Donald Trump has been building stonewalls around himself and his current/former staff, because he believes his administration is above the law. He has been saying that he has been investigated enough, that the Mueller report already did that job. Trump has had a real issue with the separation of powers between the Executive branch and the co-equal Legislative branch. The real problem for POTUS is that he is not the king of the United States. Where does that leave chairs of the House committees who are investigating the Russian attack and the president?
Of course, the Russians have interfered in the U.S. 2016 presidential elections. They continue to do so. Trump administration officials told the former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen “Don’t bring it (Russia’s interference) up” to Trump, Bloomberg News reported. The president considers any mention of the issue as an attempt to undermine his presidency, as an attack on the legitimacy of his win.
Given that has been the commander-in-chief’s sensitive button, Nielsen found herself in a difficult place. She needed top-down support for her counterattack against Russia’s attack on the U.S. government, especially the elections. This was the equivalent of the suicide airplane dive-bombing of the Twin Towers in New York — only almost totally invisible.
Trump has been working against the House Democrats whose task it has been to investigate Moscow’s attack on America. He sees the whole issue as an attack on the legitimacy of his presidency, and perhaps he is right, but this was not just an attack on the presidency. It has been an attack on the foundation of our democracy.
As a result of Trump’s interpretation, he has been fighting the House Democrats’ inquiries for documents, records, and personnel.
Judiciary Committee Chair Representative Jerrold (Jerry) Nadler (D-NY) sent out subpoenas, and the Trump administration has indicated it will ignore them. Indeed, that has already occurred. Should that continue, Nadler recommended fining each administration official who either refused to comply or ignored the subpoena.
Nadler also suggested another alternative for contempt of Congress: jail time. Members of the House were surprised by the suggestion, but Nadler and his staff were deadly serious.
Beginning in January, the House committees bombarded the Trump administration with a load of subpoenas. These subpoenas were demands for people’s testimony and information.
The House should have received the entire unredacted version of the Robert Mueller report culminating in the 22-month-long investigation of Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election and any Trump campaign cooperation with Moscow. The House committees should have also received the underlying evidence, too. They did not.
House committees requested not only the Mueller report and supporting evidence but also six years of Donald Trump’s personal and business tax returns. In addition, the committees wanted to interview anyone involved in the White House security clearances.
A law professor at Cornell University Josh Chafetz said that going through the courts could mean months of delays. However, that would be an effective way to “cut appropriations” to noncomplying departments “or even to refuse to pay salaries” of officials who were responsible for the noncompliance. He said using the courts to “scare the Trump administration into acceding to their demands” would be a “huge mistake:”
‘A court is a neutral arbiter to demonstrate that there’s validity to the House’s request. If it’s just the sergeant-at-arms and unilateral action by the House, there’s a political price to pay for that. It just takes forever to go through the courts.’
Granted, Russia was the biggest trouble maker. Still, Saudi Arabia stole 5,000 Twitter accounts and turned them into bots. They were trying to gain 45’s good graces.
Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) sent Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin a request for Trump’s taxes. Mnuchin is responsible for the IRS (Internal Revenue Services). Neal gave the secretary until May 6 to comply. However, Mnuchin has indicated that he will not comply, because the request was a violation of a taxpayer’s privacy. The law is clear, though. The committee rightfully made the request. Unfortunately, going through the courts would take years.
Some attorneys have suggested that the House vote for a new ruling that would fine people for noncompliance. That is called “inherent contempt.”
Specializing in investigative oversight, Morton Rosenberg has been with Congressional Research Service Morton Rosenberg for 30 years. He claimed that the courts have supported Congress’ task of enforcing legislative powers for centuries. He said:
‘It’s political suicide to allow this to continue.’
Rosenberg put forth a draft of his proposed ruling. It would let the House fine an individual “$25,000 per day for not complying with a subpoena. If the official still didn’t comply, he or she would face jail time.”