Monday, August 07, 2017

Another Putin-Gate Sunday While Trumpanzee Golfs In New Jersey


Republican politicians, Senators Tom Cotton (AR) and Thom Tillis (NC) are very different characters but there is no way to accurately describe either one of them without using the words "right wing" or even "very right wing." Each was on TV yesterday, Tillis with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, and Cotton with John Dickerson on CBS news' Face the Nation. Believe it or not, somehow Señor Trumpanzee came up in both conversations. First a little background: On Thursday, Tillis, along with Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware, introduced the Special Counsel Integrity Act, which Tillis' office described as "bipartisan legislation that supports the integrity of independent investigations by allowing judicial review if a special counsel is removed. In the event that a special counsel is removed, the Tillis-Coons legislation allows the special counsel to challenge the removal in court, which would be heard and determined by a panel of 3 federal judges within 14 days of the filing of the action. The panel of judges would determine whether or not there was good cause for the removal of the special counsel. In the event that the panel of judges finds there was no good cause for the removal, the individual would be immediately reinstated as special counsel. Other provisions of the Special Counsel Integrity Act:"
Codifies existing Department of Justice regulations that a special counsel appointed by the department may only be removed for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or other good cause, like a violation of departmental policies. The Department of Justice must inform the special counsel in writing as to the reason for their removal.
Ensures that a special counsel appointed by the Department of Justice may be disciplined or removed from office only by the personal action of an Attorney General who has been confirmed by the Senate, or, if the Attorney General is recused from the matter, the most senior Department of Justice official who has been confirmed by the Senate and is not recused from the matter.
Provides that the legislation is retroactively effective as of May 17, 2017, and applies to any special counsel appointed or after that date.
When Chris Wallace asked the obvious, if the bill was directed against the Trump Regime, Tillis responded "Well, there’s no question that it is... That’s why we put the effective date back to the date of the hire of the current special counsel." Like most senators of both parties-- and, by the way, Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a similar bill Thursday as well-- Tillis is worried that Trump will do something that leads to the inappropriate firing of Robert Mueller. Tom Cotton, however, isn't one of the senators too concerned about it and he predicted Tillis' bill won't pass. He doesn't like the Senate safeguarding the country from Trump's deprecations. Cotton showed what he is when Dickerson stated that "First there was the vote on sanctions, which the President did not like with respect to Russia. Also in the Senate you took measures to make sure there were no recess appointments. And finally there are a couple of bipartisan efforts to make sure that the President can’t fire the special counsel." Dickerson observed that "[It] seems to be Congress is trying to constrain the president." He tried having it both ways.
Well, those are all very different kinds of actions. On the sanctions legislation, I supported that legislation because Russia and China are adversaries, and North Korea is racing towards having a nuclear armed missile that can strike the United States. The recess appointment issue is something that goes back to the Obama administration.

I can tell you, as a junior senator, I signed a sign-up roster early this year that was choosing when I was going to be in Washington, D.C., during a recess, to preside over a short session of the Senate, to insure that there wasn't a recess appointment. That's simply Congress taking its responsibilities seriously, to provide advice and consent to all nominations.

We did it under the Obama administration. It's happening under the Trump administration, as well. Finally, on those two pieces of legislation, I don't see them going very far. The Independent Counsel Statute in the 1970s and '80s and '90s was a disaster. We have an executive branch in which the power of all the departments and all the agencies reports to the single elected member of the President.

So those are all very different kinds of actions. But Congress is a co-equal branch of government. And in my opinion, for decades, Congress has ceded too much authority to the executive branch. And we should exercise our constitutional responsibilities seriously and with vigor.
Cotton is a warmonger and anti-Russia hawk and he twists himself into knots trying to defend Trump's romance with Putin and at the same time distancing himself from Trump's obvious lies about witch hunts and Fake News. "Russia," he said to Dickerson, "has a long history of using disinformation, deception, subterfuge, and espionage to influence Western democracies. That happened in our election last year when Russian intelligence services hacked into those emails and released them. It happened in 1983 when Russian intelligence services were behind much of the protest against the deployment of intermediate range nuclear forces to Western Europe. So it should come as no surprise that Russia continues its effort to manipulate Western democracies in a way to sow discord and disagreements between our countries in NATO and within the United States or any other Western European country. And it's something the United States obviously must be on guard against... [I]t shouldn't surprise any American to know that Russia uses its money and its intelligence services to spread disinformation, use subterfuge and deception and manipulation, to try to divide political opinion within the United States, within any Western European country, or among NATO countries. That's one of the techniques that Russia has used for decades, during the Cold War and during the Putin era... Russia remains an adversary to the United States. We have some overlapping interests. It would be better if our relationship was better. But our relationship is not good right now because of Vladimir Putin. There are steps that I think that we should be taking that we should have taken under the Obama administration. For instance, providing defensive weaponry to Ukraine. I encourage the President and the administration to take a look at those steps. I know they are doing so through deliberate, careful National Security Council meetings."

Back to Mueller for a moment, Tillis' co-sponsor, Chris Coons, was on ABC News' This Week and told viewers that he thinks "if the president should fire Robert Mueller abruptly, that would be crossing a big line, and I think you would be seeing strong bipartisan action from the Senate which might include our reinstating him or our hiring him to continue to conduct that investigation on behalf of Congress."

A die-hard Trumpy-the-Clown ally, Britain's Nigel-Farage-the-Clown, was on Fox & Friends yesterday whining that Ryan and McConnell are thwarting the Trumpanzee agenda, just as Theresa May is thwarting, in his mind, the fascist agenda in the U.K. "The political revolution of 2016 with Brexit and with Trump was people voting for change, real, fundamental change. And here we are in the middle of the following year and that change isn't happening." He's probably not aware that 3 million more people voted against Trumpanzee than for him. "What's so frustrating on both sides of the pond is that there are people who masquerade as conservatives in order to get themselves elected and are now damaging the attempt for us to get a clean Brexit, stopping the president from getting his agenda through Congress, and I think there is something very fundamental at stake here, it is people's faith and belief in the whole Democratic process."

Mueller portrait by Nancy Ohanian

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