President’s Lawyers Shift From “Deny, Deny, Deny”
Here’s how their new reasoning goes: according to Axios, Trump lawyer Michael Dowd claims the “President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case.” So in Dowd’s view Trump, even if Trump knew stuff or lied about stuff, he is untouchable. Even if evidence of collusion or obstruction emerge from the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, it won’t matter. This argument was initiated by Trump ally (and member of OJ Simpson’s defense team) Alan Dershowitz. (Trump called his recent appearance on “Fox & Friends” a “must watch”).
Here’s a link to Article 2 of the Constitution. We’re not lawyers, but we don’t see it spelled out quite so cleanly. Some legal minds interviewed by the Washington Post agree, saying most simply, Dowd’s argument defies common sense. But we find lots of things in the legal system do. Separately, Politico talked to 18 lawyers, who have surprisingly varied takes on the assertion. A lot of the differences seem to have to do with how to discern whether a President is just behaving unwisely vs. corruptly.
(Of course article 2 of the Constitution also provides for impeachment, should the President be convicted of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”).
This morning, Reuters reports Special Counsel Robert Mueller has asked Deutsche Bank for data on Trump family accounts, a small item that could turn out to be huge.
The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin has been way ahead on this story, and his analysis of the situation suggests that there are viable legal arguments that might put Trump out of reach. We linked to his story yesterday; we’re linking to it again today. Among his key points:
- There is no federal crime of “collusion”, although evidence of collusion could be seen as part of a conspiracy to violate federal law. But criminal conspiracy would be hard to prove and prosecute.
- Impeachment wouldn’t be a slam dunk either, because it’s up to Congress to decide what constitutes a “high crime”. Toobin postulates: “there appears to be little Mueller could tell the majority that would prompt an impeachment investigation, much less an actual vote to drive Trump from office.”
And he reminds us of this quote from Gerald Ford: “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”
Maybe there’s one good–or bad–thing happening here: it no longer feels like it’s way too soon to start talking about this.
More Physical Evidence That Roy Moore Is A Creep And A Liar; Nonetheless, He Regains Republican Support
After Trump’s Tweeted early morning endorsement we told you about, the President called Moore, and according to the Alabama Senate candidate closed out the conversation by saying “Go Get ’em, Roy!” Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee, which had cut off all funding to Moore’s campaign turned the spigot back on.
All that in the face of more evidence of a relationship from a woman who says she dated Moore when she was in high school and he was a 32-year old District Attorney. According to the Washington Post, Debbie Wesson Gibson says she unexpectedly found a note from Moore in her high school “memory book”. (But still no photo: we’ve been saying that’s the only thing that would really do him in, but so far nothing’s turned up).
Initially, In an interview with Sean Hannity, Moore admitted to knowing Gibson. But more recently he’s denied that, saying repeatedly at campaign events “I do not know any of these women”.
The Post has video of the note, a description from Gibson of how she found it, and how she felt when Moore started insisting he doesn’t know her. It’s all here:
With the election just one week from today, 538’s Nate Silver presents an astounding statistic: saying Moore right now “is performing around 25 points worse than Republicans ordinarily do in Alabama“. But if turnout is good, that wouldn’t be enough to hand him a loss.
CEOs Up In Arms About Blunder By Republicans As They Rushed To Push Their Tax Bill. Or Was It…?
When Republican Senators were trying to find money to fund the pet projects of holdouts, they decided to remove repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax (or AMT) from their version of the bill.
The way the AMT works, is a rich person or corporation has to do their taxes twice, once with all the itemized deductions they want to take, and once under the AMT formula, where they don’t get to take most deductions. Then they must pay the higher of the two amounts. This was introduced during the Nixon Administration, when wealthy Americans started using tax loopholes to deduct themselves into oblivion.
So what the Senate’s now done is passed a bill that reduces the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%, but leaves the corporate AMT at 20%. Meaning pretty much every corporation would end up having to pay the AMT, since that amount will absolutely be bigger than 20% minus deductions.
This move is being portrayed by the media as a big careless dumb mistake, and CEOs are howling. They say it’ll kill their Research and Development, which are highly tax deductible. And on the face of it, it does look like they’re right.
At the same time, 99% of corporations do not pay the AMT right now, because with a 35% percent tax rate, it’s damn hard to get to 20% even with big deductions. Meaning even if the Senate does not fix its “blunder”, they’ll still be better off than they are now.
They’re just really upset because they were salivating at the idea of a 20% tax rate and being able to take all those fat R&D deductions on top of it. They want to have their cake and eat it too. And they will.
The Senate and House are now in the process of reconciling their versions of the bill, so they should have a chance to “fix” it, since the House bill still repeals that tax. Still, they’re going to have to find some money elsewhere. We’ll let you know where, when they find it…
The Ultra-Conservative “Freedom Caucus” In The House Throws A Tantrum, Briefly Holds Tax Bill Hostage, All Because Paul Ryan Might Not’ve Let Them Go Home For Christmas
Ryan’s been pushing for a stopgap spending bill that would expire December 22nd in order to prevent the government from shutting down this Friday. They want it through December 30th. So they threw a fit.
That’s about all there is to that story.
The only reason we’re bringing it up is we’ve been wondering if the relatively smooth sailing for tax cuts is a sign that Republicans are getting it together and gaining momentum, or if it was a desperate realization they had to get something done by the end of the year. This kerfuffle hardly provides a definitive answer, but it gives us a hint.
The Supreme Court Does Trump A Favor
In an unsigned ruling, the Court approved a White House request to fully implement the most recent travel ban even while it’s being challenged in lower courts. This is the one that so cleverly adds Venezuela and North Korea so Trump can’t be accused of only targeting Muslims. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they were against granting the request.
Guns! Guns! Guns!
That gun bill we’ve been talking about: you know, the one where somebody who has a domestic violence conviction in New York and as a result is forbidden from owning a gun will now be able to apply for a permit from Georgia and then bring the gun back to New York?
That’s set for a vote today in the House. And it’s likely to pass, with 213 Members of Congress signing on as co-sponsors, including a few Democrats. It’ll then have to get at least 8 Democratic votes in the Senate, but some Democratic Senators up for re-election next year have suggested they might be on board.
Republican Members of Congress point out they’ve wrapped the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017″ in with requirements that fix the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by setting penalties for agencies that fail to report to the FBI. Great. But hardly something to crow about since it never should’ve been broken in the first place. The shooter who recently massacred 26 people in and around a church in Texas was banned by the Air Force from buying a gun, but slipped through the cracks when they never informed the F.B.I.
They are also boldly asking the Justice Department to open an investigation into how many times “bump stocks” have been used in the commission of violent crimes. That’s the device the Las Vegas shooter used to enable his semi-automatic rifles to replicate fully automatic fire.
Here’s a draft of the combined bill.
BTW, USA Today reports the FBI issued 4,000 orders last year to retrieve guns from people who shouldn’t have been allowed to buy them. That’s the highest level in more than a decade. They don’t say how many of those guns were actually retrieved.
So: our question is, do we “forgive” Democrats who vote for this bill because they feel they need to in order to save their seats? Maybe yes: while this bill will definitely make things worse, and more confusing, not less as its drafters claim, it won’t make things that much worse than the horrible place we’re already in right now. With Republicans making such brazen power moves as the tax cuts and now the timing of this bill, Democrats need to preserve every seat they can, and be pragmatic. Although we can’t see how we’d be able to explain this to someone who ends up being shot because of this new loosening of regulations. So on second thought, no.