Civil Rights Watchdog Launches Two-year Probe of Trump Administration

 

At this juncture in American politics it is safe to say that there are a great majority of the population that considers Donald Trump, his closest associates, and his family as the epitome of corruption. It would be impossible for all but the Trump family or the Donald himself to dispute that the television celebrity in the Oval Office “acts dishonestly in return for personal or financial gain” as a natural inclination. It is that corruption that has the Trump at the center of a veritable plethora of special counsel, F.B.I., and federal watchdog agency investigations. Now that the Trump has finally admitted he is under investigation for obstruction of justice by a special counsel, among other things, he can add a two-year investigation into “federal civil rights enforcement,” or lack thereof, within the Trump administration.

Trump likely learned of the bipartisan United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) investigation at about the same time he took to Twitter to admit that he is the subject of a special counsel internal investigation. The Commission on Civil Rights operates under the authority of Congress and as a bipartisan agency it is charged with advising the White House and Congress on civil rights matters.

On Friday the Commission announced it had “unanimously approved a comprehensive two-year probe” into the “degree to which current budgets and staffing levels allow civil rights offices to perform” their important functions; especially in an administration that is openly hostile towards the civil rights of an ever-growing number of Americans in nearly every demographic save the filthy rich and white evangelicals.

What prompted the USCCR, a “federal watchdog agency” to launch an investigation into the entire Trump administration was several agencies that oversee civil rights gleefully announcing severe budget and personnel cuts to critical departments tasked with enforcing civil rights. According to a statement justifying a “two-year probe” into the Trump:

The proposed cuts would result in a dangerous reduction of civil rights enforcement across the country, leaving communities of color, LGBT people, older people, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups exposed to greater risk of discrimination.”

The commission, created under the Civil Rights Act and funded by Congress, expressed specific worry about seven federal agencies under Trump’s oversight. Of course the Department of Education and Department of Justice are going to get a very special investigation over the next two years; Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions are notoriously hostile to civil rights of every demographic save white evangelical Christians. The “Commission” will also take a long, hard look into the departments of Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency and the Legal Services Corporation. They are all agencies Trump promises to slash funding from because they closely monitor civil rights and Republicans want that funding sent to the wealthy in the form of tax cuts.

Although the Commission’s statement cited several agencies and departments for a close investigation, it was particularly interested in the Department of Justice under anti-civil rights crusader Jeff Sessions; an agency the Commission said has “completely changed its priorities.” The Commission said in its statement:

Actions by the Department [of Justice] indicate it is minimizing its civil rights efforts. For example, a majority of the Commission criticized DOJ’s decision to site [install] Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers in courthouses as a dangerous impediment to access to justice for all Americans.”

The Commission also singled out Education Secretary Betsy DeVos who has “repeatedly refused” to commit to enforcing federal civil rights. The Commission also  found that, coupled with DeVos’ apparent intent to blow off civil rights for various demographics, the deep budget cuts within the Education Department’s ‘Office of Civil Rights’ is “particularly troubling.”

The statement announcing the two-year probe in the Trump administration actually cited DeVos’ Senate subcommittee  testimony earlier this month where she refused to answer a query whether discrimination against LGBTQ students in private schools would be allowed on her watch. It is highly likely that members of the Commission are acutely aware that DeVos is no more a friend to the gay community than she is the disabled or minority communities.

It is really unfortunate that the Commission on Civil Rights lacks the the ability or authority to enforce its investigation’s findings, but it will at least get to present the results in a “final report to Congress at the end of 2019.” Once the report is presented to Congress, the Commission’s task is completed and it will be left to legislators to take action. The current chairwoman of the Commission, Catherine E. Lhamon, said:

For 60 years, Congress has charged the Commission to monitor Federal civil rights enforcement and recommend necessary change. We take this charge seriously, and we look forward to reporting our findings to Congress, the President, and the American people.”

It is unlikely that regardless how damning the Commission on Civil Rights report is in the final analysis, a Republican controlled Congress and Trump will not take any corrective action any more than they regard civil rights for all Americans as a serious issue. Trump will declare it “fake news,” a “witch hunt,” and then summarily fire or disband the Commission. And Republicans in Congress will claim it was a partisan attack on white evangelical Christians and the Sessions-led Department of Justice will declare civil rights, like the Separation Clause, is unhistorical and unconstitutional overreach.

It is getting to be a chore to keep abreast of all the investigations into Trump, his family, and his administration, but at least with a two-year long investigation into seven different federal agencies in the Trump administration, there will be nothing to report on or opine about until the end of 2019.

Top House Democrats Want Sessions Punished For Breaking Federal Law

In spite of the current administration’s endemic corruption, and congressional Republicans complicit involvement in covering up, or at least ignoring, blatant corruption and criminal acts, it was surprising there was little outrage after it was revealed the Attorney General committed perjury before the Senate. Even for corrupt Republicans, it seemed impossible they would do or say nothing about the nation’s top lawman committing a federal felony with impunity, but apparently there really is a perverted sense of honor among Republican criminals. Now, because Jeff Sessions was able to commit a federal felony and then get rewarded with a cabinet level position, he broke the law again. But Democrats are finally taking the criminal Sessions’ actions seriously and calling for his discipline at the least, and by rights summary termination.

The day following Trump’s obstruction of justice in firing James Comey, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) labeled Sessions’ role in the criminal obstruction of justice endeavor a “blatant disregard for the pledge he made in his recusal letter.” Remember, proud evangelical Sessions had to recuse himself from “any investigations” related to the Russian interference in the 2016 election because he violated the Ninth Commandment (he lied) about his contacts with Russians during the campaign. Wyden’s point, and it is beyond refute, is that Sessions violated that “public recusal” when, as attorney general, he played an integral role in firing the FBI Director overseeing the probe into Russian interference in the election; thus Senator Wyden’s remark that Sessions displayed “blatant disregard for the pledge he made in his recusal letter.

On Friday, two House Democrats went farther than just talking about Sessions’ violations and rightly asserted that indeed, in violating two very public recusal pledges, the Attorney General broke the law. The House Oversight Committee’s top Democrat, Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) was joined by the highest ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.) in issuing a letter to the Department of Justice demanding disciplinary action for Sessions’ federal violations.

In their letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, senior House Democrats Conyers and Cummings not only informed Rosenstein that Sessions broke another federal law, they demanded to know what kind of discipline the Deputy Attorney General was going to impose on the nation’s top law enforcement official. They wrote in part:

We are writing to request your assistance in addressing the crisis of confidence created by Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he participated directly in the decision to fire FBI Director James Comey despite the fact that he previously recused himself from any actions involving the investigations of the Trump and Clinton presidential campaigns.

It appears that the Attorney General’s actions recommending that Trump fire Director Comey may have contradicted his sworn testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee at his confirmation hearing, breached the public recusal he made before the American people, and violated the law enacted by Congress to prevent conflicts of interest at the Department of Justice.

Federal law sets forth as a penalty for recusal violations removal from office, and the Attorney General’s violation in this case appears to be particularly grave. Since you are the acting Attorney General in this particular matter, we call on you to explain the measures that now may be required to mete out appropriate discipline in this case.” (author bold)

The issues leading to Sessions committing another federal crime are his blatant violation of two separate recusal promises related to the 2016 presidential campaign. First, during his Senate confirmation hearing, Sessions promised to recuse himself from any investigation involving Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton because of the several derogatory statements he made about her while he was actively campaigning for the Trump.

Second, Sessions succumbed to public and Democratic pressure on March 2 after it was revealed he committed perjury under oath in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee when he could no longer conceal that he lied that he had no contacts with Russia’s ambassador. But instead of resigning from Trump’s Cabinet, or being charged with perjury, removed from office, and prosecuted, Sessions simply recused himself from “any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States.

The two House Democrats’ letter to Rosenstein, also complicit in aiding Trump’s obstruction of justice in Mr. Comey’s dismissal, asserted that Sessions broke the law by violating his recusal promises in several ways.

First, the Democrats point out that in his May 9 letter to Trump recommending Comey’s immediate termination, Sessions specifically agreed with the assessment by Rosenstein that Comey mishandled the “investigation into Clinton’s emails.”

That was a direct contradiction to Sessions’ first recusal promise and it is a contradiction widely publicized and in writing. And, in Representative Conyers and Cummings’ letter they particularly cited a report in Reuters that Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, and Trump met with and asked the then-FBI Director Comey to give them a preview of his testimony into the “Clinton email investigation” when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3; another violation of Sessions’ stated recusal.

As far as Jeff Sessions’ very public recusal regarding the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election on Trump’s behalf, the House Democrats specifically made note of “multiple press reports that stated that Mr. Comey’s dismissal in which Sessions was a direct participant was directly related to the FBI’s ongoing Russia investigation.” That particular contention, that Comey was fired because of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference, was confirmed by Trump himself in a nationally-televised interview with NBC’s Lester Holt; an interview in which Trump all but admitted to obstructing justice.

According to Representatives Conyers and Cummings, Jeff Sessions’ actions merit some serious disciplinary action, including termination. As the Democrats proffered, Sessions certainly broke a federal law “barring Justice Department officials from participating in any investigation that presents a conflict of interest.” And, as if to punctuate their assertion that Sessions is guilty, Conyers and Cummings demanded that Rosenstein answer questions about Sessions’ conduct leading up to his violating two recusal promises.

Those questions include whether Sessions took the time or proper step of consulting with ethics officials regarding his involvement in matters relating to Comey’s firing, and whether Sessions had taken part in any discussions about the Clinton email or Russia investigations; something his meeting with, and letter to, Trump would inform that he certainly did.

The chance that the Deputy Attorney General will be any more law abiding or honest than Sessions or Trump seems slim to non-existent. This is especially true if he joined Trump and Sessions in asking the FBI Director to reveal in advance what his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee would entail. In fact, once one realizes that this entire affair is being run by corrupt and criminal Republicans from the Oval Office to the House to the Senate to the Department of Justice, there is little hope whatsoever that justice will ever be served. If Jeff Sessions was able to blatantly commit perjury under oath before the Senate with impunity and then be rewarded with a cabinet position, no Republican alive is going to hold him accountable for breaking another federal law.

America Is In a Constitutional Crisis And Its Democracy Is In Jeopardy

 

If Americans are paying attention, and they certainly should be, to the state of their government it is jarringly apparent that in Trump’s administration the criminals are running the justice system. It only makes sense because a pack of criminals are running the White House and there is every reason to believe a fair number of criminals are running both houses of Congress. No matter how one appraises the current and rapidly developing decline of American democracy, Trump is responsible for throwing the nation into a constructional crisis.

Were that not the case, that America’s government is compromised on various accounts, Trump would not have terminated Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James B. Comey to stop the investigation into the Trump-Russian attack on America’s democracy. As noted in a New York Times opinion piece:

It’s now clear that Trump’s Justice Department has no independence. Both Sessions, and Sessions’ deputy, Rod Rosenstein, are acting like Trump enforcers. And now the F.B.I. is compromised [or is going to be compromised] as well.”

A conservative columnist at the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin, explained why Trump firing Mr. Comey is not only a reason for a very robust and thorough independent investigation, but why Trump can be impeached. Ms. Rubin wrote:

Using one law enforcement body (or set of individuals) to stop another from investigating presidential wrongdoing was the nub of Watergate and the ensuing impeachment proceedings. We do not know whether that is what is at issue here, but Congress has no alternative but to determine why the president acted and why he acted now. That should entail questioning under oath of any persons aware of or involved in the firing process and ultimately an accounting by the president of his own actions.”

It is important to recall that Trump praised Comey just prior to the election and has kept him at his post without issue for nearly four months since his inauguration. According to several reports, what appeared to set Trump off first was Comey’s Senate testimony that he was “mildly nauseous” at the thought of swaying the election to Trump. There are also plenty of credible reports that Mr. Comey was fired for requesting more funding from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to more effectively conduct the investigation into collusion between the Trump cabal and Russia.

It is noteworthy that Rosenstein is in charge of the Trump-Russia investigation at the DOJ because Jeff Sessions was “pressured” to recuse himself over his own undisclosed contact with the Russians during Trump’s campaign; a fact he lied about under oath during his Senate confirmation hearing. That act of perjury is the reason he should be prosecuted and sent to federal prison for five years instead of colluding with Trump to stop the FBI’s investigation.

The question, then, is why did Sessions as Attorney General appeal to Trump to fire Comey for investigating Russian collusion when he is out of the loop on Russian grounds? The White House public statement announcing Comey’s termination plainly puts Sessions in the center of the criminal endeavor. It said, in part:

President Trump acted on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Any sane person can’t possibly believe that Comey’s termination had anything whatsoever to do with the FBI’s handling of the bogus Clinton email affair. One cannot possibly believe it was anything other than Trump’s despotic attempt to put a criminal conspirator in charge of the FBI’s investigation who will join the thugs in the Justice Department, obey Trump’s dictates, and halt the investigation.

As no small number of pundits and commenters have opined, Trump’s action is “a premeditated and terrifying attack on the American system of government” and “ushers in a constitutional crisis.”

Here’s the thing, Trump, Sessions and Rosenstein can claim whatever lie they think the public will believe, but their claims are still lies. Yes, it’s true Americans can be incredibly dense and painfully so, but no-one is as stupid as Trump believes they are. Remember, as late as Monday, Trump took to his press outlet, Twitter, to call for the end of the FBI’s investigation into his administrations collusion with Russia. Trump tweeted:

The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

Within a day, Trump did what a criminal tyrant would do and attempted to put an end to the Trump-Russia collusion story unilaterally, with a little aid from the criminals leading the DOJ. Mr. Comey’s firing was not about emails, or that he wasn’t doing his job. He was terminated because he was doing his job without Trump’s direction and wanted to go deeper; that likely sealed his fate and prompted Trump to do what a tyrannical dictator would do – fire the man investigating him.

Trump was already livid that Comey publicly humiliated him when he summarily dismissed Trump’s paranoid claim that President Obama wire tapped him as “outside the realm of normal,” even “crazy.” Then Trump seethed that Comey told the Senate he “mildly” felt like throwing up at the idea his actions swayed the general election results. But what likely frightened the life out of Trump was Comey’s request for more funding for the Trump-Russia collusion investigation; a request that certainly means the investigation is not only widening but producing an abundance of evidence.

Now that it looks like Trump will find a sympathetic sycophant to do his bidding at the FBI and deliver the predetermined outcome Trump wants and close the investigation, Congress’ duty to democracy is to reassure the people that Trump is not above the law. That necessitates a robust independent investigation “completely free of Trump’s oversight” and without interference from Trump’s criminal conspirators at the Department of Justice. America’s democracy is in jeopardy and it is in a constitutional crisis, and save a few brave members of Congress it is increasingly apparent that Republicans have little interest in saving the Union from their hero in the White House or themselves.