AG Barr Says Nationwide Rulings Hampering Trump’s Agenda

Attorney General William Barr is taking on another item from President Donald Trump’s agenda, railing against judges who issue rulings blocking nationwide policies. 

 

In a speech Tuesday night, Barr took aim at the broad judicial power, arguing that federal judges who have issued the so-called nationwide injunctions are hampering Trump’s efforts on immigration, health care and other issues with “no clear end in sight.”

It is the latest example of Barr moving to embrace Trump’s political talking points.

The attorney general is traditionally expected to carry out the president’s agenda as a member of the Cabinet while trying to avoid political bias. Democrats have cast Barr as an attorney general who acts more like Trump’s personal lawyer instead of the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

 

At a re-election rally earlier this month, Trump railed against “activist judges who issue nationwide injunctions based on their personal beliefs,” which he said “undermine democracy and threaten the rule of law.” 

Administration officials have often complained about the proliferation of nationwide injunctions since Trump became president. Vice President Mike Pence said a few weeks ago that the administration intends to challenge the right of federal district courts to issue such rulings. 

 

“The legal community and the broader public should be more concerned, particularly about this trend of nationwide injunctions,” Barr said.

DACA

Barr highlighted the legal fights that have happened in federal courts across the country over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that shields young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children but don’t have legal status to protect them from deportation.

The Justice Department, under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, argued that the Obama administration acted unlawfully when it implemented DACA. Texas and other Republican-led states eventually sued and won a partial victory in a federal court in Texas.

 

Civil rights groups, advocates for immigrants and Democratic-led states all have sued to prevent the end of the program. A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled that the administration decision to end DACA was arbitrary and capricious.

Barr said Trump “lost much of his leverage” in negotiations with congressional Democrats, who were pushing for a permanent solution for DACA recipients, after one district court judge issued an order forcing the administration to maintain the program nationwide. 

 

“Unsurprisingly, those negotiations did not lead to a deal,” Barr said. 

‘Unprecedented power’

 

In his speech to the American Law Institute, Barr argued it isn’t about partisanship and said the approach taken by judges who issue these nationwide rulings departs not only from the limitations of the Constitution, but also from the “traditional understanding of the role of courts.” The Justice Department will continue to oppose such rulings, he said. 

 

“Nationwide injunctions not only allow district courts to wield unprecedented power, they also allow district courts to wield it asymmetrically,” Barr said. 

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Trump to Democrats: Pass Trade Deal, Then Infrastructure

President Donald Trump is telling Democratic leaders that he believes Congress should first pass a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico before taking up a bill to boost the nation’s infrastructure.

The president made his request in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer before a White House meeting Wednesday.

The Democratic leaders and Trump are aiming for a $2 trillion bill to address roads, bridges and other priorities.

Trump says he remains committed to passing a bill, but he wants Pelosi and Schumer to spell out their priorities and how much money they would provide to each. He says Democrats have “expressed a wide-range of priorities, and it is unclear which ones have your support.”

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Two More Former White House Officials Subpoenaed

The House Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed two more former top White House officials after ex-White House Counsel Donald McGahn ignored his subpoena to testify about President Donald Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice.

Democratic chairman Jerrold Nadler says the committee wants to hear from former communications director Hope Hicks and McGahn’s former chief of staff Annie Donaldson.

They have been ordered to provide documents and summoned to appear before the lawmakers next month.

Shortly before she resigned in March 2018, Hicks told the House Intelligence Committee that she sometimes told “white lies” for Trump.

As McGahn’s second-in-command, Donaldson is believed to have pages and pages of notes related to Trump and his reaction to the Mueller investigation.

​Contempt of Congress

Meanwhile, Nadler is threatening to hold McGahn in contempt of Congress for his refusal to testify Tuesday, after Trump told him to ignore the subpoena and the Justice Department said he cannot be forced to appear. 

“Our subpoenas are not optional,” Nadler said as he sat just a few meters from McGahn’s empty witness chair. “Let me be clear: this committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony even if we have to go to court to secure it…we will not allow the president to stop this committee’s investigation.”

Nadler said McGahn’s testimony was essential after the Mueller report recounted that Trump ordered McGahn to get rid of Mueller and then lie about it to the press. McGahn refused to carry out Trump’s orders.

The Mueller team interviewed McGahn for 30 hours about his interactions with Trump.

​GOP sees a ‘circus’

The leading Republican Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins, attacked Democrats for staging the short hearing without McGahn, calling it “a circus.”

“The Democrats are trying to make something out of nothing,” noting that Mueller concluded that Trump did not collude with Russia to help him win the White House.

Trump tweeted Tuesday “The Democrats were unhappy with the outcome of the $40 million Mueller Report, so now they want a do-over.”

Mueller reached no decision whether Trump obstructed justice by trying to thwart his investigation.

Attorney General William Barr and former deputy Rod Rosenstein concluded there there weren’t sufficient grounds to charge Trump with obstruction of justice.

​Lawmakers not satisfied

Nadler’s committee voted two weeks ago to hold Barr in contempt of Congress after he refused to turn over an unredacted copy of Mueller’s 448-page report into whether Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia.

But congressional Democrats, along with several Republicans are not satisfied by Mueller’s stated inability to reach a conclusion about obstruction allegations, and his statement that he could not exonerate the president.

A Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, David Cicilline, told MSNBC television that if McGahn listened to Trump and defied the subpoena, an impeachment inquiry against the president should be started.

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Trump Returns to ‘Spygate’ to Rally Supporters

Gearing up towards re-election in 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump and his allies are amplifying claims that President Obama ordered the FBI to spy on his 2016 campaign. Last month, Trump renewed calls to “investigate the investigators”, and last week his attorney general launched a review of the decision by the nation’s intelligence agencies to investigate alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has this report.

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Trump Appeals Ruling Allowing Congress to See His Financial Records

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday appealed a federal judge’s ruling against his attempt to block a House of Representatives committee from seeking his financial records, according to a court filing.

Lawyers for Trump and his company filed the appeal in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia one day after a U.S. district judge backed the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena for Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm Mazars LLP.

The lower court’s decision on Monday handed an early setback for the Republican president in his legal battle with congressional Democrats as lawmakers investigate various aspects of his administration.

The House Oversight Committee has said it needs Trump’s financial records to examine whether he has conflicts of interest or broke the law by not disentangling himself from his business holdings, as previous presidents did.

Trump’s lawyers argue the panel’s demand exceeded Congress’s constitutional limits. Mazars has said it will comply with its legal obligations but has taken no sides as the case plays out in court.

A real estate developer and former reality television star, Trump still owns the Trump Organization but has said he would leave its day-to-day operations to his eldest two sons while in office. Unlike previous modern U.S. presidential candidates, he did not disclose his tax returns during his run for the White House.

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Ex-White House Counsel Defies House Subpoena to Testify on Russia Probe

Former White House Counsel Donald McGahn defied a subpoena Tuesday from the House Judiciary Committee to testify about his conversations with President Donald Trump ordering him to oust special counsel Robert Mueller in the midst of Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The Democratic-controlled House panel left an empty chair and a nameplate at the witness table for McGahn.

But the 50-year-old Washington attorney, now in private legal practice again, adhered to White House instructions to not testify, and a Justice Department legal opinion that Congress cannot force him to appear.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, the committee chairman, assailed McGahn’s refusal to testify, threatening to go to court in an effort to force McGahn to testify.

“Our subpoenas are not optional,” Nadler said.

He said McGahn’s testimony was essential after the Mueller report recounted that Trump directed McGahn to get rid of Mueller and then, when a news account appeared about his directive, asked him to publicly lie to deny the story, which McGahn refused to do. Mueller’s investigators interviewed McGahn for 30 hours about his interactions with Trump.

“We will not allow the president to stop this committee’s investigation,” Nadler said. The committee two weeks ago overrode Republican objections as it voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress after he refused to turn over an unredacted copy of Mueller’s 448-page report on his 22-month investigation.

The leading Republican on the panel, Congressman Doug Collins, attacked Democrats for staging the short hearing absent McGahn, calling it “a circus.”

“The Democrats,” Collins said, “are trying to make something out of nothing,” noting that Mueller concluded that Trump did not collude with Russia to help him win the White House.

Mueller reached no decision whether Trump obstructed justice by trying to thwart the investigation, but Barr and then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein subsequently concluded that obstruction charges against Trump were not warranted.

Nadler accused Trump of trying to “run out the clock” to prevent hearings about his alleged misconduct. Nadler said Trump’s conduct in directing McGahn to get rid of Mueller and then to deny that he had done so were “not remotely acceptable.”

Nadler further dismissed the opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel against McGahn’s testimony, saying it was “entirely unsupported by the case law” related to the testimony of White House aides.

McGahn’s attorney, William Burck, on Monday said his client “remains obligated to maintain the status quo and respect the president’s instruction. In the event an accommodation is agreed between the committee and the White House, Mr. McGahn will of course comply with that accommodation.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders explained in a statement that the Justice Department “has provided a legal opinion stating that, based on long-standing, bipartisan, and Constitutional precedent, the former Counsel to the President cannot be forced to give such testimony, and Mr. McGahn has been directed to act accordingly.”

 

The Justice Department, in its legal opinion, said, “We provide the same answer that the Department of Justice repeatedly provided for five decades: Congress may not constitutionally compel the President’s senior advisers to testify about their official duties.”

Trump said of the legal opinion, “They’re doing that for the office of the presidency for future presidents. They’re not doing that for me.”

“I think we’ve been the most transparent administration in the history of our country,” Trump replied to a reporter asking why not just let McGahn testify so the public can have full answers to executive action regarding the Russia investigation. “We want to get on with running the country.”

In a letter to Nadler, the current White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, said that Trump had directed McGahn not to appear at Tuesday’s hearing.

 

“This long-standing principle is firmly rooted in the Constitution’s separation of powers and protects the core functions of the presidency, and we are adhering to this well-established precedent in order to ensure that future presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of the Presidency,” Cipollone wrote.

One Democrat on the Judiciary Committee said beforehand that if McGahn defied the panel’s subpoena an impeachment inquiry against the president should be started.

“We simply cannot sit by and allow this president to destroy the rule of law, to subvert the Constitution,” Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island said during an interview on U.S. cable news network MSNBC.

 

McGahn’s name is mentioned on more than 65 pages of the Mueller report.

Monday’s pushback by the Justice Department and the White House is the latest instance of the executive branch trying to challenge for power the legislative branch of government with Trump betting the third branch – the judiciary – will back him up with rulings by federal judges, including the Supreme Court.

On Monday, however, a federal judge in Washington rejected Trump efforts to block another House committee’s subpoena for his financial records from a private accounting firm that has handled some of his business affairs. Within hours, Trump’s lawyers appealed the ruling, with the president calling the decision “totally wrong.”

 

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Trump Loses Lawsuit Challenging Subpoena for Financial Records

A U.S. judge on Monday ruled in favor of a U.S. House of Representatives committee seeking President Donald Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm, dealing an early setback to the Trump administration in its legal battle with Congress.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington also denied a request by Trump to stay his decision pending an appeal.

Last Tuesday, Mehta heard oral arguments on whether Mazars LLP must comply with a House of Representatives Oversight Committee subpoena.

Mehta said in Monday’s ruling that the committee “has shown that it is not engaged in a pure fishing expedition for the President’s financial records” and that the Mazars documents might assist Congress in passing laws and performing other core functions.

“It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a President for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct — past or present — even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry,” Mehta said.

Mehta said Mazars has seven days to comply with the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers are almost certain to urge an appeals court to extend the deadline and then reverse Mehta’s decision.

It was the first time a federal court had waded into the tussle about how far Congress can go in probing Trump and his business affairs.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Refusing to cooperate 

Trump is refusing to cooperate with a series of investigations on issues ranging from his tax returns and policy decisions to his Washington hotel and his children’s security clearances.

The standoff deepened on Monday when Trump told former White House counsel Don McGahn to defy a subpoena to testify about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation before a different congressional committee.

Trump’s lawyers have argued that Congress is on a quest to “turn up something that Democrats can use as a political tool against the president now and in the 2020 election.”

The House Oversight Committee claims sweeping investigative power and says it needs Trump’s financial records to examine whether he has conflicts of interest or broke the law by not disentangling himself from his business holdings, as previous presidents did.

Lawyers for Trump and the Trump Organization, his company, last month filed a lawsuit to block the committee’s subpoena, saying it exceeded Congress’ constitutional limits.

Mehta was appointed in 2014 by Democratic former President Barack Obama, who was often investigated by Republicans in Congress during his two terms in office.

Mazars has avoided taking sides in the dispute and said it will “comply with all legal obligations.”

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Republican Lawmaker Calling for Trump’s Impeachment Draws Backlash   

A Michigan congressman who was the first Republican to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment defended himself Monday against attacks from other Republicans supporting Trump.

Rep. Justin Amash, a five-term member of the House of Representatives, said his critics employed “several falsehoods” in claiming that Trump did not obstruct justice by trying to thwart the lengthy investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Critics of the Mueller probe, including the president, have claimed that Trump could not obstruct justice because there was no underlying crime to obstruct since Mueller found that neither Trump nor his campaign colluded with Russia to help him win the White House.

But Amash said, and U.S. legal analysts have agreed, that obstruction of justice does not require the prosecution of an underlying crime.

“There is a logical reason for that. Prosecutors might not charge a crime precisely ‘because’ obstruction of justice denied them timely access to evidence that could lead to a prosecution,” Amash said.

He added, “There were many crimes revealed by the investigation, some of which were charged, and some of which were not.”

Trump on Sunday called Amash “a total lightweight” and “a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands!” by calling for Trump’s impeachment. Trump said Amash “opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy.”

Congressman Kevin McCarthy, leader of the minority bloc of House Republicans, attacked Amash’s call for Trump’s impeachment, saying it was “very disturbing. …. He never supported the president, and I think he’s just looking for attention.”

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel accused Amash of “parroting the Democrats’ talking points on Russia.”

In Amash’s congressional district in the Midwestern state of Michigan, state lawmaker Jim Lower said he would run against Amash in a Republican party primary election next year because of his attack on the president. Lower called himself a “pro-Trump, pro-life, pro-jobs, pro-Second Amendment, pro-family values Republican.”

Some Democratic lawmakers in the House have called for Trump’s impeachment, although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not given her approval for the start of any impeachment hearings, while leaving open the possibility as several House committees conduct new investigations of Trump’s business affairs and taxes.

Trump has vowed to fight all efforts at subpoenas for information about his conduct and administration policies. Some of the disputes about access to Trump and White House records are already being fought in legal battles, with more likely to come.

Mueller concluded that Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russia to help him win the election, but it did not take a position on whether the president obstructed justice as the probe took place. Subsequently, Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided obstruction charges were not warranted against Trump.

Amash, after reading the Mueller report, contended in a string of Twitter comments on Saturday that Barr “has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report,” saying that Barr “intended to mislead the public” about Mueller’s findings.

“Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment,” he continued. “In fact, Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence.”

A long-standing Justice Department policy says that sitting U.S. presidents cannot be charged with criminal offenses, but can be charged after they leave office.

Amash said, “Impeachment, which is a special form of indictment, does not even require probable cause that a crime (e.g., obstruction of justice) has been committed; it simply requires a finding that an official has engaged in careless, abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct.”

​The congressman said that he thinks “few members of Congress” have read the Mueller report and that “their minds were made up based on partisan affiliation.”

Even if the Democratic-controlled House impeached Trump, the Republican-controlled Senate would almost certainly reject removing Trump from office.

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