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.
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.
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.