Toads on the Hill: Mnuchin and Barr

Okay, I said I’d write something about the Mnuchin and Barr testimony, so here it is.

First, Mnuchin is an asshole. He smarted off to Maxine Waters; I doubt he would have treated a white male committee chair so dismissively. More disturbing, Mnuchin clearly doesn’t appreciate that he is answerale to Congress and thinks such hearings are a waste of his precious time.

Here is the bigger takeaway:

Mnuchin acknowledged that Treasury Department lawyers have consulted with the White House general counsel’s office about the potential release of the president’s tax returns, even though the process was intended to be walled off. He emphasized that his staff wasn’t asking for “permission” from the White House, and he didn’t view it as “interference.” But he irked Democrats by saying that Republicans could have requested the returns of Democratic lawmakers and their major donors when they were in power.

“I am sure there are many prominent Democrats who are relieved that when Kevin Brady was chairman of the committee, he didn’t request specific returns,” Mnuchin said, referring to the Texas GOP congressman who lost his gavel in January.

What the bleep? People who understand how this works say that Congress has the authority to request and obtain any bleeping tax returns Congress wants, period. That Congress doesn’t spend all its time reviewing tax returns is probably because it has more pressing things to do.

Daniel Shaviro, law professor, New York University

This is not an issue on which there is any possibility of reasonable disagreement. Any well-informed person who disagrees either that the Ways and Means Committee has an obligation to demand Trump’s tax returns as part of fulfilling its oversight duties or that Trump is legally obliged to turn them over is either a partisan hack or contemptuous of the rule of law.

Further, the Secretary of the Treasury is not supposed to be involved in taxpayer-specific matters. Complying with the laws regarding tax returns is entirely the job of the IRS Commissioner. Mnuchin will be treading on dangerous ground if he interferes.

Trump’s argument is that he was elected president without having to release his tax returns; therefore, Congress can’t have them. Yes, that makes no sense at all.

In any event, it appears the IRS Commissioner is preparing to stonewall the request. He is “working on a letter” as a response. A letter is not Trump’s tax returns. This is going to get messier and probably go to the courts. See also: Mnuchin: You have no right to see M’Lord’s tax returns by Bess Levin at Vanity Fair.

Now, on to Barr, who testified again today. If there was any question that Barr would be nothing but a Trump toady — and I’m not aware that there was — now the matter is settled. He is acting as Trump’s personal attorney, not the people’s lawyer. Nothing he says about the Mueller Report, or anything else, can be trusted.

Barr is noticeably more interested in investigating the investigation than in dealing with whatever Mueller’s team found to be true. Paul Waldman:

That [Mueller’s] investigation confronted two broad questions: What was the nature of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, and was the Trump campaign involved? We can argue about how to interpret everything the investigation eventually uncovered. But the Republican position — and we have to be clear about this, because it’s utterly bonkers — has in effect been that there should never have been any FBI investigation at all into the Russian attack on the U.S. election.  …

… Their theory is that there was a vast and ruthless conspiracy within the Justice Department and specifically the FBI — just for the record, probably the most politically conservative agency in the entire federal government — to destroy Trump.

Barr has assembled a team to review the counterintelligence decisions made by the Justice Department and FBI officials regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. Expect more bloviating about the bleeping Steele Dossier for the rest of eternity. Whether anyone other than Barr ever sees the Mueller Report remains to be seen.

8 thoughts on “Toads on the Hill: Mnuchin and Barr

  1. It's really getting scary. It's time for the super hero to arrive on the scene to put an end to all this villainy.

    I'm experiencing that feeling that many people in abusive situations go through where they hold out hope that things will change even though their intellect and the advice of those around them tell them that their abuser will not become the person they hope they will be.

     Maybe I'm being a little melodramatic in expression my feelings, but I seriously see the current situation going on with the Mueller report and Trump's attempt to destroy the rule of law as battle for the soul of our republic. I'm worried.. especially when I see so many Repugs oblivious to the price being extracted from our nation.


  2. Swami,

    There really is nothing new here.

    It's just "Modern" Conservatism on tRUMP-made stetoids!

    After the Civil and Voting Rights Acts were passed, the GOP which helped pass them, ran to Nixon's Southern Strategy for political cover, in order to shift their power base from the North to the South.

    The "rest of the story," we all know.

    Today, our "Rule if Law" is hanging onto the cliff by a pinkie's fingernail.

    The Republican Party doesn't want to govern, they want to rule!  RULE!!!

    Party over people!

    Party Over Country!!


    A question for the late Senator Moynihan:

    Ok, we've 'defined (political) deviancy down' about as far as we can imagine – so far, anyway (shudders) – now what? 

    Now what?

  3. Trump is gaming DOJ  DHS and irs.  He is acting like a king  unaccountable. 

    Will we push back? 

  4. Whether it is Manafort,  popadopoulus,  Barr,  Mnuchin,  typical trump behavior. Say the right things pretend to be reasonable,  then crap stall lie use loaded terms , opposite of cooperation. Declare they'll never get x y  or z. Play tough for cameras. All game for cameras. Normalizing corruption propaganda  flooding zone.

  5. Can we please, pretty please, not pull a Bush Jr. after this mess and actually let loose the dogs on these folks after they leave office?  And how about some stricter laws that cabinet secretaries, should they be found so contemptuous of basic laws, will be subject to actual, you know, prison time. 

    My guess is these guys think they can get away with this because right now, given the Senate, no one will do a damned thing to them — impeachment of any and all of them is off the table.   

    We need to make it so that in the future, people in these positions think twice.  That means a) go after them once they are out so as to send a signal that this is now the norm and b) make it much easier to do so at the time of violation if laws are broken while they are in power. 

    For instance, Congress should be able to sue the IRS commissioner or whomever is responsible for forking over the tax returns and, if they are found guilty of not abiding by the law, jail time.

    Yes, I get it, the GOP will use these rules to go after future Dems, but you know what?  Last I heard, Dem administrations are far more compliant with subpoenas, information requests, etc.  I, for one, am willing to take that hit if it means no more of these clown shows.

    As it stands, barring a +1 majority in the house and a 2/3 majority in the Senate, you are basically SOL in terms of applying pressure from the Congressional side.  Clearly, oversight is not really much of an option other than "pretty please".  You think these bozos will abide by subpoenas?  Yeah right.  We need to put teeth on Congress' oversight authority.

    The only option we have right now, and maybe the House will do this, is budgetary pressure.  But how is that going to work?  Give us the tax returns or we defund the IRS.  I don't think that will scare the GOP.  Oversight needs to have teeth, or its not really oversight.

  6. "Their theory is that there was a vast and ruthless conspiracy within the Justice Department and specifically the FBI — just for the record, probably the most politically conservative agency in the entire federal government — to destroy Trump."


    And he beat them AND the entire Democratic Party anyway, because he is just that awesome, as any look at his record as (checks notes) — um, a failed real estate developer from Queens … wait, lemme try that again.



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