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: What Trump Is Hiding From the Impeachment Hearings
The president’s efforts to prevent the House from doing its job are just as worrisome as the Ukraine scandal.
The public impeachment hearings this week will be at least as important for what is not said as for what is. Congress will no doubt focus a lot on President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and his secret plan to get that government to announce a public investigation of the man he considered his chief political rival, Joe Biden.
But think about what the president is trying to hide in the hearings. He has been blocking government officials from testifying before Congress, invoking specious claims of constitutional privilege. And while the Ukraine allegations have rightly captured the attention of Congress and much of the public, Mr. Trump’s effort to hinder the House investigation of him is at least as great a threat to the rule of law. It strikes at the heart of American democracy — and it is itself the essence of an impeachable offense. [..]
Mr. Trump’s stonewalling is a grave problem because it means there is no way to police executive branch wrongdoing. The attorney general, William Barr, has said a sitting president cannot be indicted. The president’s lawyers have gone so far as to say, in light of that principle, that he cannot even be criminally investigated. But every serious scholar who adheres to the view that a sitting president cannot be indicted combines that view with the belief that the impeachment process is the way to deal with a lawless president. Indeed, the very Justice Department opinions that Mr. Barr relied on to “clear” the president say exactly that. Otherwise a president could engage in extreme wrongdoing, and the American people would have no remedy.
Jamelle Bouie: Who’s Afraid of Elizabeth Warren?
Quite a few people, and they have something in common. It’s not poverty.
President Trump has been good for America’s billionaires. He slashed corporate taxes, cut the top income tax rate and raised the total exemption for the estate tax, directly benefiting several hundred billionaires and their heirs. He’s placed wealthy supporters in key positions of government like the Commerce Department, rolled back Obama-era financial regulations and privileged the interests of favored industries — like resource extraction and fossil fuel production — above all else.
There are billionaires who oppose Trump, of course. But for the most part they aren’t class traitors. They still want the government to work in their favor. They still want to keep their taxes low, just without the dysfunction — and gratuitous cruelty — of the current administration. And they want Democrats to choose a conventional nominee: a moderate standard-bearer who doesn’t want to make fundamental changes to the economy, from greatly increased taxes to greater worker control.
Plenty of Democratic voters agree. But just as many have rallied behind candidates who want a more equal, more democratic economy. Two of the three leading candidates — Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — want new taxes on the wealthiest Americans and their assets. Sanders has the steeper tax but Warren is not far behind former vice president Joe Biden in national polling and leads the field in both Iowa and New Hampshire. With Biden struggling to break away from the pack, it looks like Warren actually could be the nominee, and anti-Trump billionaires are worried.
Donald Trump withheld US military assistance to Ukraine until it agreed to help Trump’s re-election campaign. That is an abuse of power of the highest order – a corruption of American democracy that undermines national security – and requires that Trump be removed from office.
As Congress begins public hearings to determine whether Trump’s actions merit impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate, it’s vital that the process focuses on these simple facts of Trump’s corruption. Over recent weeks the House has conducted depositions of current and former officials, all of which have corroborated Trump’s abuse of power. But since the deposition transcripts from those officials are thousands of pages long, the details can get lost in the endless spin by politicians and the media. Don’t expect much new information from the public hearings because the facts are already clear and conclusive. Rather, this is an opportunity for the public to hear directly from participants in this saga and for the American people to understand just how dangerous Trump’s actions are.
So, what should the American people watch for in the hearings and the process that could lead to impeachment?
Harry Litman: Why this lawsuit against Trump is a road to nowhere
If you’re having trouble making sense of the screwy lawsuit in federal court brought by Charles Kupperman, formerly the president’s deputy national security adviser, you’re not alone: The case is hard to follow, let alone analyze.
he already bizarre set of circumstances took a further strange turn Monday as Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s acting chief of staff, tried to horn his way into the case — which entails his actually suing Trump — and Kupperman and the House of Representatives asked the court to reject Mulvaney’s stratagem. By the end of the day Mulvaney had pulled back the request. Meanwhile, John Bolton, who shares a lawyer with Kupperman, lurks in the background, insisting that he will not testify without a subpoena yet not promising that he will comply if he is subpoenaed.
Given that the facts of the Ukraine scandal are relatively straightforward, and that transcripts of private depositions from key witnesses have already been released, some have wondered how much we’ll really learn from the public impeachment hearings.
But Ambassador William B. Taylor Jr. already dropped a new bombshell, about a conversation that occurred on July 26, the day after President Trump’s fateful phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
It concerns Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a ringleader of the scheme organized by Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into announcing a sham investigation that would smear Joe Biden.[..]
Since Taylor was not personally at this dinner, Sondland will certainly have to be asked about it when he testifies next week. But what we see here is Trump not as a disconnected figure, not as someone unaware of what is being done on his behalf, but as someone so intimately involved that he’s taking phone calls from Sondland to discuss the nuts and bolts of the whole plot.
This is important, because one defense of Trump that Republicans have floated is to essentially blame Giuliani, Sondland and maybe some others for the whole scandal, painting Trump as remote and therefore blameless.