We are in a season of Constitutional crises, according to Democratic leadership.
At first, it was about Russian collusion Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s firing by the president, expected any day. That never happened, of course.
Deep State vs. Constitution
Sen. Chuck Schumer referred to him as “Director Mueller” because he used to be director of the FBI. But part of our Constitutional system is that we, the people, can replace public officials and change public policy first through elections, and then by the authority of newly elected officials to make promised changes.
Schumer and fellow Democrats are apparently uncommitted to that Constitutional plan. The prestige and authority of a “deep state” of permanent bureaucrats has come to rival or surpass that of officials whose election disappoints the Democratic elites.
About a year ago, Schumer sounded the alarm again when he feared the president might fire one of his Deputy Attorneys General who had undermined him.
“I’d like to make something crystal clear to the president,” Schumer said. “Mr. President, any attempt to remove Rod Rosenstein will create the exact same Constitutional crisis as if you fired Special Counsel Mueller.”
Then when the president replaced Attorney General Jeff Sessions with an interim appointee in November, Sen. Schumer smelled Constitutional crisis again. “If [the interim Attorney General] stays there, he will create a Constitutional crisis by inhibiting Mueller or firing Mueller,” Schumer said.
He demanded that Trump’s new appointee recuse himself from supervising Mueller’s investigation. Unless he did so, Schumer threatened a government shutdown.
The Mueller Report
Now the Mueller investigation has run its course, but the Democrats’ season of Constitutional crisis is just getting warmed up. This is necessary because the Democrats need to lay a foundation for impeachment, now that the president is clear of the threat of criminal prosecution.
House Democrats have issued a subpoena for the full Mueller report without any redactions. Nearly all of them are lawyers, and therefore well aware that it would be a violation of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to disclose the portions of the Mueller report that quote Grand Jury proceedings, and that whoever violates Grand Jury secrecy is subject to prosecution.
It’s arguable that Attorney General Barr should request a judge’s permission to break Grand Jury secrecy in this instance, but it’s hardly a Constitutional crisis if he doesn’t. The Rule is there for a reason. You should be able to give confidential truthful answers to a prosecutor’s questions in Grand Jury without entrusting your fate to Oscar Goodman or Ilhan Abdullahi Omar.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
I do want robust Congressional oversight of the executive branch. That, too, is a very important part of the Constitutional plan. The Department of Justice has offered to provide 12 leaders in both chambers of Congress, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, access to a less-redacted version of the Mueller report to accommodate negotiations for a release that would comply with the criminal procedure rules.
But but none of the six Democrats have taken the Justice Department up on its offer to come and have a look at the document they claim is indispensable to their Constitutional role. Instead, the House Democrats voted Barr in Contempt of Congress. Trump, ever the tough negotiator, retaliated by asserting Executive Privilege.
Predictably, Nadler pronounced America is “now in a Constitutional crisis.” He was oblivious of any such peril in 2012, when Attorney General and Obama confidante Eric Holder refused to comply with a Congressional subpoena. The Obama Justice Department argued then it was under no obligation to comply with any Congressional subpoena, and asserted wide-ranging Executive Privilege.
Nadler, eager to declare Barr’s legal resistance a Constitutional crisis today, was a bitter-end defender of Holder when he was covering up the deadly Fast and Furious gunrunning operation that provided 2,000 guns to criminals, and got a Border Patrol agent killed. Holder’s staff wrote the Committee that the Obama administration was unaware of Fast and Furious. He later admitted that was false.
When Congress voted a contempt citation against Holder in 2012 after months of defiance and legerdemain, Nadler joined a Democrat walkout from the House chamber to protest “the shameful, politically-motivated GOP vote.”
You have to give Nadler credit for cutting to the chase, though. House Republicans let Holder drag out negotiations Saddam Hussein-like for 18 months. Nadler’s committee Democrats voted Barr in contempt less than a month after issuing their subpoena.
Cheapening the Language
Hyper-partisan Democrats have cheapened the currency of Constitutional crisis. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has chimed in with her own claim that we’re in Constitutional crisis again. Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Al Green have used the exhausted phrase in recent days. It has become a shibboleth to rally the base, rather than a descriptive term.
I wish they had kept their powder dry. There might actually be a Constitutional crisis some day, and this phrase will be useless to alert the citizenry, because badly behaved Democrats have worn it out.