Editorial: Trump creates another crisis

For the past several weeks, the president has been goading the House into filing impeachment proceedings against him, believing that the move would be unpopular among a majority of Americans and would help galvanize his supporters — and, besides, it’s fairly certain that the Senate under Sen. Mitch McConnell would never buckle to that outcome despite all the evidence to the contrary and that the courts will eventually rule in his favor.
So why not force the issue?
And yesterday he did just that by issuing an order of executive privilege to prevent Congress from receiving the redacted Mueller report from Attorney General William Barr. Remember, this is a thoroughly documented two-year report by Robert Mueller III’s team to learn of Trump’s campaign ties with Russian players who sought to influence the election. There is no question that Russian players sought to influence the election as criminal charges have been filed against several. And there is no question Trump’s team met with some of them. How much and to what end were the questions the report sought to answer.
Remember, too, that appointing the special counsel was agreed upon by both political parties, and Mueller, a declared Republican, was widely praised as a nonpartisan political appointee. Being able to read what the special counsel spent two years researching was the end goal of both political parties when the investigation was launched.
But after Barr sullied the report’s findings with a prejudiced summary that Mueller and his team have objected to, and now acting to bar those who testified to come before Congressional hearings, it is more imperative than ever that the full report be available for congressional review.
Trump’s justification to prevent sending the full report to Congress is that they have “no legitimate legislative purpose” on which to base the request — despite Mueller’s protestations to the contrary.
And a few days prior, Trump also forbade his Treasury secretary from turning over his tax returns, something he had always said he would do during the campaign and every president since President Nixon has done.
In both cases, Americans should wonder what the president has to hide. If he is innocent, let the facts of the report and his tax returns prove his claim. That he is fighting so hard to prevent it is what makes his motives suspect.
So suspect, in fact, that late Wednesday the House filed contempt charges against Barr, but to what end? Barr, Trump and team will likely refuse to obey the contempt charges, forcing the House to exercise its oversight responsibility of the executive branch by sending the matter to the courts.
But there’s another avenue: if the House filed impeachment proceedings, the courts would have more difficulty ruling that the evidence sought by the House was not relevant. And the refusal to cooperate with such impeachment inquiries, as was found during the Nixon impeachment, could itself be an impeachable offense. Congress might then get the material it is seeking, though it would still be a lengthy battle fought in the courts.
The questions the public should ponder are simply: should Congress have the right to view the unredacted Mueller report, and should it have the right to review the president’s tax returns to learn if his past personal or business practices have in any way compromised his ability to serve the country faithfully as its president?
The answers are matter of fact. Mueller’s report outlined 10 examples of obstruction of justice, examples that sparked a signed petition of more than 375 former Justice Department officials and federal prosecutors — Republican and Democrat — saying there was ample evidence to convict Trump for obstruction of justice. That Barr sought to portray the report as an exoneration of Trump was nothing more than a cover-up.
Trump’s refusal to reveal his tax returns, along with the devastating report by the New York Times on Trump’s huge personal and business losses from 1985-94 (over $1 billion) also amplify the belief that Trump either has not been as successful as he has led his supporters to believe or his tax returns would reveal some scandalous, possibly illegal actions — or both.
Certainly, even Trump’s supporters wonder why he doesn’t just reveal his tax returns to demonstrate how successful he is, and that he is a president who is honest and trustworthy. Well, OK, not honest (because that’s a bridge too far), but at least that he wouldn’t sell us down the river to the Russians.
That’s the least Americans should expect of any president, right?
In his column this Wednesday, Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman sums up why Trump wants to hide his tax information and why the American public should want Congress to pursue it: “There may be evidence that Trump did more than simply exploit loopholes in the tax code. As Steve Rosenthal of the Tax Policy Center points out, Trump was taking enormous tax deductions on losses of other people’s money. But when the loans he couldn’t pay back were restructured or forgiven, he would have had to declare those funds he was no longer responsible for paying as income, and pay taxes on it.
“Did he? We don’t know. We do know, however, that Trump believes paying taxes makes you a sucker… We also know from an extensively documented New York Times investigation that Trump, his father, and his siblings executed a scheme to defraud the government of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue in the 1990s.
“Trump’s own personal greed and his sense that the rules don’t apply to him have never been in question. But why would he be so threatened by people learning that he isn’t as wealthy as he claims?
“Part of it is ego, of course; he plainly equates money with one’s value as a human being. But it’s also because he built his career on the belief that if he could convince people he’s impossibly rich, he’d become impossibly rich and remain so.
“That’s what Trump has always sold, whether it was to the people he conned out of their life savings with Trump University or to the voters… And if Trump isn’t so wealthy after all, what is he? A small-time grifter, a business failure, a gossip-pages lech, a reality-show buffoon.
“That’s what he’s hiding, for sure. And maybe much more.”
Angelo Lynn

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