We Could Be On The Verge Of Our Gravest Constitutional Crisis Since Watergate

When you look back at the history of U.S. politics going back to 1992, the GOP has thrived on ginning up phony scandals and has conducted numerous investigations of prominent Democrats. It all began in the Clinton era with the numerous fake scandals that began with Whitewater. The Clintons were investigated by three Republican special prosecutors over eight years and all they came up with was the Lewinsky matter. Neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton were charged with anything.

The GOP got back into the investigation business during the Obama Administration. While they were being egged on by the likes of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, the GOP investigated phony scandals such as Fast and Furious, the IRS targeting controversy, Hillary’s private email server and Benghazi. As a matter of fact, there were no less than eight GOP Congressional investigations of Benghazi. Once again, the GOP investigations turned up very little and nobody was charged with anything.

Republicans- as usual — were in charge of the investigation of Trump and his associates regarding the 2016 election and Russia scandal. (I detect a pattern here.) Trump appointee and loyal Republican Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed lifelong Republican Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate a Republican presidential campaign and administration.

Mueller’s findings were devastating and painted a picture of a presidential campaign that voluntarily accepted help from the Russians and was elected with the help of a foreign adversary. We also learned that Trump is most likely guilty of obstruction of justice. But for the fact he is the president, he probably would have been indicted. Trump got off on a technicality — there was no exoneration.

Now for the first time in a very long time, the Democrats have the chance to investigate Republicans. The Democrats in the House are now attempting to conduct the kind of oversight that is expected under the Constitution. However, Trump and his stooges in the Congress are now doing everything they can to block it. If he was exonerated by Mueller, why the obstruction?

The White House has done the following:

- Trump has said there is no reason for current and former White House aides to cooperate with the House since the Mueller investigation is over.

- Trump has flouted a federal law which requires that he turn over his tax returns. Trump promised numerous times to release his tax returns in 2016.

- Trump has sued the House to prevent the disclosure of his financial records. (In contrast, the Clintons voluntarily turned over all of their financial records to the three GOP special prosecutors who investigated them in the 1990s.)

- Three White House aides have defied subpoenas to testify regarding the child separation policy, the granting of security clearances to unqualified people and the manipulation of the census to favor the GOP.

- The Trump family has sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One to prevent them from turning over financial records to the Democratic majority House of Representatives.

The House Judiciary Committee has recently announced a plan in which committee attorneys — in addition to committee members — would ask Attorney General William Barr questions about the Mueller Report. The format is modeled after the one utilized by the GOP majority Senate Judiciary Committee in last year’s Kavanaugh-Blaisey Ford hearings.

Barr is threatening to boycott the House Judiciary Committee if it uses this format. Committee Chair Jerry Nadley contended that the Justice Department seemed to be “very afraid” to have Barr answer questions from committee lawyers.

It is especially important that Barr be subject to probing questions because Robert Mueller objected to Barr’s four page summary of his Russia investigation’s findings. From the NY Times: “Some of the special counsel’s investigators have told associates that they were angry about Mr. Barr’s initial characterization of their findings, government officials and others have said, and that their conclusions were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated in his four-page letter. That proved to be the case.

Investigators wrote, “Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Mr. Barr’s letter only quoted the passage that the investigation had found no conspiracy or coordination.”

That obviously was a very misleading and dishonest summary of Mueller’s findings. The Trump Administration and the press used that dishonest summary to falsely claim exoneration.

The only tool the Democrats have to remedy this stonewalling is to file suit in federal court. Litigation could take over two years. Trump is simply running out the clock until after the 2020 elections. Moreover, this so-called “conservative” majority on the Supreme Court is very political and may gut previous rulings on executive privilege made during the Nixon and Clinton Administrations. (Nixon and Clinton’s executive privilege claims were rejected by previous Supreme Courts.)

We are seeing a very clear pattern here going back to 1992. The Republicans believe that they are the only party that has the right to conduct Congressional oversight and investigations. These same Republicans appear to believe that Trump and his administration is above the law. That is clearly contrary to the intent of the Founding Fathers.

We could very well be on the verge of the greatest Constitutional crisis since Watergate. It would be a very serious matter if Trump and the Republicans take the position that Trump and his administration are somehow exempt from Congressional oversight regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections and Trump’s obstruction of justice . Former Vice President Joe Biden summed it up best: “If, in fact, they (Trump and associates) blocked the investigation, they (Congress) have no alternative, but to go to the only other constitutional resort they have is impeachment.”

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.