Fix Bayonets! House Dems Countercharge

Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Regiment on Little Round Top, July 2, 1863. Painting by Mort Künstler.

In a single day, House Democrats demanded President Donald Trump’s tax returns for six years, moved to get a decade’s worth of his financial records and prepared to issue a subpoena for the full Mueller report from the Justice Department.

Top House Democratic lawmakers and aides say the triple-headed attack was more by accident than design, but it’s also clear that April 3 marks a turning point for the new Democratic majority. In less than eight hours, House Democrats moved to an all-out investigative assault on Trump, one that the White House and Republican leaders blasted as unnecessary, openly partisan and a huge distraction from the country’s business. [Politico]

Am I enjoying this? You betcha. Anyway, since when did the current Republican Party give a hoo-haw about the “country’s business”?

The House also passed a resolution to end U.S. support for the war in Yemen. The Senate passed the resolution last month. Trump says he will veto it. But I wonder if Trump’s veto could be challenged in court.

The Yemen resolution invokes the War Powers Resolution of 1973 (WPR), which gives Congress the power to direct a president to remove troops involved in “hostilities” abroad if there has been no formal “declaration of war or specific statutory authorization” from Congress.

Not only does it serve as a censure of Saudi’s conduct in the war, it’s also a clear check on executive power; if the US wants to be involved in a war in Yemen, Congress has to declare it. The Republican-led Senate passed the resolution in March, and it now heads to Trump’s desk. The White House says the president plans to veto it.

It seems to me that if Trump continues to use U.S. military resources in the war in Yemen without the support of Congress, he is in violation of the Constitution. Not that he gives a hoo-haw about the Constitution.

But speaking of courts — the enemy has not been idle. See Dana Milbank, “Mitch McConnell undid 213 years of Senate history in 33 minutes.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in his latest move to seize power by dismantling the chamber’s centuries-old safeguards, was about to push through another vote to break another rule. But first he gave a speech blaming the other side.

“The Democratic leader started all of this,” McConnell proclaimed, his face blotchy red with anger.

Pointing at the Democratic leader, Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), McConnell added: “He started this whole thing.”

If that weren’t preschoolish enough, the once-distinguished gentleman from Kentucky said a third time: “He started it! That was a sad day. This is a glad day.”

Schumer just smiled and shook his head.

Actually, Vice President Aaron Burr started “it” — the Senate tradition of unlimited debate, that is. That tradition has prevailed, more or less, in the Senate since 1806. Over that time, senators had the right to delay votes on presidential nominees they found objectionable. But McConnell undid 213 years of history in 33 minutes on Wednesday afternoon, holding a party-line vote to rewrite the rules of debate.

The gloves are off. If Dems are ever again in control of both houses of Congress, watch them end the Senate filibuster, ban gerrymandering nationwide, and institute all kinds of judicial and election reforms.

Back to the tax returns — as I understand it, the IRS has no choice but to comply with the request from the Ways and Means Committee. The law is unambiguous. Paul Waldman:

Trump himself doesn’t have to hand over anything; the demand is made directly to the IRS, which, under the law, has no choice but to produce the returns. But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will apparently instruct the IRS to refuse, under the legal doctrine known as “The law doesn’t apply to Donald Trump.”

The House of Representatives will then sue to compel the IRS to comply with the law, and the IRS will lose in court, until the case reaches the Supreme Court. In any sane world Trump would lose there on a 9-to-0 decision, but there’s no way to tell how the conservative justices will rule.

Even after the Ways and Means Committee gets the returns, it’s going to take a long time to sort through them and make sense of the tangle of LLCs and other business elements carefully put together to create maximum opaqueness. But at least, and at last, we’re seeing Democrats bringing guns to the gunfight.

By now you’ve heard there’s been grumbling from Mueller’s team that the Barr summary was, um, not the whole story. Trump’s toadies are even now redacting anything the least bit incriminating to Trump. I have to hope that somehow, some day, the entire thing will be leaked. And if there’s even a hint that Trump or his “associates” are helping out with the redacting, that’s an impeachable offense.

Speaking of impeachable offenses, let’s talk about White House security. It’s a mess. In a sane world, Trump’s playing fast and loose with security clearances would be a bigger scandal than Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s emails and Obama’s beige suit and Monica Lewinsky and possibly even Teapot Dome put together. I trust the House Intelligence Committee will investigate.