Saturday, September 07, 2019


Fairly or otherwise, the Russia probe took on the stink of failure several months ago: Mueller punted on obstruction, much of the public bought the "no collusion" line, no Trump family member was indicted, and the response in the House has been a slow walk. So this just seems sad:
The House Judiciary Committee is preparing to take its first formal vote to define what Chairman Jerry Nadler calls an ongoing “impeachment investigation” of President Donald Trump, according to multiple sources briefed on the discussions.

The panel could vote as early as Wednesday on a resolution to spell out the parameters of its investigation....

Advocates of opening a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump have clamored for the Judiciary Committee to more clearly spell out the contours of its investigation -- a move they hope strengthens the House’s hand in a handful of court cases to obtain evidence and testimony against the president.
Ahh, yes, the forlorn hope -- that if you call it an impeachment process, the courts will be more inclined to compel witnesses to testify, because that's the legal precedent. As if the Republicans in the federal judiciary care about precedent, and as if the Trump White House would yield if the courts demanded an end to the stonewalling and withholding of witnesses.

The inability to compel witnesses to testify compounds the sense of failure. Russiagate was a crime, or series of crimes, but to much of America it looks like a conspiracy theory. I don't think it's possible to restore its reputation.

But that's not the only issue the House is pursuing.
In addition to probing potential obstruction of justice by Trump, the Judiciary Committee is weighing allegations that Trump directed hush money payments to women accusing him of extramarital affairs in the weeks before the 2016 election, as well as evidence that Trump has sought to steer U.S. and foreign government spending to his luxury resorts, raising questions about whether he has violated the Constitution's Emoluments Clause.
The Stormy Daniels story is juicier, but it ultimately turns on questions of campaign finance law, which the public can't comprehend and never will. The public hears about multi-million-dollar donations to PACs, and untraceable dark money to organizations that are effectively arms of political campaigns, and all of it's legal, yet a six-figure payoff to a porn star isn't? Nothing about campaign finance passes a common-sense test -- nearly all of it seems corrupt, but only certain payments are probed. Beyond that, the juicy part of this story -- Trump's adultery -- is a forgivable sin in much of the public's eyes, just as Bill Clinton's was twenty years ago.

Emoluments and self-dealing? That's what the House should focus on, for a simple reason: It's a much fresher story. Most of America believes that Russiagate has been dealt with; Trump's consensual dalliances were litigated in the media quite a while back. They're old news.

But stories like this aren't old news:
In early Spring of this year, an Air National Guard crew made a routine trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies.

What wasn’t routine was where the crew stopped along the way: President Donald Trump’s Turnberry resort, about 50 miles outside Glasgow, Scotland.

Since April, the House Oversight Committee has been investigating why the crew on the C-17 military transport plane made the unusual stay — both en route to the Middle East and on the way back — at the luxury waterside resort, according to several people familiar with the incident. But they have yet to receive any answers from the Pentagon.

The inquiry is part of a broader, previously unreported probe into U.S. military expenditures at and around the Trump property in Scotland. According to a letter the panel sent to the Pentagon in June, the military has spent $11 million on fuel at the Prestwick Airport — the closest airport to Trump Turnberry — since October 2017, fuel that would be cheaper if purchased at a U.S. military base.
This is new news -- and it's easy for the public to understand. Everyone knows that previous presidents simply didn't do this. The story of Mike Pence's stay at Doonbeg is easy to understand. Start there and work back to the promotion of Trump properties to aides and foreign governments.

I'd like to see Trump brought to justice on Russia, or on hush money payments, but it won't happen. To the public, those are dead stories. This isn't. Put Russia and Stormy on the back burner and focus on Trump lining his pockets as president.

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