Michael Stern argues that maybe the Trump Family suit against the Family firms’ accountants might not be a clear slam dunk. But then, in an update, he mostly walks that back.
Category Archives: Trump
I asked why the Trump Family is making so many bad legal claims all of a sudden, and gave some guesses. Other people have noticed the trend too, and have their own theories:
Digby says “Barr’s outrageous behavior and the White House attempts to stonewall all forms of oversight are pushing the Democrats toward impeachment, whether they want it or not.”
No word though on whether the strategy to trigger impeachment might be due to a political calculation that it would actually help Trump get re-elected. I don’t actually buy that, but I can see why it would seem like a way out an increasingly tight political box. Hey, it worked for President Clinton, didn’t it?
Paul Waldman says the goal is “Delay, delay, delay,” noting a suit I didn’t even mention, the subpoena-blocking lawsuit against his accountants.
I also forgot to mention Trump told all officials in the many departments to refuse to testify [beware video starts automatically]; presumably they’ll try to block the ensuing subpoenas too. So this is clearly a centrally coordinated strategy, such as it is.
Some other online comment, Jonathan Chait, on the anti-subpoena strategy, “The first thing to understand about this legal theory is that it is not a legal theory. … Trump’s opposition to congressional oversight appears to be an extension of his business strategy of threatening counterparties with expensive, time-consuming lawsuits in order to shirk his obligations. … [T]he courts might take long enough processing the “arguments” that Trump can keep his scandals bottled up until after the election. Trump’s extreme litigiousness is a natural extension of his general lack of shame.”
And Ian Millhouser at ThinkProgress, “Here’s a pro tip for lawyers: if you are going to ask a court to fundamentally alter the balance of power between the legislative branch and the judiciary, it’s a good idea to accurately describe any Supreme Court cases you rely upon. It’s a bad idea to tell the court that a case that absolutely eviscerates your legal argument is the best thing you have going for you.” That said, after a full-bore takedown of the Trump v. Deutsche Bank case, he ends with this warning, “There is always a risk, no matter how clear the law may be, that this Supreme Court will ignore it.”
Meanwhile, however, stuff like DHS Asserting Broad, Unconstitutional Authority to Search Travelers’ Phones and Laptops is, sadly, just business as usual.
Post-Mueller, the Trump Family1 has embarked on a novel litigation strategy: bringing really bad claims. Making terrible legal arguments is nothing new for the Trumps, but generally they’ve made those arguments as defendants, often while defending very amateurish and inept attempts to overturn Obama-era regulations. And almost universally, those lost.
Now, however, we see the Trump Family is moving on to offense2, and it’s not pretty: Treasury is setting up to argue it can ignore a quite clear statute requiring the IRS send Congress tax returns. Attorney General Barr, to his shame (if he has any), claims he can dictate to Congressional committees the terms of his appearances. Trump Family companies are suing Democratic House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings to block a subpoenas on his finances and suing Deutsche Bank and Capital One to prevent them from complying with subpoenas.
What all these cases have in common is that the legal theories on which they are based are tenuous to non-existent.
What gives? These could simply be Hail Mary passes by the guilty: try this because you have nothing better. Or they could be plays to delay bad news, maybe even run out the clock until the next election with appeals. Or, worst of all, they could be a cynical calculation that some or all of them might find favor before an increasingly stacked judiciary, and a very pro-Trump Supreme Court. Or, why not, it could be all of the above.
All of these are bad answers.
This is the report about possible crimes. What we don’t know is whether there will be a second report direct to Congress on the (arguably more important?) counter-intelligence project about foreign attempts to influence the election, and perhaps even more reports.
Dan has a whole bunch of sensible questions that reporters should be asking members of Congress from both parties about what they believe constitutes an impeachable offense. I agree they should be asking them.
So rather than asking Republican members of Congress about impeaching Trump, we should be getting them to say what they themselves consider impeachable offenses – arguably locking them in, when and if Mueller can prove they were committed.
These are straightforward yes-or-no questions:
- If a president is found to have solicited or knowingly accepted help from a foreign government to influence an American election, isn’t that an impeachable offense?
- If a president fires a special prosecutor investigating him, isn’t that an impeachable offense?
- If a president directly orders the Justice Department to prosecute his political rivals, isn’t that an impeachable offense?
- If a president pardons himself, isn’t that an impeachable offense?1
- If a president promises pardons to potential witnesses against him, isn’t that an impeachable offense?
And, bonus essay question:
- What level of presidential lying to you consider an impeachable offense?
But I think I know what most of the answers will be: “I don’t want to get into hypothetical questions.”
Even so, reporters should be asking them. Maybe the follow-up should be: “Wait, you mean you think there’s actually a sufficient probability of this that you consider the question hypothetical?”
Bonus xkcd on hypotheticals:
- Note by MF: For the record, I think there are two good arguments that if a President pardons himself the pardon is invalid. First there is the idea that ‘no man should be the judge in his own cause.’ Second there’s the idea that a pardon is a thing one person confers on another, so a self-pardon just is incoherent. [↩]