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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Trump and the Rule of Law

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.   The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

At NYT, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear and Eric Schmitt report on the firing of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen:
The president called Ms. Nielsen at home early in the mornings to demand that she take action to stop migrants from entering the country, including doing things that were clearly illegal, such as blocking all migrants from seeking asylum. She repeatedly noted the limitations imposed on her department by federal laws, court settlements and international obligations.
The Ways and Means Committee has requested Trump's tax returns. Jonathan Chait at New York:
The law governing this matter is unusually clear. The Internal Revenue Code states, “Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request.” This law has been used to examine tax returns of high-placed political officials. It was enacted in order to let Congress examine financial conflicts of interest by the administration, and forced the disclosure of a president’s tax returns (Richard Nixon).
News accounts describe this law as “obscure” or “little used,” which it is — but only because presidential candidates who receive a major-party nomination have habitually published their tax returns. It is a very strong norm that has made the law unnecessary. But the fact that the norm is backstopped by a law strengthens rather than weakens the case for enforcing it.
Trump recently told reporters, “From what I understand, the law’s 100 percent on my side.” The president declined to support this strident interpretation with any references to legal texts or other precedent, which is hardly surprising. Somewhat more unusually, his supporters have likewise failed to explain why the plain-text meaning of the law does not actually apply.