We have entered a new, unprecedented and extraordinarily dangerous phase of lawlessness. How we emerge will determine if we succumb to fascism or remain a democracy. We now stand at the threshold. Trump is aggressively challenging fundamental tenets of the Constitution, in particular the embedded right of the Congress to provide independent oversight of the Executive Branch. Never in our history have we seen this overt contempt for the law, not even during the worst of Watergate.
Trump has now defied lawful, constitutionally mandated, congressional demands for documents and witness testimony.
Trump ordered Carl Kline, a former White House personnel director, to defy a subpoena from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The Committee wants Kline to testify about the 25 security clearance denials that were overturned by Trump. The White House is openly calling for Kline to break the law. Note too that the underlying issue is not trivial; inappropriately granting security clearances has real and immediate national security implications.
Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin has defied a subpoena from the House Ways and Means Committee to provide six years of Trump’s tax returns. He has zero legal bases for defying the request. The statue guiding the release of tax returns is simple, clear and unambiguous. Section 6103 of the federal tax code states that upon written request from the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee (among others) the Secretary of the Treasury “shall furnish such committee with any return or return information” per the request. There are no exceptions allowed; the Secretary shall provide the returns. Period. Objections from the Executive Branch do not matter.
On a third front of lawlessness, the White House is now threatening to exert Executive Privilege to prevent witnesses who cooperated with the Special Counsel from testifying before Congress. This will first come to a head concerning a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee to compel testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn. Except the White House can no longer claim such privilege since McGahn had White House approval to speak to the Special Counsel . That sanctioned cooperation eliminates any future claim of privilege.
But this Administration has no regard for the constitution and so acts with reckless abandon, no matter the damage to our democracy. If Trump is not compelled by our courts to comply with congressional subpoenas, our democracy is dead, and the president becomes a dictator, beyond the reach of any oversight, investigation or law.
If that conclusion seems far-fetched or extreme, consider the world we now live in post-release of the redacted Mueller report. Open defiance by the Executive Branch of congressional oversight is bad enough, but only the consequence of something much more serious: the most damning conclusion from the Mueller report is that Republicans have abandoned our country. Republicans have given up on democracy and sacrificed cherished principles for cheap political gain at the terrible cost of our future security and freedom.
With Chin Chins McConnell in the lead, we are witnessing in real time the disintegration of our institutions. We are watching our democracy die. We have proof of massive Russian interference in our elections; and proof that Trump obstructed justice, routinely and on a vast scale. Rather than rally the troops to fight our common enemy, the GOP response is to declare victory, exonerate the president, and declare war on investigators. The latter is frightening, and one further step to fascism.
We have lost the narrative. Any other president at any other time would have been impeached immediately upon issue of the Mueller report, but the Trump nightmare continues unfazed. Voters in the heartland simply dismiss the report as fake news; Huckabee Sanders lies about lying, then lies anew and everybody shrugs; the Republican led Senate refuses to pass any legislation to protect our democracy from further Russian attacks on our elections; Attorney General Barr has shed any pretense of impartiality, endangering all aspects of the rule of law; McConnell has destroyed centuries of bipartisan stewardship of the Senate as he does the bidding of the president, subverting the essential founding principle of three independent and equal branches of government. Faux Noise relentlessly promotes propaganda that feeds the ignorance, hate, misogyny, xenophobia, racism and anti-intellectualism on which Trump and his supporters thrive.
The mainstream media blew this story, buying into the false conclusion that there was no proof of obstruction of justice and no proof of a conspiracy to work with Russia to throw the election. Both conclusions are the inversion of truth. Mueller concluded that Trump obstructed justice, but since he could not indict a sitting president (according to DOJ policy) he would not charge Trump with a crime for which he could not prosecute. But understand this: Mueller said that if he could have cleared the president, he would have. He did not. Mueller has proof that Trump obstructed justice, even if that is constantly misreported. Trump obstructed justice; and continues to do so in plain sight.
Our President has failed us. Our Department of Justice has failed us. Our Senate has failed us. Our news organizations have failed us. Our voters have failed us. Our response to the Mueller report is that of a failing republic. The House of Representatives, led by Democrats, is now the only institution standing between us and fascism. We can only hope they have the will, ability and legal wherewithal to save us from ourselves.