Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Monday Night Massacre

Rock and roll.

Trump went the full Nixon last night, after acting AG Sally Yates had instructed DOJ employees not to enforce his Muslim ban earlier in the afternoon.  The FNG, also an Obama appointee like Yates, promises to compel the executive order.  And then Trump followed up by replacing the ICE director with an underling without explanation.

This may be a moment of clarity for Senate Democrats, but they are already waffling on whether to support or oppose Trump's to-be-named-later-today SCOTUS pick, now widely rumored as his sister's appeals court bench teammate, Tom Hardiman.

But the real news about the Muslim ban may lie elsewhere.

For all the pyrotechnics at the Justice Department today, this may be the bigger story. There's been confusion over the last three days over whether Republicans on Capitol Hill were briefed, consulted or involved in writing President Trump's now infamous immigration executive order. The White House has said they were. Republicans on the Hill said the first they heard of it was in news reports.

Now we have an explanation.

According to this story in Politico, the White House worked with senior staffers on the House Judiciary Committee to draft the order. But those staffers, who work ultimately for Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), didn't tell their bosses. In other words, they secretly collaborated with White House staff without informing the members of Congress they work for. Indeed, the administration went so far as to have them sign non-disclosure agreements swearing them to secrecy!

This is quite simply unheard of.

To be clear, the executive works with Congress all the time to craft legislation. That's the President working with members of Congress, though much of the actual work is delegated to staff. All normal. It's congressional staff working for the executive without telling the members of Congress they work for which is the big deal.

More from Josh Marshall there on What It All Means.  But for sure, this is what shaking up Washington looks like, and House Republicans suddenly need to assess how they are going to react to getting the end-around from President Cheeto Hitler.  I'll bet they won't just lie there and take it the way Democrats do.

If Trump is going to be reined in, it's going to be Team Pachyderm that does the dirty work.  If he keeps piling up constitutional crises this fast ... well, impeachment in six months at least sounds a little more plausible.  And at this pace, who can predict what happens today, tomorrow, the rest of this week, and next?  We're all going to have to do more than pop and eat corn, that much is certain.

Update: Not getting the word about the ban beforehand includes James Mattis, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, and GOP Sen. Bob Corker.  (Who knows, one of these men could possibly be a terrorist sympathizer.)

At least three top national security officials — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Rex Tillerson, who is awaiting confirmation to lead the State Department — have told associates they were not aware of details of the directive until around the time Trump signed it. Leading intelligence officials were also left largely in the dark, according to U.S. officials.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said that despite White House assurances that congressional leaders were consulted, he learned about the order in the media.


Mattis, who stood next to Trump during Friday’s signing ceremony, is said to be particularly incensed. A senior U.S. official said Mattis, along with Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford, was aware of the general concept of Trump’s order but not the details. Tillerson has told the president’s political advisers that he was baffled over not being consulted on the substance of the order.

Hoo boy.

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