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Tag: pat cipollone

Justice Department Subpoenas Cipollone In January 6 Probe

A federal grand jury has reportedly subpoenaed former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone as the Department of Justice conducts its probe into the events of January 6, 2021.

First reported by ABC News, the unnamed sources cited were unclear about what track of the investigation Cipollone may have been asked to testify about, but it is widely reported there are two major prongs the Justice Department is reviewing: former President Donald Trump’s fraudulent gambit to advance fake electors in battleground states and conspiracy to obstruct government proceedings. It is possible the latter could involve seditious conspiracy.

During the hearings, Cipollone’s private testimony punctuated or corroborated other accounts from witnesses who were in close proximity to Trump as the path to January 6 unfolded.

He told the committee how he expressed his concern to Trump that his election fraud claims were not credible. He also urged Trump to concede the victory to now President Joe Biden. On the day of the attack, Cipollone recounted how he pleaded for an “immediate and forceful response, statement, [or] public statement that people need to leave the Capitol now” as Trump idled inside the White House as blood was shed.


Cipollone witnessed discussions where the president and his advisers spoke of seizing voting machines as well as a bid by Trump to effectively capture the Justice Department by having a lackey lawyer at the agency, Jeffrey Clark, send letters to states proclaiming voter fraud where none existed. The attempt only failed after a host of senior-level Justice Department attorneys threatened a mass resignation.

The request for Cipollone to appear comes as other senior Trump administration officials have testified before a grand jury. Last week, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, the former chief of staff and counsel to ex-Vice President Mike Pence, reportedly went before one. Both Short and Jacob ultimately cooperated with the Jan. 6 committee.

Others in Trump’s circle who advanced efforts to overturn the 2020 election, like attorneys Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, and Jenna Ellis have come under increasing scrutiny by the DOJ. Federal agents have already seized Eastman’s phone and raided Clark’s house.

And according to court records, there appears to be some significant overlap: Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom, who appeared on the docket for the Eastman phone warrant, is also leading the department’s probe into the fake electors for Trump scheme.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

January 6 Hearings To Examine Links Between Trump Aides And Violent Extremists

By Richard Cowan and Katanga Johnson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Congressional investigators into the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol expect this week to draw connections between violent extremist groups that took part and government officials, possibly including then-President Donald Trump, a member of the committee conducting the investigation said on Sunday.

"We are going to be connecting the dots during these hearings between these groups and those who were trying in government circles to overturn the election," Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren said on CNN's State of the Union.

Asked if Trump was aware members of these groups attended a rally he led outside the White House when he urged them to march on the Capitol, Lofgren said: "You have to reach your own conclusions but based on the events leading up to the day, I think that would be a logical conclusion."

Trump, a Republican, has falsely claimed Democrat Joe Biden defeated him in the 2020 presidential election through massive fraud - assertions rejected in U.S. courts, by Trump's own Justice Department and even Republican-led audits.

After Trump spoke outside the White House on January 6, his supporters marched to the Capitol in a failed bid to prevent Congress from certifying Biden's victory in a session where then-Vice President Mike Pence was presiding.

Two groups, the self-described Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, will be under the spotlight in the two hearings this week, expected on Tuesday and Thursday.

NBC News reported that Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers, would testify on Tuesday. A committee spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Federal prosecutors have alleged that Jeremy Brown, a member of the Oath Keepers, brought explosives to the Washington area on January 6. Brown, in a statement, called the charges a "disgusting lie."

During a September 2020 debate between Trump and Biden before the November election, Trump was asked whether he would condemn white supremacist and militia groups for violent activities during his presidency.

Trump responded, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by." He added, "Somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left. ... this is a left-wing problem."

On Friday, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone testified to committee investigators behind closed doors.

Videotaped excerpts of that testimony will be presented at Tuesday's hearing, said Lofgren, who is one of nine members on a bipartisan House of Representatives Select Committee that began its current series of public hearings last month.

"He was able to provide information on basically all of the critical issues we are looking at, including the president's what-I-would-call dereliction of duty on the day of January 6," Lofgren said.

The committee has yet to say whether this Thursday's hearing, expected in evening prime time when U.S. television audiences are at their peak, will be the final one before a panel report is issued, possibly in September.

Representative Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the panel, is expected to lead witness questioning that night, along with Democratic Representative Elaine Luria.

"We're going to really focus on what was the president doing from in essence the moment the insurrection started until he finally, hours later, put out a tweet that said, 'We shouldn't do anything like this,'" Kinzinger told ABC's This Week.

He added, "Keep in mind in the middle of that was the tweet that said in essence this is what happens when you steal an election; that Vice President Pence deserved this."

In earlier committee testimony, witnesses said Trump signaled support for rioters calling for Pence to be hanged.

Lofgren also said the committee had received a letter from Trump adviser Steve Bannon saying he would be willing to testify. Bannon was charged last year with two counts of contempt of Congress for defying a committee subpoena.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Katanga Johnson; additional reporting by Tyler Clifford and Patricia Zengerle; editing by Mary Milliken, Howard Goller and Edwina Gibbs)

Former Trump Counsel Cipollone Will Meet With House Select Committee

Fresh off a subpoena requesting his cooperation, former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone is slated to testify before the House Select Committee for a private, transcribed, and videotaped interview.

A committee aide did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The New York Times was the first to report the development Wednesday, citing a person briefed on the matter.

Cipollone’s full compliance could be illuminating for the investigation into former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. According to sworn testimony already delivered by former members of the Department of Justice under Trump, as well as Trump White House officials, Cipollone was often a firsthand witness to make-or-break moments in Trump’s attempted coup.

Cipollone was privy to multiple conversations about the bunk elector scheme championed by Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, witnesses have said, and Cipollone was also present when Trump raised the question of seizing voting machines.

The former president’s counsel attended a meeting recently detailed at length—and under oath—by the nation’s former acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, and Rosen’s deputy, Richard Donoghue.

Rosen and Donoghue testified that it was Cipollone who stood tall against Trump in the Oval Office during a meeting where Trump nearly fired Rosen and replaced him with yes-man Jeffrey Clark, a mid-level environmental lawyer at the Department of Justice who strongly supported Trump’s baseless election fraud claims.

Like Cipollone, Clark was subpoenaed by the committee. But Clark refused to answer any questions and instead pleaded the Fifth Amendment repeatedly during a private meeting with committee counsel.

When Rosen and Donoghue testified, they described how the draft letter written by Clark rattled off a long series of bogus claims about election fraud in Georgia and urged that “alternate” electors be seated.

Rosen’s predecessor, Attorney General Bill Barr, had already declared publicly and in private meetings with Trump, that there was no evidence of fraud widespread enough that it would alter the outcome of the election. But Clark, Rosen and Donoghue said, pushed ahead anyway.

When Cipollone saw the draft letter, Donoghue told the committee he remembered the counsel’s reaction vividly.

If the DOJ cosigned it, Cipollone allegedly said, it would be a “murder-suicide pact.”

The draft letter never went out because Donoghue, Rosen, and others at the Department of Justice threatened to resign en masse if Trump insisted on replacing Rosen with Clark.

According to sworn testimony already provided by former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, Cipollone was also part of key conversations with Mark Meadows, then Trump’s chief of staff.

Hutchinson said Cipollone pleaded with Meadows to act as the mob grew larger, gallows were erected on the Capitol lawn and chants of ‘Hang Mike Pence’ reverberated on Capitol grounds.

Hutchinson recalled Cipollone telling Meadows how desperate the situation had become on Jan. 6 and urged Meadows to understand that the mob was quite literally calling to kill then-Vice President Mike Pence.

“You heard him, Pat,” Hutchinson recalled Meadows saying. “He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”

According to Hutchinson's recounting of the day, Cipollone was flabbergasted.

“This is f-ing crazy. We need to be doing something more,” Cipollone allegedly said.

Cipollone has been a stalwart ally to Trump, representing the 45th president for both of his impeachments and in various other legal matters. When Trump was impeached for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power in 2019, Cipollone offered a vehement and sharp defense of Trump, taking up the “witch hunt” mantle at length and slamming the inquiry as meritless and part of a campaign by Democrats and those on the left to punish Trump for political differences.

When Trump was impeached the first time, Cipollone notably called for cameras to be barred from proceedings, arguing it would create a circus-like atmosphere. The cameras would stay.

Trump was ultimately quite pleased with Cipollone’s performance during the first impeachment, calling him a “Great White House counsel.”

This latest decision to comply with the January 6 committee’s subpoena will put Trump’s relationship with Cipollone to the test and the extent of Cipollone’s cooperation will naturally hinge on what he actually discloses.

When Trump attorney John Eastman tried to fend off the committee’s subpoena for his records, Eastman cited attorney-client privilege but was unable to overcome the crime-fraud exception to this assertion. The crime-fraud exception essentially says that confidentiality is not blanketed and if a client sought advice from an attorney that would help that client pull off or commission a crime, then work product or correspondence can be disclosed.

A Washington Post profile of Cipollone from January 2020 notes the counsel’s propensity to keep himself out of the national spotlight.

His profile was so low in Washington, D.C., in fact, that when Cipollone first took to the Senate floor during Trump’s impeachment, it was his first time ever appearing on C-SPAN.

Memorably, even while presiding over the inquiry, Chief Justice John Roberts introduced Cipollone and mispronounced his last name.

Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s personal attorneys, told Yahoo! News in January 2020 that Cipollone was a “serious tactician” and described him as an “aggressive advocate” for the 45th president, though “measured.”

In that same 2020 article, an unnamed Trump White House official said Trump saw Cipollone as “beyond loyal.”

Cipollone will appear before the committee for his private session this Friday.

The committee’s next public hearing is July 12 at 10 AM ET and there will be at least one more hearing to follow. The committee is expected to focus on the extremist elements involved in the insurrection as well as unpack exactly what was going on during the 187 minutes of silence from the White House as the Capitol was under attack.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Book: Graham Threatened Trump With 25th Amendment After Capitol Insurrection

A new book is shedding light on Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) push back against former President Donald Trump while an angry mob of far-right Trump supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, the authors of the book, titled This Will Not Pass, detailed the Republican senator's call to White House general counsel Pat Cipollone.

During the call, Graham reportedly leveled a threat toward Cipollone, saying, "we’ll be asking for the 25th Amendment” if Trump didn't take aggressive action to quell the chaos erupting inside the federal building.

Speaking to the authors of the book after the chaos waned on January 6, Graham reportedly said, “People will say, ‘I don’t want to be associated with that.’ ... There will be a rallying effect for a while, the country says: We’re better than this,” Graham said, according to Axios.

While an impeachment trial could have led to Trump's removal, a CNN report highlighted the unique difference between impeachment and the 25th Amendment:

"The 25th Amendment, which has periodically been discussed as a means of last resort to remove a rogue or incapacitated president, would be a faster route to removing Trump."

So, how would that have worked? CNN senior writer Zachary Wolf explained the full process.

"To forcibly wrest power from Trump, Pence would have to be on board, according to the text of the amendment," Wolf wrote. "Pence would also need either a majority of Trump's Cabinet officials to agree the President is unfit for office and temporarily seize power from him."

He added, "Trump could dispute their move with a letter to Congress. Pence and the Cabinet would then have four days to dispute him, Congress would then vote -- it requires a two-thirds supermajority, usually 67 senators and 290 House members to permanently remove him."

According to HuffPost, the January 6 insurrection wasn't the only time the 25th Amendment was mentioned. The book details reportedly follow multiple occasions where lawmakers discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

How Bill Barr Is Trying To Clean Up His Declining Reputation

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former Attorney General Bill Barr's record leading the Justice Department is coming into clearer light as Merrick Garland takes the reins of the agency, and new revelations are bringing the much-maligned Trump acolyte under new scrutiny. It's now clear that under his watch, DOJ obtained the communication records of multiple journalists, a disturbing use of government power that is supposed to face stringent restrictions. Some argue it should never happen at all. The news was revealed when the new administration contacted the journalists to inform them of what had happened.

And the public has also learned that Barr's DOJ sought to force Twitter to unmask an anonymous account critical of California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, a close Trump ally. Shortly after Garland was sworn in as attorney general, DOJ dropped the subpoena against Twitter.

So how is the former attorney general reacting to the new administration airing his dirty laundry? From all appearances, it looks like he's trying to launder his reputation by anonymously giving Trump administration scoops to reporters.

There've previously been signs that Barr has a tendency to plant stories in the press when it serves his interest, but a recent piece in Politico may be one of the most blatant and transparent efforts from the former AG to manage and rehabilitate his reputation.

The piece is titled "Inside Trump's push to oust his own FBI chief," and it's sold as delivering an "explosive" story about scandal in the White House, a genre that's become quite common in the past four years. But read just a little bit between the lines, and what's happening is clear: Barr is personally pushing this story to sell a narrative about himself as principled and independent from Trump. It's not clear if it's coming in direct response to the other revelations about Barr mentioned above, or if he's just more broadly concerned about differentiating himself from Trump; perhaps both motivations are playing a role.

The story, like so many tales of White House intrigue, is sourced anonymously, so how am I able to confidently say it came from Bill Barr? Because without saying so directly, the story as written makes it unambiguously clear.

Consider this passage:

It all came to a head in late April, when Barr went over to the White House for a routine meeting in then-chief of staff Mark Meadows' office.
Instead, a staffer from his office intercepted Barr and told him he was actually going to meet in the Roosevelt Room, where such meetings were not usually held.
Barr found it strange to be put in that room, especially given that no one else was there when they entered it. Soon afterward, John McEntee, the powerful head of the presidential personnel office and a hard-core Trump loyalist, entered. Then [William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, also came into the room.
Barr asked McEntee, "What's this all about?" recounted one of the former Trump officials.
McEntee demurred and checked his phone. They were waiting on others, he told Barr.
Fuming, Barr walked out of the room and barged into Meadows' office. "What the f--- is going on?" he asked.

The story is clearly told from Bill Barr's point of view. We're told Barr "found it strange" to be in a room — who would know his feelings but Barr himself? Then when others enter the room, it's Barr who is active. His remarks come in direct quotes, and we're told they were recounted by "one of the former Trump officials." That leaves only three possibilities for the source of the information, and Barr is the only plausible candidate.

McEntee is described having "demurred and checked his phone." That's not how someone tends to talk about their own actions. And then when McEntee speaks, the words are not in quotation marks. This makes sense if Barr is telling the reporter the story — Barr can be directly quoted for his own past remarks that he recounts, but his recounting of any responses from others is more likely to be paraphrased, so these words don't merit quotation marks.

And here's the clincher: As the setting of the story changes, the narrative follows Bill Barr leaving the room and going to another room, where he talks to Mark Meadows. This is Barr's story, he's the protagonist, and it's being told from his point of view. He's the primary source for the narrative.

The story continued:

Then, in a meeting later that day with both Meadows and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Barr demanded to know what was happening. When told that Trump wanted to replace Wray with Evanina and make Patel the deputy director of the FBI, Barr calmly told them he couldn't stay in his job if Trump's preferred picks were installed at the FBI over his objection, two of the former officials familiar with the encounter said.
Cipollone, who also said he was completely unaware of what was going on until that day, sided with Barr: He told his two colleagues that the attorney general should be involved in the decision process about who should be FBI director, and that Wray should stay.
And that was it: The White House ultimately backed off on the plan once they realized Barr would quit, according to two of the former Trump officials.

Now we have two sources for the story. We know Barr is one of them. The other is Cipollone, Barr's ally in the story. He, like Barr, comes off looking like one of the "heroes" of the narrative after they take a stand together.

Further corroboration of these inferences comes near the end of the story, which noted:

A spokesperson for Trump didn't respond to a request for comment. Patel and Meadows also didn't respond to requests for comment. Evanina and McEntee declined to comment.

Politico doesn't say Barr or Cippolone declined to comment, because they did comment, anonymously. If they hadn't, the outlet would've felt compelled to reach out to them for comment on the story and note if they had declined to comment.

The opening of the story says it had three sources "familiar with the episode" in total — though the key passages only indicate two sources present for the events. This suggests there is a third source, perhaps a Barr aide, who was told contemporaneously about the events but didn't witness them directly.

In the end, it's not that revelatory a story. We know that Trump and many of his allies would've liked to see Wray gone, but many obstacles stood in his way. It's not clear this episode is really as dramatic as it was framed — it might have been more of a casual discussion than it seems in this recollection.

What we already know about Barr and Trump's relationship is frankly more interesting. Barr did indeed stand up to Trump in the end of his term in office, declaring that the DOJ hadn't found evidence of substantial fraud in the 2020 election. And Barr was sharply critical of Trump after the January 6 insurrection, pinning blame for the mob's actions on the then-president. Those public events don't erase Barr's complicity in many of Trump's worst actions in the prior two years — perhaps most notably, his eagerness to sow doubt in the 2020 election before it was carried out — but they're more significant than the episode recounted by Politico.

But the fact that he is trying to spread the story now does tell us something interesting about Bill Bar. He's tried to give the impression that he doesn't care what people think of him. When asked about the damage working for Trump had done to his reputation, Barr gave a memorable answer.

"I am at the end of my career," he told CBS in 2019 ."Everyone dies, and I am not, you know, I don't believe in the Homeric idea that, you know, immortality comes by, you know, having odes sung about you over the centuries, you know?"

As I've long argued, though, that isn't true. He cares deeply about his reputation. Barr was clearly obsessed with the media coverage of the Trump administration He saw it as his job to, in part, protect Trump from his critics in the press and sometimes bent or broke Justice Department rules to do it.

Now he's out of office, and perhaps he's abandoned the project of helping Trump. But he's still obsessed with what the media is saying.

'Craziest Meeting’ Of Trump’s Presidency Involved Flynn, Powell, And Talk Of ‘Emergency Powers’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump, weeks after losing the November 2020 election by more than seven million votes and more than 70 electoral votes, discussed declaring national security emergency powers his White House attorneys told him he did not have.

That's according to a stunning report that details a December 18 meeting in the Oval Office and the White House Residence from Axios, "Inside the craziest meeting of the Trump presidency."

The meeting included White House senior adviser Eric Herschmann, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and White House staff secretary Derek Lyons, on the one side, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, former Trump administration official Emily Newman, and attorney Sidney Powell, who is now being sued for $1.3 billion by the Dominion Voting Machines company.

Powell "proposed declaring a national security emergency, granting her and her cabal top-secret security clearances and using the U.S. government to seize Dominion's voting machines."

At one point Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani joined by phone, and was forced to tell everyone in the "heated" meeting to calm down. Axios reports at one point the "meeting had come entirely off the rails," and says "people were yelling and cursing" inside the Oval Office.

Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, "wearing jeans, a hoodie and a neck gaiter, piped up with his own conspiracy: 'I know how this works. I bribed Hillary Clinton $18 million on behalf of the FBI for a sting operation,' he said," according to Axios.

Herschmann stared at the eccentric millionaire. "What the hell are you talking about? Why would you say something like that?" Byrne brought up the bizarre Clinton bribery claim several more times during the meeting to the astonishment of White House lawyers.
Trump, for his part, also seemed perplexed by Byrne. But he was not entirely convinced the ideas Powell was presenting were insane.
He asked: You guys are offering me nothing. These guys are at least offering me a chance. They're saying they have the evidence. Why not try this? The president seemed truly to believe the election was stolen, and his overriding sentiment was, let's give this a shot.
The words "martial law" were never spoken during the meeting, despite Flynn having raised the idea in an appearance the previous day on Newsmax, a right-wing hive for election conspiracies.
But this was a distinction without much of a difference. What Flynn and Powell were proposing amounted to suspending normal laws and mobilizing the U.S. government to seize Dominion voting machines around the country.

Both Lyons and Morgan "expressed skepticism" about Flynn and Powell's idea of "invoking national security emergency powers."

"Trump expressed skepticism at various points about Powell's theories, but he said, 'At least she's out there fighting.'"

Axios adds the "handful of White House lawyers and advisers" were "determined to keep the president from giving in to temptation to invoke emergency national security powers, seize voting machines and disable the primary levers of American democracy."

Read the entire report here.

Abuse Of Power Isn’t A Crime — But It Can Be An Impeachable Offense

“Was that wrong?” George Costanza asks in a 1991 episode of “Seinfeld” after his boss confronts him with a report that “you and the cleaning woman have engaged in sexual intercourse on the desk in your office.” George says he has to “plead ignorance,” because no one “said anything to me at all when I first started here” suggesting “that sort of thing was frowned upon.”

Donald Trump’s legal team is trying out a version of the Costanza defense, arguing that the articles of impeachment against him are constitutionally deficient because they do not allege any violations of the law. That claim is so dubious that even Trump’s lawyers don’t believe it.

The president is accused of abusing his power for personal gain by pressuring the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation of a political rival. The scheme allegedly included temporarily blocking $391 million in congressionally approved military aid.

The Government Accountability Office recently concluded that Trump’s hold on that money violated the Impoundment Control Act. But the articles of impeachment do not mention that law or any other statute that Trump is accused of violating.

Is that a fatal flaw, as Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone insist? Not according to George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, the sole Republican witness at the House Judiciary Committee’s Dec. 4 impeachment hearing.

Turley, who harshly criticized the impeachment process as rushed and incomplete, warned that abuse of power allegations can be dangerously amorphous when detached from the elements required to prove a crime. He nevertheless conceded that “the use of military aid for a quid pro quo to investigate one’s political opponent, if proven, can be an impeachable offense.”

Turley emphasized that “high crimes and misdemeanors” are not limited to statutory violations. The phrase “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” he observed, “reflects an obvious intent to convey that the impeachable acts other than bribery and treason were meant to reach a similar level of gravity and seriousness (even if they are not technically criminal acts).”

Turley noted that James Madison, although he opposed including “maladministration” as grounds for impeachment, said the process was meant to address “the incapacity, negligence or perfidy of the chief Magistrate.” Alexander Hamilton likewise said impeachment was aimed at “those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a member of Trump’s legal team, now takes what he concedes is the minority position, arguing that an impeachable offense has to be a crime. But he was singing a different tune during Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998.

“It certainly doesn’t have to be a crime,” Dershowitz said on CNN. “If you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president, and who abuses trust, and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don’t need a technical crime.”

Another Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, claims the articles of impeachment are unconstitutional because “abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are not crimes of any kind.” But during a 2018 discussion of Independent Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Giuliani declared that a preemptive presidential self-pardon, while legal, “would just be unthinkable” and “would lead to probably an immediate impeachment.”

In other words, a self-pardon would not be a crime, but it would still be an impeachable offense. Similarly, a president who used his authority over the Justice Department to quash investigations of his friends and launch investigations of his enemies would be violating the public trust in a way that could justify impeachment, even if everything he did was technically legal.

Without a statutory basis, Sekulow and Cipollone argue, abuse-of-power charges effectively allow legislators to impeach the president because of policy disputes or partisan animus. But there is also a danger in letting a president off the hook because no one ever explicitly said his particular brand of misconduct was frowned upon.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @JacobSullum. To find out more about Jacob Sullum and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Nadler To White House: ‘No President Is Above The Law’

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler slammed the Trump administration on Wednesday, saying the White House’s blanket refusal to comply with legitimate congressional requests from 81 Trump officials or allies is akin to “claiming that the president is a king.

“No president, no person in the United States is above the law,” Nadler told CNN reporter Manu Raju. “This is preposterous.”

In a letter to Nadler on Wednesday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone declared that the White House will ignore Nadler’s subpoena because it was issued “not to further a legitimate legislative purpose, but rather to conduct a pseudo law enforcement investigation on matters that were already the subject of the Special Counsel’s long-running investigation.”

Nadler smacked that idea down in a statement Wednesday replying to Cipollone’s letter.

“Today, the White House made the extraordinary demand that the Committee discontinue its inquiry into obstruction of justice, public corruption, and abuses of power, including as set forth in the Mueller Report,” Nadler wrote. “We will do no such thing. The White House position appears to be that the Justice Department cannot hold the President accountable, since it purportedly cannot indict him. Now it adds the extreme claim that Congress cannot act either, because that would duplicate the Special Counsel’s work. This flies in the face of the American idea that no one is above the law, and I reject it.”

It’s nonsense for Cipollone to argue that Congress can’t use its legitimate subpoena powers to investigate something just because special counsel Robert Mueller already investigated it. In fact, Mueller even laid out in his report that the responsibility of charging a president with a crime falls to Congress and its impeachment power, meaning that of course Nadler’s committee can request documents and interviews related to that investigation.

What’s more, Nadler’s committee issued requests for documents and interviews on subjects unrelated to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, including abuses of power and corruption within the Trump administration.

As for Cipollone’s claims that Congress lacks a “legitimate legislative purpose” for its subpoena, Trump’s lawyers are currently using the same argument to make the absurd claim that it wasn’t even legitimate for Congress to investigate Watergate.

Congress has broad powers to investigate just about anything it wants — especially corruption and lawbreaking in the executive branch.

Even Republican lawyers say the Trump administration’s blanket refusals to testify, provide documents, and ignore congressional subpoenas is against the law.

“Sadly, today, it increasingly appears that the president is acting in a manner designed to denigrate and disregard checks on his use of executive authority,” Paul Rosenzweig, who served as a senior counsel on the team that investigated former President Bill Clinton back in the 1990s, said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. “To date, his actions appear unable to distinguish between the public interests that undergird the privilege and his own personal and political interests.”

Of course, the White House’s refusal to cooperate with legitimate congressional oversight isn’t the final word on the matter.

Nadler warned that he and his committee are considering imposing “very large” fines on those who refuse his committee’s subpoenas — something Congress can do as part of its contempt powers.

And if that doesn’t work, lawsuits to compel cooperation could ensue.

Whatever the outcome, the fact remains that the Trump administration is acting as if Trump is above the law — and that is a slap in the face to all Americans.

Published with permission of The American Independent.