Trump and Massive Resistance

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April 23, 2019 12:13 p.m.
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I’ve hinted at this in a few posts. It’s time to confront it head on. The White House isn’t doing the standard tussling with Congress about oversight: some stonewalling, some negotiation, taking some questions of privilege to court. It’s more accurately characterized as massive resistance. The Congress has a constitutionally mandated responsibility to oversee the executive branch. They are flatly refusing to comply with ordinary document production and testimonial requests across the board. It’s not a difference of degree but of kind. In itself it is an impeachment worthy refusal to follow the constitutionally mandated framework of American government. It’s up to Democrats to make this clear.

Now, what do the Democrats do? Some of it they’re already doing. Some of this will go to the Courts. They will need to request speedy resolution of open questions, while being careful not to forego the possibility of more positive decisions in the lower courts which might constrain, to some limited degree, Supreme Court adventurism.

The Congress will also need to try out some of its almost never used powers to literally compel testimony and document production.

But as much as anything else this is a political conflict: how to bring to heel a lawless President. The big error I see so far is that these joustings are being treated as legitimate legal processes which must be allowed to work their way through conventional processes and the courts. That’s not right and it gives the President free rein to try to run out the clock on any sort of oversight. Democrats need to find a language for the political debate that makes clear these are not tedious legal processes which will run their course. They are active cover-ups and law breaking, ones that confirm the President’s bad acting status and add to his and his top advisors legal vulnerability.

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