Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dances With Wusses

So help me God.

THE GENTLEMAN FROM NEW YORK and his hordes are overstepping boundaries and devouring our institutions like hors d'oeuvres, as a swarm of termites feasting on the foundation of a mighty fortress.  He has called the press "the enemy of the American people"; disrespected the courts by disparaging a "so-called judge"; and referred to the loyal opposition as "obstructionists" even though his party has the majority in the House and in the Senate, where they changed the rules to work their will and put the Frozen Trucker Case Judge on the High Court.  And because he betrays his duty and is surrounded by the supposedly distinguished who cannot distinguish between career and country, between self-interest and the Constitution, those who take seriously the oath to support and defend the supreme law of the land "against all enemies, foreign and domestic" must not be shy about confronting the child who defiles the office and embarrasses the nation.

     "Mature national security specialists seasoned in the ways of Washington simply lend an air of occasional competence to an otherwise shambolic White House," according to Thomas E. Ricks.  "By appearing before the cameras, looking serious and speaking rationally, they add a veneer of normality to this administration.  In the process, they tarnish their own good names."

     The pervasive pattern of all the New Yorker's men continues; and anyone who doubts the old saying that "An army takes on the character of its commander" need only review the record of the past few months.

     In April, General Kelly, a Cabinet officer, made remarks which one thought, upon first hearing of them, were either taken out of context or that he was joking.  But such was not the case.

     "If lawmakers do not like the laws they've passed and we are charged to enforce--then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws.  Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines."

     In May, the day after firing the Director of the FBI, who was investigating the Russian Connection to the 2016 election, the gentleman from New York met with Russia's Foreign Minister and their Ambassador in the Oval Office.  Four days later, Lt. General H.R. McMaster, the second National Security Adviser, did his best to cover for him when the press learned that he had shared sensitive Israeli intelligence with them.

     "The story that came out tonight as reported is false."

     The next day he provided more close semantic support.

     "...(T)he premise of that article is false--that in any way the President had a conversation that was inappropriate or that resulted in any kind of lapse in national security."  (Emphasis added)

     And eleven days later, when it was revealed that the son-in-law wanted to use secure systems in the Russian Embassy or Consulate to side-step our Intelligence Community, McMaster made one of the most misleading understatements imaginable.

     "We have backchannel communications with a number of countries.  What that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner, so I'm not concerned."

     But such conduct paves the way for another seven days in May.

     In June, the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, and the Director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Mike Rogers, appeared on Capitol Hill.  Senator Angus King (I-ME), who was puzzled over their refusal to answer questions regarding their White House conversations, asked if executive privilege had been invoked, and was informed that it had not.

     "Then why are you not answering our questions?"

     "Because I feel it is inappropriate," Rogers replied.

     "What you feel isn't relevant, Admiral."

     King then asked for clarification about whether classified information was involved, which apparently was not the case.

     "What is the legal basis for your refusal to testify to this committee?" King demanded of Coats.

     "I'm not sure I have a legal basis, but I am more than willing to sit before this a closed session and answer your questions."

       Feelings, nothing more than feelings
       Trying to forget my feelings of love
       Teardrops rolling down on my face
       Trying to forget my feelings of love

     Seven days later, a man who should have been acquainted with law and precedent treated them as strangers.  Instead of riding to the rescue, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III behaved like those for whom he was named--and wiped his feet on the Constitution.  When a Watergate Assistant Special Prosecutor was asked about the Attorney General's Senate testimony, he used the following legal terms:  "Liar, liar, pants on fire."

     "This is nothing short of outrageous.  Congress has an independent obligation to conduct oversight," Jennifer Rubin, a displeased Republican noted.  "Witnesses cannot simply decide they don't want to share.  If they could, there would be no oversight.  While they were not under subpoena, their behavior was contemptuous and frankly unprecedented.  The committee has the option to subpoena witnesses, demand answers and then hold them in contempt if they decline to answer."

     "...(T)he long dormant inherent contempt power permits Congress to rely on its own constitutional authority to detain and imprison a contemnor until the individual complies with congressional demands."  ("Congress's Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure" by the Congressional Research Service, Summary)

     Here, Congress acts without the assistance of the other branches.

     "Under the inherent contempt power the individual is brought before the House or Senate by the Sergeant-at-Arms, tried at the bar of the body, and can be imprisoned or detained in the Capitol or perhaps elsewhere."  (CRS, 10)

     That should give pause to one inclined to tell legislators to "shut up" or those who fail to cite legal principles in response to questions--but talk about how they "feel."

     "...(T)he witness can be imprisoned for a specified period of time as punishment, or for an indefinite period (but not, at least by the House, beyond the end of a session of the Congress) until he agrees to comply."  (CRS, 11)

     Of course, checks and balances still apply.

     "When a witness is cited for contempt under the inherent contempt process, prompt judicial review appears to be available by means of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus....  While Congress would not have to afford a contemnor the whole panoply of procedural rights available to a defendant in criminal proceedings, notice and an opportunity to be heard would have to be granted."  (CRS, 11; emphasis added)

     There are other options.

     "Although many of the inherent contempt precedents have involved incarceration of the contemnor, there may be an argument for the imposition of monetary fines as an alternative.  Such a fine would potentially have the advantage of avoiding a court proceeding on habeas corpus grounds, as the contemnor would never be jailed or detained."  (CRS, 11)

     Adjustments can be made to put the practice on standby alert.

     "...(A)lthough the majority of the inherent contempt actions by both the House and the Senate were conducted via trial at the bar of the full body, there is historical evidence to support the notion that this is not the exclusive procedure by which such proceeding can occur....  Actually, the consideration of the use of committees to develop the more intricate details of an inquiry into charges of contempt of Congress date back to the very first inherent contempt proceedings of Messrs. Randall and Whitney in 1795."  (CRS, 13)

     But if the Legislature allows the Executive to undermine comity--institutional courtesy--then the members may as well hang out with Tiny Tim.

       Tiptoe through the window
       By the window, that is where I'll be
       Come tiptoe through the tulips with me

     Lost in all the latest drama, as the curtain falls and the whining and whimpering comes to an end, is how rehearsal began.  For, two days after the election, the gentleman from New York was warned in the Oval Office about Michael Flynn by the President of the United States.  And despite the warning about hiring him as National Security Adviser, he did so anyway.  Then, sixteen days before the opening, Flynn told the transition team that he was under investigation.

     As of noon on Installation Day, from the moment "So help me God" passed his lips, he has been in violation of the emoluments clause, the take care clause, and the oath.  (Article I, Section 9, Clause 8; Article II, Section 3; & Article II, Section 1, Clause 8)  Together, they go beyond, say, civil or inherent contempt, to raise the curtain for an encore, a showstopper of an impeachable offense--contempt of the Constitution.  And he has been working on more violations ever since.

     Six days after installation, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned White House Counsel Don McGahn about Flynn's "underlying conduct" that was "problematic."

     The next day Yates and McGahn had a follow-up meeting, and that evening in the Green Room, the gentleman from New York had dinner with the Director of the FBI.

     "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty."  (Statement for the Record by James R. Comey, 3)

     His part of the conversation became a chorus.

     "I need loyalty."  (JRC, 4)

     But Comey was not singing background.

     Three days later, the conductor fired the Acting Attorney General and kept Michael Flynn.  The message was clear.

     Eighteen days after the warning to the White House Counsel--and after The Washington Post broke the story--Flynn resigns.

       It must have been love but it's over now.
       It must have been good but I lost it somehow.

     Wait, Roxette.  Wait.  After the thirteenth comes the fourteenth, which is Valentine's Day.  And this is better than Forrest Gump's box of chocolates:  The gentlemen from New York cleared the Oval Office of everyone except the Director of the FBI.  Cupid's arrow had found its mark.

     "He is a good guy and has been through a lot....  I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.  He is a good guy.  I hope you can let this go."  (JRC, 5)

     Six weeks later, when the man, who had been fired as Director of Defense Intelligence by the previous Administration, continued to be a problem, the gentleman from New York phoned the Director of the FBI and asked him to "lift the cloud."  (JRC, 6)  But all he had to do was stop the rain dance.

     Nevertheless, twelve days later, the gentleman from New York placed another call to the Director.  He said "the cloud" was getting in the way of his doing the job.  Cue a hit by Martha and the Vandellas.

     "Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know."  (JRC, 7)

     In May, Comey was fired.  And then the comrades came marching in the following day.

     In an earlier time, men like McMaster understood Dereliction of Duty.

     "The disaster in Vietnam was not the result of impersonal forces but a uniquely human failure, the responsibility for which was shared by President Johnson and his principal military and civilian advisers.  The failings were many and reinforcing: arrogance, weakness, lying in the pursuit of self-interest, and, above all, the abdication of responsibility to the American people."

       'Scuses, nothing more than 'scuses
       Trying to forget the oath that I took
       Teardrops rolling down on my face
       Trying to forget the oath that I took...

       'Scuses, wo-o-o 'scuses
       Wo-o-o, 'scuses again on my lips

     WE THE PEOPLE of the United States need loyalty.  WE expect loyalty--to the Constitution.  Because we have been loyal, very loyal; we had that thing you know--the oath.

(c)2017 Marvin D. Jones.  All rights reserved.

1)    [The gentleman…and his hordes]

2)    [“shut up”]

3)    [another seven days in May]

4)    [Senator King Qs DNI & DNSA]

5)   [“Feelings”]

6)  [NTS: “pants on fire”]

7)     [contempt]

8)  [“Tiptoe Through the Tulips”]

9)  [Obama warning]

10)  [transition knew Flynn under investigation on 1/4/2017]

11)   [Installation Day]

12)  [Flynn cont’d]

13)  [Roxette]

14)    [Martha and the Vandellas]