Not Russia

All of Unindicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio’s problems with breaking laws, obstruction of Justice, lying, etc. can not be attributed to the Russian Treason Plot. For instance Stephanie Clifford, hush money to a Porn Star is a violation of election law and Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio has certainly lied and obstructed Justice in that case, but it seems to me the kind of thing he would have done without any Russian involvement at all. The only connection is some of the actors.

Likewise pro-Republican Gerrymandering (in this instance Citizenship Questions on the Census designed to intimidate non White Male Republicans from filling it out for a true count) is just the normal course of action for the Party of Racist, Bigoted, Misogynists who are too weak to win an election fairly and have to cheat.

The Obstruction and Contempt of Congress are about the same, but because the actual activity is entirely different the thin excuses of Executive Privilege that are transparently threadbare in the Russian Treason Plot. The material being denied with no justification at all really is neither a Communication not a Deliberative Process and under even the broadest interpretation is not protected by Executive Privilege, which actually means something and not just what Unindicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio wants it to mean.

The Trump administration’s desperate census coverup continues
By Paul Waldman, Washington Post
June 12, 2019

The Trump administration really, really doesn’t want Congress and the public to know any more than they already do about its decision to add a citizenship question to the Census.

I’m not going to go over all the details in this case (see our previous coverage here, here, or here). The short story is that the Trump administration decided to add a citizenship question to the Census precisely because they knew that doing so will make immigrants (both documented and not) less likely to answer, which will make the places where they live look smaller.

That, in turn, will draw resources and representation away from those places to places where there are more whites and more Republicans. The undercount could be as high as 4 million people.

The administration sold that plan — to the public, to Congress, and to the courts — with a preposterous lie, claiming that they wanted to add the question to the Census merely in order to properly enforce the Voting Rights Act. Which is like your eight-year-old telling you he needs to eat more Snickers bars because he’s so concerned about maintaining proper dental health. Enforcing the Voting Rights Act is the last thing the Trump administration wants to do.

We’ve already gotten documents proving that it was a lie, but there are obviously more, which is why they are refusing to comply with the congressional subpoena. Which brings us to this bogus executive privilege claim.

To begin with, the fact that Attorney General Barr asked for the privilege assertion in response to the threat of a contempt vote shows how disingenuous the administration is being. A contempt vote is essentially an expression of the House’s opinion; it doesn’t force the production of the materials they’re after. It has no direct legal consequence.

So Barr essentially said that because the House was being mean to him, in retaliation he’d get the White House to assert executive privilege so they couldn’t get the documents they’re demanding. This doesn’t end the controversy, because Democrats can sue over the privilege claim. And they ought to win.

Let’s examine that claim on the merits. When you hear “executive privilege,” you probably think of the president shielding his communications with key aides. The idea is that in order to get unvarnished advice when making decisions, he has to be able to have frank discussions without the threat that everything anyone says could eventually be revealed.

That’s one type of executive privilege, called the presidential communications privilege. There’s another, known as the deliberative process privilege, that applies a similar (though more limited) privilege for executive agencies. In this case that’s the Commerce Department (which oversees the Census) and the Justice Department. But courts have found that Congress can overcome the deliberative process privilege if they have a clear need for documents or testimony in order to carry out their oversight responsibilities.

How pressing is that need in this case? The administration is trying to make a significant change to the Census, a constitutionally mandated task with sweeping effects on all kinds of policies the federal government makes. The change they want to make, in the opinion of virtually every expert in the field, would have dramatically harmful consequences. The justification they have offered is an obvious lie; the secretary of Commerce has even lied about it under oath.

In short, if there’s a case that demands congressional oversight more than this one, it would be hard to think of what it might be. Which means that the administration’s assertion of privilege is weak to the point of being non-existent.

On a more basic level, we should be asking: What is the administration trying to hide?

If the story they’re telling were true — that they want to add a citizenship question to properly enforce the Voting Rights Act — then producing the documents would show that. But we all know that’s not what the documents will show.

We know that because emails produced in a lawsuit over the Census showed definitively that in fact, Commerce asked the Justice Department to turn back around and ask the Commerce Department to add the question, which makes no sense until you realize they were trying to create a phony paper trail for the lie they were telling about the Voting Rights Act. (The Justice Department at first resisted, but eventually gave Commerce what they wanted.)

What the administration may really be trying to prevent is not just Congress and the public seeing documents that will expose their lies and bad faith, but the Supreme Court seeing them, too. The court has heard oral arguments in a case challenging the addition of the citizenship question but has yet to issue its ruling. Once the administration has been fully exposed, it will be harder for the five conservative justices to rule in their favor.

Not that they won’t; the odds are that those five justices will do pretty much anything that’s in the interests of the Republican Party, as adding a citizenship question is (indeed, that was the whole point). But if nothing else, the court, and the rest of us, ought to see just how cynical and dishonest the administration has been. If we can’t stop their crimes against democracy, at least we can understand them fully.