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GOP Senator Grassley Explains Why Congress Can Pull Trump’s Tax Returns

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) accidentally admitted that Congress has the right to see Trump’s tax returns and that the reason stated by Democrats seeking those records is valid.

Congress has officially demanded that the IRS turn over Trump’s tax returns from 2013 to 2018. Federal law states that Congress has this power.

“As chairman of the finance committee we could have the opportunity to see those too,” Grassley told Fox News on Monday.

Trump’s lawyers have argued otherwise, with his personal attorney Jay Sekulow falsely asserting that Congress had overstepped its bounds with the request.

Grassley went on to make the case for why the public should see Trump’s returns, though he didn’t seem to understand he was doing so at the time.

“If you need to write legislation, then maybe you need some information from people that are avoiding taxes or using tax loopholes, or maybe not finding a way to get out and you want to change the laws,” Grassley explained.

Trump has bragged in public about evading taxes, responding to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential debates that it “makes him smart” to do so.

Similarly, Trump’s sole piece of signature legislation, the tax scam he ushered through Congress, benefits people in his purported economic class (the ultra-wealthy). Because Trump continues to hide his returns, it is unclear to the public how much his own personal gains factored into the nitty-gritty of the legislation.

Grassley’s inadvertent admission — he opposes the public knowing Trump’s finances — blows a hole in the White House’s defense of the issue.

White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Democratic requests for Trump’s returns are a “political stunt” and vowed that it “is not going to happen.”

If Trump broke the law before assuming the presidency, or if he has written legislation with an eye towards personally profiting, the public should know about it.

Other presidential candidates had no such cloud hanging over them, as it has been a bipartisan tradition for decades to release returns. Hillary Clinton did it. As did Barack Obama, John McCain, and Mitt Romney.

Trump stood alone, and in the presidency, continues to stand alone on the topic. He asserts unbelievable claims that his finances remain under audit, while refusing to level with the public. His immediate predecessor in office, President Obama, always released his returns.

While trying to defend Trump, Grassley made a key mistake: He told the truth, and also made the case for why the country should know far more about Trump’s secret finances.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Senators Demand Investigation Of Sexual Abuse at Immigrant Shelters

Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called on Wednesday for a federal investigation into what they termed “the alleged widespread and long-term pattern of sexual abuse” in the facilities holding immigrant children.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General’s Office, the senators said they were particularly concerned that allegations of sexual assault aren’t being properly investigated.

The issue received new attention last week when the House Judiciary Committee released HHS records detailing 4,556 allegations of sexual abuse by children in federally funded immigration facilities from October 2014 to July 2018.

Last summer, ProPublica reported that police nationwide had received hundreds of calls reporting possible sex crimes at shelters that serve immigrant children. An Arizona shelter worker was sentenced to 19 years in prison after being convicted of molesting seven boys over nearly a year.

In December, ProPublica followed up that reporting to show that while many children had reported sexual assaults, records show the police weren’t investigating, often closing the cases within days or even hours.

In one case, a 13-year-old Honduran boy said he told his counselor at Boystown outside Miami that two older teens had tackled him, dragged him into an empty bedroom and tried to take off his clothes. One of them, he said, pinned him facedown and grinded his penis against his butt.

But the shelter waited nearly a month to call the police, taped over surveillance video showing part of the assault and then, according to the police report, told officers “the incident was settled and no sexual crime” had occurred. The Miami-Dade police closed the case without ever interviewing the alleged victim.

The Archdiocese of Miami, which runs Boystown, said it had handled the case properly.

After ProPublica’s questions, the Miami-Dade police reopened the investigation and have not announced their findings.

A week after ProPublica’s story, the Arizona Mirror reported on three child abuse allegations that prompted the federal government to shut down a shelter outside Phoenix. As in the Florida case, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office had closed the cases without interviewing the children involved.

“We find it intolerable and inexcusable that child care operators are not immediately investigating reports, contacting and fully assisting law enforcement, preserving evidence and demanding justice for these children,” Grassley and Feinstein wrote.

President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, which led to the separation of thousands of children from their families at the border last year, has focused attention on the government’s network of more than 100 immigrant children’s facilities across the country. Months after Trump officially ended the policy in June, the system remains near capacity as new policies, including the arrest of undocumented relatives who come forward to claim the children as guardians, have prevented children from being released from the shelters.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement is currently holding about 11,500 children, and the average length of stay has grown from just over 30 days in 2016 to nearly 90 days at the end of last year.

Throughout the summer of 2018, Trump administration officials repeatedly asserted that ORR shelters were safe, even fun, places for kids. But those claims quickly began to crumble as abuse reports surfaced.

After ProPublica’s reporting on sex crimes and other issues in the shelters last summer, as well as stories of abuse by other media outlets, Grassley and Feinstein demanded an investigation. Since then, investigators for the HHS inspector general have visited dozens of facilities to look into child safety at the shelters and whether operators were doing background checks of employees.

The HHS records released last week show that 178 complaints of sexual abuse by shelter staff were reported to federal law enforcement authorities between 2014 and 2018.

A review of the 80 cases reported in 2015 and 2016 shows that 21 staff members were either terminated or resigned following the allegations. Two other cases involved kids who were removed from their foster homes. And in another two, staff members were terminated for other reasons.

However, the HHS documents also show that a significant portion of the allegations were never investigated by child welfare officials and most contained no information about whether they were reported to law enforcement.

The senators asked investigators to gather police reports on all HHS facilities for unaccompanied children, review the agency’s policies and response and make recommendations about “what can be done to stop these assaults.”

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

2016 Prospects Encouraged To Do The ‘Full Grassley’ In Iowa

By Niels Lesniewski, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

Sen. Joni Ernst’s motorcycle ride and barbecue got most of the attention last weekend as Republican presidential candidates descended on Iowa, but the state’s senior senator spent plenty of time with the presidential prospects as well.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley isn’t expected to have any trouble winning a seventh term, but he’s taking nothing for granted. He told Roll Call last week he anticipates making appearances with other candidates and said there would be more fundraisers for his own political efforts.

Grassley told reporters in Iowa over the weekend he would encourage presidential prospects to attempt what he called the “full Grassley” — a reference to his annual tour of each of the 99 counties in his home state.

“Senator Grassley really appreciates the assistance he is receiving from the presidential candidates and all of the events have been successful,” Grassley’s longtime general consultant and strategist, John Maxwell, said in an email this week.

Maxwell said Grassley was interested in hosting events with each of the dozen-plus prospects who are expected to get into the race, with the expectation Iowa will be of interest well beyond the 2016 caucuses as a general-election battleground.

Maxwell noted that the only time in the past five presidential cycles that the GOP carried Iowa in a presidential contest came in 2004, when Grassley also appeared on the ballot. Grassley’s race is considered Safe Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.

Grassley has not held an event of a scale similar to Ernst’s “Roast and Ride,” which some have compared to the annual steak fry thrown by Sen. Tom Harkin, who has since resigned from the Senate. But Grassley has welcomed all presidential prospects to join him at the Iowa State Fair and at smaller events, such as the fundraiser he held with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on June 6.”We welcome the opportunity to be first in the nation. We want to be first in the nation,” Grassley said at a media availability coinciding with the fundraiser with Walker, who had earlier ridden with Ernst. “We want all candidates to feel welcome here. So, it isn’t only because he’s been a good governor that I would want him to be here campaigning. I think that this is the one state where it doesn’t matter whether you’ve hundreds of millions of dollars to run for president of the United States, or very little,” Grassley said.

“I want a strong party in here Iowa … not just should I be a candidate and ultimately be the nominee, but I want to make sure that Sen. Grassley and the great members of Congress are sent back, not just for Iowa’s sake but for the nation’s sake,” said Walker, who is expected to formally enter the presidential contest sometime after Wisconsin wraps up work on its state budget.

Grassley has said that his home state’s key role in the presidential nominating process does have fundraising benefits, and Republicans would seem well-served to appear with the longtime lawmaker. Grassley’s among the most popular and well-connected figures in the state and does more than fundraising, Maxwell said.

“For example he has a long history of accompanying and introducing candidates around the Iowa State Fair. He and the candidates have great fun doing that and it is an experience the visitors never forget,” Maxwell told CQ Roll Call. “These activities give Iowans the opportunity to learn about the candidates and in turn allows the candidates to learn about Iowa, its people and priorities. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation and believe our experience can help the whole country.”

In addition to the warm words for each other, Grassley and Walker praised Sen. Ron Johnson, the first-term Republican senator from Wisconsin who faces one of the most difficult re-election contests in 2016, with an expected rematch against Democrat Russ Feingold, who Johnson ousted in 2010.

Walker pointed to the contrast between Johnson and Feingold, while Grassley pointed to Johnson’s committee chairmanship, making an argument about his clout.

“He’s chairman of one of the most important committees in the United States Senate, the committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. It’s not only homeland security. That part of it is obviously very important, particularly in the time of terrorism, but the other aspect of it, it’s the committee that does the most investigations of any committee in the Congress of the United States.”

(c)2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Immigration, Impeachment, And Insanity On The Republican Right

Obstructing, denouncing, and demonizing Barack Obama are so central to the existence of the Republican Party today that its leaders simply ignore the real purposes of the president’s proposed immigration orders. So someone should point out that his imminent decision will advance priorities to which the Republican right offers routine lip service: promoting family values, assisting law enforcement, ensuring efficient government, and guarding national security.

Much of the argument for immigration reform, and in particular the president’s proposed executive orders, revolves around the imperative of compassion for immigrant families. That is a powerful claim — or should be, at least, for the self-styled Christians of the Republican right. If they aren’t moved by empathy for struggling, aspiring, hard-working people, however, then maybe they should just consider the practicalities.

America is not going to deport millions upon millions of Latino immigrants and their families to satisfy Tea Party prejudices, even if that were possible. Attempting to do so would be a gigantic waste of taxpayers’ money, an unwelcome burden on thousands of major employers, and an inhumane disgrace with international consequences, none of them good. It might or might not be “legal,” but it would surely be stupid.

Instead the Obama administration aims to relieve the terrible pressure on immigrant laborers and their children, and to direct resources where they will best accomplish national objectives, by deporting serious felons and other illegal entrants who may endanger security. By insisting on those broad yet clear distinctions, the president will protect the innocent and prosecute the not-so-innocent – exactly what he should be doing with the support of Congress.

Those wise objectives don’t interest the congressional majority, compared with the chance to rile their base by muttering threats against Obama. Just the other day, a tweet appeared under the name of Chuck Grassley, long among the dimmer members of the Senate, warning that the president is “flagrantly violating his oath” and “getting dangerously close to assuming a Nixonian posture.” For the Iowa Republican, that’s subtlety. In case you missed it, he was blustering about impeachment, and he isn’t alone.

Like so many of the familiar accusations against the president, complaints that his executive orders on immigration are “Nixonian” or “lawless” lack merit. Such orders are well within the recognized authority of his office, and considerably more conservative than the official conduct of some of his predecessors, such as George W. Bush – who issued about a hundred more executive orders than Obama has done so far.

With respect to constitutional principle, the camouflage favored by Obama’s antagonists, their flexibility is telling. The separation of powers only matters when they say so. They say nothing when the president uses executive orders to tighten immigration and deport more people than all his predecessors combined. Indeed, when the outcome pleases Republicans, then nobody needs to worry about executive overreach, let alone high crimes and misdemeanors.

Nor does a presidential executive order – even one granting “amnesty” to immigrant children – trouble the Republicans when a Republican president implements that kind of reform. When Presidents Ronald Reagan and then George H.W. Bush took action to keep immigrant families together during their respective administrations, refusing to wait for Congress to move, there was no barking from the likes of Grassley. (According to The Hill, the two GOP presidents made those adjustments following the passage of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which created a “path to citizenship” for about 3 million undocumented workers. It was signed by the sainted Reagan.)

Republicans in the Senate and House have rejected every legislative opportunity on immigration, including measures to strengthen border security. That’s because they prefer partisan confrontation – and that is what they will get. The consequences for their party promise to be politically devastating – and still worse if they are foolish enough to believe their own rhetoric about impeachment.

Photo: Supporters of immigration reform protest outside the White House on Nov. 7, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

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