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Time for Risch to speak up

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Last week Donald Trump gave Idaho’s junior senator his full-throated endorsement. Trump tweeted: “Senator Jim Risch of the Great State of Idaho has been an incredible supporter of our Agenda! He is tough on Crime, Strong on Borders, and will continue to fight for our Second Amendment. Jim will never let you down. He has my Full and Complete Endorsement!”

Now we know that, for this president, it’s all about him, not us. So when Trump writes “Jim will never let you down,” that’s Trump-speak for “Jim will never let me down.” Why would Trump think that? Well, perhaps because Jim has proven himself to be a reliable sycophant, a committee chair utterly disinterested in exercising any meaningful oversight of the executive branch.

Recently, Risch was quoted as saying, “What puts you in a bad place with [Trump] is going out publicly and criticizing him, and I don't do that.”

I get it, Jim. You don’t want to upset the big guy. Heaven forbid he might recruit and support a Republican to primary you. But your constituents have a right to know where you stand, and your silence on key issues has been deafening.

Have you told the president you disagree with his withdrawing the U.S. from the TPP?

Or that his tariffs on China are hurting U.S. consumers and farmers?
Or that his acceptance of North Korea launching short range missiles damages our relationships with longtime allies South Korea and Japan?

Or that pulling out of the Iran Nuclear deal, with which Iran was in compliance at the time he withdrew, makes us less safe?

Or that his eagerness to credit Communist dictator Vladimir Putin and discredit U.S. intelligence agencies undermines the dedicated men and women who are doing the hard, and often dangerous, work of gathering the intelligence needed to keep our country safe?
Or that his failure to say a word in support of the courageous Hong Kong protesters fighting to preserve their freedom emboldens Communist China?

Or that his obsequious behavior with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who ordered the torture and murder of a Washington Post journalist, sends the message that U.S. residents are expendable for profit?

Or that his cruel, costly, and completely unnecessary policy of separating parents and children at the southern border, and housing migrant kids in cages, is antithetical to norms of human decency?

Or that his inability to acknowledge as fact the Russian assault on our 2016 election and his unwillingness to take ANY steps to protect the security of our 2020 election from similar assaults actually encourages Russia (and other countries) to repeat and escalate those attacks?

Or that his verbal assaults on NATO and its members and his rhetoric suggesting that the U.S. might not honor its Article 5 commitment to protect allies erodes the confidence of our European allies?
Or that his constant turnover of top military and diplomatic personnel – and the enduring vacancies in many key positions – makes the administration look like a particularly chaotic episode of the Keystone Cops?

Or that his inability to develop, articulate and sustain a coherent foreign policy as to any country or geopolitical region alienates our friends, strengthens our foes, and makes us look weak and indecisive on the world stage?

Maybe Jim has privately discussed some or all of these matters with the president – and maybe he hasn’t. We don’t know which it is because Risch doesn’t – by his own admission – want to find himself “in a bad place with Trump.”

But as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Risch surely has a point of view on all of these issues. If Risch is in lockstep with the president, as Trump asserts in his tweet, Risch should tell us. If Risch disagrees with the president, he should tell us that too.
After all, the good senator wasn’t elected to kowtow to Trump. He was elected to represent the people of Idaho.
 

Ridin’ with Biden

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I first “met” Joe Biden a long time ago. Then 33, he was the nation’s youngest U.S. Senator, and the featured speaker at the Idaho Democrats’ annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. I was a student at the University of Idaho, where my major, unsurprisingly, was political science.

As Chair of the U of I Campus Democrats, I organized a mid-winter road trip for members of our group to drive to Boise to attend this flagship event. We traveled, as college students must, on a budget, finding places to sleep at homes of local party people.

One of my heroes, the late Senator Frank Church, introduced the freshman senator from Delaware, noting that this newcomer to “the nation’s most exclusive club” was occasionally mistaken for a page, much as Church himself had been when he was first elected to the Senate at the ripe age of 33.

Biden more than impressed; his speech was electric. Idaho Democrats, who were there that night, remember it well. Adults whose parents attended say their parents still talk about it. This young senator from the “Diamond State” had charisma and potential to spare.

Over the years, I have followed Biden’s remarkable career, usually with great admiration. I read his book, “Promises to Keep,” published in 2007, and his more recent book “Promise me, Dad,” published in 2017. Some themes are constants through Biden’s life – the importance of public service, devotion to our country and its people, and an unswerving commitment to faith and family.

It is difficult – if not impossible – to read about the personal losses and pain Biden has endured and not be inspired by his resilience and undaunted desire to help others. One would have to look long and hard to find another politician having a stronger sense of duty or more integrity than Joe Biden. He is decent to the core.

This said, I haven’t yet decided which of our many outstanding candidates will earn my vote in the 2020 primary. It very well might be Biden. But it might not.

Along with many of my fellow Idaho Democrats, I cheered the fact that Biden came to Idaho early in the primary season and did not treat this ruby red state as just so much fly-over country. (Only Jay Inslee and Julian Castro have also done so.) And his clarion speech following the deadly shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton reminded us of the dignity and strength with which a president can lead and the eloquence with which a president should talk.

But as many have noted, Biden’s long tenure in public office is a two-edged sword. He has a great many accomplishments, but some of his past actions, while more easily understood in the context of the times, are problematic in light of present day realities. He needs to find a way to clearly address the past, put it in perspective, and pivot swiftly and forcefully to the future.

Consider when, as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden presided over the Supreme Court nomination hearing for Clarence Thomas. A young lawyer, Anita Hill, testified that she had been sexually harassed by Thomas, who had been her supervisor. Many members of the all-male senate panel treated Hill with disrespect, if not outright contempt.

Thomas vehemently denied Hill’s allegations. Four female witnesses stood ready to testify, to offer corroborating evidence to support Hill’s testimony, but Biden – in an arrangement worked out with the Republicans on the committee – declined to call them.

In recent months, Biden has accepted responsibility for the fact that Anita Hill “did not get treated well,” that she “did not get a fair hearing.” But, as Joy Behar said to Biden when he appeared on The View, his statement would have more resonance if he were to avoid the passive voice and bluntly say, “I’m sorry for the way I treated you.” Moreover, a statement that he should have called her corroborating witnesses would show an understanding of the specific way in which he failed to provide her a fair hearing.

But Biden’s performance at the Clarence Thomas hearing, though troubling, is an aberration. His record on women’s rights is exceptionally strong. Biden was the driving force behind passage of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. He worked tirelessly to recruit more women to run for the U.S. Senate and urged them to become members of the Judiciary Committee. And, as Vice President, Biden fought sexual assault on campuses. Few senators have championed equal rights for women as consistently and forcefully as Joe Biden. Now what is his vision for the future?

Another two-edged sword in Biden’s background is the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which was passed when violent crime was at double the current rates. The downside – and it is considerable – is that it resulted in sky high rates of incarceration and disproportionately affected the Black community. This impact, though unintended, has been unjust and harmful.

On the plus side, the Act contained several progressive provisions, most notably an assault weapons ban designed to help reduce the number of deaths caused by the use of rapid-fire weapons with a capacity to fire many rounds without reloading. Moreover, the Act recognized that we will never eradicate violent crime solely by prosecuting, convicting, and imprisoning criminals. It placed a strong emphasis on crime prevention programs. And, in an effort to make law enforcement personnel a more trusted and integral part of localities, funding was made available for community policing.

Biden could do a better job of harvesting the legislative wheat, even while discarding the chaff. Instead of defending past actions with nuanced explanations, Biden needs to find a way to more crisply convey that in that time, at that moment in history, he did the best he could to get the best possible outcome. To critique a decision against the backdrop of today’s political reality, today’s moral standards, misrepresents the value of the decision at that time and his vision for the future.

And then, most importantly, he needs to share that vision with clarity, specificity and passion. He has the ability to electrify a crowd. I’ve seen it. Now all of us need to see it more often.
 

Crediting Mueller’s testimony

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Most of us have experienced it – the painful moment when we realize that someone we love or deeply respect has aged and, in aging, declined – sometimes slightly, sometimes greatly. Perhaps we’ve seen this in an elderly relative, or maybe a cherished teacher or coach. Initially, we may deny there has been any change; but there comes a point when we accept the reality, painful though that may be.

In the early minutes of the first Mueller hearing, it became evident that the Special Counsel, this highly respected, almost iconic public servant, was no longer the crisp, focused, in command presence we had come to expect from his many previous congressional hearings. There were moments when Mueller seemed unsure of the contents of his own report. There were other times when he hesitated in answering questions that would seem to elicit an easy and quick response.

Across the nation, lawyers and pundits who had followed Mueller’s storied career observed that he seemed less steady, less certain. Much of the media coverage following the hearings featured people who knew Robert Mueller well, many of whom had worked with him, admired him, and who, in sadness, conceded that this great American was no longer at the top of his game. Mueller had aged, they said, and it showed.

No doubt there will be those who attempt to diminish the findings of the Mueller Report because Mueller himself revealed some decline at the hearings. That would be a mistake. The Mueller Report, though bearing Robert Mueller’s name, was not the product of one man.

Rather it was the careful result of two years of industrious effort by a team of exceptionally bright, extremely hard-working and highly principled prosecutors and investigators. Its findings are documented to a fare-thee-well.

As to the key conclusions of that report, Mr. Mueller’s testimony was crystal clear: Russia wanted Trump to win the election and offered help to that end; Trump and his campaign welcomed that help, used it, and lied about it; Russia’s attacks on our republic were widespread and systematic, and -- most troubling -- they are ongoing. And despite Trump’s incessant bleating to the contrary, the report did not exonerate the president as to the crime of obstruction of justice.

Mr. Mueller may not have as keen a memory or as quick a recall as he once did. But he has always been an unabashed patriot and is almost universally regarded as a man of sterling character. He has a reputation for cutting square corners and consistently upholding the rule of law. Nothing about his testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees suggests a diminution of his integrity or honesty.

Do I wish Mueller had testified with the vigor and clarity with which he testified before Congress in prior years? Yes, certainly.

But I have no doubt whatsoever that, even in his frequent reticence, Robert Mueller spoke the truth. And the truth, no matter how haltingly delivered, was devastating to Donald J. Trump.
 

Sofi’s choice

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In 1982, as a first time mom with a two year old, I should have known better than to watch the haunting movie Sophie’s Choice.

One scene so disturbed me that, for weeks afterward, I would weep to think of it. If you saw the movie, or read the book, you already know the scene.
Sophie (played by Meryl Streep) is a Polish Catholic woman who arrives at Auschwitz with her two little children, a boy and a girl. Terrified, Sophie stands in line holding her young daughter in her arms while her little boy clings to her skirt.

After a Nazi officer makes lurid comments to Sophie, he asks, "Are you a Christian?" When she nods, he asks if she agrees with Christ’s words “suffer the children.”

Then he demands the unthinkable – that she relinquish a child. “You can keep one of your children,” he says matter-of-factly. “The other one must go.”

Sophie, disbelieving, asks him to repeat what he has said. He obliges with a more forceful: “You can keep one of your children. The other one must go.”

Stricken, Sophie screams “I can’t choose!”

The officer threatens, “Choose or I’ll take them both.”

As Sophie desperately chokes out, “I can’t choose!” the officer orders his guards: "Take them both!”

One can almost see Sophie’s soul fracture as she is forced to make her gut-wrenching “choice.” “Take my little girl. Take my baby.” The little girl's screams are piercing as she is wrested from Sophie’s arms. Sophie’s scream, though silent, is shattering. It is eternal.

Indelibly etched in my memory, this scene came to mind as I watched coverage of another Sofi who was also ordered to make an impossible choice.

Sofia, called Sofi by her family, is a three year old girl, the youngest of three children of Tania and Joseph, a married couple from Honduras. The family fled Honduras to seek asylum in the U.S. after Tania witnessed her mother get killed and her sister, who had also witnessed their mother’s murder, had been kidnapped, tortured and slain to keep her from testifying.

At a Border Patrol holding facility in El Paso, Texas, an agent told the family that one parent would be sent to Mexico while the other parent and the three children could stay in the United States.

A doctor informed the agent that Sofi had a serious heart condition and that it was imperative that the family stay together. But the agent insisted on the separation. Then, incredibly, the agent turned to three year old Sofi, and told her to make a choice. Which parent did she want to stay – her mother or her father?

Not fully comprehending what was being asked of her, little Sofi "chose" her mother; but when the children realized the family faced separation, they clung to their father, the son wrapping his arms around Joseph’s neck and Sofi and her sister holding on to Joseph’s legs. Sofi’s mother told NPR that the agent, upon seeing Sofi’s panic, said, “Why are you crying? You . . . picked your mother.”

No child – let alone a toddler – should ever be told to make such a horrible decision.

In divorce cases, if parents cannot reach an agreement on custody, a judge will make the determination; and, if a child is sufficiently mature, he or she may be able to let the judge know if there is a preference. But even then, it is not the child, but the judge, who makes the ultimate decision.
Fortunately, Sofi’s story has gotten better – for now. Doctors intervened and the family was allowed to stay together with relatives in the United States. But it is unconscionable that Sofi was ever forced to make such a heartbreaking “choice.”

No family should ever be torn apart at the cruel whim of an agent working for an indifferent bureaucracy. And no child should ever be made to choose one parent over another. That is an unspeakably heavy burden, one they must never be forced to bear.
 

1000 and counting

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Having served for seven years as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho and worked for a year for the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, I am acquainted with over 200 former federal prosecutors. It is my observation that federal prosecutors, as a group, are exceptionally deliberate. For the most part, they are – by training and experience – not likely to go out on a limb in reaching prosecutorial decisions or making their views on other prosecutors’ decisions public.

Thus, it is remarkable that, at latest count, no less than 1,000 former federal prosecutors – Democrats, Republicans and political independents – have signed a crystal clear statement asserting: “Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”

The Statement then references “several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming.”

These include:

· The President’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort;

· The President’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; and

· The President’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign.

The Statement emphasizes that these “are not matters of close professional judgment” and concludes with the reminder that “prosecuting obstruction of justice cases is critical because unchecked obstruction — which allows intentional interference with criminal investigations to go unpunished — puts our whole system of justice at risk.”

Make no mistake. This kind of overwhelming expression of disagreement by former federal prosecutors with an incumbent attorney general is not an everyday occurrence. Indeed, it is unprecedented.

I am proud to have signed the Statement.

Under Department of Justice guidance, when the evidence is sufficiently strong and the federal interest to be vindicated is substantial, prosecution should commence or be recommended even in instances when a prosecutor might doubt that, due to the popularity of an individual, a jury might be unlikely to convict.

While we can question the president’s popularity with the general public, conventional wisdom has it that the U.S. Senate, with its Republican majority, would be unlikely to produce the two-thirds vote needed to convict, should the House vote to impeach.

But there are times when the charging process itself furthers the interests of justice. In my view, this is such a time.

For those claiming that Democrats would pay a political price were they to proceed with impeachment, I would note that 2019 is not 1998 and Donald Trump is not Bill Clinton. Moreover, Mr. Trump's alleged wrongdoing is infinitely more extensive and damaging to our republic and the rule of law than the matters for which Clinton was accused.

It is of course possible that Democrats would pay a political price if they proceed with impeachment, as it would allow Trump to play the victim, a role at which he excels. But I believe we will pay a greater price if we do not have the courage of our convictions, if - in this time of national peril - we pull our punches and fail to act. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in a different but equally compelling context, “It is always the right time to do the right thing.”
 

Shooting from the lip

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Donald J. Trump’s penchant for making shoot-from-the-lip accusations may have given former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe fodder for a defamation lawsuit against the president.

Last week Trump broadly accused unnamed officials of spying on his campaign and committing treason, a crime punishable by death. When pressed to identify who had committed Treason, Trump got specific, naming Comey and McCabe, and a few others.

Generally speaking, a defamatory statement is one that is: (1) a false statement of fact (2) negligently or intentionally communicated or published to a third party (3) causing injury or damage to the subject of the statement. Libel and slander are different types of defamation. Libel is a written defamatory statement, and slander is an oral defamatory statement.

Different rules of proof apply depending whether the person alleged to be defamed is a public person or private person. If a private person, he or she will typically need to prove only that the person making the statement acted negligently in making the statement, in failing to ascertain its truth or falsity.

However, if the person defamed is a public person, the plaintiff must meet a higher standard of proof. Liability for defamation of a public figure can only be established if the person making the statement actually knew that the statement was false or acted with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of the statement. Comey and McCabe are public figures so the higher standard applies.

The official White House transcript of a Q and A between NBC News’ Peter Alexander and the president sets out the following exchange:

ALEXANDER: Sir, the Constitution says treason is punishable by death. You’ve accused your adversaries of treason. Who specifically are you accusing of treason?

TRUMP: Well, I think a number of people. And I think what you look is that they have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person.

ALEXANDER: Who are you speaking of?

TRUMP: If you look at Comey; if you look at McCabe; if you look at probably people – people higher than that; if you look at Strzok; if you look at his lover, Lisa Page, his wonderful lover – the two lovers, they talked openly.

In light of the foregoing, we must first ask whether the president made a false statement of fact.

Article III Section 3 of the Constitution defines treason in the United States as follows: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason. . . .”

Congress in fact declared the punishment of treason in 18 United States Code Sec. 2381. It provides that “Whoever . . . . is guilty of treason . . . shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

Clearly, Trump’s statement of fact was false; there are no facts to support his made-of-whole cloth assertion that Comey and McCabe committed treason. We are not at war (the last time we were at war within the meaning of the Constitution and statute was WWII) and Trump’s complaint was not that Comey and McCabe had aided an enemy of our country; rather he claimed they acted to “take down the wrong person,” namely him.

Next, we ask whether the president published his false statement of fact to a third party. Clearly the answer is “yes.” He made his accusation on national television. It had a very wide audience.

The next step is to consider whether the statement caused harm to those the president accused.

A statement is defamatory if it tends to hold the subject of the statement up to scorn, hatred, ridicule, disgrace, or contempt in the mind of any considerable and respectable segment of the community. One need only watch Fox News (briefly) to discern that, subsequent to – and as a consequence of – the president’s statement, Comey and McCabe have been subjected to such scorn, ridicule, and contempt. Moreover, many jurisdictions hold that allegations that an individual has committed a serious, notorious, or immoral crime; has an infectious or terrible disease, or is incompetent in his or her job, trade, or profession constitutes defamation per se. There can be no doubt that Comey and McCabe were harmed by the president’s false statement.

Finally, we must inquire whether the president knew, or should have known, that his accusation of treason was false. In other words, did he act with reckless disregard of the truth?

I have long doubted that Mr. Trump has read the U.S. Constitution. He may not actually have known that his accusation was false. But he should have known. He had every reason to know, every opportunity to know and, it can be fairly said, a duty to know.

When he was inaugurated, Mr. Trump took an oath of office, one prescribed by the Constitution. He raised his right hand, placed his left hand on a Bible, and echoed the words of Chief Justice Roberts who administered the oath: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

One who has pledged to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” can be expected to know its provisions. If Mr. Trump did not know that the targets of his accusation had not committed treason, he should have known.

As long ago as 1861, a piece in the New York Times explained: “Treason has ever been deemed the highest crime which can be committed in civil society; since its aim is an overthrow of the Government and a public resistance by force of its just powers, its tendency is to create universal danger and alarm, and on this account it has often been visited with the deepest public resentment.”

The framers of the Constitution took deliberate steps to ensure that accusations of treason would not be used as weapons against one’s political opponents. Now the president, in his rage and ignorance, has recklessly leveled this utterly specious and damning accusation at specific individuals.

And those individuals just may have a case.
 

It’s time

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We cannot fulfill our roles as citizens if we are unable to evaluate the president’s conduct vis-à-vis Russia and the Special Counsel’s investigation. And we cannot evaluate that conduct unless we can read the full Mueller Report. A four page cherry-picked summary written by an Attorney General who won his job by promising to have the president’s back will not suffice.

When he auditioned for the job, Attorney General William Barr sent to the White House an unsolicited 20 page Memorandum in which he gave an extremely expansive view of presidential power. He suggested that the president has all-encompassing constitutional authority over actions by the executive branch in enforcing the law.

Although Barr’s sweeping view on presidential power has scant support in precedent, the Memorandum had its intended effect. Trump wanted someone who would protect him and Barr was the man for the job. But lest we forget, the Attorney General is not the president’s lawyer. He’s our lawyer; he’s the people’s lawyer.

For two years, the American people patiently waited for Special Counsel Mueller to complete his investigation and make his findings. From all outward appearances, Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors and investigators operated with the utmost professionalism, cutting square corners, working long hours, and, in a city known for leaking like a proverbial sieve, the Mueller investigation was absolutely leak-proof.

Now that Mueller has finished his work and submitted his Report, it languishes on the Attorney General’s desk. There is no legitimate excuse for this delay. One could be forgiven for thinking that the only reason Barr has not yet provided even a redacted version to Congress is to give the president’s narrative of complete exoneration time to set in the public mind. But finally, it seems, the public is not so easily fooled.

Not so long ago, Mr. Trump said he wanted the full report to be made public. In fact, he declared that millions upon millions of Americans wanted to see the Report. Indeed we do.

But now the president rattles his saber and threatens to direct the Attorney General to hide the entire document. What has changed? Why does Mr. Trump, who was quick to take a premature victory lap, now fear letting the report see the light of day?

Perhaps it is because poll after poll tells us that the American people aren’t buying what Mr. Trump is selling. He claims the Mueller Report gave him total, across the board exoneration. It did nothing of the kind. With regard to obstruction of justice issues, Mueller wrote: "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

Mr. Barr has noted that Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure forbid the production of grand jury testimony and materials. That’s true. What is also true is that the rule of grand jury secrecy is subject to exceptions.

For instance, a government attorney can petition a federal court to authorize release of grand jury materials in special circumstances. But to the best of our knowledge, Barr has done nothing more than sit on his hands and whistle in the wind.

His failure to take this obvious step to seek judicial authorization to release grand jury materials is inconsistent with his testimony at his confirmation hearing when he promised under oath to make public as much of the Report as possible. He appears to be breaking that promise.

And when it comes to obstruction of justice, we need to know why the Attorney General rushed in to decide the issue when Robert Mueller did not. Special Counsel Mueller is no shrinking violet. In his long career, Mueller has made very tough calls in some of the most complex and challenging investigations of some of the most notorious criminal actors.

Did Robert Mueller expect the Attorney General to take it upon himself to draw a conclusion that Mueller refrained from drawing? I don’t think so.
The whole concept of a Special Counsel is to take prosecutorial decision-making out of the hands of political appointees, such as William Barr. I believe Robert Mueller intended that the Report go to Congress and that the responsibility to decide on obstruction of justice rest with Congress.
But we cannot know for sure because we have yet to see the report.

Our founding fathers wisely divided federal power among three branches of government: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. Congress, as the legislative branch, must fulfill its role as a check and balance on the executive branch and that includes oversight, determining whether officials were obeying the law.

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates recently wrote that the Mueller investigation was “not about some tangential issue. It was about a foreign adversary’s attempt to subvert our election; it cuts to the very core of our democracy.”

With each passing day, Congress is limited in its knowledge of what really happened and hamstrung in its ability to keep our elections free from Russian interference. To this very day, Mr. Trump has ignored the findings of his own intelligence agencies and taken no steps whatsoever to protect future elections. Whether he conspired or not, Mr. Trump benefitted from Russia’s interference in our election, and it appears he wants to benefit again.

It’s time Mr. Barr honor his oath of office; it’s time he keep the promise he made to the U.S. Senate at his confirmation hearing. He must stop acting as the president’s wingman and start acting as the attorney for the American people. It’s time he releases the full Mueller Report to Congress. Indeed, it is past time.
 

Intended consequences

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From the day Donald Trump descended his golden escalator to announce for president, he has been obsessed with the notion that immigrants are a threat to our nation's safety: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. . . . They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Subsequently, he has expanded his vilification net to include ever more people from south of our border. Late last week, Mr. Trump declared he will cut off all foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and is likely to close our southern border, purportedly to deter migrants lawfully seeking asylum in the United States. Under both U.S. and international law, we must offer individuals a fair opportunity to seek asylum.

Since last week's announcement, pundit after pundit has opined that, if Trump wants to stop migration from Central America, cutting off foreign aid and closing the southern border are the last things he should do. Indeed, the talking heads observe, such actions will almost certainly have a devastating effect on the economies and social structure of these countries, increasing -- not decreasing -- the numbers of people desperately seeking asylum.

They shake their heads and comment that Mr. Trump’s actions will result in “unintended consequences.” To these pundits I reply, “Nonsense! Further chaos and stress at the border are not unintended consequences; rather these are precisely the tensions the president very purposefully wants to exacerbate.” If his national security advisors and the Congress refuse to recognize a national emergency, he’ll see to it there is one. The man is so hell bent on being proven right that he’ll create the emergency himself.

The term “unintended consequences” usually refers to outcomes that are not the ones sought by someone who takes a given action. Here, Trump claims he wants to improve the situation at the border; in fact, he will make things much worse. But the "making it worse" outcome will come as no surprise to the president. Mr. Trump’s cruel actions won’t “backfire,” they will ignite a fire. And that is precisely what he intends to do.
 

How dare he threaten us

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Recently the president said, "I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad."

This is thinly veiled code for, "You Lefties better watch yourselves because I can summon heavily armed people to mow you down." This is incredibly offensive, and the fact that it is absurd makes it no less so.

Since the earliest days of his presidential campaign, the Divider-in-Chief has woven ugly threads of hate and fear into our nation’s fabric.

Now he insults those who serve our country and wear a law enforcement badge by suggesting that they would put loyalty to him above their oaths of office, that "at a certain point" they would turn their weapons on their fellow citizens.

American soldiers and police are not the president's people. They are "our" people. Yes, there are rogue cops and others who dishonor their profession but, far and away, the vast majority of those who swear to serve and protect do exactly that. They are tough in a way that Mr. Trump cannot possibly understand. Moral toughness, selfless “I would lay down my life for others” toughness is something this president utterly lacks. Having no such honor himself he is loath to see it in others.

Those who have committed violent acts in response to the president's vile rhetoric are likely unqualified to serve in our nation's armed forces and could not obtain admission to law enforcement academies. It would seem they are unstable haters upon whose rampant insecurities Trump gleefully preys. By egging them on and talking "tough," Trump has emboldened them. And when he lights the fuse and violence ensues, he – no less than those he incites – has blood on his hands.

All Americans should denounce Trump's empty, odious threats. We must condemn his attempt to exploit our finest in pursuit of his cruel political agenda.