Category Archives: National politics

Democrats warn Trump after Attorney General Sessions forced out

Repost from the Reuters

Democrats warn Trump after Attorney General Sessions forced out

By Sarah N. Lynch, NOVEMBER 7, 2018 / 11:57 AM
U.S. President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions button their coats as they stand for the national anthem at a graduation ceremony at the FBI Academy on the grounds of Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Virginia, U.S. December 15, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions by President Donald Trump on Wednesday drew sharp criticism from Democrats, who warned Trump against moving to squash a probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The probe, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller under the supervision of the Justice Department, has clouded the Trump presidency. The president had long complained about Sessions recusing himself from supervising Mueller.

Democrats raised concerns about Sessions’ acting replacement, Matthew Whitaker, who now oversees Mueller and once argued Mueller’s probe was going too far. They also questioned whether the removal of the top U.S. law enforcement officer was an attempt to undermine or end the investigation.

“Congress must take bipartisan action to protect the integrity of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation,” said Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives, hours after Democrats won a House majority in Tuesday’s elections.

If Sessions’ departure was an “opening move” by Trump to meddle in Mueller’s investigation, Hoyer said in a statement, “the president must be held accountable.”

Asked if Whitaker would now oversee Mueller, a Justice Department spokeswoman said: “The acting attorney general is in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice.”

A spokesman for Mueller’s office declined to comment on Sessions’ departure. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Reuters on Tuesday that he assumed it was “not going to affect” the Mueller investigation.

Justice Department rules on special counsels set boundaries on how Mueller could be removed. Under those rules, he could only be discharged for good cause, such as misconduct or dereliction of duty, such as violating department policy.

Mueller is investigating if Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia, and whether Trump unlawfully tried to obstruct the probe, along with possible financial misconduct by Trump’s family and associates.

The special counsel has brought charges against Trump’s former campaign chairman and other campaign figures, along with 25 Russians and three firms accused of meddling in the campaign to help Trump win.

Trump has denied his campaign colluded with Russia.

RECUSAL DEMAND

In a Twitter message, the medium he often uses for dismissing subordinates, Trump said he had replaced Sessions with Whitaker, who will be acting attorney general. Whitaker was previously Sessions’ chief of staff.

Sessions said in a letter to Trump that he had resigned at the president’s request.

Some Democrats quickly demanded that Whitaker should recuse himself from supervising Mueller, as Sessions did because Whitaker wrote an opinion piece for CNN in August 2017 that argued Mueller had too much latitude in his investigation.

The Mueller probe should not extend to the finances of Trump, his family or their business, the Trump Organization, he argued.

“Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler, expected to chair the House Judiciary Committee starting in January, said removing Sessions fit Trump’s pattern of interfering in the work of the Justice Department and Mueller.

“Donald Trump may think he has the power to hire and fire whomever he pleases, but he cannot take such action if it is determined that it is for the purposes of subverting the rule of law and obstructing justice,” Nadler said in a statement.

Republican Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee who was elected on Tuesday to the U.S. Senate from Utah, also said Mueller’s probe should not be affected by Sessions’ departure.

“Under Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, it is imperative that the important work of the Justice Department continues, and that the Mueller investigation proceeds to its conclusion unimpeded,” he said on Twitter.

HARSH ATTACKS

Never in modern history has a president attacked a Cabinet member as frequently and harshly in public as Trump did Sessions, 71, who had been one of the first members of Congress to back his presidential campaign in 2015.

Trump was only a few weeks into his presidency in March 2017 when Sessions upset him by stepping aside from overseeing an FBI probe of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow, citing news reports of previously undisclosed meetings he had with Russia’s ambassador to Washington for his recusal.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein took over supervision of the Russia investigation. He appointed Mueller in May 2017 as the Justice Department’s special counsel to take control of the FBI’s Russia probe after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

Despite Trump’s criticism, Sessions aggressively carried out the administration’s conservative policies. He sought to strip federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities and states, typically governed by Democrats, that he accused of sheltering illegal immigrants from deportation.

He also announced Trump’s decision to rescind protections for young adults brought into the country illegally as children, and backed Trump’s ban on people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

A permanent replacement for Sessions must be confirmed by the Senate, which Trump’s Republicans will continue to control as a result of Tuesday’s midterm elections.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Writing by Kevin Drawbaugh and John Whitesides; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney

    Barack Obama address gives me reason to hope

    Repost from NowThis News on Youtube
    [Editor: You really SHOULD listen to Obama himself (below), but for a good overview of his speech, see Vox: Barack Obama’s crucial insight into the crisis of American democracy.  – RS]

    Former President Obama Remarks in Urbana, Illinois

    September 7, 2018

    President Barack Obama spoke about the political climate in remarks at the University of Illinois. He said that President Trump was “a symptom, not the cause” of anger and division between Americans of different backgrounds, beliefs, and economic means. He encouraged those listening to vote in the upcoming November 2018 midterm elections because, he said, “our democracy depends on it.”

      Senators: Leave the GOP for the sake of the nation

      Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle

      GOP senators, now is a time for integrity: leave your party

      Photo of Robert Reich
      Robert Reich

      To: Sens. Jeff Flake, John McCain,
      Bob Corker and Susan Collins
      From: Robert Reich

      Senators, I write you not as a Democrat reaching out to Republicans, or as a former Cabinet member making a request of sitting senators.

      I write you as a patriotic American concerned about the peril now facing our democracy, asking you to exercise your power to defend it.

      A foreign power has attacked our democratic institutions and, according to American intelligence, continues to do so.

      Yet the president of the United States is unwilling to fully acknowledge this, or aggressively stop it.

      Most of your Republican colleagues in the Senate will not force his hand. As a result, because your party has control of the Senate, there is no effective check on the president — or on Vladimir Putin.

      What is America to do? We will exercise our right to vote on Nov. 6. But by that time our system may be compromised. The president must be constrained, now. Putin’s aggression must be stopped, now.

      If just two of you changed parties — becoming independent and caucusing with the Democrats — the Republican Party would no longer have a majority in the Senate.

      The Senate would become a check on the president, as the framers of the Constitution envisioned it would be. And the president could be forced to defend the United States, as the framers intended.

      I implore you to do so.

      There is precedent. I’m sure you remember Jim Jeffords of Vermont, who served as a Republican senator from 1989 until 2001. He then left the GOP to become an independent and began caucusing with the Democrats.

      Jeffords’ switch changed control of the Senate from Republican to Democratic. Jeffords left the Republican Party because of issues on which he parted with his Republican colleagues and the George W. Bush administration. As he said at the time, “Increasingly, I find myself in disagreement with my party. … Given the changing nature of the national party, it has become a struggle for our leaders to deal with me and for me to deal with them.”

      I knew and admired Jeffords years before he switched parties. We worked together on a number of initiatives when I was secretary of labor. He was a humble man of principle and integrity. He retired from the Senate in 2007 and died in 2014.

      I appeal to the four of you to follow his noble example.

      The stakes for the nation are far higher than they were in 2001. The issue today is not one on which honorable people like Jeffords may reasonably disagree. The issue now is the fate of our system of government.

      All of you recognize the danger. All of you have expressed deep concern about what is occurring.

      Sen. Flake recently introduced a non-binding resolution acknowledging Russian involvement in the 2016 elections, expressing support for the Justice Department investigation and calling for oversight hearings about what happened in Helsinki. But Flake’s fellow Republicans blocked that resolution.

      Sen. McCain said the president has “proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin”; that Trump “made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world”; and that the president has “failed to defend all that makes us who we are — a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad.”

      Sen. Corker has likened the Republican Party to a “cult” and conceded that “it’s not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a president that happens to be of purportedly of the same party.”

      Moreover, the three of you have decided against seeking re-election. You have no reason not to follow your consciences.

      Sen. Collins represents a state that has had a long and distinguished history of independent-minded politicians. (The other senator from Maine, Angus King, is an independent.) Her constituents will surely forgive her if she leaves the Republican Party.

      There is a scene in the Robert Bolt play “A Man for All Seasons” in which Thomas More, having angered Henry VIII, is on trial for his life. After Richard Rich commits perjury against More in exchange for the office of attorney general for Wales, More says: “Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. … But for Wales?”

      You have not pledged your souls to the Republican Party. You have pledged yourselves to America. Now is the time to deliver on that pledge.

      © 2018 Robert Reich

      Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, is co-creator of the new Netflix documentary “Saving Capitalism” and author of “The Common Good.” To comment, submit your letter to the editor at SFChronicle.com/letters.