House Dem forces GOP to take recorded vote on Trump tax returns
BY NAOMI JAGODA –
A House Democratic lawmaker attempted Monday to force a House floor vote on a resolution to request President Trump’s tax returns, but the effort failed on a party line vote, 229-185, with two Republicans voting “present.”
The move was the latest in a series of Democratic efforts to push Congress to request Trump’s tax returns, and Democrats demanded a roll call vote to force Republicans to go on the record.
The two Republicans who voted present were Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.) and Mark Sanford (S.C.). Sanford is one of the Republican lawmakers who has in the past called for Trump to release his returns.
After the vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fired at the GOP.
“Tonight, House Republicans made themselves accomplices to hiding President Trump’s tax returns from the American people,” she said.
“Our security and our democracy have been endangered by Russia’s clear influence on the Trump Administration. The American people deserve the truth about Russia’s personal, political and financial grip on President Trump. If there’s nothing there, then what are Republicans afraid of?
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) offered a resolution that would have directed the House to request 10 years of Trump’s tax returns, have the House Ways and Means Committee review them in a closed session and then vote to send the information in the returns to the full House.
Under federal tax law, the chairmen of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees and the Joint Committee on Taxation can request tax returns from Treasury to be considered in a closed meeting.The resolution would also direct the House to “support transparency in government and the longstanding tradition of Presidents and Presidential candidates disclosing their tax returns.”
Pascrell read the text of his resolution on the House floor Monday evening, drawing a standing ovation from other Democratic lawmakers.
“Let’s shine a bright light on the president’s conflicts together,” Pascrell said after the bill was read. “We as a Congress and the broader American public can judge whether his decisions are being made for himself, his business interests, or for the greater good of the American people.”
Pascrell attempted to offer the resolution as a “privileged” measure. Under House rules, privileged resolutions have to be acted on within two legislative days.
But Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), the lawmaker presiding over the House, ruled that the resolution wasn’t actually privileged. Pascrell appealed the ruling, and lawmakers voted to table Pascrell’s appeal.
Democrats have expressed a desire to see the returns in order to learn more about the president’s conflicts of interest, because he has not sold his businesses. They have also argued that viewing Trump’s tax returns could be helpful in investigating Russia’s influence in the presidential election.
Trump was the first major-party presidential nominee in decades to refuse to release his tax returns. He frequently said that he wouldn’t make his returns public until the IRS finished auditing him. However, the IRS has said that an audit doesn’t prevent people from releasing their own tax information.
Some Republican lawmakers have also expressed interest in Trump releasing his returns. And Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she was open to Congress issuing a subpoena for the returns during its probe into Russian involvement in the election.
But House GOP chairmen have been cool about the idea of seeking Trump’s tax returns. When House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) was asked earlier Monday if he would subpoena Trump’s returns, he said, “No, we’re not going to do that.”
Pascrell sent a letter earlier this month to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) asking him to request Trump’s tax returns from the Treasury Secretary so that they could be reviewed by the tax-writing panel in a closed session.
Brady responded by telling reporters that he would not seek Trump’s tax returns, citing privacy concerns.
“My belief is that if Congress begins to use its powers to rummage around in the tax returns of a president, what prevents Congress from doing the same to average Americans,” he said.
The day after Brady made those comments, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) offered an amendment to the Ways and Means Committee’s oversight plan that would have directed Brady to request Trump’s tax returns. But the committee voted against the amendment on a party-line vote.
Pascrell isn’t the only House Democrat this week trying to force a vote that would begin the process of investigating Trump.
The House Judiciary Committee will consider a resolution from Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday that would demand the Justice Department to hand over documents regarding Trump’s business conflicts of interest and possible ties to Russia.
Nadler invoked a rarely used procedure that automatically triggers a House floor vote if the resolution isn’t considered in committee within 14 legislative days.
As with Pascrell’s measure, GOP members of the Judiciary Committee are expected to vote to prevent Nadler’s resolution from moving forward.
Lady Liberty has her say about The Wall: Mitch Albom
“You know, for centuries, I’ve been the image of our nation’s borders. You thought of coming here? You thought of me.”
I went to visit the Statue of Liberty. I missed the last boat back. As I gazed at the American shoreline, I heard a voice.
“So, what do you think?”
I turned. Lady Liberty was talking to me.
“I think I’m hallucinating,” I said.
“Don’t be shy. I don’t often get to speak. It’s hard to talk with people crawling up your robe.”
“Well …” I said. “What’s on your mind?”
“What do you think? About the symbol?”
“You? I think you’re amazing. Inspiring. Incred–”
“Not me. The new symbol. The Wall.”
Lady Liberty sighed. “You know, for more than a century, I’ve been the image of our nation’s borders. You thought of coming here? You thought of me.
“But now? Now when people around the world think of America, they’re going to picture a wall — a really long, ugly wall.”
She shook her crown. “It won’t even be green.”
“No, no,” I insisted. “We’re much more than that. We’re a huge nation. Rich. Diverse.”
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“So is China,” she said. “But what’s the first structure you think of with that country?”
She had me there.
“What’s the purpose of this wall?” she asked.
“To keep people out.”
“Hmm.” She pointed her torch down to her base.
“Your really big feet?”
“No. The broken chains I’m stepping out of. They stand for freedom from oppression. Aren’t people coming here seeking freedom from oppression?”
“Some,” I said. “Some just want jobs.”
“So they’re poor?”
“Many of them, yes.”
“See that?” She pointed down with her tablet.
“Lower. On the base. The sonnet. Read it.”
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
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“Pretty good, huh?” she said.
“Pretty good,” I replied.
“I’ll bet The Wall doesn’t have a golden door.”
She had me there.
“It’s complicated,” I tried to explain. “Back when you were built, people came to follow their dreams.”
“Aren’t today’s immigrants doing that?”
“But they’re not going through proper channels.”
“How long do proper channels take?”
“Depends on the country. In some cases, 20 years.”
“Hmm.” She looked off to Ellis Island. “Did your family come through there?”
“Yes. Early last century.”
“Did they have to wait 20 years?”
“Maybe the laws need more fixing than the borders.”
She stared at me. I think she raised an eyebrow.
“Some illegal immigrants commit crimes,” I said.
“More than citizens commit crimes?”
“Actually,” I mumbled, “most data show it’s less.”
“Hmm,” she said. She had a way of saying that.
“And when these ‘illegals’ come, do they work?”
“Yes. They work so cheap. They take our jobs.”
“Who’s hiring them?”
“Factories. Small business. Households.”
“Are you punishing the employers? Are you building a wall around the factories?”
“Don’t be silly,” I said.
“Hmm,” she said.
She adjusted her crown, with its seven spikes to symbolize seven seas and continents. “Do you know my original name? It was ‘Liberty Enlightening the World.’ ”
She looked south. “Will they say that about a wall?”
“The big fight now is who’s gonna pay for it.”
“I was paid for by foreigners.”
“Hey. That’s exactly what our president wants!”
“I was a gift.”
The sun began to rise. “Well, bon voyage,” Lady Liberty said, lifting her arm. “I must get back to work.”
“Work?” I said. “But you’re a statue.”
“No,” she said, sternly, “I’m a symbol. I stand for something. And you know what? Standing for something, every day and night, is really hard work.”
A new exhibit, titled “Refuge,” brings this juxtaposition to light by showcasing the refugee children who stand to lose the most from Trump’s policies.
Visual artist Claire Salvo conceptualized the project last fall as a way to de-politicize the conversation around refugee resettlement. In particular, she wanted to highlight the fact that more than half of the world’s refugees are children, and many of them have only known life inside a refugee camp.
“I wanted to remove the political aspect and just make it human,” Salvo told The Huffington Post. “There’s something about kids everyone can relate to. Everyone can agree it’s not a child’s choice ― it’s no one’s choice ― to be a refugee. They have no say in the matter.”
Salvo worked with her local branch of Church World Service, a refugee aid organization, to locate families that would be interested in participating. In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where the artist lives, it wasn’t hard.
Lancaster is known for being “America’s refugee capital.” The city takes in roughly 20 times more refugees per capita than any other city in the U.S. In 2016, Church World Service Lancaster helped resettle more than 400 refugees, nearly half of whom were children under the age of 18.
“These are the people that President Trump wants to close our doors to. They are some of the world’s most vulnerable people,” Stephanie Gromek, community resource coordinator for Church World Service Lancaster, told HuffPost.
The organization connected Salvo with three families who expressed interest in participating, and the artist spent the last few months photographing, interviewing and sketching fifteen children from the families. Salvo shot the photographs on an iPhone and did the drawings with charcoal. She’ll be auctioning the pieces off starting in May, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated back to the participating families, the artist said.
All three of the families arrived in the U.S. speaking only their native language and “with little more than clothes on their back,” said Gromek.
One was a Muslim family from Somalia ― one of the banned countries included on Trump’s initial refugee order ― who just arrived in the U.S. in December. The other two families are related and living under one roof. They hail from Ethiopia and are members of the Anuak tribe, a persecuted ethnic minority.
The process of resettlement is an arduous one. Refugees recommended for resettlement in the U.S. by the U.N. undergo a stringent, two-year long vetting process that includes various security and medical clearances as well as cultural orientation.
During her interviews with the families, Salvo said she asked them: “What’s your greatest hope for life in America.” The language barrier made it difficult for her to get across the broader scope of the question, Salvo said. But one of the mothers, named Faduma, was able to communicate that what she wanted most was a washer and dryer.
One day, Salvo was leaving her house when she saw that a neighbor had left a washer out on the curb. The photographer said she called a friend to help her lift the washer into her car, and she drove it down to the CWS office with a note that it was for Faduma.
“The things many refugees want are so basic,” Salvo said, “and they’re things we take for granted, like not having to walk a mile to laundromat.”
Refugee children have their own basic tasks to attend to once they arrive in the U.S., Gromek said. These include learning English, getting various immunizations and enrolling in school. Within a month, most refugee children have started their classes and are on their way to becoming everyday American kids.
“Children are resilient in their own right, and refugee children are even more so I believe because they’ve been through so much,” Gromek told HuffPost. “They end up thriving.”
Like Many Americans, A Judge On The Court Weighing Trump’s Refugee Ban Was A Refugee
Judge Alex Kozinski’s family fled communism when he was a child.
LOS ANGELES ― A federal judge who sits on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is set to rule on a block of President Donald Trump’s refugee ban, came to the United States as a refugee when he was a boy.
Alex Kozinski, one of the most well-respected judges on the 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco, fled with his parents, Moses and Sabine, from communist Romania in 1962. Kozinski has spoken publicly about his immigration experience for years, even joking that he went from being a committed communist as a boy to an “instant capitalist” after his first trip outside of the Iron Curtain to Vienna ― on his way to the United States ― where he was introduced to “bubble gum, chocolate and bananas.”
But his journey came full circle on Monday when HIAS ― a refugee agency that has been assisting Jews and others fleeing persecution since 1881 ― filed a legal brief with the 9th Circuit in strong opposition to Trump’s travel ban. HIAS was the same group that helped to resettle the Kozinski family, eventually helping them get all the way to the United States.
Until contacted by The Huffington Post, HIAS officials were unaware that one of the children it helped decades ago was now serving on the court to which it was appealing.
Officials at HIAS searched their records and found official documentation of arrival for the Kozinski family. HIAS provided it to The Huffington Post, and it is printed here with the permission of Judge Kozinski.
The Kozinski family arrived in Baltimore in late October 1962. Alex was just 12, Moses was 47 and Sabine 43.
“[HIAS] was very generous and kind to us in all respects,” Kozinski told The Huffington Post of his journey to America. Kozinski recalled that the paperwork, all arranged and prepared by HIAS, was completed in Vienna around 1962. The agency then supported the Kozinskis while Moses and Sabine sought employment.
“Then we came to the U.S. on a Sabena four-propeller airliner ― it took about 18 hours to cross the Atlantic, with one stop somewhere in Newfoundland,” Kozinski said. The Kozinskis landed in New York, where they passed through customs, like so many immigrants before them and after them. They briefly settled in Baltimore, where HIAS continued to support the family until Moses and Sabine found steady work.
“Our caseworker was named Mrs. Friedman,” Kozinski said. “I remember her quite well. She smoked Parliaments.”
After about five years in Baltimore, the Kozinskis moved to California in search of warmer weather. They’d settle in the Los Angeles area, where Moses would open a grocery store and Alex would eventually graduate from UCLA’s law school. After several years of private practice and then clerking for Supreme Court Justices Warren Burger and Anthony Kennedy (while Kennedy was appointed to the 9th Circuit), President Ronald Reagan appointed Kozinski first to U.S. Claims Court and then, in 1985, to the 9th Circuit.
That HIAS helped Kozinski’s family escape totalitarianism doesn’t disqualify him from ruling on the case. “They’re an amicus, not a party, and any association I had with them ended half a century ago,” Kozinski said. (Indeed, judges routinely rule on cases that involve organizations they previously had involvement with. But Kozinski isn’t assigned to the 9th Circuit motions panel of three judges who will hear the case. The panel consists of William C. Canby Jr., Michelle Friedland and Richard Clifton. As the case progresses, the court may grant a hearing before an 11-judge panel.)
Along the way, Kozinski may or may not get to express his views on the ultimate legality of Trump’s travel ban. But even if he doesn’t, the judge has already given the public a taste of how he feels about the federal government’s power over immigration ― and how it can have a profound effect no matter who is in power.
“We may soon find ourselves with new conflicts between the President and the states,” Kozinski wrote last week in an impassioned dissent to an order by the full 9th Circuit declining to hear a challenge by the state of Arizona to President Barack Obama’s policy aimed at helping young undocumented immigrants. His colleagues had declined to take up the case again, leaving in place a ruling that more or less forces Arizona to grant driver’s licenses to those covered by the policy.
But that result, under the Constitution, left Kozinski uneasy ― perhaps because of who is now the nation’s chief executive.
“Executive power favors the party, or perhaps simply the person, who wields it,” Kozinski warned his own court. “That power is the forbidden fruit of our politics, irresistible to those who possess it and reviled by those who don’t. Clear and stable structural rules are the bulwark against that power, which shifts with the sudden vagaries of our politics. In its haste to find a doctrine that can protect the policies of the present, our circuit should remember the old warning: May all your dreams come true.”
Trump’s controversial executive order temporarily bans all refugees and indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. The order also suspends travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. The policy, which covers 200 million people, sparked chaos and protests at many U.S. airports last week as travelers from the targeted countries were detained and lawyers were denied access to the detainees.
The order was soon challenged in court by multiple states. On Friday, a nationwide restraining order was issued by U.S. District Judge James Robart, who ruled that the order was likely to cause immediate and irreparable harm to the states of Washington and Minnesota to education, business, family relations and the freedom to travel. Over the weekend, the Justice Department filed an appeal to immediately restore the ban, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit denied that request. The appeals court is now preparing to hear full arguments in the case.
On Monday, HIAS filed in support of the stay of the executive order. HIAS argued that Trump’s executive order has “fractured many refugee families” and “risks the lives of many who relied on the promises of the United States when they received their visas.” The order, HIAS argues, closes the door to avoiding “immense dangers” they currently face in their home countries.
Trump has made a habit of smearing the judicial system and specifically attacking judges who challenge his authority or who issue rulings that unravel his plans. Over the weekend Trump blasted U.S. District Judge James Robart after he issued a temporary restraining order in Seattle last week, blocking Trump’s immigration order for the time being.
Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!
As a candidate, Trump also attacked Gonzalo Curiel, a federal judge who presided over lawsuits against Trump University. Trump accused the judge of an “absolute conflict” in the case because of the judge’s Mexican heritage. He repeatedly referred to Curiel as “Mexican” and said he couldn’t be an impartial judge because of Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the Mexican border. Curiel is a U.S. citizen, born in Indiana.
Kozinski is American, too.
CORRECTION: This article previously suggested that Kozinski was the only former refugee on the 9th Circuit. Judge Jacqueline Nguyen is also a former refugee.
Harvard Law Prof: Trump’s Handling of Immigration Order Could be Grounds for Impeachment
Constitutional Law Professor Laurence Tribe, a renowned professor at Harvard Law School, believes that President Donald Trump‘s handling of the litigation surrounding his controversial executive order on immigration could end up being grounds for impeachment.
Trump officials slow-walked court orders on travel ban
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Tribe is specifically referring to allegations that the Trump administration purposely slow walked a Virginia judge’s order to provide travelers detained at Dulles airport last weekend with lawyers. The report alleges that guards were instructed to give phone numbers of legal services organizations, instead of providing the travelers access to the dozens of immigration lawyers who had showed up the airport. The State of Virginia is attempting to hold the immigration officials, and perhaps even Donald Trump himself, in contempt of court for failing to comply with the order.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General is reportedly also investigating after complaints that Customs and Border Protection defied court orders.
So how could all of this be grounds for impeachment? “This could well be deliberate and knowing failure by the President to comply with a facially lawful court order,” Professor Tribe explained to LawNewz.com. He continued:
There is no modern example of this – Nixon turned over tapes, as ordered, leading to the introduction of articles of impeachment against him and his resignation. Deliberately disobeying the order of a federal court could amount to criminal contempt of court, which might be found by the House to be a high crime or misdemeanor. Likewise, if, as reported, officials utilized conference calls instead of written documents they otherwise would have, in order to implement the plan of disobedience to the court’s order, that might amount to obstruction of justice as defined by the federal statute which, again, the House might determine is a high crime or misdemeanor.
According to the Politico report, at least four hours after the Virginia judge’s order came down, Todd Owen with Customs and Border Protection, had a conference call to deliver guidance on how to implement the order.
Tribe pointed to the landmark 1966 desegregation case, Griffin v. Prince Edward County, where the 4th circuit court ruled that “secret government manipulation of the status quo (there, involving school vouchers rather than visas) designed to undercut the full efficacy of a not-yet-issued injunction may be prosecuted as criminal contempt of court.”
As for the latest order by a federal judge in Seattle, the Trump administration so far appears to be complying, though the President has made some pointed remarks blasting the Seattle judge on Twitter which have drawn scrutiny, including calling James Robart a “so-called” judge. Some have surmised that Trump is “testing the waters” to see if there is enough national support for him to defy the judge’s nationwide temporary restraining order altogether. So far, the Trump administration has given no indication that they plan to do that. The Justice Department is scheduled to file briefs with the 9th Circuit appealing the TRO this afternoon.
According to the Constitution, the House must bring formal charges against the federal official, and then the procedure moves to the Senate, which acts as the trier of fact. They ultimately make the decision on whether to remove Trump, which requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate.
I know that most of you have heard the news that DeVoss was confirmed to the Cabinet as Secretary of Education. She was certainly not the pick of the liberals and progressives, due to her lack of experience with the Public School System. We did a really awesome job of calling, writing, and letting our Senators know that we did not want her to be confirmed.
We must not look at this as a loss. For a first time effort, we did well. We forced a tie in the Senate, forcing Pence to cast the tie vote. We came close, closer than projected.
There are two things they say we need to be doing: 1) We cannot stop contacting our Senators and Representatives, letting them know how angry you are, and that you appreciate their votes, and that your vote in the next election is tied to their votes now. 2) We need to write and call Vice President Pence. We’ve put pressure on both houses of Congress, and on Trump; now we need to put pressure on the Vice President. Pressure enough that, in the event of another tie, he may vote the people’s conscience, not his unduly elected boss’s.
The Resistance Continues, but only so long as we do. One good resource is the Women’s March Movement on Facebook (another march is reportedly being planned); and I, of course, will continue the fight here as best I can.