US House panel chair accuses Trump of ‘massive’ obstruction; Trump vows to fight

The US Attorney General and heads of the US congressional committees pursuing investigations focusing on President Donald Trump are seen in a combination of file photos (L-R clockwise): US Attorney General William Barr, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. (REUTERS/File Photos)
Updated 25 April 2019
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US House panel chair accuses Trump of ‘massive’ obstruction; Trump vows to fight

  • The Republican president ordered officials not to obey legal requests from the Democratic-led House of Representatives
  • Trump filed a lawsuit earlier this week to prevent material from being turned over to lawmakers

WASHINGTON: The Democratic chairman of the US House Oversight Committee on Wednesday accused President Donald Trump of a “unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction” after he ordered federal employees not to comply with congressional investigations.
The Republican president ordered officials not to obey legal requests from the Democratic-led House of Representatives, which is carrying out multiple investigations of his administration, including his tax returns, White House security clearances and the probe of Russian interference in US politics.
“President Trump and Attorney General (William) Barr are now openly ordering federal employees to ignore congressional subpoenas and simply not show up — without any assertion of a valid legal privilege,” Representative Elijah Cummings, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement.
“This is a massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction,” Cummings added, warning federal employees to “think very carefully about their own legal interests” in refusing to comply with the panel’s requests.
The president vowed to resist every subpoena from House Democrats investigating his administration and to fight any effort by them to impeach him. Trump’s removal from office is most unlikely barring a change of heart by his fellow Republicans, who hold a majority in the US Senate.
Trump filed a lawsuit earlier this week to prevent material from being turned over to lawmakers, and on Wednesday the Justice Department rebuffed a House committee’s request for an interview with an official involved in the administration’s decision to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
The department said John Gore, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division, would not participate in a deposition scheduled for Thursday if he could not have a Justice Department lawyer at his side. The committee had offered to allow a lawyer to sit in a different room.
Cummings said the committee would gather to hear Gore’s deposition on Thursday and suggested he “should be well aware of his constitutional, legal and ethical obligations to comply with a duly authorized subpoena” from Congress.
A Department of Justice (DOJ) official said the committee had provided “no legitimate or constitutional basis for excluding a DOJ lawyer from assisting at the deposition.”
“If a DOJ lawyer may appear to protect privileged subjects, then the Attorney General will allow the deposition to go forward,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Be “fair and fearless”
“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Trump promised to fight all the way to the Supreme Court against any effort by congressional Democrats to impeach him, even though the US Constitution gives Congress complete authority over the impeachment process. Under the Constitution, Congress is a co-equal branch of government alongside the executive branch and the judiciary.
But Trump has increasingly accused Democrats of conducting the Russia investigation for purely political purposes ahead of the 2020 election. He has stepped up those accusations since the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Democrats remain divided on whether to proceed with an impeachment of Trump after the Russia inquiry. Trump defiantly proclaimed on Twitter that the investigation “didn’t lay a glove on me.”
“If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the US Supreme Court,” the Republican president, who is seeking re-election next year, said on Twitter without offering details about what legal action he envisioned.
In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Hillary Clinton, the Democrat whom Trump defeated in 2016, urged members of both parties to follow the facts, whether they lead to “the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not.”
“Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless,” Clinton wrote.
Mueller’s findings, released in a redacted report last week, detailed how Trump often tried to impede the inquiry but it stopped short of concluding he had committed the crime of obstruction of justice. The report said Congress could address whether the president violated the law.
Mueller separately found insufficient evidence to conclude that Trump’s campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia in the 2016 presidential race.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have remained cautious over launching impeachment proceedings against Trump ahead of the 2020 election, although they have left the door open to such action. Others in the party’s more liberal wing have demanded impeachment proceedings.
But Democrats have vowed to move ahead full steam with their investigations of Trump, which could produce more evidence that could be used in an impeachment proceeding.
The Constitution empowers Congress to remove a president from office for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The House is given the power to impeach a president — bring formal charges — and the Senate then convenes a trial, with the senators as jurors. A two-thirds vote is needed to convict a president and remove him from office.
The Constitution gives no role to the Supreme Court in impeachment, though it does assign the chief justice the task of presiding over the Senate trial. Conservative John Roberts currently serves as chief justice.
That would not preclude Trump from proceeding with litigation to tie up the issue in the courts, despite Supreme Court precedent upholding congressional impeachment power. In 1993, the nation’s top court ruled 9-0 in a case involving an impeached US judge that the judiciary has no role in the impeachment process.
Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard who has been critical of Trump, said the US founding fathers had considered but ultimately scrapped the idea of allowing the Supreme Court to have any role in the impeachment process.
“Not even a SCOTUS filled with Trump appointees would get in the way of the House or Senate,” Tribe said in a series of tweets on Wednesday.


Thousands rally in support of Hong Kong police

Updated 20 July 2019
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Thousands rally in support of Hong Kong police

  • Hong Kong has been rocked by more than a month of huge and largely peaceful protests
  • Demonstrators and rights groups have accused riot police of using excessive force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and public anger against the force is boiling over

HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of people rallied in support of Hong Kong’s police and pro-Beijing leadership on Saturday, a vivid illustration of the polarization coursing through the city after weeks of anti-government demonstrations.
Hong Kong has been rocked by more than a month of huge and largely peaceful protests — as well as a series of separate violent confrontations with police — sparked by a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China and other countries.
The bill has since been suspended, but that has done little to quell public anger which has evolved into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms, universal suffrage and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous financial hub.
Saturday’s rally was a moment for the establishment to muster their own supporters.
A predominantly older crowd was joined by families and younger residents, waving Chinese flags and holding banners supporting the police.
“Friends who used violence say they love Hong Kong too, but we absolutely cannot approve of their way of expressing themselves,” said Sunny Wong, 42, who works in insurance.
A 60-year-old woman surnamed Leung said protesters who stormed and vandalized the legislature earlier this month must be held responsible for their acts.
“I really dislike people using violence on others... it was so extreme,” Leung said.
Police estimated a turnout of 103,000 people at the peak of the rally, while local media cited organizers as saying 316,000 attended.
Hong Kong’s police are in the midst of a major reputational crisis.
With no political solution on the table from the city’s pro-Beijing leaders, the police have become enmeshed in a seemingly intractable cycle of clashes with protesters who have continued to hit the streets in huge numbers for six weeks.
Demonstrators and rights groups have accused riot police of using excessive force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and public anger against the force is boiling over.
Police insist their crowd control responses have been proportionate and point to injured officers as proof that a hardcore minority of protesters mean them harm.
Some of the most violent clashes occurred last Sunday when riot police battled protesters hurling projectiles inside a luxury mall. Some 28 people were injured, including 10 officers.
There is growing frustration among the police force’s exhausted rank and file that neither the city’s leaders, nor Beijing, seem to have any idea how to end the crisis.
Chinese state media and powerful pro-Beijing groups threw their weight behind the pro-police rally.
Saturday’s edition of Hong Kong’s staunchly pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao ran a front page encouraging readers to join with the headline: “Kick away the violence.”
It featured a drawing of a large foot kicking over a pro-democracy demonstrator.
Many of those at the rally held aloft large slogans printed on the spread of Wen Wei Po, another stridently pro-Beijing newspaper in the city.
A rally last month by police supporters saw ugly scenes, with many participants hurling insults and scuffling with younger democracy protesters as well as media covering the gathering.
While the pro-government protests have mustered decent crowds, they have paled in comparison with the huge pro-democracy marches that have regularly drawn hundreds of thousands of people.
Anti-government protesters are planning another large march Sunday afternoon and say they have no plan to back down until key demands are met.
Tensions were also raised after police on Saturday said they had discovered a homemade laboratory making high-powered explosives. A 27-year-old man was arrested and pro-independence materials were also discovered.
Under the 1997 handover deal with Britain, China promised to allow Hong Kong to keep key liberties such as its independent judiciary and freedom of speech.
But many say that 50-year deal is already being curtailed, citing the disappearance into mainland custody of dissident booksellers, the disqualification of prominent politicians and the jailing of pro-democracy protest leaders.
Authorities have also resisted calls for the city’s leader to be directly elected by the people.