Friday, February 10, 2017

Censure (supplement)

TO: Representative Gary Palmer, Alabama 6th Congressional district

This supplements the preceding Censure entry.

A. Impeachment effort already underway
An impeachment effort is already underway, as reported in this January 27, 2017 article Hundreds of Thousands Sign Petition to Impeach Trump for Violating Constitution over Biz Interests.The impeachment effort is being led by the organizations Free Speech for People and RootsAction.

B. Please answer the below
NBC News reports the following about Rep. Chaffetz yesterday  ‘Do Your Job!’: Rep. Jason Chaffetz Faces Angry Town Hall Crowd in Utah.

I tweeted you the video in the report and asked about the President's oath of office and "faithfully."
As the video in the link shows, Rep. Chaffetz does not get beyond saying, as to President Trump, he is exempt from the "conflicts of interest" statute. 

Can you please answeer: Have you raised with Rep. Chaffetz and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee the questions I posed for you in November, to wit:
1. What is the relationship between the constitutional oath of office to "faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States" and the exemption for the President that is provided in the "conflicts of interest" statute? What does the word "faithfully" mean in the constitutional oath of office? Can President Trump do anything he wants in service of the interests of his businesses and his family, or does the word "faithfully" limit what President Trump can do?
2. If the word "faithfully" limits what President Trump can do, do you think President Trump understands that?
3. What is the role of Congress in overseeing whether the President is "faithfully" executing his office? Can Congress impeach the President if it determines that the President has failed to faithfully execute his office? What if the President has one view of what "faithfully" means, and Congress has a differing view?
Can you please provide some information on this, Rep. Palmer?

C. Bigger picture
The novel case of President Trump and his businesses raises big picture questions of how governance and electoral politics are going to be conducted in the country.

President Trump is opaque about ideas he may have, but there are inklings.

One inkling is President Trump's "art of the deal" mentality and his picking of individual companies to "target" and "negotiate" with personally for implementing his policies. This is novel in a President.

This form of governance is autocratic and needs contrasting with regular modes of governance by the Executive Branch. The regular modes start with Congress passing laws, making appropriations, funding programs and incentives under the law, and specifying punishments for non-compliance with the law. The Executive Branch executes the laws Congress passes, including by means of administrative agencies which act by general rule making and by enforcement in particular cases for which there are administrative and judicial protections for those against whom enforcement is sought.

The Trump businesses could be used by President Trump as an adjunct of this autocratic mode of governance. President Trump could use his extensive web of business contacts to elicit support for his legislation, including that they contact their Congressional representatives to urge the representatives to support Trump legislation. Trump could couple his requests with indications of favorable treatment of business interests of his contacts who help out, and Trump may even signal that failure to support Trump legislation could be met with some unfavorable business treatment by the Trump administration.

"Pay to play" risks would increase greatly.

For further elaboration of the foregoing matters, please read Trump Inc.

Don't you agree that the Committee, Congress and the country need to get a handle on what is going to happen with the country's governance and politics? Don't you think this should be done by the Committee taking up its responsibilities regarding President Trump and his businesses.

Update 2/15
The below op/ed piece is deserving of consideration related to above.

The Wall Street Journal

The ‘Blind Trust’ Snake Oil

American voters have bigger things to worry about than Trump’s business interests.

Let’s just say the precedents aren’t good.
Lyndon Johnson was the first president to place his family assets in a blind trust. That didn’t stop him from installing a special phone line, bypassing White House operators, so he could apply presidential suasion for the benefit of TV and radio stations nominally owned by Lady Bird.
Leonard Goldenson, who led ABC at the time, later complained about the president calling up and strong-arming him over the network’s decision to take a college football game away from Johnson’s Austin TV station.
And does anybody think Mike Bloomberg did not involve himself in the running of his financial news empire while mayor of New York City? Halfway through his term, even Mr. Bloomberg dropped the pretense, conceding that, while he “stayed out of the day-to-day stuff,” he regularly spoke to his executives about financial matters, major product changes and lawsuit negotiations.
Yet nobody should doubt that politicians like Mr. Bloomberg and Johnson were concerned, first and last, with political success. When American presidents abuse their offices, it’s for political reasons. Biographer Robert Caro tells of Johnson threatening to block the merger of two Texas banks unless the Houston Chronicle, on whose board one of the bank presidents sat, dropped its hypercritical tone and endorsed Johnson for president in 1964. (The paper did.)
To expect Donald Trump to be unaware or indifferent as to how his businesses are faring in the hands of his kids is unrealistic. Sadly, however, the discussion has been too much influenced by Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, former Bush and Obama White House ethics lawyers, respectively, who have been exploiting the situation to drag out their 15 minutes of fame unconscionably.
They appear everywhere, in op-eds and on TV, encouraging a false idea that a president without business interests is therefore somehow a president devoted to the public interest. Their ideal of a president is almost like Silicon Valley’s dystopian vision of AI, namely a computer that knows what’s good for us and intends to do it without our input.
Messrs. Painter and Eisen fret continually about an “appearance of conflict,” when the thing to worry about is the nonappearance of conflict, the hidden reasons a president favors one course over another that are often lost on everybody but the special interests at his elbow.
Will foreign leaders feel obliged to check into the Trump hotel when visiting D.C? We can take this as a given. Who, when seeing the president, wouldn’t want to be able to say how nice the stay was at his hotel? So what?
Will his overseas buildings become terrorist targets? If so, all the more reason for local partners to take his name down, even if they have to keep paying for its use. It’s the host countries, not the U.S., that have the obligation of protecting local landmarks from terrorist attack.
Will the Trump children parade around in semi-regal fashion, signing deals that wouldn’t otherwise come their way if their father wasn’t president? Again, so what? Two words: Billy Beer.
Of all the things to fret about with President Trump, these are the least important. But ankle-biting America—a longstanding facet of our national character—is getting a chance to air the sanctimony and resentment on which it thrives.
Messrs. Painter and Eisen are the embodiment of the aphid side of the law—the side that glories in the dotting of i’s and crossing of t’s, irreparably confusing form and substance. Like a two-man Supreme Court, they’ve ruled, based on nothing, that the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause means a president can’t own a stake in a business whose operations might be patronized by a foreign government official. Well, then, sell your McDonald’s shares, ambitious U.S. politicians, lest an Indonesian junior minister stop by the drive-thru window.
Unfortunately the aphid side of life is the side that Washington specializes in. It supplies full-time occupations for rule makers and rule enforcers plus their cheering section, the lobbyists and lawyers who make a living by hindering other Americans from going about their business.
Don’t doubt, though, that these forces are a threat to any president who offers his opponents so many opportunities to tie him and his businesses up in lawsuits.
The more likely outcome is that Mr. Trump’s businesses will wither on the vine while he attends to his presidential duties, not exclusively limited to issuing ruckus-causing tweets. We may not have our new president to kick around after a couple of years, as he hurriedly hands over power so he can go back and save his flagging business empire.
By the way, for urban dwellers, aphids, or “plant lice,” according to Wikipedia, are “small sap-sucking insects” that are “among the most destructive insect pests on cultivated plants in temperate regions.”

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