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Reflections on the shutdown

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As our nation breaths a collective sigh of relief that the government shutdown has ended, it’s worth reflecting on the factors that forced the president to stop holding federal workers hostage even though his demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall went unmet.

I think the shutdown ended because of the convergence of four factors: (1) Trump’s poll numbers were in free fall; (2) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally allowed a vote on two competing bills to re-open the government. Neither passed, but the Democratic proposal received more votes than the Republican bill; (3) The FAA issued a full ground stop at LaGuardia Airport in New York due to massive delays; and (4) Nancy Pelosi made it unmistakably clear that there would be no State of the Union address from the House chamber until the government re-opened. This fourth factor, I suspect, was far and away the most important.

What did NOT sway the president was the suffering of 800,000 federal workers and many more federal contractors. Countless stories of people facing eviction, rationing insulin, and lining up at food pantries did not move the president one iota. He did not “feel their pain.” Surely, these whiners were Democrats, part of his imagined “deep state,” no doubt the local grocers would give them credit, the landlords, pharmacies, and utility companies would be “happy to work with them.” Couldn’t they all just get bridge loans or call a rich uncle?

We know that Trump is cruel. We’ve seen it time after time – at his rallies, in his rhetoric, in his utter indifference to the pain and suffering of victims of tragedies from hurricanes to mass shootings. But he knows that others have compassion, and he was counting on that compassion to make others capitulate, to give him what he wanted so the pain and suffering would stop.

And this brings me back to Nancy Pelosi. She and her caucus, compassion intact, did not capitulate to the president’s pig-headed cruelty. In her words, “We cannot have the president, every time he has an objection, to say I’ll shut down the government until you come to my way of thinking … If we hold the employees hostage now, they’re hostage forever.” And Pelosi made clear that – while the government remained shut down – she would not engage in negotiations. She would not allow the president to use the federal workforce as leverage for his wall. Her message was plain. “Open the government, and then we can talk.”

Day after day, the president didn’t budge. But then, seemingly overnight, he not only budged but completely yielded, ending the shutdown and getting nothing to meet his $5.7 billion demand. The logjam broke not long after Pelosi wrote the president a gently worded letter in which she "respectfully suggested" the two of them find "another suitable date" for the president to give his State of the Union speech—once the shutdown had ended.

In response, Trump acted as if he had not been disinvited writing to let her know he was planning to show up anyway, end of discussion. But unlike the president, the Speaker has more than a passing familiarity with U.S. Constitution. In Article II, Section 3, the Constitution mandates that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” It does not state how or when these recommendations should be given.

Mr. Trump could give such information and make such recommendations from the Oval Office, or some other venue, or he could deliver remarks in writing, as other presidents had done. What he could not do; however, was to speak from the House Chamber without a concurrent resolution from Congress extending him an invitation.
Well knowing that nothing but a prime-time, all the bells and whistles speech would satisfy this reality TV president, the Speaker held firm. In unambiguous prose, she replied: “I am writing to inform you that the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber until government has opened.”

Upon receipt of this letter, one of the president’s fearful minions no doubt explained to the boss that the Speaker could, in fact, disinvite him and had, in fact, done so. His bullying and manipulation hadn’t worked. He was forced to concede. After that, it was just a matter of time before the government would re-open. The pain of the shutdown had become personal to the president.

There are those who say that Pelosi’s stand was “petty,” and “foolish,” that she “stooped to his level.” To those people I ask, “Did you want to end the shutdown or not?” Pelosi’s approach to the bully-in-chief was smart and strategic and effective. Until Mr. Trump felt some personal pain, he wasn’t going to budge. Nancy Pelosi made sure he did.
 

The real crisis

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In his speech from the Oval Office, Trump dwelled on a handful of grisly scenarios, relating in detail violent crimes committed against U.S. citizens by undocumented people.

He did this well-knowing that undocumented individuals commit violent crimes (indeed all crimes) at a per capita rate far lower than that of U.S. citizens. Yet, in his relentless demand for billions of taxpayer dollars to fund his foolish wall the demagogue asked, "How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?"

When he posed this question, I had a brief and fleeting thought -- what if he had issued this call for action not in response to a non-existent crisis on our southern border, but in response to the real, tangible, documented epidemic of gun violence?

What if "Congress" doing "its job" meant enacting reasonable and constitutionally sound gun safety legislation supported by the vast majority of Americans, legislation requiring universal background checks, allowing the CDC to conduct research on gun violence, and re-instating the assault weapons ban?
What if "American blood shed" referred to the more than one hundred thousand Americans who are shot each year in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, or by police intervention?

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has the chilling numbers: almost 90,000 Americans are injured and 35,000 Americans die each year from gun violence.

Border security is an important topic and it needs to be responsibly addressed, but there is no border crisis. I want to hear a prime time speech about a real crisis, the need to end the bloodshed resulting from the NRA's toxic policies and the inaction of morally bankrupt politicians in its thrall.

So now I ask: "When it comes to gun violence, how much more American blood must be shed before Congress -- and the president -- do their jobs?"
 

From red to purple to blue

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On election night 2018, the dour countenance of Democratic strategist James Carville filled our TV screens. In a tone of resignation, Carville opined, "There was some hope the Democrats would have a wave election. It's not going to be a wave election." Across the country, crestfallen Democrats took his prediction as gospel.

But Carville was wrong.

Like many other Democratic operatives, he couldn’t see beyond the beltway and the rust belt. He couldn’t imagine that the Southwest and parts of the Rocky Mountain West might more than make up for a few disappointing results east of the Mississippi, that even iconic Orange County, the birthplace of Reagan conservatism and longtime GOP stronghold, would turn completely blue.

Yes, the blue wave rolled in slowly. And, yes, there were some heartbreaking losses, made all the more painful and infuriating by extremely close margins, the result of minority vote suppression. Stacey Abrams’ race for Georgia governor is Exhibit A.

But as the wave slow-rolled across the country, Democrats picked up seven state governorships, hundreds of legislative seats, and a robust majority in the House. In a year when the Senate map overwhelmingly favored Republicans, Democrats lost some seasoned incumbents but picked up long-held GOP seats in Arizona and Nevada. Not since the election of 1974 – right after Watergate – had Democrats fared as well.

In the days leading up to the election, Trump shelved his golf game to campaign non-stop for Republicans. Repeatedly, he bellowed from the podium, “I am on the ticket, because this is also a referendum about me.” His number one target was Montana Senator Jon Tester, who had the audacity to raise questions that led to the embarrassing withdrawal of Dr. Ronny Jackson, Trump's personal physician, as the nominee for secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Trump held rally after rally in Montana, barnstorming the state four times, hell-bent on seeing Tester defeated. Trump Jr. also campaigned there and, like a chip off the old block, called Tester “a piece of garbage.” But incredibly, by the narrowest of margins, Tester won re-election in this state Trump carried by 20 points. After the election, Trump, who excels at evading responsibility, saw no rebuke, weakly whining, “But my name wasn’t on the ballot.”

Exit polls tell us the Democratic wave was largely fueled by women – college-educated women, women of color, women from the suburbs, independent women, and Republican women who, at long last, had had enough of a trash-tweeting president and his inhumane policies.

And the wave was also fueled by those most likely to sit-out midterm elections – young people. In record numbers, younger voters laid claim to their futures as citizens and inhabitants of an endangered planet. Even white working-class men, Trump’s base, began to peel ever-so-slowly away, likely noticing that more manufacturing jobs were heading overseas and ill-considered trade wars don’t sell soybeans.

Maybe it’s just as well the blue wave didn’t crest on election night. The gradual and growing realization that the nation had rejected Trumpism dominated headlines for weeks. But, going forward, pundits like Carville would do well to remember that, in 2018, Montana re-elected Jon Tester and Orange County turned blue, that Ben McAdams won a congressional seat in Utah and Krysten Sinema beat Trump sycophant Martha McSally in Arizona. They would do well to remember that the Rocky Mountain West and the Southwest are also part of the American electorate – a part that is palpably turning from red to purple to blue.
 

Which Brad Little did Idaho elect?

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There was a time when I thought highly of Brad Little, but that was some time ago. In recent years and, especially during the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Brad disappointed those of us who have long thought of him as Butch with less charisma, but a much better brain.

Most discomforting were his broadsides at "illegals," a term I abhor, and his utter unwillingness to take a stand on the most important issue facing the state - health care, specifically implementation of Prop 2. Moreover, his commercials promoting “traditional marriage” were offensive in their appeal to increasingly obsolete prejudice.

Now, having been elected to the state's top job, Little can step out of Otter's Stetson-topped shadow and be his own person. We will see what he's truly made of. Will he be more open-minded and less ideological like the Little of old, or will he tack to the right and cater to the more extreme elements of his base as he did in the campaign?

In a recent interview, Little suggested that - in looking to fill his cabinet - he might appoint a Democrat or two. If Little isn't just musing aloud and actually follows through, he would be taking a page from an excellent book on statesmanship, one written by former governor Cecil D. Andrus. “Cece” didn’t hesitate to recognize talent outside his own party, and he built bridges with many Republicans that lasted a lifetime.

The governor-elect would do well to follow the Andrus model. I found a ray of hope in Little’s comment: “Last time I checked I’m governor of the whole state of Idaho and even Democrats count.” That statement would read better if he had dropped the "even," but at least there was a glimmer of recognition that members of the minority party are also Idahoans and merit a place at the table.

Little won his party's nomination against two formidable opponents by a relatively small margin. We'll never know how many Democrats registered as Republicans to vote for Little in the GOP primary, but if my facebook news feed is any indication, the answer is “quite a few.”

I was not among these because, for me, registering - however briefly - as a Republican would have been a lie. I couldn't associate myself, even for a nanosecond, with the party of Trump. But I understand the impetus of those who did. They saw Little as by far the most reasonable choice in the GOP field and, assuming (correctly) that the Republican nominee would go on to become governor, opted for the candidate they thought likely to do the least harm.

As Little assembles his transition team and begins the process of naming appointees to key positions in state government, he would do well to reach out to some of those Democrats who helped him win the GOP intramural contest. Idaho has had enough partisanship. Real leadership is inclusive and requires at least some amount of bipartisanship. Here's hoping our new governor rises to the occasion.
 

To exhale

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Ever since election night 2016, I’ve been holding my breath. The Russian propelled election of Donald Trump to the presidency was, for many, a traumatic event. Every day since that terrible night, we have seen ever deepening shadows of oligarchy, tyranny, and torture.

As the litany of horrible words and deeds has spilled forth from Mr. Trump and his sycophantic entourage, I have feared for our country, for the future of our representative democracy, for the rule of law.

Long before he took the oath of office, Mr. Trump sought to exploit our differences and divide Americans, to turn us into a nation of bitter rivals who talk past each other, excoriate each other, and see governing as a zero sum game.

If there had been the slightest hope that a President Trump would exceed expectations and become a statesman after the election, that hope was extinguished on Inauguration Day when Trump gave his “American Carnage” speech. His presidency, like his candidacy, would be that of a demagogue. He would play, relentlessly and unashamedly, to his base.

And if there was ever a ray of hope that members of his own party, the majority in both houses of Congress, would stand up to Trump’s recklessness, that ray was likewise extinguished when it became clear that McConnell and Ryan and their respective caucuses would turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to any wrongdoing. They transcended mere enablement; they became Trump’s confederates.

Over the last two years, the resistance has grown – the Women’s March, the rise of Indivisible Groups, the special elections that saw Connor Lamb win a seat in Congress and Doug Jones elected to the Senate from Alabama, the many triumphs in local elections held in cities and towns across the country, and the abundance of new leaders rising to the occasion, running for office and speaking truth to power.

But through it all I’ve held my breath. It hasn’t felt safe to exhale because the House and Senate committees on Intelligence have concealed the truth about the Trump-Russia labyrinth, because the senate Democrats have been helpless to stop the Federalist Society’s hostile takeover of the judiciary, and because our president has routinely offended our allies and catered to our enemies, often expressing his desire to emulate them.

Now, a little over three weeks out from the mid-term election, I dare to hope that I can exhale, that our nation will reject Trumpism and its cruel treatment of immigrant children, of the elderly and disabled, of Gold Star mothers and prisoners of war, of those poisoned by lead in their drinking water and others decimated by hurricanes.

I dare to hope that our nation will, in the words of our sixteenth president, be touched again “by the better angels of our nature,” that a government “of, by and for the people,” will not perish from this earth.

So I will vote and continue to volunteer and contribute. I will lend my voice to the resistance and persist in speaking my truth. We cannot endure two more years of unchecked tyranny. Until the polls close on November 6, I will not relax. I cannot exhale.
 

Wanting to believe

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For the last couple of years, conventional wisdom has held that Trump’s loyal base of supporters is unshakeable, that Trump could – in his words – “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and “not lose any votes.”

That conventional wisdom may be about to change.

When a voter supports a candidate for president, it should come as no surprise that the individual will think the best of the candidate they supported. It can be difficult to accept that the supported individual has fallen short, to realize they have been untruthful. I know this from personal experience.

I strongly supported the candidacy of Bill Clinton. I thought his keen intelligence, progressive vision, and strong work ethic – coupled with rare communication skills – would make him a great president. In many respects he was.

But Clinton did have sexual relations in the Oval Office. He not only lied about it under oath in a deposition in a civil suit, he lied about it directly to the American people. Like many of his supporters, I believed Clinton when he looked straight into the camera, shook his finger, and adamantly proclaimed his innocence.

I wanted to believe him, and so I did. I’m no ingénue, but I was genuinely aghast when I heard him finally admit the truth.

Clinton lying under oath about sexual activities pales in comparison to today’s many scandals swirling around Trump. I reference it, though, because my strong impulse to credit Clinton's denial is, I think, mirrored in the insistence of many who voted for Trump to believe his increasingly incredible assertions that “there was no collusion with Russia” and no attempt to obstruct justice.

Recently, Rachel Maddow noted that George Herbert Walker Bush had been chairman of the Republican National Committee at the height of Watergate and was, in fact, RNC chairman when Nixon resigned in the fall of ’74. The previous summer, Pappy Bush went on a listening tour to assess the views of the “party faithful” outside the Beltway. At the time, Bush himself was convinced that Nixon was not involved with Watergate.

Following his listening tour, Bush summarized his findings in a memo to White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig. He noted that “party people” held an “almost unanimous desire to believe that the president is telling the truth.” Bush concluded: “They want to believe in the president.”

Of course they did. That is human nature. Having supported Nixon, they wanted him to merit their support.

But, in time, even many of the GOP faithful were disabused of Nixon’s innocence. However strongly they may have wanted to believe in the president, they couldn’t explain away the evidence on the White House tapes that exposed the cover-up.

Unlike Trump, Nixon did not have Fox News with its 24-7 drumbeat of propaganda. With the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity running interference, Trump may never dip to Nixonian levels of disapproval (only 24% approved on the day he resigned). But Trump’s support, even among those who desperately want to believe him, may be in the early stages of unraveling.

The most recent Washington Post-ABC survey shows Trumps disapproval rating at an all-time high. 60% of Americans disapprove of his performance in office. Only 36% approve. Clearly, some of those who now disapprove of Trump’s performance once supported him. Something has, at long last, shaken lose their support.

Perhaps it was the Manafort conviction, or the Cohen guilty plea, or maybe it was the churlish manner in which Trump treated American hero John McCain, not only in life but in death. It might have been the news that the National Inquirer’s David Pecker and the Trump Organization CFO had been granted immunity and were cooperating with the Special Counsel. Perhaps it was all of these things and more.

Nixon’s resignation didn’t happen overnight. It took time for the nation – and especially a critical mass of Nixon loyalists – to absorb what he had done. It is not an easy thing to accept that the president has broken the law. I am among those who believe many transgressions, especially those pertaining to obstruction of justice, have taken place in plain sight; however, most of the nation is waiting to see more evidence of wrongdoing. But the rising support for the Special Counsel suggests that a lot of people are rejecting Trump’s characterization of the probe as a “witch hunt.” It would seem that even some Trump supporters are experiencing doubt in the president’s veracity; the eroding of unconditional support has begun.

For many who have long resisted Trump’s venal policies and even the legitimacy of his election, the temptation to belittle those who are only now beginning to question their support of the president must be almost irresistible. But that would be unwise. We will need to work with them in the days to come.

Should the Democrats win a majority in the House, impeachment -- requiring only a majority vote -- will be likely. But “impeachment” is only the process of charging. In order to be removed from office, the president must be tried by the Senate, where a two-thirds vote is required to convict. Trump will only be convicted if some Republican senators are willing to vote for conviction.

In a perfect world, the senators would look only to the evidence and the Constitution. The world is imperfect. They will also look to their base.

With Watergate, arch-conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater delivered the bad news to Nixon. His presidency wouldn’t survive a Senate vote, were it to come to that. It seems that many of the Nixon-era GOP senators had stronger spines than are to be found among members of the McConnell led cabal that now holds sway.

Yet, if we are to remove Trump from office, today’s GOP senators will need to find their spines. And that will require further erosion of Trump’s base, which will happen more readily if the rest of us stop buying – and repeating – Trump’s story that his base in unshakeable. Much of it likely is. But some of it is not.

We’re beginning to feel tremors. Some pebbles are starting to roll, and the needle on the political Richter Scale is moving, however slightly. The time has come to re-visit the conventional wisdom.

(photo/Gage Skidmore)
 

A sad day

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As I write this, the jury in Paul Manafort’s criminal trial has not yet returned a verdict. But regardless of the outcome of the jury’s deliberations, we have seen conduct that should give rise to another criminal charge. The charge of jury tampering should be brought against the president.

Jury tampering is a crime at both the federal and state levels. It is the intentional effort to influence the outcome of a juror’s opinion, vote or decision by unlawfully communicating with the juror in either a direct or indirect manner, outside the scope of legally permitted courtroom procedure. Last week, the president blatantly attempted to influence members of the Manafort jury by indirectly communicating with them from the White House lawn.

Shouting at a gaggle of reporters, Trump sought to both undermine the prosecution and serve as an unsworn character witness for his former campaign chairman. He bellowed: “I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad. I think it's a very sad day for our country. . . . He happens to be a very good person, and I think it's very sad what they've done to Paul Manafort."

Trying to have it both ways, Trump vouched for Mr. Manafort’s fine character while simultaneously claiming he barely knew the man. And who better to proclaim that Manafort is a “very good person,” than a trash-talking narcissist who lies as easily as he breaths, worships the golden calf, is a serial adulterer, repeatedly bears false witness against others, and whose every public policy reflects an utter indifference to human suffering?

Still, Trump is president of the United States, commander in chief of the most powerful nation in the world. If even one juror felt the slightest bit compelled to heed Trump’s words, the result could be a hung jury. But whether or not Trump actually influenced a single juror’s vote, he made a blatant attempt to do so.

Throughout the trial, the presiding judge T.S. Ellis admonished jurors not to take note of outside information, to only consider the evidence before them. But where, as here, the jury was not sequestered – kept isolated to decrease the chances of being exposed to outside information – and Trump commands wall-to-wall coverage for his every utterance, it is absurd to think that one or more of the jurors wouldn’t hear the message.

Judge Ellis dropped the ball big time in failing to sequester the jury. After closing arguments, he reportedly expressed surprise that the trial received such extensive publicity. That comment reflects astonishing naivete. Even the most casual court observer could have predicted as much. I will have more to say about the conduct of the presiding judge in a future column, but for now let me return to Mr. Trump.

It is not a stretch to think that, in crafting his remarks, Mr. Trump worked hand in glove with the Manafort defense lawyers who, in their closing argument, were hell-bent on discrediting the prosecution’s motives in bringing the case against Manafort. The judge had explicitly forbidden the defense from doing so, but they ignored his directive. The judge told the jury to disregard this part of the defense argument, but our common experience tells us that, once heard, it’s awfully hard to “un-ring the bell.”

There is but one reasonable inference to be drawn from Trump’s self-serving remarks condemning the prosecution and touting Manafort’s virtues – he hoped to communicate with – and thereby influence – Manafort’s jury, and he did so outside the scope of legally permitted courtroom procedures. That is the very definition of jury tampering.

It was jaw-dropping to watch the president’s brazen performance, the bravado with which he committed a crime in plain sight. To use his words: “It was a very sad day for our country.”
 

Time to flip the 5th

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While the national media has been obsessing over the “too close to call” photo-finish in the special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, I’ve been studying the primary election outcome in a district closer to home – the 5th Congressional District in Washington State.

Washington’s 5th includes many communities that are a stone’s throw from Idaho, including Spokane, Pullman, Clarkston, and Asotin. Since 2005, it has been represented by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, now a member of House GOP leadership.

An obedient lieutenant in Paul Ryan’s hyper-partisan caucus, McMorris Rodgers is part of the right-wing cabal propping up Mr. Trump. She recently held a fat cat fundraiser featuring Devin Nunes, the disreputable chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Memorably, Nunes did his utmost to bury the truth about Russia’s attack on our 2016 election. The committee hearings he chaired were a joke.

Recently, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow played an audio tape made by a person who paid to attend this fundraiser. On the tape, Nunes and McMorris Rodgers could be heard stealthily scheming to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein once they had retained their majority. Their intent, clearly, is to protect the president by shutting down the Special Counsel’s investigation. Indeed, Nunes and McMorris Rodgers have done little more than carry water for a manifestly corrupt administration, becoming complicit in the increasingly evident cover-up.

The GOP has shown itself manifestly incapable of putting country above party. They will not hold this president to account. That is why those of us who believe Mr. Trump is a threat to our republic must do everything we can to ensure that Republicans lose their majority. We can take an important step in that direction by defeating McMorris Rodgers.

For the last quarter of a century, Washington’s 5th district has been regarded as a lock for Republicans. But after the primary vote, McMorris Rodgers looks vulnerable; it is not unreasonable to think the district will flip. The state of Washington has a top-two primary in which the two candidates receiving the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, go head to head in the general election. This year, McMorris Rodgers received less than 50 percent of the vote, and – of perhaps greater significance – Democratic challenger Lisa Brown was nipping at her heals, coming within just 1 percent of the incumbent.

Lisa Brown is an exceptionally strong, superbly qualified candidate. She has had proven success at the ballot box, in the Washington state legislature, as an economics professor and, most recently, as chancellor of Washington State University Spokane. First elected to the Washington state House of Representatives in 1992, Brown went on to serve with distinction in the Washington state senate. In 2005, she became the first Democratic woman in the state to hold the position of Senate Majority Leader.

Lisa Brown’s record in the state legislature is one of real accomplishment. She led the creation of the state's Mental Health Parity Act of 2005, which improved the insurance coverage of mental health services for Washington residents. And she worked to successfully expand children's health care and create the nonprofit Prescription Drug Assistance Foundation. She fought to ensure the state properly invested in public schools and infrastructure, worked to strengthen and diversify the regional economy, and helped pass landmark legislation including the simple majority for schools constitutional amendment and marriage equality.

Idaho Democrats and other Idaho progressives would do well to support Lisa Brown’s candidacy. Democrats need to flip 24 Republican-held House seats this year to take control of the 435-seat chamber. Most of us have limited resources and want to support candidates who have a realistic shot at winning. The fact that Lisa Brown came within a hair’s breadth of besting McMorris Rodgers in the Washington primary permits the inference that she is such a candidate. Her stellar record of public service tells us she would be an outstanding member of Congress.

It’s time to flip the Fifth.
 

Silence is unacceptable

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From the outset, Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin was a recipe for disaster. Now Trump has made the situation much worse by refusing to reveal what was discussed at that meeting. In the meantime, the Russian media is having a field day spilling selected beans – information regarding Syria and arms control for instance.

Recently, the Russian ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said that Trump and Putin had entered into “important verbal agreements.” No one this side of the pond knows what these alleged agreements entail. Even the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, has admitted he hasn’t a clue what Antonov is talking about.

The president does not have a blank check to do as he pleases in the realm of foreign affairs. Our founders very purposefully divided responsibility for foreign relations between the executive and legislative branches. They had ousted one king and were not about to live under the rule of another.

Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution enumerates congressional powers including regulating commerce with foreign nations, declaring war, raising and supporting armies, providing and maintaining a navy, and making rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces. Congress also has the authority to lay and collect taxes. Article 2 grants the president command of the military. The president also is empowered to make treaties and appoint diplomats, but only with the approval of the Senate.

Thus, the congressional role in shaping and implementing our nation’s foreign policy is substantive and substantial. The president has no right to usurp it. Our allies shouldn’t be forced to guess at what Trump might have agreed to at the summit. Neither should Congress. Neither should the American people.

This charade has to stop. In an utter abnegation of responsibility, Congressional Republicans shut down Democratic efforts to subpoena the American translator, the only other American in the Trump-Putin meeting. Their cowardice and submission to Trump is exceeded only by Trump’s cowardice and submission to Putin.

There is a widespread and growing belief that our president got played in Helsinki. In response, Republicans have ducked for cover and run. Among those are the members of Idaho’s congressional delegation. After the president's shameful capitulation to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Republican senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch issued woefully anemic statements. Each merely acknowledged that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election and observed that Russia is no friend of the United States.

There was no condemnation of the president’s fawning over Putin, not a peep of outrage over his defense of the Russian attack on our country, or even a passing nod to their oaths to defend our nation against all enemies foreign and domestic. Republican strategist Rick Wilson calls this kind of pathetic response on the part of GOP office holders, the "furrowed brow and deep concern act." And it is totally inadequate to the moment.

For some time, many have wondered what Putin is holding over the president to make him behave in such a subservient and unprincipled manner, seemingly selling out his country to curry favor with the Russian dictator.

Now that same concern should also apply to members of the Republican majority in Congress. In the utter absence of bipartisan action, it falls to congressional Democrats to use every tool in their toolbox to demand transparency and accountability from this president. Their minority status makes the task daunting. But they must force the issue. Faithfulness to the Constitution requires nothing less.