Friday, July 26, 2019

‘Disaster for the Democrats’: Why the Mueller testimony failed to deliver what Donald Trump’s opponents wanted

For many of Donald Trump’s opponents, Robert Mueller’s testimony was one final chance to impeach the President. In a best-case scenario, the former special counsel would shed damning new light on his 22-month investigation and reveal that Mr Trump was indeed impeachable.

At the very least, Mr Mueller would relay powerful excerpts from the 448-page document on national television, which would engage the 90 per cent majority of the American public who did not read the report, and in particular dissuade people in crucial swing states from voting for him at next year’s election.

Instead, the almost seven-hour testimony fell flat. Not only did it fail to yield any new information on the investigation, but Democrats failed to get that powerful made-for-TV sound byte they were hoping for.

For Mr Trump’s opponents, the testimony was like watching a really great trailer for a movie that … ultimately kind of sucked.

Mr Mueller repeatedly refused to answer questions from Democrats and Republicans alike.

The Democrats had hoped to hear him respond to a series of questions surrounding Mr Trump’s potential crimes and ongoing investigations relating to him and his associates.

Republicans sought to interrogate him on any potential political bias that may have compromised the investigation.

Both sides were waved off — along with any questions on impeachment. Instead, Mr Mueller focused almost entirely on the text of the report — which was already made public months ago.

None of this should have come as a surprise. In the lead-up to the testimony, this is exactly what Mr Mueller said he would do. In his opening statement, he reiterated: “The report is my testimony and I will stay within that text.”

Bear in mind, not all Democrats supported impeaching the President. Some, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, vocally opposed an impeachment motion but still supported the testimony as a way of discrediting Mr Trump in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

For this to work, Mr Mueller was to read out a selection of powerful excerpts from the report, which, in televised form would resonate with the viewer.

But instead, he largely stuck to “yes” and “no” answers, refused to comment on a range of questions, and basically refused to dramatise his findings.

Several media commentators across the US have since concluded the testimony was a bust, saying it’s now time for the Democrats to move beyond the impeachment issue.

“Impeachment’s over,” declared ABC’s Terry Moran. “I don’t think Nancy Pelosi is going to stand for her members bringing forth something that is going to obviously lose in the Senate, lose with the American public.”

“It’s time for Democratic leaders to stop obsessing over this closed case and to put the American people first,” wrote CNN’s Alice Stewart, who described the testimony as an overall “nightmare” for Congressional Democrats.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace deemed the testimony “disastrous”. “I think this has been a disaster for the Democrats and I think it’s been a disaster for the reputation of Robert Mueller,” he said.

Experts have warned the Democrats need to move on from the impeachment issue and focus on producing sound policies and unity ahead of the 2020 election.



Trump sues to block New York law allowing Congress to get his state tax records

State taxes require similar information to Federal taxes so the new NY law could be a way around Trump's refusal to publish his Federal tax records.  The new NY law was clearly written to accomplish exactly that.

Confidentiality of tax returns is however something of a bedrock principle of tax law so the new law is unlikely to survive a challenge in the courts.  Whether it does or does not, legal challenges to it could undoubtedly be prolonged well past the next election.

Even if someone does eventually gain the information through the courts he could still be vulnerable to legal action if he publishes it.  That should be sufficient to scare off politicians and major media

President Donald Trump on Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the House Ways and Means Committee from obtaining his state tax returns through a newly passed New York law.

The president's lawyers said the state law was nothing more than an effort to get information about his personal finances to embarrass him politically.

The suit referred to an NBC News article on Monday that said Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., was under pressure from fellow Democrats to make use of the new law.

The suit asks the court to provide a declaratory judgment that the committee "lacks a legitimate legislative purpose for obtaining the President's state tax information."

The lawsuit asserts that the law, called the TRUST Act, violates Trump's First Amendment rights. It seeks to block the Ways and Means Committee from being able to request the taxes through the law, prevent New York Attorney General Letitia James from enforcing it, and stop New York Department of Taxation and Finance Commissioner Michael Schmidt from complying with any request for Trump's tax filings.

"The House Rules authorize the Committee to oversee 'Federal laws,' not state tax laws," says the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia. "And nothing in the House Rules allows the Committee to demand the private financial information of a sitting President."

The president's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement that the lawsuit was filed as part of "our ongoing efforts to end Presidential harassment."

"The targeting of the president by the House Ways and Means Committee, the New York Attorney General, and a New York tax official violates article 1 of the U.S. Constitution," he said. "The harassment tactics lack a legitimate legislative purpose."

The New York law allows the chairmen of three congressional tax-related committees — the House Ways and Means Committee, Senate Finance Committee and Joint Committee on Taxation — to request the state returns of public officials only after efforts to gain access to federal tax filings through the Treasury Department have failed. Neal is the only Democrat who can use the law.

The legislation states that any "legitimate task" of Congress is a valid reason to make the request, should efforts to obtain the returns at the federal level be stonewalled by the Treasury Department. New York state tax filings are not identical to the federal returns, but contain much of the same information.

"I have every confidence that the president’s legal challenge will fail and New York’s standing offer to support Congress in its oversight role on taxes will remain in effect," New York state Assemblyman David Buchwald, a Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement. "It's no surprise that the President has moved quickly in an attempt to strike down New York’s tax transparency law as he is fighting the release of his tax returns on every front."

The bill, signed into law this month, was written broadly and makes it easier for New York to turn over the state tax returns of certain public officials to Congress.

Neal said last month he wouldn't use the law to request the state returns because he feels it could harm his attempt at getting the federal filings. Neal sued the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department for those returns citing a section of tax law that states the Treasury Secretary "shall furnish" to congressional tax committees "any return or return information" request by its chairman. The stated purpose of Neal's request is to review the IRS process for auditing presidential returns.

Earlier this month, Neal said House counsel was "reviewing" the law and had "some legitimate concerns" regarding it.

But he is under pressure from Democrats to act. An aide to a Democratic member of Ways and Means told NBC News in a report on Monday that "there has been widespread frustration from members of the committee at how slowly this process has moved."

Trump broke with decades of tradition by refusing to release his returns while running for the presidency, claiming he was under audit. Such an audit would not preclude him from releasing the returns, however. A president's returns undergo IRS audits annually.



Democrats’ forced unionism bill threatens jobs and tramples workers’ rights

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019 (PRO Act) is a great illustration of just how radical and out-of-touch today’s Democrat Party is. The bill, which has 179 House Democrat cosponsors and 40 Senate Democrat cosponsors, would force millions of workers into unions they oppose and destroy jobs while lining the pockets of liberal fat cat donors. Just when some workers finally begin recovering from the Great Recession is no time to be killing jobs in the franchise industry and the gig economy. For these and other reasons, the bill must be rejected.

On May 2nd, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) introduced the PRO Act in the House; the same day, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced the companion bill in the Senate. The bill is essentially a grab bag of liberal Democrat labor policies designed to prop up failing unions at the expense of workers and the economy. Of course, the bill should not be considered charity but rather as a quid pro quo.

First of all, the bill would invalidate Right to Work laws in 27 states, not only overturning the will of the voters in many of these states, but also forcing many workers to join unions and pay union dues against their will. Of course, by paying union dues, union members would be subsidizing speech and political activity that they might oppose and this is exactly what the Democrats are trying to achieve in this naked grab for power.  Furthermore, by effectively repealing Right to Work laws, House Democrats would be negating the revitalization of the US manufacturing sector making our nation less competitive with the rest of the world.  Just when President Trump’s strong tax, regulatory, and trade policies are paying off with the creation of more than half million manufacturing jobs, Congressional Democrats would adopt policies guaranteed to send jobs overseas.

Secondly, the bill institutes card check which effectively ends secret-ballot union elections inviting a climate of workplace intimidation. In other words, instead of being required to win an election, unions could gain power by simply conning or pressuring workers into signing unionization cards. Making matters worse, businesses would be forced to hand over contact information for all employees to unions without the employees’ consent so that union organizers could harass the workers at their homes.

Thirdly, the bill mandates ambush unionization elections. These snap elections may prevent those opposed to unionization from having a sufficient opportunity to make their case to workers giving unions an unfair advantage. Apparently Democrats are worried that if both sides have a fair hearing, then more workers will be inclined to vote against unionization.

Fourthly, the bill would bring back the Obama era joint-employer standard making franchisors responsible for the actions of franchisees. Franchises are often the gateway to entrepreneurship for middle-class Americans, and House Democrats would deliberately pour cold water on this basic American dream.  By making the parent company responsible for labor law mistakes made by franchisees, House Democrats would likely kill the franchise goose that laid the golden egg.

Finally, the bill would make it tougher for workers to qualify as contractors. This could cripple the business models of FedEx Ground, Uber, Lyft and a number of other innovative companies that rely upon contractors to deliver their services to customers. The significant additional employment costs imposed by this bill are designed to create unionization opportunities for Democrats’ labor union benefactors, but it is doubtful whether currently independent drivers would survive the transition as they became little more than scheduled cab drivers.

The PRO Act is a threat to workers’ rights, to millions of American jobs, and to the U.S. economy as a whole; therefore, it must be defeated. Fortunately, not a single Republican has signed on to this disastrous legislation.



Bernie Sanders Runs Into Socialist Reality
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., proudly announced this year that his presidential campaign would be the first in history to have a unionized workforce. Well, he just became the first presidential candidate in history to face a labor revolt from his unionized workforce.

According to The Washington Post, the Sanders campaign workers union, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400, complained that field organizers are “making poverty wages” and that “many field staffers are barely managing to survive financially.” Because field organizers are working 60 hours a week, according to the union, their annual salary of $36,000 works out to $13 an hour — well below the $15-an-hour federal minimum wage Sanders has called for.

It gets worse. When the Sanders campaign offered to raise salaries to that level, the union rejected the offer. Why? Because, The Post reports, “the raise would have elevated field staff to a pay level responsible for paying more of their own health-care costs.” It turns out that Sanders pays only 85% of health-care premiums for campaign staff making more than $36,000 — despite campaigning on a promise of free health care for all with “no premiums, no deductibles, no co-payments, no out-of-pocket expenses.”

So, what was Sanders’s solution? First, he cut the hours of his field staffers from 60 to about 43 a week — which meant the campaign could say it was paying $15 an hour without actually increasing field organizers’ pay. Then on Monday, his campaign finally gave in and agreed to raise salaries to $42,000, preserve full health premium coverage and limit workers’ hours to 50 per week.

During the dispute, Sanders’s campaign defended its policies, declaring, “We know our campaign offers wages and benefits competitive with other campaigns.” Well, McDonald’s offers wages competitive with other fast-food chains, but that has not been good enough for Sanders. He has marched with McDonald’s workers, and attended Walmart shareholder meetings, to demand they be more generous with their workforces. How could he demand those companies provide pay and benefits that he was resisting giving his own employees?

Now the union has forced Sanders to capitulate on wages and health care. But why stop there? The Sanders union seems to be suffering from a lack of imagination. If union organizers really want to hold Sanders to his own standards, then a $15 minimum wage and premium-free health care should be only the beginning.

Sanders has promised to cover the cost of prescription drugs and make sure “no one in America pays over $200 a year for the medicine they need.” He has promised to pay for “universal childcare and pre-kindergarten.” He has promised free college, because “you are not truly free when the vast majority of good-paying jobs require a degree that requires taking out tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt to obtain.” He has promised to “free generations of Americans from the outrageous burden of student loans by canceling all existing student debt.” Is he setting an example by providing all these benefits to workers on his campaign?

Of course not. Because if he did, his campaign would quickly run out of cash. Ah, but there’s the rub. As former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher famously put it, “the trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

A political campaign literally runs on other people’s money. It is bare-bones operation, in which staffers choose to work ridiculous hours for low pay, and rely on donations from supporters to get the candidate’s message out. In Sanders’s case, the majority of his donations come from small donors — ordinary Americans who are sacrificing their hard-earned money to help get him elected, not to fund social welfare for political operatives.

Every dollar his campaign spends on higher pay and free stuff for campaign workers is a dollar not spent on campaign ads in Iowa and New Hampshire. And if his campaign can’t get those ads on the air, then Sanders will lose — and his entire team will lose their jobs, their benefits and their chances of a cushy White House job. Then they won’t ever get access to the United States treasury and the chance to really spend other people’s money. So, we should all be grateful to the UFCW Local 400 for pulling more Sanders campaign money off the airwaves and into the pockets of Sanders’s field workers, while limiting the hours they can work to spread his socialist message. They’ve done the country a great service.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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