Impeachment Week in Review: The Fate of Rosenstein

This week’s lead is the same as last week:  another slow week for actual, hard Trump impeachment news – but a big week for impeachment-related news. Any resolution of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's fate has been delayed in the wake of a resolution of the current dominant story: major uncertainty about the fate of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for a Supreme Court seat, after multiple accusations of sexual assault have been made against him, dating back to High School and his undergraduate days at Yale.  His first accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, gave what was seen by many as a highly credible account of being assaulted by Judge Brett Kavanaugh when both were in high school.  Kavanaugh, for his part, responded with a blistering, emotional, highly partisan attack on Democratic Judiciary Committee members, and others.  In the process, questions have emerged about both possible criminal acts Judge Kavanaugh may have committed in High School and College, along with whether he has a suitable judicial temperament, whether he committed perjury, and whether he may, if confirmed, face major questions regarding recusal in a wide range of cases for decades to come.  The FBI has reopened a background investigation, which is expected to be completed Wednesday – the Republican controlled Senate then appears to be heading for a vote.  Meanwhile, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor of The Daily Telegraph (UK), has rolled out his account of “My sinister battle with Brett Kavanaugh over the truth” via the Drudge Report, detailed below.  The nub of this is Evans-Pritchard’s suggestion that Kavanaugh knew of evidence that Foster had a wound to the neck -- but Kavanaugh rolled with a decision to shut down a real investigation of what happened. This story involves Kavanaugh’s work with Independent Counsel Ken Starr -- Drudge is on it, and he isn’t likely to let go – Evans-Pritchard’s allegation of what amounts to a coverup is likely to metastasize. The Kavanaugh confirmation story is impeachment-related because it will inevitably affect whether the Democrats or Republicans win control of the U.S. House this November – that in turn is likely to decisively determine whether there will or will not be a House impeachment investigation of President Trump.  Many have speculated that while this controversy may make Democrats more likely to win the House, it may also make Republicans more likely to win the Senate, due to the large number of Democratic incumbents up for election this year, and to other differences between the election maps of the two chambers.  Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, remained #1 in its second week on the PublishersWeekly.com list of top 25 hardcover non-fiction books – selling 342,035 copies; about the same sales as during its first week on the list.  As the Federal Fiscal Year ended September 30th, the Congress passed remaining spending bills with little fanfare, assuring there won’t be a partial government shutdown before this November’s election, but also setting the stage for what is likely to be highly divisive budget battles in 2019, amid massive Federal deficits at a time when the economy appears to be at peak performance. 

Meet To Impeach event planning: With fall semester approaching, MeetToImpeach is contacting Twin Cities law schools, inquiring about holding meetings at their campuses.  No current meetings are scheduled.  

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Deputy AG Rosenstein’s job still in jeopardy

In a repeat from last week, the main Trump impeachment story this week is continuing aftermath from accounts about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's reported comments and actions immediately following President Trump's decision last year to fire FBI Director James Comey.  The Hill reports: “President Trump said Tuesday that he would delay his meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein until after Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.  ’I don't want to interrupt what's happening with Judge Kavanaugh,’ Trump told reporters on the South Lawn Tuesday afternoon.  Trump also said he had spoken with Rosenstein, who The New York Times reported last month had discussed wearing a wire to record Trump as part of a possible effort to seek his removal from office under the 25th Amendment. Rosenstein has said the Times story was false.  Trump was originally supposed to meet with Rosenstein last week to discuss the Times story. The president delayed that meeting so as not to distract from confirmation proceedings of Kavanaugh, who faces allegations of sexual assault.”

Kavanaugh confirmation jeopardized by accusations from 1980’s; his belligerent response

As the controversy over Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court deepens, the Washington Post offers this summary and analysis of the current situation: “Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s temperament and credibility emerged as flash points… with Democrats increasingly pointing to his at times testy and emotional performance at last week’s Senate hearing.  The strategy came as the FBI conducts a limited investigation into allegations of sexual assault by Kavanaugh but with great uncertainty about whether the probe will unearth anything conclusive by the end of the week, when Republicans are pressing for a vote.  During remarks on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last week’s hearing, at which Christine Blasey Ford alleged a drunken sexual assault in the early 1980s, left him and others with great concerns about Kavanaugh’s truthfulness.  'He has grossly mischaracterized his relationship with alcohol,’ Schumer said, characterizing Kavanaugh as someone who ‘tiptoes around the truth.’  During the hearing, Kavanaugh acknowledged sometimes drinking too many beers in high school but said he did not have a problem with alcohol and never forgot his behavior — characterizations that have been questioned in news reports by some former classmates.  Regardless of what he did as a teenager, senators need to look at what Kavanaugh is saying now, Schumer argued.”

NYTimes article features a handwritten note Kavanaugh wrote while in High School, as he was organizing a 1983 summer beach week: “The beachfront property was rented, the guests were invited and an ever-organized Brett M. Kavanaugh had some advice for the seven Georgetown Preparatory School classmates who would be joining him for the weeklong escapade. In a 1983 letter, a copy of which was reviewed by The New York Times, the young Judge Kavanaugh warned his friends of the danger of eviction from an Ocean City, Md., condo. In a neatly written postscript, he added: Whoever arrived first at the condo should ‘warn the neighbors that we’re loud, obnoxious drunks with prolific pukers among us. Advise them to go about 30 miles...’”  The article provides many new details about “the binge-drinking culture in which classmates say he was a core participant.  Parties, in the backyards of classmates’ suburban homes when their parents were away, would often attract hundreds of students from nearby private schools, his classmates recall. Five or 10 kegs would be procured and, if all went as planned, drained by the end of the night. One night during his senior year, according to classmates who witnessed it, Judge Kavanaugh triumphantly hoisted an empty beer keg above his head, in recognition that he and his friends were well on their way to reaching their goal of polishing off 100 kegs during the academic year — an achievement they later boasted about in their yearbook. Four Georgetown Prep classmates said they saw Judge Kavanaugh and his friends partake in binge-drinking rituals many weekends in which other partygoers saw them inebriated, even having difficulty standing. Three of those classmates signed a July letter, along with more than 150 other alumni, that endorsed him for the Supreme Court.”

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, future impeachment and frequent recusal questions may loom

Dylan Matthews, writing for Vox, offers up an analysis of the possible future impeachment of a Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh.  Only one U.S. Supreme Court Justice has ever been impeached; Samuel Chase was acquitted by the Senate in 1805.  That was seen as "a highly politicized attempt by Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans to take out a political enemy (albeit an enemy who was himself highly partisan, and the charges against whom weren’t wholly baseless)."  Note: the late Chief Justice William Rhenquist went into great detail analyzing this case in his book Grand Inquests.  Matthews notes that an impeachment of Kavanaugh would be unlike the five most recent removals of Federal Judges by Impeachment, because all of those removals were rooted in prior convictions of crimes -- the accusations against Kavanaugh are both decades old, and would be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.  Matthews fails to note the Federal Constitution's provision that "Judges... shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour."  While this presents as a Constitutional defense uniquely available to Judges against Articles of Impeachment, it also implies that misbehavior might be grounds for impeaching Judges.  Matthews notes, referring to a Judge Nixon rather than President Nixon, that in "the case of Nixon v. United States, the Supreme Court concluded unanimously that it had no authority to review the impeachment process, as impeachment trials are the sole province of the Senate."

Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe opines in the NY Times that if Brett Kavanaugh is appointed to the Supreme Court: "His intemperate personal attacks on members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and his partisan tirades against what he derided as a conspiracy of liberal political enemies guilty of a “calculated and orchestrated political hit” do more than simply display a strikingly injudicious temperament. They disqualify him from participating in a wide range of the cases that may come before the Supreme Court: cases involving individuals or groups that Judge Kavanaugh has now singled out, under oath and in front of the entire nation, as implacable adversaries."  Because no one can force a Supreme Court Justice from recusing themself in a case, the underlying dilemma only deepens if, as appears likely if not possible, a future Judge Kavanaugh would be reluctant to recuse in situations where an outcry would inevitably follow from such a refusal.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor of The Daily Telegraph (UK) writes of “My sinister battle with Brett Kavanaugh over the truth” (via DrudgeReport):  His report commences: “Twenty-three years ago I crossed swords with a younger Brett Kavanaugh in one of the weirdest and most disturbing episodes of my career as a journalist. What happened leaves me in no doubt that he lacks judicial character and is unfit to serve on the US Supreme Court for the next thirty years or more, whatever his political ideology. He was not a teenager. It related to his duties in the mid-1990s as Assistant Independent Council for the Starr investigation, then probing Bill and Hillary Clinton in the most sensitive case in the country.”  The nub of Evans-Pritchard’s account is that Kavanaugh apparently had reason to think there was a cover-up going on regarding the investigation of the death of Vince Foster, White House Counsel in the Clinton White House and a long time associate of both of the Clintons.  Evans-Pritchard’s account concludes: “Mr Kavanaugh’s reaction to the findings of his colleague can be found in the stash of released documents from the Starr inquiry. One says in his hand-written notes: ‘startling discovery’, ‘blew up portions of photo – trauma to the neck on rt side’, ‘appears to be bullet hole’. He was presented with a long analysis by Rodriguez that ripped apart the earlier Fiske report and called for an open homicide investigation. This had huge implications for the Clinton presidency and caused an internal crisis in the Starr office. A decision was made to shut down that part of probe. Miquel Rodriguez said he was ‘forced out’. It was the end of the only genuine probe of the Foster death – conducted under oath – that had ever occurred. Mr Kavanaugh faced a choice. He chose to go with the establishment rather than stick up for his colleague. This proved good for his career. He took over the grand jury, by then a legacy showpiece. His treatment of my witness revealed his colours.”  Evans-Pritchard’s article is a must-read – Drudge is on this and it won’t go away.

Congress kicks the can down the road on economy as Fiscal Year ends

With the end of the Federal fiscal year, we are now ready to tally up the most recent results -- and they’re not good.  Looming future controversies over the budget, and massive future deficits, appear destined to be major context for impeachment controversy in 2019.  Bloomberg reports: “With its plaintive call for balanced budgets, the fiscal hawk once pervaded Washington. But it’s getting harder to spot one. That’s because of President Donald Trump, and the equal-and-opposite reaction he’s provoked on the U.S. left. Trump is proving as indifferent to fiscal orthodoxy as to any other kind. The spending measure he signed on Friday, along with the one approved in March and December’s tax bill, amount to the biggest stimulus outside recessions since the 1960s. They sailed through a House led by the supposedly hawkish Paul Ryan, who’s due to step down in January without much progress on his goal of reining in so-called entitlements like social security -- an illustration of how Republican deficit scolds are in retreat. On the Democratic side, the reaction that’s firing up the grassroots isn’t ‘How could you do that?’’ It’s: ‘Why can’t we do that?’’’

The Balance reports: "On February 9, 2018, President Trump signed a bill suspending the debt ceiling until March 1, 2019. As a result, the limit will be whatever level the debt is on that day. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that the debt will increase to $22 trillion by March 2019. Shortly after Trump suspended the ceiling, the debt exceeded $21 trillion on March 15, 2018." The article goes on to note that If the Debt Ceiling isn't raised: "As the debt approaches the ceiling, Treasury can stop issuing notes and borrow from its retirement funds. These funds exclude Social Security and Medicare. It can withdraw around $800 billion it keeps at the Federal Reserve bank."

CNS News reports (via the DrudgeReport, numbers “translated” to trillions of dollars in brackets): “The federal debt increased by $1,271,158,167,126.72 [$1.3 trillion] in fiscal 2018, according to data released today by the Treasury. The total federal debt started the fiscal year at $20,244,900,016,053.51 [$20.2 trillion] according to the Treasury, and finished the fiscal year at $21,516,058,183,180.23 [$21.5 trillion]. The federal fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30.”  One billion dollars is one thousand million dollars; one trillion dollars is one million million dollars.  When you include pennies, that makes a really long, complicated number look even a little bit longer and more complicated.

Book Beat -- PublishersWeekly.com reports that Bob Woodward's Fear: Trump in the White House is again #1 on the hardcover non-fiction list for it's second week out -- with weekly sales of 342,035 and total (two week) sales of 685,155.  Omarosa's Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House dropped from last week's #5 to #24 in its sixth week on the list.  Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation, by the Clinton Whitewater investigator, Independent Counsel Ken Starr, dropped off the PublishersWeekly.com list this week, after reaching #15 last week, in its first week out.

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