Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
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Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III: Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional
What now seems an eternity ago, the conservative law professor Steven Calabresi published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in May arguing that Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel was unconstitutional. His article got a lot of attention, and it wasn’t long before President Trump picked up the argument, tweeting that “the Appointment of the Special Counsel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”
Professor Calabresi’s article was based on the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2. Under that provision, so-called principal officers of the United States must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate under its “Advice and Consent” powers.
He argued that Mr. Mueller was a principal officer because he is exercising significant law enforcement authority and that since he has not been confirmed by the Senate, his appointment was unconstitutional. As one of us argued at the time, he was wrong. What makes an officer a principal officer is that he or she reports only to the president. No one else in government is that person’s boss. But Mr. Mueller reports to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. So, Mr. Mueller is what is known as an inferior officer, not a principal one, and his appointment without Senate approval was valid.
But Professor Calabresi and the president were right about the core principle. A principal officer must be confirmed by the Senate. And that has a very, very significant consequence today.
Lawrence Douglas: Why was Jeff Sessions fired? For being loyal to his office, not Trump
In an act of unusual forbearance, Donald Trump waited a full 12 hours after the end of the midterm elections to sack Jeff Sessions. Clearly the president had been itching to get rid of Sessions for months. No matter that Sessions had been one of Trump’s earliest and most vocal supporters, endorsing him when no other Republican senator was willing to embrace the untethered reality TV star as a serious political force. But the early bromance quickly soured, and for most of his unhappy tenure at the helm of the justice department, Sessions became one of Trump’s favorite targets of ritualistic humiliation.
The offense? In March 2017, Sessions recused himself from the Russia inquiry when it emerged he had misremembered certain meetings with the Russians during the campaign. Trump likes to claim he doesn’t hold grudges – witness his recent campaigning for “lyin’ Ted” Cruz – but Sessions’ act was unpardonable. In recusing himself, the attorney general took control of the Russia inquiry out of the hands of a Trump loyalist, and handed it to Rod Rosenstein, where it remained until today.
Sessions placed loyalty to his office above fealty to his chief, the same sin that got James Comey axed.
Heather Cox Richardson: America’s descent into total oligarchy has been stopped. For now
American democracy just got some breathing room. Democrats took control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday night, where they can put a check on runaway Donald Trump and the compliant Republican Congress. Had this not happened, America’s descent into oligarchy was imminent.
But the election is only a stay. It is not the triumph of American democracy.
It could have been. Tuesday night’s blue wave was a popular tsunami. Despite voter suppression in states like Georgia, Democrats still won by 7.1% popular margin. Unfortunately, because of gerrymandering, by which Republicans have cut extreme districts that favor themselves, Democrats will pick up only 27 seats despite their popular strength. A majority of voters – by a large margin – rejects the Republican party, but the party has rigged the system to retain power. [..]
More than that, though, the Democratic House will stand up to Trump’s effort to undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election, and any crimes associated with that interference. Mueller has stayed in the shadows lately, likely waiting for the midterms to pass, but with them behind us, we expect to hear more from him very soon. The Mueller investigation has already netted guilty pleas from four of Trump’s top advisers, and Trump’s frantic tweets on the subject suggest that he is worried that he and his children will be connected to obstruction, collusion, and/or financial crimes. His wildly careening press conference the day after the election, followed by his abrupt firing of Jeff Sessions, suggests that he feels the walls closing in.
Susanne Moore: The US press corps has to learn to stand up to Trump
What sort of person sits and watches a colleague being bullied and says nothing? Someone in a low-status job fearful of their boss, someone with low self-esteem who thinks they can do nothing, someone who feels powerless. Someone who is a coward? Maybe. This is the way the bully is sanctified and lives to fight another day. I wouldn’t say that my profession is full of people with low self-esteem or who are easily cowed. I like to think of all the noble and brave reporters out there; I know most hacks are egomaniacs. So how then do we explain the entire press corps at Donald Trump’s news conference on Wednesday?
What did they think they were doing? I often think Americans are over-polite, but this was madness. Trump hasn’t just arrived on the scene; his modus operandi is well known. He lies and dismisses any criticism as fake news. He goes in for word salads of fact-free association. He has only one message: that he is the greatest, and the assembled media are the enemies of the people. Obviously he was going to come out of the midterms claiming victory and on the attack. This time he went for Jim Acosta from CNN and some microphone wrangling ensued. Acosta had pointed out that “the caravan” is a distraction and very many hundreds of miles away. He was told he was a rude and terrible person. A reporter who asked about enabling white supremacy was told the question was racist. Acosta has now had his press credentials removed.
The rest of them sat there as if stunned by Trump’s routine bad behaviour. What do they think these press conferences achieve? Do these journos think they are going to get a scoop? Why do they take part in this show of malicious narcissism? Where is their solidarity? The deference shown to Trump is remarkable. A walkout or a boycott should have happened long ago. Trump behaves this way in part because the press pack lets him. It amplifies his behaviour.
Charles M. Blow: Trump, Under Scrutiny and Unleashed
Well, that was bittersweet.
I’m not sure I would call Tuesday’s election results the blue wave many expected, but liberals absolutely made progress — and history — as Democrats assumed control of the House of Representatives, in part by electing a historic number of women to the body.
Furthermore, the incredible diversity of the newly elected Democratic class offers a more comprehensive reflection of the current contours of the nation.
But there was also heartbreak, as Republicans increased their margin in the Senate and some acclaimed liberal hopefuls in the South came close but fell short.
That may temper excitement, but it shouldn’t erase it. Whenever a chamber of Congress changes hands, it is a big deal. This is an even bigger deal, because it represents the first real legislative check on Donald Trump’s power as president since he took office.
Under Republicans, the House of Representatives made a mockery of its oversight responsibility, if not abandoned it altogether.
Trump grew bolder and more brazen as he realized that there would be no political price to pay for his rhetoric and his actions. The Republican representatives were cowed before the pig.