security concerns during the government shutdown”.  She wrote, “I suggest that we work together to find another suitable date for this address or for you to consider delivering your address in writing to the Congress  on January 29.”

Her move was political theater since the State of the Union brings the three branches of government together in the Congressional Meeting Hall.  The Supreme Court Members are present along with the Senate and House members.  The President speaks with the Vice President sitting behind him.  Applause rings out as soon as the president enters and continues throughout his speech.  For Trump, the Republicans would applaud as the Democrats would not.  For Trump, it was exactly the chance to do his best orating and boasting before millions of Americans watching on television.

For twenty four hours,  Trump did not send out a torrent of tweets from the White House although there were leaks that he was furious.  Then, Trump  struck back.  Pelosi was scheduled to lead a Congressional Delegation, ‘codel’ to visit United States troops in Afghanistan on January 17. The purpose was to bring comfort and thank the troops for their service as many codels do.  And to reassure NATO in Brussels that the United States would not pull out. It had not been announced publicly for security purposes as most codel trips are planned.

Trump canceled her military flight and wrote a letter to her.  “In light of 800,000 great Americans not receiving pay, I’m sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is entirely appropriate.  I also feel that it would be better if you are in Washington negotiating with me joining the strong border security movement to end the shutdown.” He added that she still had “the option of flying commercial.”

The members of Congress going on the codel were already in the bus ready to go to the airport when his letter arrived.  Reporters suggested to Pelosi that Trump’s cancellation of the trip was in retaliation for postponing the State of the Union. She replied, “ I can’t believe that anyone would be that petty.”  Later the Secret Service clarified that flying commercial was out of the question as “too dangerous.”

Saturday, January 19:  Trump spoke briefly to the nation from the White House , offering to give the Dreamers of DACA  a three year extension in the U.S. in exchange for 5.7 billion dollars to fund The Wall. Pelosi and Schumer both turned it down.  Pelosi insisted that the Government Shutdown be ended before negotiations could begin.  Schumer said the deal was “hostage taking” and agreed negotiations must come first.

By the next day, it was clear that Trump’s base as well as Ann Coulter and other high profile supporters were enraged by his offer of “Amnesty” to the Dreamers.   They voiced their dismay at his betrayal.  Senator Mc Connell finally said he would call for a vote on the president’s proposal.   He had never agreed to call a vote on the 98 to 2 previous proposal to avoid the shutdown.

Polls show that the American public holds the president responsible for the Shutdown.  His approval ratings are down in the thirties.  The latest Quinipac poll of voters for 2020 show 57 percent saying they would NOT vote for Trump.

The government shutdown is the longest on record. Every day, the television news shows Americans in long lines at food banks and on gas lines.  If Trump refuses to budge,  his chances of winning a second term in 2020 may become dimmer by the day.

………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson

A Tribute to Jim Mattis: The Last of Trump’s “Generals”

Prologue:The president used to call them “My Generals”. He expected loyalty to him personally, and never really understood that they pledged loyalty to The Constitution when they took the oath of office.

Jim Mattis was a retired four-star Marine General in the United States Army when he agreed to serve as Donald Trump’s Defense Secretary. He lasted for two years while other generals left during the first tumultuous months of Trump’s administration.

Lieutenant General Michael Flynn was the first general, a close confidant during the campaign who lasted only days as national security adviser.  He was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and pled guilty to lying to the F.B.I . Flynn was followed by General H.R. Mc Master who also left the national security adviser position when his advice was not followed by the president.  Four-star General John Kelly of the Marine Corp became chief of staff after previous men had left. He served through difficult months until he saw several new appointees  could  by-pass him and go directly to the president.

Jim Mattis made a difference during his years of service in the Trump administration: He worked in skillful ways to prevent dangerous and impulsive presidential decisions.  Early on, he persuaded the president not to pull out of NATO.  Then he assured European leaders that the United States would remain committed to the defense of Europe. He offered the same assurances to our allies in Asia.

When Trump was saber=rattling with North Korea, he considered ordering an evacuation of military families from South Korea. Mattis understood this could be considered as a forerunner to an American attack and softened the order which was never carried out.

Trump also decided there should be a ban on all current transgender military persons remaining in the armed forces and no future enlistments.  Secretary Mattis instructed the Head of United States Armed Forces not to follow this directive. It was never put into effect.

When the president returned from seeing the huge military parade in Paris celebrating  Bastille Day, he announced the United States would hold a similar parade down Pennsylvania Avenue on Veterans Day.  There was widespread opposition from Congress as to the cost as well as criticism of the appropriateness of such a parade  from the public and the media.  Mattis ‘slow walked’ the parade  idea with the Pentagon bureaucracy.

Mattis resigns after Trump retreats from Syria:  On Thursday, December 20, 2018,  Jim Mattis went to the White House with his letter of resignation already written.  He tried first to convince the president to reverse his decision which he had announced on Wednesday over the objections of his senior advisers.  Trump did not budge. When Mattis returned to the Pentagon, he asked aides to print out 50 copies of his resignation letter and distribute them around the building.

Before he read the letter,  Trump said, “Mr. Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations.”  He also said Mattis would leave at the end of February and promised to name a replacement shortly.  Then he read the letter!

Mattis began,  “Dear Mr.President, I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside the men and women of the department in defense of our citizens and our ideals. “ …….The third paragraph: “ One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nations is inextricably linked to our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining our alliances and showing respect to these allies.”……..paragraph five: “ My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by our alliances.”  … … next paragraph, “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.  The end date for my tenure is February 28th, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as for me to make sure department’s interested are properly articulated and protected.”……..Final paragraph “I pledge my full efforts to a smooth transition that insures the needs and interests of the 2.5 million Service Members and 733,679 DOD civilians receive undistracted attention at all times so they can fulfill their critical round the clock mission to protect the American people. I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.”  ………………………………….

……………………………………..Jim H. Mattis

Epilogue:  Two hours after Mattis left the White House,  Trump stood in the Oval office and dictated a tweet saying Mattis served “with distinction” and was retiring at the end of February.  Then he spent hours watching former military analysts and government members praise  Mattis  on television.

On Friday, December 21, the full text of Mattis’ letter was printed in The New York Times.  Praise for him flowed from all quarters of the military and our allies abroad. Senator Mark Warner, top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee reflected the overall agreement that “Mattis was an island of stability amidst the chaos of the Trump administration.”

By Saturday morning, Donald Trump reversed himself and announced that Jim Mattis would leave the Defense Department by January l. 2019. His final words were that Mattis leaving was “essentially a firing.”   The president had acted as usual on impulse and out of anger at the content of the letter.

Jim Mattis , known as “the last adult in the room”, left his post with dignity and  his sterling reputation intact.

………………………………………………………..Joyce S. Anderson

Will Chief Justice John Roberts Move to The Center of The Supreme Court?

Prologue:  John Roberts was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2005 after Chief Justice William Rehnquist died.  During the thirteen years he has served, most of his votes were with the Conservative bloc on the Court: Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and  Anthony Kennedy.  When Scalia died, President Barack Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit Court.  Senator Mitch Mc Connell,  Republican Majority leader refused to allow him to meet with the Judiciary Committee or be voted upon by the full Senate.  The position remained vacant for over a year.  During that time, the Chief Justice did not choose to speak about the impasse in the High Court with four Liberals and four Conservatives, and that McConnell was impeding the proper functioning of the Supreme Court under The Constitution.

During the entire first two years of Donald J. Trump’s administration, John Roberts spoke out only once in 2016 , saying: “ We don’t work as Democrats or Republicans” .  He returned to this theme that the court is not tied to partisan politics when Donald Trump responded to an administration loss in a lower court by criticizing the judge, Jon S. Tigar, calling him “an Obama judge”.  Chief Justice Roberts rebuked the president with a sharp public statement:  “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges,  Bush judges or Clinton judges.  What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those who are appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should be thankful for.”

That was the first time since Trump ran for president that Roberts commented upon his many insults and derogatory remarks about Federal Judges.

During his years as Chief Justice, Roberts has voted usually with the Conservatives.  His views are with them on voting rights, campaign finance, racial discrimination and religion.  Very important five vote majorities included: Heller, 2008 Second Amendment decision that established the individual right to own guns; Citizens United , the 2010  campaign finance decision expanding the role of money in politics; and Shelby County v.  Holder, 2013 voting rights decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act.

The only time he cast the decisive vote with the Liberals was on the crucial  issue of saving the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, for the American people.  This was Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement and conservatives never forgave Roberts.  He was denounced as a “traitor”.  Liberals of course, hailed him as a statesman.   During his campaign for president, Trump called Roberts “an absolute disaster.” In June, Roberts did write the majority opinion for Trump’s biggest court victory, limiting travel from predominantly Muslim countries.

Signs that Roberts may move to the Center of the High Court:

During December, Roberts voted with the liberals ,Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to deny review in two cases on efforts to stop payments to Planned Parenthood . This drew sharp criticism from three conservative justices.  On December 23, Roberts joined the four liberal members again to  reject a request from the Trump administration that could overturn years of asylum policy on immigration .  The Trump administration has also sent petitions and applications to bypass the usual procedures in  Census and Climate Change cases.  Roberts built coalitions of justices to deny the requests, often over the dissents of two or three of the conservative members. Brett Kavanaugh since he became a justice has voted consistently with Roberts except for his vote on the asylum case.

Two block buster cases lie ahead; DACA  Appeals Court ruling saying, Trump must continue the program that protects hundreds of thousands of Dreamers against deportation.  And Trump administration plan to bar transgender people from service in the United States Military.  It is not clear at this time whether the Court will deal with these cases.  It takes four votes to add a case to the docket. If it is argued, where will  Roberts be on final voting?

Sara Benesh, a political scientist at The University of Wisconsin, has said, Chief Justice Roberts has favored moving the law in small steps. She wrote, “Moderation, not just in terms of ideological moderation, but also humility, is kind of his thing. He seems to write limited opinions. He doesn’t reach any further than he has to.  He clearly distinguishes between what he is doing as a judge and what he might believe in terms of policy.”

The Chief Justice has spoken about spending quiet nights at the court looking at the portraits of his sixteen predecessors. He told C-Span in 2010, “They’re probably looking down at me with bemusement or amazement. From time to time, I find it a useful reminder of the role of the court and the role of the chief justice.”

……………………………………………………………………………Joyce S. Anderson

Nancy Pelosi: Former and Next Speaker of The United States House of Representives

Prologue: When Barack Obama was elected President of The United States in 2008,  Nancy Pelosi was chosen by  vote to become Speaker of The House.  She was the first woman ever to occupy the position that is second in line to the presidency.  Pelosi played a crucial role in Obama’s first term in office. Their greatest achievement was the successful passage of the Affordable Care Act( ACA) ,known to many as Obamacare.  They worked together as a team to “bring health care to the American people” as she has often said.

Nancy Pelosi, representing the San Francisco, California district, has been the Democratic Minority Leader since the Republicans took over the House in the 2010 Midterms.  She continued in that position when Obama served his second term from 2012 to 2016.  Pelosi has also been a formidable fund raiser for House Democratic members across the country during every election campaign.  She looks younger than her 78 years, trim in her fashionable suits and heels.  She was on the cover of The New York Times Magazine section several weeks ago, wearing a red suit matched by red pumps.  Her energy level is legendary on The Hill.

Raised in a political family, where her father and brother each served as Mayor of Baltimore , Maryland, Pelosi learned about politics and power from an early age. She is a formidable speaker with a quick wit as well as amazing depth of knowledge and experience.  No political opponent fazes her as Donald Trump learned on Tuesday, December 12 at a meeting with her and Senator Chuck Schumer at the White House.

Meeting becomes a public feud:  The purpose of the meeting had been to discuss the president’s long promised border wall and to avoid a year end government shutdown.  The president had invited reporters to be present. Pelosi and Schumer urged him to change to a private session after the initial pleasantries had been exchanged.  Trump insisted they remain.  Donald Trump and Mike Pence sat in chairs facing Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on couches in the Oval Office.

What followed was a fifteen minute televised exchange rather than a negotiating session between an experienced congressional leader and  the  president who is rarely challenged in public — especially by a woman.   At the start, she referred to a possible “Trump shutdown” and he took the bait, saying that Senate Republicans could easily pass funding for the wall.  Then, she said, “Okay.  Then do it, then do it.”  Next, he interrupted her and  she interrupted him with a clear repeat  of “Mr. Presidents”.  He wagged his finger, calling her “Nancy” and suggested  she was “in a situation when it’s not easy for her to talk right now.” Pelosi responded in a calm voice, “Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats who just won a big victory.”

Chuck Schumer also took part in the back and forth. His comments  goaded Trump into  declaring, “I would be proud to shut down the government for border security.”  Throughout, Mike Pence never entered the conversation.  He sat silently and did not appear to shift in his position, causing a reporter later to describe him as “a potted plant.”   Pelosi and Schumer repeated their wish for a private talk without the press, but Trump countered with, “It’s not bad. Nancy, it’s called Transparency.”  Pelosi shot right back, “It’s not transparency when we are stipulating to a set of facts, and when we want to have a debate with you about saying we confront some of those facts without saying to the public this isn’t true.”

As the meeting continued, Pelosi appeared to be trying to explain how legislation works.  Leaning forward and waving his hands, Trump  cut her off, “No, We don’t have the votes, Nancy, because in the Senate we need 60 votes.”  She replied, “The fact is that you could bring it up in the House. You set the tone. Legislating is what we do.  You bring it up.  You make your case. But there are no votes in the House, majority votes for a wall,  no matter where you start.”  At that point, Trump appeared exasperated and called an end to the presence of reporters and the television coverage.

Pelosi emerged from the White House looking triumphant in sunglasses and a swingy red coat.  She returned to the Capitol to meet with Democratic colleagues behind closed doors.  One aide in the room said later, “ She called the wall debate a manhood thing for him” . She also compared what happened to “a tinkle contest with a skunk” adding “I was trying to be the mom.”

Cable news showed live excerpts from the meeting through the evening and next day.   Members of Congress were quoted: “ I think she gave as good as she got,” said Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican of South Carolina,  a close ally of the president.   Eric Swalwell, Democratic Representative of California ,  raised the coming vote for speaker, “I think she sealed the deal.”

Sealing the deal:  On Wednesday, the day after her triumphant meeting with Trump in the Oval Office,  Pelosi announced she had reached an agreement with dissident Democrats. She would limit herself to four years as speaker,  “a bridge to the next generation of House Leaders.”   After she released her statement, seven of the leading holdouts released a joint statement, thanking her and saying they would support her for speaker.

Nancy Pelosi had demonstrated once more that she is the most formidable member of Congress.  There are perilous times ahead in the next two years of the Donald Trump administration.  She will use her skills to guide the Congress and the millions of American people to better and safer days ahead.

……………………………………………………………………………..   Joyce S. Anderson

Will Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker Fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller?

Leading news stories on Cable TV today focused on Robert Mueller releasing documents revealing former security adviser Michael Flynn’s cooperation in the Russia investigation.  The documents were heavily redacted (blacked out), but they did note Flynn’s “substantial help” in several parts of the continuing investigation.  Prosecutors on Mueller’s team cited Flynn’s assistance as a basis for leniency when he is sentenced by a judge on December 18.

Prologue:  The FBI original Trump-Russia investigation began in summer 2016 during the presidential campaign with very little reporting to the public.  In May 2017, President Trump fired Director James Comey and said a day later that the Russia investigation was on his mind.  Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was in charge of the  investigation because Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions had recused himself when it became known that he had met with the Russian ambassador during the Trump campaign.

Rod  Rosenstein then named Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel on May 17, 2017.   That day, Mueller issued the only public statement he’s issued since he took the position.  “I accept the responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability.”   Rosenstein said at the time,  “The public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree independence from the normal chain of command.”

Results of the Investigation to date:  Mueller enlisted a team of sixteen:  FBI agents, former prosecutors and other lawyers to investigate Russia’s 2016 election interference and whether any Trump associates conspired.  Each of the prosecutors has a specialty, like political corruption, hacking or money laundering.  The team has secured   indictments against 32 people and three Russian companies with interfering in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald J. Trump. This includes four Trump campaign officials: Paul Manafort, Richard Gates, George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn.  All have reached plea deals.  Manafort was the campaign chair at one time while Flynn had been a key participant during the entire campaign, sparking the “Lock her Up” chant at rallies. He pleaded guilty to   lying to the FBI about his talks with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak during the transition.

President Trump has labeled the Mueller Investigation from the beginning as a “witch hunt” with no validity.  He has insisted in tweets, interviews on cable TV and at midterm rallies , “I have had nothing to do with Russia!”  “ No business deals in Russia.”  “No interests or connections of any kind in Russia!”  For some months he refrained from attacking Robert Mueller, a Republican, personally.  More recently, his attacks include Mueller by name for conducting the “witch hunt.”  Trump has always attacked the media as “the enemy of the people” who write and broadcast “fake news”.

Department of Justice change at the White House: Donald Trump also continued to denigrate Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.  He had been head of the  D.O.J. Department of Justice. Trump said many times he never would have appointed him if he had known he would recuse himself.   On November 7, 2018 , Jeffrey Sessions submitted his resignation to the  president. Then, Trump announced the same day that he was appointing Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States.  Whitaker had been Sessions’ chief of staff since September and  practically unknown in Washington.  He was a Republican who had said that the Mueller Investigation was a  “witch hunt” .  Trump bypassed Rod Rosenstein the deputy attorney general with the appointment.  Matt Whitaker would now be responsible for the Mueller Investigation and the entire Department of Justice.

Reactions to Matt Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general:

On November 8, The New York Times printed an Op Ed by Neil Katyal former U.S. Solicitor General and George T. Conway III , lawyer and husband of Kellyanne Conway, White House adviser.    Headline: “Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional “  “ The president is evading his responsibility to seek the Senate’s advice and consent for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and the person who will oversee the Mueller Investigation.”

Their central argument was that a principal office such as acting attorney general must be confirmed by the Senate. “Evading such a procedure defies one of the explicit checks and balances set out in the Constitution,  a provision designed to protect us against the centralization of government power.”

On November 9, The New York Times printed a second Op Ed by Neil Katyal and George T. Conway III. “Whitaker’s Appointment Is Illegal” From the text: “Mr. Whitaker … has now been vested with the law enforcement authority of the entire United States government, including the power to supervise senate confirmed officials like the deputy attorney general, the solicitor general and all United States attorneys.”  They concluded their piece , “Constitutionally Mathew Whitaker is a nobody.  For the president to install Mr. Whitaker as our chief law enforcement officer is to betray the entire structure of our charter document.”

On November 19, three Democratic Senators went before a federal judge to issue an injunction barring Mathew Whitaker from exercising the powers of the Justice Department.  They argued that his installation violated The Constitution.  Senators Richard Blumenthal  of Connecticut, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island sit on the Judiciary Committee.

One week after Trump appointed Whitaker as Acting Attorney General, four hundred and three members of the Department of Justice from across the United States signed a letter strongly opposed to his appointment. They had learned as any interested reader of The New York Times that “Mr. Whitaker is an avowed antagonist of Robert Mueller and has called the investigation “a witch hunt”.  He has said, “Mr. Mueller’s team should not investigate Trump’s finances and has suggested an attorney general could slash the special counsel’s budget.”

It became even clearer to millions of citizens who follow the political news that Whitaker was unfit for the position.  It was revealed on cable news that “ Whitaker is skeptical about Marbury v. Madison, the landmark case by the first Chief justice of the United States that established judicial review by the Supreme Court of the Executive and Legislative branches of government. Whitaker would also support confirmation of federal judges who hold a “biblical view of justice” and he may have prosecuted a political opponent for improper reasons when he was a federal prosecutor.”  Finally,  Whitaker’s business involvement with a company accused of scamming customers is being investigated at this time.

Latest political news:  December 7: Robert Mueller will release documents concerning Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen related to their cooperation with the Russia Investigation.  Donald Trump will be riveted to  every word to see if he or family members may be closer to becoming targets of the overall investigation.

At the same time, there is a bill in the Senate to stop Trump from firing Robert Mueller.  Majority leader, Mitch McConnell is holding up the bill.  But Jeff Flake, Republican, who is retiring in January is threatening to stop sixteen appellate judges from being confirmed by the Senate.  Flake is the key swing vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  If he votes No on the judges, they will not move to the full Senate.

We all watch as another scene unfolds in this chaotic Donald Trump White House.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Joyce S. Anderson

Chief Justice John Roberts Rebukes Donald Trump!

 

On Tuesday, November 20, Donald Trump complained about the decision of Judge Jon S. Tigar of the United States District Court in San Francisco.   Tigar had ordered the administration to resume accepting claims for asylum from migrants, no matter how or where they entered the United States.  Trump expressed his anger at this order in long comments, calling Judge Tigar “an Obama judge”.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. rebuked Trump the next day  for calling a judge who had ruled against his administration’s asylum policy “an Obama judge”. He said in a statement,  “ We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges.   Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should be thankful for.”

Later that day, Trump responded on Twitter, “Sorry, Chief Justice  Roberts,  but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”  Trump always persists in having the last word in an argument.  It appears that he never takes time to consider what the consequences may be for his speech or actions.

The rebuke was the first time since Trump ran for president that the Chief Justice has ever commented upon his previous attacks upon federal judges.  They have been a constant part of his early morning tweets , starting during his run for office in early 2016, when he attacked Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel  of the Federal District Court in San Diego.   Judge Curiel was over-seeing a class –action suit against Trump University.  “They ought to look into Judge Curiel, because what he is doing is a total disgrace”, he said.  Then he added that the judge had a conflict of interest since his family was of Mexican heritage. Judge Curiel, who had been born in Indiana, decided the case in favor of the plaintiffs, former students. They had argued that Trump University had been a sham and had taken large amounts of their money.  Trump settled the case after the election, paying millions to the plaintiffs.

In 2017, after Trump lost one of his travel bans against Muslims, he attacked the judge, James Robart on the Federal District Court in Seattle, calling him “ a so-called judge”.  Roberts made no comment.  When Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first appointment to the High Court called such attacks  “demoralizing” and “disheartening”, during his confirmation process, Roberts again was silent.

During 2016, when Trump was running for office, the Senate Majority Leader,  Mitch Mc Connell had blocked Barack Obama from appointing a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died. McConnell had said,  “The people will decide in the next presidential election.  Senate Republicans refused to meet and there was never a vote to confirm or deny in the Senate. Obama did nominate Merrick Garland, Chief of the Second Circuit, the most influential Court in the country next to the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Roberts had only eight justices for a year instead of nine.  Yet, he never commented , while Democrats inveighed against the unfair practice of denying a president his “duty” under The Constitution to nominate a successor when a vacancy occurred. It is certainly possible that Roberts going public at that time could have influenced Mc Connell to ‘follow The Constitution” and have the Senate meet to confirm or deny the nomination.  Garland was a centrist who had been praised by influential Senate Republicans when he was named.  We will never know if he would have been confirmed.

What we all appear to know is that Donald J. Trump will continue to believe that The Department of Justice is there to follow his orders on all matters of state and policy.  He sees the Attorney General as his personal lawyer, there to protect him as “Eric Holder did for Obama and Bobby Kennedy did for J.F.K. “   He does not seem to grasp that we have three branches of the Federal Government:  Legislative,  Executive and Judicial.   They are listed in the Constitution Articles I,  II  and III.  The longest Article is the Congress, since the founders were wary of any leader who might be like King George against whom they fought for Independence.

It will be very interesting to see what happens in January when the Democrats take over the Judiciary,   Intelligence and Oversight Committees in the House of Representatives.  They then have the power of Subpoena to investigate Trump’s tax returns and possible “obstruction of justice” and “abuse of power” during his first two years in office.

Right now, Americans are waiting for Robert Mueller to make his next announcement.  Will there be charges against any members of the Trump family?   Will he specify when the report will be completed and given to the Congress and the Public who can hardly wait to read it?

……………………………………………………………………………Joyce. S. Anderson