Donald Trump will never build the Great Wall he envisioned on this country's southern border, but his lawyers and minions are erecting the largest stonewall against congressional oversight since Nixon's presidency. In a scolding letter to Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., White House attorneys have said that the administration will simply reject some 81 subpoenas from the House Judiciary Committee that he chairs.
The reason offered for this blanket refusal to cooperate sounds much like a Trump tweet. "Congressional investigations are intended to obtain information to aid in evaluating potential legislation," huffed the president's lawyers, "not to harass political opponents or to pursue an unauthorized 'do-over' of exhaustive law enforcement investigations conducted by the Department of Justice."
Requests for information from the House Oversight Committee, the House Intelligence Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee have all met with roughly the same arrogant attitude — as if the executive branch has no obligation to provide any information at all to Congress. Such dismissive responses represent a profound violation of the constitutional order.
Or as certain members of Congress explained not so long ago: "Congress's authority to oversee and investigate the Executive Branch is a necessary component of legislative powers and to maintain the constitutional balance of powers between the branches. As the Supreme Court held in 1927: '(T)he power of inquiry — with process to enforce it — is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function. Similarly, the Supreme Court held: "The power of the Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process. That power is broad. It encompasses inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as proposed or possibly needed statutes.' When needed information cannot easily be obtained — or if government agencies resist — Congress has legitimate cause to compel responses."
That pithy reference to our constitutional framework, complete with the relevant U.S. Supreme Court decision, is from the Final Report of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. It prefaces a long and indignant recitation of the supposed failures of the Obama administration to cooperate adequately with the Benghazi committee's lengthy and mostly pointless investigation, which was only the 10th (10th) probe of the 2012 tragedy that claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other State Department employees in Libya.
The 10th Benghazi "investigation" was known as a political sham long before Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., then the minority whip and now minority leader, boasted about its impact on Hillary Clinton's approval ratings — its true and blatantly nonlegislative purpose. That was why the Benghazi committee spent hours interviewing Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton adviser with scarcely any connection to Libya and none whatsoever to Benghazi, about political topics including The Clinton Foundation, Media Matters for America and his communications with the presumed Democratic presidential nominee. (To this day, the transcript of Blumenthal's interview with the committee remains sealed. Presumably, that's because its contents would prove so embarrassing to the Republicans who questioned him, including then-Rep. Mike Pompeo.)
When the Benghazi committee issued its final report — just in time for the 2016 presidential election — its press releases boasted about all the new information it had discovered through interviews of 107 witnesses, many from the White House, CIA, State Department and Defense Department. The most notable was Clinton, of course, who sat for 11 hours of nonsensical public badgering by committee members. The Obama administration not only delivered 75,000 pages of documents in addition to 50,000 provided to the previous investigations; it also removed redactions as requested by the committee.
Yet none of this was enough for Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who chaired the committee and complained endlessly about the Democratic president's attempt to "obstruct" his investigation. Incidentally, his final report culminated in no significant legislation concerning diplomatic security or any other conceivable issue — because that was never the Benghazi committee's aim.
Now the same Republicans who whined so loudly about "lack of transparency" when Obama was president are silent, complicit or aggressive shills for Trump. They are aiding and abetting his obstruction of congressional investigations of the worst national scandal since Watergate, after two years of covering up for Trump and Russia when they held the majority.
They swore to uphold the Constitution, but for them it is always party first. Their oath means nothing.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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