Thursday, March 22, 2018

Republicans in Congress Fail to Act "against all enemies, foreign and domestic"

The oath of office administered to each member of Congress contains those words.

The Constitution (Article VI, clause 3) requires that Senators and Representatives take an oath of office to support the Constitution. The specific language of the oath has changed several times since it was first administered in 1789. It is set by statute (5 U.S.C. 3331), enacted by Congress. It now reads:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

U.S. law requires that Members must be sworn before they can take their seats (2 U.S.C. 21, 25). The rules of the House of Representatives prohibit a Member from voting or introducing a bill until he/she has taken the oath.

The oath is administered to Members-elect on the opening day of each new Congress. In the House, the Speaker administers the oath to the Members present in the chamber all at once, as a group. Members absent on opening day due to illness or other reasons, take the oath later from the Speaker, or another House officer. If they cannot make it to the House, a local justice in their area is usually designated by the Speaker of the House to administer the oath.

In the Senate, the oath is administered by the President of the Senate (the Vice-President of the U.S.), or a Senator is designated to give the oath in his stead. Senators come forward to take the oath in alphabetical order in groups of four on the opening day of a new Congress. They are escorted to the front of the chamber by the sitting Senator from their state.

In my opinion, Trump’s pre-election apologists were dead wrong and that list includes sitting members of Congress. If the Trump campaign colluded with a foreign power, and if Trump knew of it or participated in it, then inaction by members of Congress would violate their oath of office.

Here’s A reminder of just how wrong Trump apologists were from Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post.

President Trump is reportedly “more confident” in his job — what results provide him with such confidence is unknown — and hence we see an undiluted Trump. The promise that one day he would pivot, or become presidential, was ludicrous. In fact, he has gotten worse with time. [Scriber: It’s all coming out in Trump’s Terrible Twos.]

We now see unrestrained Trump — the one who hates criticism; who must continually pummel his opponents; who never bothers to learn about subjects on which he expounds; who thinks everyone in government owes their personal loyalty to him; who means what he says for only a fleeting instant; who confounds allies with policy zigzags; who bullies and blusters; who lies continually; and who, despite his bravado, cannot take on those to whom he apparently owes his presidency (e.g., the National Rifle Association, the Kremlin).

What were Trump’s apologists thinking?

We vividly remember when Republican sycophants assured us that all would be fine because Trump assembled a dazzling Cabinet and the greatest national security team ever. … On the contrary, Trump surrounded himself with people like him (rich, ethically-clueless, allergic to facts, etc.), and he has eschewed people who either tell him no or tell him he is wrong. … The promise that he would be saved by advisers with more intellect, temperament and experience also ignored Trump’s unwillingness to hire critics who voiced their qualms during the campaign. …

But, but … Congress will constrain him! That’s what Trump apologists (including congressional Republicans) assured us. Really. As a matter of policy, they have either been inert or have encouraged his worst tendencies (e.g., demagoguery on the “dreamers”). On appointments, they have rubber-stamped a cast of characters that is distinguished mostly by ethical slip-ups and antagonism toward the missions of the departments and agencies they lead. As for checking Trump’s personal failures, they have turned a blind eye toward his conflicts, his foreign earnings and his refusal to release his tax returns. They have no stomach for confronting Trump. (Even on tariffs, they’ve talked a good game, but no legislation has been forthcoming.)

More specifically, these same apologists in Congress are not likely to mount any serious defense of Robert Mueller and the Russian investigation. Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) reports on A GOP senator’s remarkable admission about Trump and Mueller, that Senator being Bob Corker.

President Trump just uncorked a new round of Twitter attacks this morning on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and on the English language, quoting one of his staunchest legal allies as follows: “I think President Trump was right when he said there never should have been a Special Council appointed because there was no probable cause for believing that there was any crime, collusion or otherwise, or obstruction of justice!”

Yet Republicans appear increasingly dug into their position. Their stance is that of course Mueller should be allowed to finish his investigation, but they will not act legislatively to protect the probe, because this is not at all necessary, as Trump would never dream of taking action against it, since he would face severe consequences that Republicans will not enunciate in advance.

But a Republican lawmaker has just given away the real game behind this carefully crafted straddle. Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) was pressed by the Washington Examiner on why Republicans are hesitant to protect Mueller, and this is what happened:

Republicans in Congress are hesitant to antagonize President Trump ahead of ahead of difficult midterm elections, wary of sparking a backlash from a committed grassroots base more loyal to the White House.

Amid sky-high Democratic enthusiasm and a developing “blue wave,” Republicans can’t afford a war with Trump that depresses GOP turnout. Republicans might be worried about Trump’s attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller, but they are reluctant to push back, much less support legislation to curtail the president’s ability to fire Mueller and sideline the federal probe …

“The president is, as you know — you’ve seen his numbers among the Republican base — it’s very strong. It’s more than strong, it’s tribal in nature,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who decided to retire when his second term concludes at year’s end, after periodically sparring with Trump.*

“People who tell me, who are out on trail, say, look, people don’t ask about issues anymore. They don’t care about issues. They want to know if you’re with Trump or not,” Corker added.

This is a candid glimpse from a leading GOP lawmaker into what’s really driving the Republican straddle on Mueller. …

… Trump’s attacks probably rally GOP base voters, large percentages of whom see the Mueller probe as a witch hunt, making it harder for GOP lawmakers to protect that investigation.

Corker just conceded that this is the driving motive. He suggested that GOP voters equate being “with Trump” in a “tribal” sense with not acting to protect Mueller. Republicans are mindful of this as they craft their position toward Mueller, which includes rhetorical support for the probe but no new substantive limits on Trump’s power to do what they say they don’t want him to do.

At bottom, the GOP position is basically to beg Trump not to bring the issue to a head, without taking any action to prevent it — and without signaling what Republicans will do in response if he does. …

Corker has basically conceded that Republicans believe it would alienate the GOP base to signal that removing Mueller would meet with specific consequences. But if this is the case, and Trump does try to shut down or hamstring the probe, that would only further rally Republican voters behind him. Why would it be any easier to inflict consequences at that point? If, as Corker says, what matters most in this calculus is what GOP voters think of lawmakers’ tribal loyalty to Trump, it would only get harder. And really, why would Trump take any other lesson from what he’s seeing right now?

All that is more evidence for why we cannot count on Republicans in Congress to do anything to protect Robert Mueller. And, I add, Corker’s analysis is evidence for why we cannot count on Republicans to defend our nation.

Here, from Mark Sumner writing at Daily Kos, is a specific example. Part three of Cambridge Analytica report makes a liar out of everyone on the Trump campaign. Select snippets follow.

UK Channel 4 has released the third part of their undercover investigation of Cambridge Analytica, and what it shows absolutely destroys the narrative that has been sold by the Trump campaign, by CA, and by congressional Republicans.

Despite desperate attempts from both sides to downplay CA’s role in the Trump campaign, Cambridge CEO Alexander Nix left no doubt about the scope of the company’s work when he thought the cameras weren’t watching.

“We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy.”

The company bragged about this ability to create stories that spread through the internet while leaving no fingerprints.

“We just put information into the bloodstream to the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape. And so this stuff infiltrates the online community and expands but with no branding – so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”

And Nix leaves absolutely no doubt that, as far as he is concerned, it was Cambridge Analytica’s weaponized disinformation tools that put Trump over the top—while deceiving Americans by the millions by feeding them false stories from disguised sources.

In addition to bragging about their ability to make people believe any lie, and their ability to spread those lies in ways that make them look like actual news, Cambridge Analytica’s leaders were also anxious to share how they violated US campaign funding laws by coordinating between the Trump campaign and supposedly independent PACs.

… Mr Turnbull described how the company created the “Defeat Crooked Hilary” brand of attack ads, that were funded by the Make America Number 1 super-PAC and watched more than 30 million times during the campaign.

Nix was also happy to confirm reports that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee really had no interest in finding any sort of problem.

Mr Nix also belittled representatives on the House Intelligence Committee to whom he gave evidence in 2017. He claims Republican members asked just three questions. “After five minutes – done.”

The report reveals that Cambridge Analytica was behind everything on the Trump campaign, from the research to the ad campaigns.

It shows that Cambridge Analytica was actively planting false stories and using false fronts to disguise the source of information.

It confirms what Republican Representative Mike Conaway already let slip—that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee actively avoided finding any issues.

With respect to those Republicans, Jennifer Rubin closed with this advice, in essence, Vote ’em out!

In sum, Trump could neither hire nor heed the advice of “very best people” on his staff or Cabinet. The pusillanimous Congress was never going to challenge him. But here’s the thing: By removing the GOP majority in Congress, the country can mitigate — not eliminate — Trump’s increasingly unhinged conduct. To get the institutional check that Republicans such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) promised, it seems, they need to be stripped of that majority.

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