Presidential Powers Checked, Trump Loses Like Nixon At Supreme Court


In 2016 Mitt Romney said there may be “a bombshell” in Donald Trump’s tax forms, and that was why they had not been released.  For a top Republican to have made such a statement, during an intense and highly bombastic election, was nothing short of startling.

Romney suggested either the tax forms would show Trump is not nearly as wealthy as he claims or that he had paid such a paltry tax rate that it would show he is what all know him to be.

Or as I term it, a grifter.

The continuing saga of Trump’s taxes, and the weaving and dodging that his lawyers take to make sure no one ever sees them, took a dramatic turn at the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court in two 7-2 decisions, with Cheif Justice John Roberts writing both rulings, made the goal of prosecutors in New York easier with their efforts to see Trump’s financial records.  It was a loss of stunning proportions for Trump, but a major victory for the foundations of what our civic books taught us about law and justice in our nation.

In the other ruling, the court decided Congress could not, at least for now, see many of the same records. It said that case should be returned to a lower court to narrow the parameters of the information being sought for their investigations.  I wish the power for congressional oversight and our system of checks and balances had been allowed a firmer hand in today’s ruling.

The last time there was a court case of this magnitude, dealing with presidential power of the scope presented regarding these tax forms, was when President Richard Nixon wanted to further obstruct justice by denying access to the famed Watergate tape recordings.  Then, as we witnessed today, the court sided with restrictions on presidential power.  We all can claim a huge win because the decision said Trump had no absolute right to block the release of the papers.

The words from the ruling were precise and carry the gravitas the nation needs at this time when Trump has foisted illiberal democratic actions upon the republic.

In our judicial system, “the public has a right to every man’s evidence,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.  “Since the earliest days of the Republic, ‘every man’ has included the president of the United States. Beginning with Jefferson and carrying on through Clinton, presidents have uniformly testified or produced documents in criminal proceedings when called upon by federal courts.”

He added: “(W)e cannot conclude that absolute immunity is necessary or appropriate under Article II or the Supremacy Clause.”

“No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.”

Trump may still raise objections to the scope and relevance of the subpoena for the papers. Litigation over those new objections will last many months or longer, but we have the grifter on the run.  And that is no small thing.

This blog has long contended many of the answers to Trump’s actions on the international stage would be revealed with the tax forms.  The citizens of this nation have to ask why Trump attempts so vigorously to hide his tax returns?   We should put this matter into historical terms.  No other president in the last 50 years has felt that they needed to keep all their tax returns secret.

Just consider the last election cycles, and it is easy to laugh at Republicans who have cheered Trump on over his had behavior at a time when both President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton,  along with President Obama released decades of tax returns. Yet Trump has fought in court, appeals to ever-higher levels, in a maddening determination to keep his tax returns secret.

It is no small thing to claim that the rule of law is still the guardrails on our republic.  These are trying times, as we all know too well.  While I would have liked to see an even harder knock on the concept of a unitary executive, I know that court cases are made at the margins many times.  I wish the oversight power of Congress had been provided the foundation it deserved in a nation that is to have three separate and powerfully effective branches.

But having said what I wished had happened does not detract from what was won.  A solid win that limited presidential power and a stunning loss for Trump who has done more to undermine our republic than anyone since Andrew Johnson severely botched reconstruction.

And so it goes.

Hillary Clinton (Very) Correct About Bernie Sanders

There are very few positive words ever posted on this blog about Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.  Namely, because I have very few kind things to say about him or the policy positions he holds as they are not rooted in math.  One can not get to where he wishes to take the nation without removing our basic understanding of addition and subtraction.

I have a natural disdain for populists–be they Donald Trump or the senator.  History is littered with reasons why populism is dangerous, and why Alexander Hamilton was correct about his concern over them during the infancy of our nation.

I also have serious issues with anyone who uses a political party, to which they do not belong, to seek office.  In the case of Sanders, we find a candidate unable to be effective in his current job hoping to secure a presidential nomination from a party he only ‘joins’ when he finds it convenient.  Then after loosing, as he did in 2016, he leaves the party.

Then there is the lack of Sanders’ math skills that he kept employing during the 2016 primary season.  Everyone with knowledge of only basic arithmetic knew he could never amass the required delegates even at the start of March that year.  But his relentless attacks on Hillary Clinton with repetitious anger only allowed for many of his supporters—who are not that different in mindset from their populous brethren on the Trump side–to sit out the November election, or to throw away their votes on someone who could never win.

Now Sanders and his supporters are all hot over the truth they need to hear.

The Hollywood Reporter: “In the doc, you’re brutally honest on Sanders: ‘He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It’s all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.’ That assessment still hold?

CLINTON: “Yes, it does.” 

The Hollywood Reporter: “If he gets the nomination, will you endorse and campaign for him?”

CLINTON: “I’m not going to go there yet. … I will say, however, that it’s not only him, it’s the culture around him. It’s his leadership team. It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it.”

Bernie Sanders will not receive the Democratic nomination this year.  The only thing we are not sure of as this posting is published is how much damage he and his supporters will again do to our nation.  From past performances, they care not at all for the larger needs of the nation.  Their blind devotion to Sanders–like the blind devotion of Trump supporters to their Dear Leader–is all the proof we need to again see the folly and danger of populism. 

Hillary Clinton Exonerated

Given the facts of the matter regarding the Department of Justice looking into the Clinton Foundation, as well as Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, those who followed this story felt sure of the outcome.   There was nothing but partisan smoke.  We all knew that.

But for those who kneel, bow, and bend over for Donald Trump and embarrass themselves–and their communities–by attending  Trump rallies to rant and shout about Hillary Clinton will not have the capacity to grasp the outcome.

For the rest here is the story from Vanity Fair.

Despite Republicans’ long insistence on Clinton’s wrongdoing—and Trump’s favorite “lock her up” rallying cry—the fact that the Huber investigation has reportedly been a bust doesn’t seem to come as much surprise to those inside the Justice Department itself. Senior Justice officials cited by the Post said that the investigation had largely been viewed as little more than a way to appease Trump and his Republican allies, and officials expected the inquiry was “unlikely to lead to anything of significance.” “We didn’t expect much of it, and neither did [Huber],” one source told the Post. “And as time went on, a lot of people just forgot about it.”

The news of the DOJ’s fruitless investigation comes just a few months after the State Department completed its own investigation into Clinton’s emails and use of a private server, which found that while 38 individuals did commit 91 security violations in emails sent to or from the private server, ultimately the server largely wasn’t used for transmitting classified information. “While there were some instances of classified information being inappropriately introduced into an unclassified system in furtherance of expedience, by and large, the individuals interviewed were aware of security policies and did their best to implement them in their operations,” a report on the investigation said. “There was no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.” Of course, Clinton being cleared of wrongdoing by Trump’s own executive branch isn’t about to stop the president from bashing Hillary nonetheless. (Never mind the fact that six of Trump’s own associates have been convicted of crimes, or that private email use has reportedly been rampant throughout the Trump administration.) Less than an hour after the Post report came out, Trump was back on the campaign trail attacking Hillary, repeating his favorite 2016 talking points to a crowd of supporters—Clinton’s innocence be damned. “Crooked Hillary—you should lock her up, I’ll tell you,” Trump told supporters.

Right-Wing Conspiracists Wrong About Hillary Clinton Classified Info

This blog has always wondered what the right-wing conspiracists do for relaxation.  After all, you and I head for escapism in a novel, the movie theatre, or some long afternoon drive.  But for those who always are way-out-there by living a life of fantasy with their conspiracy theories, what must they do on a night like this when mom turns the lights on in the basement and forces them to open a window?

Many a parent must be walking down the basement steps this evening to alert their man-child that the news reported Hillary Clinton did not mishandle classified material.  After all their energy expended to foment an alternate reality, the result has come down to a report based on nothing more than the truth. That makes your average right-winger mad enough to rip apart all the tin foil hats on his shelves.

The headline in the Washington Post flies in the face of all the far-right-wing media hysteria.

Overall, investigators said, “there was no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.” The report cited “instances of classified information being inappropriately” transmitted, but noted that the vast majority of those scrutinized “were aware of security policies and did their best to implement them.”

Maybe the conspiracists can fall back on a classic from their dad’s time of political activism.


Holding Third-Party Voters In Wisconsin In 2016 Responsible For National Crisis

I am not–nor have I ever been–a supporter or fan of Senator Bernie Sanders.  While I liked the style and feel of one of his ads during the primary season his overall persona made me turn away.

First, I have a problem, generally speaking, with populists.  Second, though I was never a fan of math in my years of education, I still believe math matters.  The numbers have to add up.    Thirdly, though I am a liberal Democrat with strong ideals, I still know that to govern effectively one has to be pragmatic.   To win an election one has to be even more so.

That in a nutshell are my reasons for shunning Sanders.  Playing to national fears, failing to accurately compute budget proposals, and drifting off into a land of fantasy when it comes to political reality may allow for some to cozy up to the Vermonter, but all that makes me run in the exact opposite direction.

It is with that start I wish to say how simply delighted it was to read the column from Capital Times Editor Paul Fanlund.  I agree with every keystroke he made when crafting his column.

What I reject is the suggestion that this generational shift should also bring ever more extreme policy prescriptions in races throughout the nation.

In part, I think that tendency is fueled by an understandable and boundless revulsion at Trump and his enablers. But here is my question: Do you really think there are enough voters who favor truly far-left prescriptions to make up for the centrist voters likely to be turned off by these litmus tests for ideological purity?

Excuse me, but aren’t the folks who provided Hillary Clinton a popular vote majority in 2016 also “voters”?

There are tons of such people who would do just about anything to interrupt the nightmare of Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress, and fear that extreme far-left positions might play right into GOP hands.

But it’s the attacks on Clintonism from the left that have become especially old.

Yes, the Democratic Party needs new and more diverse leaders — most anyone devoted to progressive outcomes would stipulate to that.

But what gets tiresome is this narrative that candidates like Ocasio-Cortez somehow feel more aggrieved about Trump’s America than others who are apparently dismissed as namby-pamby pragmatists.

In fact, in today’s blood-sport politics, it may be those just a bit left of center who are the most unfairly criticized. They are caricatured by the right and then — and this still happens in 2018 — are attacked by what might be called the Bernie Sanders left.

The last time I looked, it was not the Hillary Clinton voter who helped create this American catastrophe. It was, to a large extent, the “never Hillary” crowd. People like actress Susan Sarandon, who claimed there was no difference between Clinton and Trump, or Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who drained critical votes from Clinton. And yet both still deny any responsibility.

And, oh, let’s remember those poor Bernie backers who, you know, just didn’t feel it in 2016, so they sat the election out — and gave us Trump.

Now, we’re told, they are the ones — not the rest of us — who claim to possess a unique passion and vision and that others should fall in line.

Let me add a bit more to the facts that we must never forget.

In Wisconsin we needed roughly 20,000 votes to carry it for Clinton. The numbers were roughly the same for Michigan and Pennsylvania.  Had those three states found their common sense the electoral college would have been 270 for Hillary Clinton. Not only must we vote—but we must always vote smart.

Consider that in Wisconsin the amount Clinton lost by was less than the 30,981 votes Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein garnered statewide to get 1.1 percent of the total.  Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson took 3.6 percent of the statewide total or 106,434 votes.   Trump will have his second Supreme Court pick next week, and with the age of the court likely a third pick, too.

We must be smarter with how we vote when given the chance.  And we must hold those accountable in 2016 who delivered such a disaster to the nation and world.  They can try to duck and weave and spin their yarns but they did this to our nation.  This is on them.

Picture For The History Books—And Thankfully Not Ruined By Donald Trump

Who Speaks Honestly To Voters About Job Creation And Technological Changes?

I have often written that in 2016 Donald Trump was loud and fact-less in the campaign, and Hillary Clinton  lost a chance to have an educational type campaign with the electorate.   I have also written over and over that Thomas Friedman is one of the great thinkers of our time.  His last book, Thanks For Being Late, in my estimation is essential reading.  The pace of technological changes and innovation that has surrounded the globe will not slow down–nor should we desire a drop in innovations.

Life-time learning is going to come as a shock for many people in red states who felt the last book they had to read was back in high school.  There is no way to hold back the future, but we can and should, be much smarter in how we accept it.  China is investing in mega amounts of dollars in new energy technology while the United States is wishing to dig with zeal for coal!

Some laugh at education and elite schools while others around the globe embrace the power of learning.   Conservatives tell our nation on a continuous basis taxes are never to be increased.

Over and over the public has been failed from politicians who will not have an adult conversation with the voters.  Many voters are not able to process the information but the candidates do not even try to make the more elevated case for why we need to think bigger and bolder about the future in relation to jobs.

This is a time when productivity numbers have not leapt forward in the same way that technology has in the world.  It takes us roughly 10-15 years to get used to the sort of technological changes that we used to absorb in a couple of generations.  But when one adds that technology becomes obsolete roughly every five to seven years it showcases the need for frank discussions from politicians to the voters they serve.

Friedman writes in his book some ways the American government could navigate to assist the nation in this highly-changing world.  He argues for setting up a single-payer health system to passing free-trade deals and building infrastructure.  But with a broken political system and pure chaos due to Republicans the voters seem to be on their own for the time being.

Shepard Smith Speaks Out And Rattles The Zoo

There are those moments on Fox News when everyone needs to pay attention.  Such as this one.

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith debunked what his own network has called the Hillary Clinton uranium “scandal,” infuriating Fox viewers, some of whom suggested that he ought to work for CNN or MSNBC.

Smith’s critique, which called President Trump’s accusations against Clinton “inaccurate,” was triggered by renewed calls from Republicans on Capitol Hill for a special counsel to investigate Clinton.

Fox News, along with Trump and his allies, has been suggesting for months a link between donations to the Clinton Foundation and the approval of a deal by the State Department and the Obama administration allowing a Russian company to purchase a Canada-based mining group with operations in the United States.

But Smith, in his broadcast, made many of the same points as the fact-checkers. “Now, here’s the accusation,” he said.

Nine people involved in the deal made donations to the Clinton Foundation totaling more than $140 million. In exchange, Secretary of State Clinton approved the sale to the Russians, a quid pro quo. The accusation [was] first made by Peter Schweizer, the senior editor-at-large of the website Breitbart in his 2015 book “Clinton Cash.” The next year, candidate Donald Trump cited the accusation as an example of Clinton corruption.

He then played a video of Trump’s version of the “scandal” in which he claimed:

 Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved the transfer of 20 percent of America’s uranium holdings to Russia. Well, nine investors in the deal funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation.

Smith called the statement “inaccurate in a number of ways,” noting that “the Clinton State Department had no power to veto or approve that transaction.” Rather, it must be approved by an interagency committee of the government consisting of nine department heads, including the secretary of state.