President Trump and the Rule of Law
President Trump and his cabinet secretaries and his political appointees take oaths of office to abide by the Constitution and to faithfully execute the laws of the land.
Then he openly and spontaneously violates the laws and Constitution to which he has sworn an oath and then encourages and supports his team’s efforts to do the same.
He announced “of course, he would take opposition research from a foreign government or agent and likely he would not notify the FBI.” The head of the FEC (Federal Elections Commission) reminded all Americans that it is illegal to take anything of value from a foreign government in support of a political campaign. https://www.fec.gov/help-candidates-and-committees/candidate-taking-receipts/who-can-and-cant-contribute Maybe, the President heard this, but it is doubtful that put to the test, he’ll abide by it because he nevertheless believes “everyone does it”. Certainly his son, son in law and campaign manager did so.
The Hatch Act prohibits most federal employees from designated forms of politicking while on the job. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatch_Act_of_1939 Presidential Counselor Kellyanne Conway has repeatedly violated it. https://deadline.com/2019/06/kellyanne-conway-hatch-act-msnbc-can-you-leave-please-1202632336/ The Office of Special Counsel (not Robert Mueller, but a Trump Republican appointee) this week recommended that she be fired for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act after multiple warnings. https://osc.gov/Resources/Report%20to%20the%20President%20re%20Kellyanne%20Conway%20Hatch%20Act.pdf Her response was ““Blah, blah, blah. If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work...”. The President has refused to take any action to enforce the Hatch Act with respect to Ms. Conway and encouraged her to keep up the great work. The Hatch Act dates back to 1939 after WPA (Work Progress Administration) officials and staff were used to bolster FDR’s re-election campaign.
More recently Press Secretary Sara Sanders resigned to go back to Arkansas with the President’s accolades for a job well done and hopes that she’ll run for Governor. At the time of James Comey’s firing by President Trump for “that Russia thing”, she stated to the American people that countless FBI agents told her that the agents had lost confidence in his leadership, and he needed to be fired. Under questioning by Special Counsel Mueller, she acknowledged that she totally made up this story to protect the President for firing Director Comey, and it had no basis whatsoever in fact. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/04/sarah-sanders-mueller-report Ultimately, as her credibility with the White House Press Corps eroded, and the briefings became unprofessional screaming matches, White House Press Briefings were discontinued and have not been held in over three months.
President Donald Trump has declined to release his tax returns as candidate and as President – claiming his annual returns were being audited by the IRS. Although it has long been customary, there is no federal requirement that Presidents and Presidential candidates release their tax returns; there should be. Federal tax law protects the confidentiality of any taxpayer’s returns with certain exceptions. IRS Code Section 6103. One of those exceptions (6103f) is upon request of the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.
“Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request, except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.” In other words, the Treasury Secretary must turn over the requested information for a particular taxpayer to the Committee sitting in closed session, no “ifs, ands or buts or even maybes”. This statute dates back to the Tea Pot Dome scandals during the Harding Administration where Administration officials were selling off the nation’s assets for their personal financial gain.
The Committee’s request was to allow it to assess how a President’s tax returns could/should be audited while he is in office, given Presidential powers of appointment to the top positions at Treasury and the IRS. The Treasury Secretary and the Attorney General have concluded that the Congressional request is a pretext to embarrass the President by providing public access to his confidential tax information and thus serves no legitimate Congressional purpose; it is not clear what would be so embarrassing. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6153902-DOJ-opinion-on-Treasury-withholding-Trump-s-tax.html The statute in question is mandatory and gives the officials in question no leeway but to comply.
The Chair of the Ways and Means Committee will now need to file a writ of mandamus with the federal courts to secure access to the President’s tax returns. Similar efforts are underway with respect to subpoenas to Mr. Trump’s bankers and auditors, which the President is contesting. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/22/judge-says-deutsche-bank-can-give-trump-financial-records-to-democrats.html The issues in question for Congressional investigators involve serious concerns about large-scale bank and tax frauds by the President prior to assuming office.
Lest one think this is unique to President Trump, remember the extensive Republican and Starr investigations of the Clintons under the auspices of “Whitewater”. In that lengthy investigation, no financial wrongdoing was ever found; however the Starr and House Republican investigators did discover President Clinton’s liaison, with a White House intern and did seek to impeach the President for being dishonest about his sexual conduct with the intern.
A few Congressional Republicans like Rep. Justin Amash and Senator Mitt Romney are speaking out about taking opposition research from foreign governments and their intelligence agencies, but most are deflecting and protecting their leader. We cannot descend into presidential lawlessness and consequent loss of credibility when truly momentous decisions like war or peace with Iran depend so heavily on America’s roles, credibility and respect across the globe. This is not normal, let alone legal, conduct by an Administration, and all Americans, regardless of partisan alignment, will need to reestablish the rule of law in DC.
Prepared by: Lucien Wulsin