On today's BradCast: It was another very bad day in the federal courts for Donald Trump, though another very good one for the Rule of Law (for those who still care about such things), even as a new phase in the President's ongoing impeachment inquiry begins in the U.S. House. [Audio link to full show is posted at the end of this article.]
First up, some quick news of the day. California Senator and one time "top tier" 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate is dropping out of the race exactly two months before voting begins in Iowa in next year's nominating contest and just two weeks before the next Presidential debate set for her home state on December 19. We discuss the ramifications for the race and for the woman who might have been the first black female President (but who could very well still become the first such Vice President).
There was more bad news today for Trump and his family and his businesses in federal court on Tuesday, as a three-judge panel on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York agreed with the lower court ruling that both Deutsche Bank and Capital One must turn over Trump-related financial documents to two House committees which had subpoenaed them. Trump and his family sued the banks to block the disclosure of what could be a treasure trove of damning documentation detailing years of Trump's dubious financial history and the sources of his funding after several bankruptcies and denials for loans from banks other than the German-based Deutsche. Despite his many business failures, that bank, for some reason, reportedly loaned Trump and his businesses well over $2 billion. Now that he's lost in court again, he has been given seven days to decide if he wishes to appeal to the Republicans' stolen majority on the Supreme Court before the banks will be required to turn over the records to Congress.
Tuesday's serious legal blow follows another one for Trump on Monday, when U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson refused to place a Stay on her ruling from last week ordering Don McGahn to appear before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee regarding the former White House Counsel's testimony on Trump's many instances of obstruction of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The judge ruled the Trump Dept. of Justice's claim that the Presidency would suffer "irreparable harm," if McGahn was allowed to testify was baseless. She did, however, determine that the House Judiciary Committee's ongoing investigation would be "unquestionably harm[ed]" without it, "and by extension" the lack of testimony by the former White House legal chief "would also injure the public’s interest in thorough and well-informed impeachment proceedings."
Speaking of which, the impeachment action moves from the House Intelligence Committee to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, with Judiciary's first public hearing on the Ukraine matter. They will work from a searing 300-page report released by the Intelligence panel on Tuesday, documenting serious abuses of power and obstruction of Congress by Trump that have been revealed during the past several weeks of public and private testimony regarding the President's campaign to withhold military assistance from Ukraine until they agreed to help him in the 2020 Presidential election. The Judiciary Committee's central aim, after the House Intelligence panel found Trump "placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States," will now be to determine if Articles of Impeachment are merited against the President.
Our guest today, who has written several books on impeachment and testified to Congress about "high crimes and misdemeanor" is Constitutional law expert JOHN BONIFAZ, Co-Founder and President of Free Speech for People. Bonifaz testified to House Judiciary Democrats during the George W. Bush era, explaining how the founders definition of "high crimes" was easily met by Dubya via his unlawful war in Iraq. He also favored impeachment of Bill Clinton back in the 90s, but tells us today that "nothing rises to the level of the kind of abuses of power we've seen under this President".
Bonifaz offers a preview of what four Constitutional law experts are likely to offer during their testimony at Wednesday's first hearing before the House Judiciary panel and explains how the Constitution's term "high crimes and misdemeanors" was meant to refer to abuses of office that were not necessarily defined as statutory crimes (since there were very few such crimes on the books when the Constitution was first adopted!) "This is not about demonstrating in a court of law that the President has committed x or y violations of the federal statutory code, a federal crime or state crime," he tells me. "This is about abuse of office, abuse of power, abuse of the public trust."
Bonifaz, whose latest book on impeachment with Ron Fein and Ben Clements is called The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump, argues that there is a long list [PDF] of abuses that merit the removal of this President. "We've laid out a number of Impeachment Articles that should be presented in Congress that go beyond the Ukraine scandal. They include racist abuses of power, the abuses of power at the southern border separating children and their families, violating their Constitutional rights. The abuse of the pardon power, in pardoning of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The list goes on," he says. "And this president need to be held accountable for the full range of his high crimes."
He also explains why he is critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats for not moving more quickly when they took control of the House in January, noting that had they initiated the various court battles over testimony and documents at that point, "we would be in a much different position today."
"We are where we are in part because of the unwillingness of the Democratic leadership in the House to do its duty the moment it assumed control of the House of Representatives. They ran on a platform in 2018 to be a check on this Presidency, and it took another nine months into their holding of the House control to start that process of being a check on this Presidency. And that's why we're in this predicament."
I also ask Bonifaz for his thoughts on the White House's legal claims of "absolutely immunity" (it "has no basis in the law," he tells me); whether Chief Justice John Roberts will find a way to block high profile witnesses, like Mulvaney and Bolton, when they are called by Democrats during an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate (Roberts may "apply the argument that 'these matters are still pending in the federal courts,' so he's not going to override that"); whether he concurs with Robert Reich's argument today that impeaching Trump (whether he's removed or not) makes him legally and Constitutionally "unpardonable"; and how it is up to we, the people, to "stay alert, awake and engaged in fighting for our democracy and our Constitution because we cannot rely on those in power to save us and to save our democracy. We have to fight to protect it, and fight to protect our republic."
Finally, beyond the fight to protect our republic, there is the fight to save our civilization itself. On that matter, we are joined by Desi Doyen with our latest Green News Report, as several disturbing new studies on "catastrophic" tipping points for the climate are published as the nations of the world convene in Madrid this week for the latest U.N. Climate Summit...
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(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)