WASHINGTON, December 11, 2018 — An Oval Office meeting between President Donald Trump and Congressional Democratic leaders on Tuesday turned into a shouting match which ended with Trump vowing to shut down the government if Congress does not vote to fully fund a wall along the US-Mexico border.
“If we don’t get what we want one way or the other…I will shut down the government,” Trump said.
The meeting began amicably, with Trump holding forth on the bipartisan criminal justice bill that is currently awaiting passage in the Senate. But as the topic shifted to border security it devolved into a contentious shouting match between the president, Schumer, and Pelosi, who is the leading candidate to be Speaker of the House when the 116th Congress convenes in January.
Pelosi and Schumer implored Trump to prevent a partial government shutdown by accepting one of the compromise proposals currently under discussion among House and Senate leaders.
Trump has already signed legislation representing five of the 12 spending bills Congress must pass each year, and both compromise proposals would represent the remaining seven spending bills, which fund parts of the government under the jurisdiction of the House and Senate Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services-General Government, Interior-Environment, State Department-Foreign Operations, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, and Homeland Security appropriations subcommittees.
One of the proposals suggested by Schumer and Pelosi would have Trump sign a so-called Continuing Resolution, which would continue funding the government for the next year at last year’s funding levels. The other would see him sign legislation representing six of the seven remaining appropriations bills to fund the government for the next fiscal year, along with a continuing resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current funding levels.
Trump initially suggested that any shutdown over wall funding would be the fault of the 10 Senate Democrats whose votes are needed to cut off debate on legislation, but then changed his tune by vowing to shut down the government “if we don’t get what we want.”
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” he told Schumer. “I will take the mantle of shutting down. and I’m going to shut it down for border security.”
Speaking to reporters after the Oval Office meeting ended, Schumer said Trump’s “temper tantrum” will not be successful in getting him his wall.
He noted that of the $1.3 billion included for border security in last year’s funding bill, less than six percent has been used.
“They haven’t even spent last year’s money and now they’re demanding much, much more,” he said.
White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway Should Be Fired For Repeated Ethics Violations, Watchdog Agency Says
WASHINGTON, June 13, 2019 — The independent agency responsible for ensuring compliance with the Hatch Act has recommended that Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway be fired for repeated violations of that law.
The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity while in federal employment.
Conway, the agency said, “violated the Hatch Act on numerous occasions by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.”
“Given that Ms. Conway is a repeat offender and has shown disregard for the law, OSC recommends that she be removed from federal service.”
As Conway’s supervisor, President Donald Trump is ultimately responsible for deciding whether she will be disciplined for violating a well-known law that has been on the books since 1939. But he did not take any action when she was found to have previously violated the same law.
In a statement, White House Deputy Press Secretary Steven Groves hit back at the agency’s “unprecedented actions” against Conway, calling them “deeply flawed” and a [violation of] her constitutional rights to free speech and due process.”
Groves added that OSC’s decision appeared to be influenced by “media pressure and liberal organizations.”
“Perhaps OSC should be mindful of its own mandate to act in a fair, impartial, non-political manner, and not misinterpret or weaponize the Hatch Act.”
This is a developing story, check back for details.
As Dems Probe Whether Census Is Being Rigged Against Minorities, Trump Claims Executive Privilege Over Commerce Department Docs
WASHINGTON, June 12, 2019 — President Trump will invoke executive privilege to keep the House Oversight Committee from viewing documents that could shed light on whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census was motivated by racial or political animus, a Commerce Department official said Wednesday.
In a letter to House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, Commerce Department Legislative Affairs Director Charles Kolo Rathburn said Cummings’ decision to go ahead with a vote to hold Ross in contempt forced Trump’s hand.
“It is disappointing that you have rejected the Department of Commerce’s request to delay the vote of the Committee on Oversight and Reform on a contempt finding against the Secretary this morning. By doing so, you have abandoned the accommodation process with respect to the Committee’s January 8, 2019 request for documents and information and April 2, 2019 subpoena for documents concerning the Secretary’s decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 Census,” said Rathburn, a political appointee who is performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary [of Commerce] for Legislative Affairs because President Trump has not nominated anyone to fill the Senate-confirmed position.”
“Accordingly, I hereby advise you that the President has asserted executive privilege over the specific subset of the documents identified by the Committee in its June 3, 2019 letter — documents that are clearly protected from disclosure by the deliberative process, attorney-client communications, or attorney work product components of executive privilege.”
Additionally, Rathburn said Trump will use the privilege to withhold all documents the committee had subpoenaed on April 2 as part of its investigation into whether the his administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census was an attempt to reduce the counted population of Democratic-leaning minority groups.
The decennial census, a requirement laid out in Article I, Section II of the Constitution, is required in order to determine how many seats in the House of Representatives — and electoral votes — will be allocated to each state.
Because the Constitution requires the census to count “the whole number of persons in each state,” most experts say a question on citizenship — a subject which the census has not asked about in more than half a century — is unnecessary.
While the Commerce Department says adding the question is necessary — even without performing the statistical testing required by law — to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, experts also say adding such a question would result in fewer responses from Latino households in which some members are undocumented.
After a number of states sued the Trump administration in hopes of blocking Ross from adding a question that could potentially cause them to lose representation in Congress, a district court judge found the Commerce Department to have violated the Administrative Procedure Act by acting in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner when deciding whether to add the question.
The judge’s detailed finding of fact did not address whether the Trump administration’s decision to add the question was motivated by a desire to hurt Democrats or dilute minority representation, and the administration’s appeal is currently before the Supreme Court.
But the case was upended last month after the progressive advocacy group Common Cause obtained a cache of documents from the daughter of a deceased GOP redistricting expert.
Those documents reveal that the expert, Thomas Hofeller, had corresponded with Commerce Department officials and other top Republicans about how the GOP could gain an advantage from the addition of a citizenship question to the census.
As a result, members of Cummings’ committee are hoping to look into whether Ross or other administration officials committed perjury when testifying before Congress or as part of the lawsuit over the citizenship question.
While the President customarily has broad latitude when claiming executive privilege — meant to protect presidential communications so as to give the chief executive the benefit of candid advice — courts have placed some restrictions on its uses.
In 1974, a unanimous Supreme Court held in United States v. Nixon that a president could not use a claim of executive privilege to defy a judicial subpoena.
But one executive privilege expert — University of Virginia law professor Saikrishna Prakash — cautioned that the Nixon ruling does not apply to a Congressional subpoena.
“[The] Nixon [case]…was…an actual prosecution as opposed to Congress being involved, and the court…set aside the question of whether [executive] privilege ought to apply or how it would apply to Congress,” said Prakash, a Senior Fellow at UVA’s Miller Center.
“The [Supreme] Court has never said how the executive privilege applies to Congress if it does apply to Congress, but the lower courts seem to think that it does.”
Prakash predicted that the Trump administration’s invocation of executive privilege will be “the first step in a complicated dance” which will most likely end with some sort of negotiated settlement between the administration and Congress.
But if the White House asks the judicial branch to declare that the President can use executive privilege to block Congressional investigations, Prakash said it’s possible that a court would find that Congress’ interest in determining whether members of the executive branch broke the law to be sufficient enough to pierce the veil the administration hopes to draw around its actions.
“One could always say, ‘we’re worried about the possible, uh, possible, uh, uh, possible crimes by executive branch officials and therefore we need this information.’ If that’s enough to overcome the privilege, you might understand that as saying that, in effect, there is no privilege vis-a-vis Congress.”
“That might very well be the right answer, but it’s not an answer that the courts have given us yet,” he said, adding that House Democrats will most likely use such an argument if they try to enforce their subpoena in court.
Trump Makes Kim Jong Un A Promise: No More Spying On North Korea
WASHINGTON, June 11, 2019 — The United States will not recruit or “run” agents to gain intelligence on North Korea, President Trump said Tuesday, citing yet another “beautiful letter” he’d received from North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un.
Trump was speaking to reporters before boarding Marine One en route to Iowa, when he was asked about a report by the Wall Street Journal alleging that that Kim’s half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, had been a Central Intelligence Agency asset.
“I don’t know, I have not heard about that,” Trump said. He then proceeded to contradict himself and promise Kim regime that there would be no further spying against him by the United States.
“I saw the information about the CIA with respect to his brother or half-brother, and I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices, that’s for sure,” Trump said, adding for emphasis: “I would not let that happen under my auspices.”
Trump then revealed that he’d received “a beautiful letter” from the North Korean dictator.
“I can’t show you the letter, obviously, but it was very personal, very warm, very nice letter,” Trump said, adding that the so-called Hermit Kingdom has “great potential” under Kim’s leadership.
When asked if Trump had ordered any intelligence agencies to cease operations directed at North Korea, a spokesperson for Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates referred questions to the White House.
The White House had not yet responded to a request for comment at our deadline.