Pondering the Pundits

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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Charles M. Blow: Impeach Trump, Repeatedly

A president should not be able to stonewall and run out the clock.

When the Democratic leadership was finally forced to formally back an impeachment inquiry, they faced a choice: focus broadly on all of Donald Trump’s corruption and unfitness, which could drag on for a long time, or focus narrowly on the new revelations about Trump and Ukraine and do so quickly. They chose the latter.

I happen to agree with that strategy, if one assumes that you only have one shot at this. But, I also propose another scenario: Do both. Draw up articles of impeachment on the narrow case of Ukraine, but don’t close the impeachment inquiry. Keep it open and ready to draw up more articles as new corruption is uncovered. Impeach Trump repeatedly if necessary. [..]

Trump deserves to be impeached for every offense he has committed against the office of the presidency and the American people. That means that the impeachment inquiry can’t be constrained by electoral calendars or judicial machinations.

Karen Tumulty: Trump’s latest move to fend off impeachment might be his dumbest yet

President Trump’s latest move to ward off impeachment may be his dumbest one yet.

On Friday, the president demanded that the full House must vote before it proceeds on an impeachment inquiry, and said he would not comply with any congressional requests for documents or testimony until it does.

He should be careful what he asks for.

The possibility for such a showdown has been in the air for days, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) brought up the subject herself when I interviewed her Wednesday. Her reaction: Bring it. [..]

And once the resolution passes, what happens then? Trump’s bluff will have been called. To resist handing over necessary materials at that point only bolsters a case for obstruction of justice, which is an impeachable offense.

By forcing the House to play its hand, Trump may find out that he’s the one who is holding the losing cards.

Harry Litman: The Justice Department is oddly incurious about potential criminality in the Trump-Ukraine mess

Something is not adding up about the Justice Department’s account of its decision not to open a criminal investigation based on a complaint by a whistleblower in the U.S. intelligence community about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

The complaint was passed on to the Justice Department through both the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and, as NBC News reported Friday, the CIA’s general counsel, Courtney Simmons Elwood.

The Justice Department appears to have conducted a wholly cursory examination. It interviewed no witnesses and examined no evidence other than the complaint. Text messages within the State Department that might have provided evidence of criminality were not examined. Justice closed the file without opening a formal investigation. [..]

The department’s chief explanation for closing the file with so little investigation is that the referral mentioned only potential campaign finance violations. Justice concluded that there was no possible crime because President Trump — in a July phone call urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the supposedly suspicious involvement of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter in Ukrainian matters — had not sought a quantifiable “thing of value,” as required by the pertinent statute.

There are two conspicuous defects with this account.

Fred Hiatt: It’s not news that Trump is corrupt. What’s new is how he is succeeding in corrupting our government.

It is no longer surprising to see President Trump wielding the government as an instrument purely for his personal benefit or vengeance.

What is both alarming and new is how government, increasingly, is giving way and giving in.

Three years into Trump’s term, we are witnessing the accelerating erosion of a bedrock American principle: that the awesome power of government will be wielded fairly, based on facts and evidence, and without regard to political fear or favor.

A normal government that cared about corruption in Ukraine, as officials in this administration sometimes pretend they do, would seek improvements in its judicial system. But Trump has no such concern, as you can tell from his July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president. He never mentions corruption, but presses only for two specific investigations he hopes will benefit his domestic political fortunes.

David Leonhardt: The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You

Almost a decade ago, Warren Buffett made a claim that would become famous. He said that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, thanks to the many loopholes and deductions that benefit the wealthy.

His claim sparked a debate about the fairness of the tax system. In the end, the expert consensus was that, whatever Buffett’s specific situation, most wealthy Americans did not actually pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. “Is it the norm?” the fact-checking outfit Politifact asked. “No.”

Time for an update: It’s the norm now.

For the first time on record, the 400 wealthiest Americans last year paid a lower total tax rate — spanning federal, state and local taxes — than any other income group, according to newly released data.