My vote for top story of the past week is Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) coming out as the first national GOP legislator to call for the beginning of presidential impeachment hearings. Amash is known as a libertarian Republican of integrity. He’s ultra-conservative (a founding member of the Freedom Caucus) but occasionally has bucked his party on principle. He also loves keeping his constituents apprised of his decision-making reasoning on social media, as illustrated by his nine-part, comprehensive tweet May 18 explaining why impeachment hearings should proceed. (scroll down for full article)
— RECENT HEADLINES –
“Fmr. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn Told Mueller About Trump Lawyer Attempts to Threaten Him, Pressure His Non-Cooperation w/ Mueller Investigation; More Obstruction of Justice” (5/16/2019)
“Trump Breaks Record: 66 Days w/o WH Press Conf.; 300+ Days w/o Pentagon Press Conf.” (5/16/2019)
“Fed. Judge Orders Public Release of Mueller Report Redactions Related to Michael Flynn” (5/16/2019)
“Trump, AG Barr Still Falsely Saying ‘Treason’ to Describe Mueller Investigation Origins” (5/17/2019)
“Treasury Sec. Mnuchin Misses Congressional Deadline, Refuses to Turn Over Trump Taxes” (5/17/2019)
“GA, MS, Other States Following Alabama w/ Passage of Near-Total Abortion Ban Laws” (5/17/2019)
“Fox News Poll: Biden Beats Trump 49-38, 4 Other Dem. Candidates Within Margin of Error” (5/17/2019)
“1st Republican Legislator, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Calls for Trump Impeachment” (5/18/2019)
“Deutsche Bank Hid Reports Generated by Its Own Investigators About Transactions Flagging Possible Money Laundering Between Trump, His Son-in-Law Jared Kushner, and Russian Entities” (5/19/2019)
“Fed. Judge Upholds Cong. Subpoena, Orders Trump Acct. Firm Mazars to Produce Records” (5/20/2019)
“Fmr. Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Says Current Trump Lawyer Jay Sekulow Instructed Cohen to Lie to Congress About Trump Tower Moscow: When Contact w/ Russia and Trump Org. Ended” (5/20/2019)
“Fmr. DOJ Prosecutors Letter Signatories Saying Trump Crimes Indictable, Up to 1,000” (5/20/2019)
“Former WH Counsel Don McGahn Disobeys Subpoena for Congressional Testimony” (5/21/2019)
“Fmr. WH Comms. Director Hope Hicks, McGahn Aide Subpoenaed by Congress” (5/21/2019)
“More House Dems. Pressuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to OK Impeachment” (5/21/2019)
“Internal IRS Legal Memo Exposed, Says IRS Must Turn Over Trump Taxes to Congress” (5/21/2019)
“DOJ Deals w/ House, Will Produce Mueller Redactions, Other Info to Avoid AG Contempt” (5/22/2019)
“House Speaker Pelosi Tells Reporters Trump Is ‘engaged in a cover-up’” (5/22/2019)
“Trump Walks out of Infrastructure Meeting With Schumer, Pelosi, Makes Rambling 10-Min. Statement to Press: Slams Pelosi’s ‘Cover-Up’ Statement, Defends Self With Flagrant Lies About Mueller Investigation, Report, Says He Won’t Work w/ Dems. Until all Investigations Are Stopped” (5/22/2019)
“NY State Passes Bill Allowing 3 Cong. Committees Access to Trump’s State Tax Returns” (5/22/2019)
“Fed. Judge Upholds Cong. Subpoena, Orders Deutsche Bank to Produce Trump Records” (5/22/2019)
My vote for top story of the past week is Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) coming out as the first national GOP legislator to call for the beginning of presidential impeachment hearings. Amash is known as a libertarian Republican of integrity. He’s ultra-conservative (a founding member of the Freedom Caucus) but occasionally has bucked his party on principle. He also loves keeping his constituents apprised of his decision-making reasoning on social media, as illustrated by his nine-part, comprehensive tweet May 18 explaining why impeachment hearings should proceed:
“Here are my principal conclusions: 1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report. 2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct. 3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances. 4. Few members of Congress have read the report.
“I offer these conclusions only after having read Mueller’s redacted report carefully and completely, having read or watched pertinent statements and testimony, and having discussed this matter with my staff, who thoroughly reviewed materials and provided me with further analysis.
“In comparing [Attorney General William] Barr’s principal conclusions, congressional testimony, and other statements to Mueller’s report, it is clear that Barr intended to mislead the public about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s analysis and findings.
“Barr’s misrepresentations are significant but often subtle, frequently taking the form of sleight-of-hand qualifications or logical fallacies, which he hopes people will not notice.
“Under our Constitution, the president ‘shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.’ While ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ is not defined, the context implies conduct that violates the public trust.
“Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment.
“In fact, Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence. …
“Few members of Congress even read Mueller’s report; their minds were made up based on partisan affiliation — and it showed, with representatives and senators from both parties issuing definitive statements on the 448-page report’s conclusions within just hours of its release.
“America’s institutions depend on officials to uphold both the rules and spirit of our constitutional system even when to do so is personally inconvenient or yields a politically unfavorable outcome. Our Constitution is brilliant and awesome; it deserves a government to match it.”
(Amash, Justin, R-Mich., U.S. representative; Twitter posts; 5/18/2019.)
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Justin Amash has answered my 2017 question: Who Will Be the Edward Brooke of the Trump Era?
HEADLINES & MORE (Week Ending 5/23/19)
Obstruction: Michael Flynn Revealed Previously Unknown Trump Attempts to Influence His Testimony, Before and After His Guilty Plea
“Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn told the special counsel’s office that people connected to the Trump administration and Congress sought to influence his cooperation with the Russia investigation. … Flynn recounted multiple instances in which ‘he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the administration or Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation.’ Prosecutors say they were unaware of some of those instances, which took place before and after his guilty plea. … [A]n unidentified Trump lawyer left a message with Flynn’s attorneys reminding them that the president still had warm feelings for Flynn and asking for a ‘heads-up’ if Flynn knew damaging information about the president.”
(“Michael Flynn Told Mueller’s Team White House, Congressional Officials Tried to Influence His Cooperation”; CBSNews.com; 5/17/2019.)
Mueller Report: Judge Orders Michael Flynn-Related Redactions Be Made Public
“A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016. U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voicemail [in which] Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators. … Sullivan also ordered that still-redacted portions of the Mueller report that relate to Flynn be given to the court and made public.”
(Leonnig, Carol, D. & Helderman, Rosalind S.; “Judge Orders Public Release of What Michael Flynn Said in Call to Russian Ambassador”; The Washington Post; 5/16/2019.)
Trump Finances: Treasury Secretary, IRS Commissioner Disobey Subpoena to Produce Trump Tax Returns
“Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig have rejected another congressional inquiry into President Trump’s tax returns to a congressional committee, virtually guaranteeing the dispute will end up in court. … In a letter to [House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard] Neal [(D-Mass.)] sent by Mnuchin on Friday afternoon, the Treasury secretary says he refuses Neal’s subpoena and that he will provide a memo from the Justice Department at some point in the future outlining the administration’s legal argument. Mnuchin and Trump’s lawyers have argued that Neal’s request lacks a legitimate purpose, while Neal has said the information is necessary to determine whether the IRS is following its stated guidance of auditing sitting presidents and whether that applies to Trump’s businesses.”
(Wilhelm, Colin; “Mnuchin, IRS Commissioner Refuse Subpoena for Trump Tax Returns, Setting Up Likely Lawsuit”; Washington Examiner; 5/17/2019.)
Abortion: Other States Following Alabama’s Lead in Passing Near-Total Abortion Ban Laws
“The bill signed by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Wednesday prohibits abortion in almost every circumstance and is considered the most restrictive abortion law in the country. The legislation makes exceptions only for the health of the mother and for fetuses with ‘fatal anomalies’ that make them unlikely to survive outside the womb. Rape and incest are not exceptions to Alabama’s ban. …
“Lawmakers in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah have passed new antiabortion bills, and similar measures are pending in other states. … These restrictions generally are meant to provoke legal challenges that ultimately elevate the issue to the Supreme Court. … Now that two Trump-appointed justices are on the Supreme Court, social conservatives see potential for a reversal of the court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. … New York and Vermont, meanwhile, have enacted protections of abortion rights.”
(Iati, Marisa & Paul, Deanna; “Everything You Need to Know About the Abortion Ban News”; The Washington Post; 5/17/2019.)
Impeachment: 1st Republican House Member Calls for Presidential Hearings to Begin
“U.S. Representative from Michigan, Justin Amash, … said he believed that President Donald Trump has engaged in ‘impeachable conduct,’ becoming the first politician of his party to call for removing the president from his party. [Amash] also accused Attorney General William Barr of ‘deliberately’ misleading the public over the actual content of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference into the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections.
“In a Twitter thread on Saturday, Amash said he believed ‘few members of Congress even read’ special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and that the report itself established ‘multiple examples’ of Trump committing obstruction of justice. ‘Here are my principal conclusions: 1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report. 2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct. 3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances. 4. Few members of Congress have read the report,’ Amash said on Twitter. … ‘Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment,’ he added.”
(“Michigan Rep. Justin Amash Becomes First Republican to Call for Trump’s Impeachment”; Yahoo News; 5/19/2019.)
Trump Finances: Deutsche Bank Hid Money-Laundering Alerts for Trump, Kushner Transactions
“Anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog. The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to five current and former bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes. But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice. The reports were never filed with the government.”
(Enrich, David; “Deutsche Bank Staff Saw Suspicious Activity in Trump and Kushner Accounts”; The New York Times; 5/19/2019.)
Trump Finances: Judge Orders Accounting Firm Mazars to Hand Over Trump Financial Records
“A federal district judge has told the accounting firm Mazars it will need to turn over Donald Trump’s accounting records from before he was president to the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee. In a 41-page opinion, Judge Amit Mehta of the D.C. District Court rejected Trump’s attempt to block the committee’s subpoena, asserting that Congress is well within its authority to investigate the President.
“Congress specifically can probe the president for conflicts of interest and ethical questions, Mehta wrote. ‘History has shown that congressionally exposed criminal conduct by the president or a high-ranking executive branch official can lead to legislation,’ Mehta wrote, citing the Watergate investigation by the Senate. ‘It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a president for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct — past or present — even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry,’ he added. Mazars has seven days until it will have to comply with the subpoena.”
(“Judge Orders Trump Accounting Firm to Hand Over Records to Congress”; MSN News; 5/21/2019.)
Obstruction: Michael Cohen Said Trump Lawyer Jay Sekulow Instructed Him to Lie to Congress
“The president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen told lawmakers during a closed-door hearing earlier this year that Trump attorney Jay Sekulow instructed him to lie about when negotiations for a Trump Tower in Moscow ended. … Cohen falsely claimed in 2017 testimony that talks on the Moscow project ended in January 2016 before later admitting that discussions continued into June of the presidential election year. …
“During two closed-door hearings before the House Intelligence Committee, Cohen was more specific about the changes Sekulow asked him to make, including saying Jan. 31, 2016, was the date on which discussions about the Moscow project ended. … Sekulow told Cohen the date was significant because it came before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, the opening contest of the White House race, Cohen reportedly told the committee.”
(Rodrigo, Chris Mills; “Cohen Told Lawmakers That Trump Lawyer Sekulow Instructed Him to Lie About Moscow Tower Project: Report”; The Hill; 5/20/2019.)
Subpoenas: Don McGahn Disobeys House Subpoena to Testify
“The White House’s former top lawyer, Don McGahn, defied a congressional subpoena and skipped a hearing Tuesday where lawmakers had planned to press him on President Donald Trump’s efforts to thwart the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. McGahn’s refusal to comply with a House Judiciary Committee subpoena came at the direction of the White House and after a legal opinion from the Justice Department on Monday said that he could not be forced to appear before the panel.
“The committee’s chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), bristled at McGahn’s absence. ‘This conduct is not remotely acceptable,’ he said Tuesday, facing an empty witness chair. ‘Our subpoenas are not optional.’ … Nadler said Tuesday that he intended to pursue McGahn’s testimony ‘even if we have to go to court to secure it.’”
(Jansen, Bart; “Don McGahn, Former White House Counsel, Defies House Subpoena and Skips Hearing on Russia Probe”; USA Today; 5/21/2019.)
Subpoenas: House Subpoenas Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, McGahn Aide Annie Donaldson
“The House Judiciary Committee announced Tuesday that it has subpoenaed former White House communications director Hope Hicks for documents and testimony as part of the panel’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump and his associates obstructed justice and engaged in public corruption.
“Hicks, along with other members of the president’s circle, have been given until June 4 to submit all requested documents. She is expected to testify before House Judiciary lawmakers on June 19. The panel has also issued a subpoena for Annie Donaldson, a former aide in the White House counsel’s office, for documents and a private deposition for June 24. Donaldson was a top aide to former White House Counsel Donald McGahn, who on Tuesday defied a subpoena from the committee to testify. President Trump had directed McGahn not to appear.”
(Caplan, Joshua; “House Judiciary Chair Nadler Subpoenas Hope Hicks”; Breitbart; 5/21/2019.)
Impeachment: House Democrats Putting Pressure on Pelosi to Start Process
“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing pressure from within her own leadership ranks to take a more aggressive strategy toward impeachment even as Pelosi made clear that she is pursuing a deliberate approach. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler discussed with Pelosi the advantages of an impeachment inquiry in terms of adding weight to a court case. … Nadler, whose committee has been on the front lines of investigating the findings from within special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, broached the topic with Pelosi because several members of his committee have been pressing to open an inquiry. …
“The tensions displayed behind closed doors underscore the growing divide within the caucus about how to proceed in the face of White House resistance to all its demands, as Pelosi and some of her top confidants argue that acting with too much haste would be a gift to their political foes while a growing faction of Democrats — that now includes several high-profile and high-ranking members — push them to take a tougher stand against what they call a lawless President.”
(Raju, Manu & Watkins, Eli; “Pelosi Faces Pressure From Key Democrats to Start Impeachment Process”; CNN.com; 5/21/2019.)
Trump Finances: Confidential IRS Legal Memo Says Treasury Secretary Must Turn Trump Taxes Over to Congress
“A confidential Internal Revenue Service legal memo says tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president takes the rare step of asserting executive privilege. … The memo contradicts the Trump administration’s justification for denying lawmakers’ request for President Trump’s tax returns, exposing fissures in the executive branch.
“Trump has refused to turn over his tax returns but has not invoked executive privilege. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has instead denied the returns by arguing there is no legislative purpose for demanding them. But according to the IRS memo, which has not been previously reported, the disclosure of tax returns to the committee ‘is mandatory, requiring the secretary to disclose returns, and return information, requested by the tax-writing chairs.’ The 10-page document says the law ‘does not allow the secretary to exercise discretion in disclosing the information provided the statutory conditions are met,’ and directly rejects the reason Mnuchin has cited for withholding the information.”
(Stein, Jeff & Dawsey, Josh; “Confidential Draft IRS Memo Says Tax Returns Must Be Given to Congress Unless President Invokes Executive Privilege”; The Washington Post; 5/21/2019.)
Mueller Report: DOJ Agrees to Provide Redacted Content, Underlying Info to Avoid AG Barr Being Held in Contempt
“The House Intelligence Committee will not enforce a subpoena against Attorney General William P. Barr as planned Wednesday, after the Justice Department agreed at the 11th hour to produce the redacted material and underlying information from the special counsel’s report that the panel sought, albeit more slowly than it wanted.
“Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the committee’s chairman, announced the deal in a statement Wednesday morning. He warned that the subpoena ‘will remain in effect and will be enforced should the department fail to comply with the full document request.’ Schiff added that he expects the ‘initial production’ of providing the committee with 12 categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence material from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of election interference by Russia would ‘be completed by the end of next week.’”
(Demirjian, Karoun; “Justice Department and House Intelligence Panel Strike Deal for Mueller Materials”; The Washington Post; 5/22/2019.)
Donald Trump: President Choreographs “Impromptu” Infrastructure Meeting Walk-Out, Press Statement Because Pelosi Said Earlier That President Is “Engaged in a Cover-Up”
“An angry President Trump stormed out of a Wednesday meeting with Democrats about a $2 trillion infrastructure plan and said he won’t work with them as long as they are pushing what he calls ‘phony’ investigations. ‘Instead of walking in happily to a meeting, I walk in to look at people who said I was doing a cover-up,’ Trump said at an impromptu appearance in the White House Rose Garden after bolting out of the sit-down with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. ‘I don’t do cover-ups,’ the president fumed. Trump railed against Democrats for continuing to investigate him after special counsel Robert Mueller submitted his bombshell report last month.”
(Goldiner, Dave & Sommerfeldt, Chris; “Trump Storms out of Infrastructure Meeting With Democrats — Pelosi Says He ‘Lacks Confidence’”; New York Daily News; 5/22/2019.)
It’s true that Speaker Pelosi told reporters that morning she believed the president is “engaged in a cover-up.” But we also know Trump sent the speaker and Senate minority leader a letter in the days before this scheduled meeting saying he would not work with them on infrastructure until they passed his NAFTA reboot.
The conventional wisdom says the president had no plan to present for financing his proposed $2 trillion project. So he choreographed his ostensibly impromptu indignant walkout of Wednesday’s meeting so he could aver no more White House legislative cooperation of any kind until Congress stopped all presidential investigations. How do we know the walkout and press statement were choreographed? 1) There was no chair set for the president at the Cabinet room meeting location. 2) The White House had preprinted signs and props set up at the presidential lectern in the Rose Garden.
Trump Finances: New York State Passes Law Giving Congress Access to Trump State Tax Returns
“The New York state Assembly passed legislation Wednesday to give Congress access to President Donald Trump’s state tax returns. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill, which passed the state Senate earlier this month. The legislation, which passed 84 to 53, would amend New York law to permit the commissioner of the state Department of Taxation and Finance to release the state tax returns of those in federal, state, and local elected or higher-level public offices, along with entities those people control or have a large stake in, that are requested by the leaders of congressional tax-writing committees.
“‘Secrecy in government breeds corruption,’ Thomas Abinanti, a Democratic assemblyman, said as the legislation was being debated, adding that Trump has ‘intentionally and publicly thwarted the legitimate and necessary oversight of Congress. Congress must guarantee that no government official is selling government policy for personal gain,’ he said.”
(Smith, Allan; “N.Y. Lawmakers Pass Bill to Allow Congress Access to Trump’s State Tax Returns”; NBCNews.com; 5/22/2019.)
Trump Finances: Judge Orders Deutsche Bank, Capital One to Hand Over Financial Records
“A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a request by President Trump to block congressional subpoenas for his banking records, dealing the latest blow to the president in his bid to battle Democratic investigations into his personal finances. The decision in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York could clear the way for Deutsche Bank and Capital One to hand over the president’s financial records to Democrats in the House. Trump’s attorneys could appeal the decision. … But U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos said Wednesday that Trump’s lawsuit was unlikely to succeed.”
(Merle, Renae & Kranish, Michael & Sonmez, Felicia; “Judge Rejects Trump’s Request to Halt Congressional Subpoenas for His Banking Records”; The Washington Post; 5/22/2019.)
Trump Corruption Chronicles — We Must Never Forget