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Trump thinks that he really is above the law — expect more assaults on democracy

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- Commentary

Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

The Founders worried about a shrewd, popular Machiavellian leader consolidating power and turning their experiment in self-governance into a tyranny. They saw the separation of powers as a bulwark against such a scenario coming to pass. The legislature and the judiciary would be the executive branch’s equals, and the three would keep each other in check. (Fans of School House Rock know this, even if the President* of the United States does not.)

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They also worried about a future president disregarding the laws when it suited him. So they wrote the Take Care Clause into the Constitution. Article II, Section 3 reads in part, that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed….” In a 1792 letter to Alexander Hamilton, George Washington wrote, “it is my duty to see the Laws executed: to permit them to be trampled upon with impunity would be repugnant to it; nor can the Government longer remain a passive spectator of the contempt with which they are treated.”

Some were concerned about the rise of “factions,” which we call parties today. But the Founders probably couldn’t envision the members of a future Congress feeling a greater sense of loyalty to their faction than to the country and the Constitution they drafted.

That’s precisely where we have been for the past 26 months. For the first two years of his presidency, Donald Trump enjoyed impunity-by-Congressional majority. Now he sees that House Democrats won’t impeach him as long as the Republican-controlled Senate wouldn’t convict him, and that means that, regardless of what anyone says, he is effectively above the law.

And he knows it. Last week, Trump ordered his Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, to violate a 1924 anti-corruption law that says quite clearly that the IRS shall turn over any tax return upon request by one of the relevant Congressional committees. And this week, CNN reported that he told another cabinet member, acting DHS Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, to order Border Patrol agents to “block asylum seekers from entering the US in defiance of US law,” and promised to pardon him if he were ever held accountable for doing so. This comes after he’s spent the past two years exuberantly violating the Emoluments Clause and making a small fortune off of his presidency, and as he promises to weaponize a law enforcement agency to wield against his political foes.

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It’s possible, or even likely, that Trump thinks impeachment would be the ultimate tool for firing up his cultish base. If so, we can expect him to continue to disregard the law–and, as his mendacious and bigoted attack on Rep. Ilhan Omar just a week after one of his deranged supporters was arrested for threatening to put a bullet into her skull suggests, the bounds of decency–for the remainder of his presidency. In his eyes, it’s a win-win situation. And it just confirms that impunity always breeds more lawlessness.

And with that happy thought, here are some of the lesser outrages you may have missed this week.

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Speaking of lawlessness, in its more severe forms, this is widely considered to be a form of torture

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Keep in mind that most of these people haven’t violated the law, or are accused of committing a misdemeanor offense.

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And The Houston Chronicle reported this week that a mother and her two daughters, who had fled El Salvador, applied for asylum in the US and “since then have complied with court orders and appearance dates.” They were then shocked to learn that a judge had ordered one of the children, an 11-year-old girl, top be deported without her family. That isn’t policy. Or at least not yet.

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Immigration authorities said it was the family’s fault for missing a court appearance, but an attorney representing the girl “blamed the Executive Office for Immigration Review, a branch of the Justice Department overseeing immigration courts, for the error resulting in the 11-year-old’s deportation.”

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Meanwhile, The NYT reported that Trump “wants to issue more visas for foreign workers to take temporary jobs in housekeeping, landscaping and other fields — even as [he] seeks to seal off the border with Mexico, where most of those workers come from.”

Last year, Vox reported that “several of [Trump’s] golf clubs hire workers on the H-2B visa program. Hiring records seem to show that Trump clubs don’t try too hard to find US workers in the high season, and the company’s recruiters usually say that no Americans even apply for them.”

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It should go without saying that #MAGA Nation doesn’t care.

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Last week, we mentioned that Trump’s pick to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers, had such blatant conflicts of interest that he makes the rest of the regime look like they have some integrity by comparison.

This week, The WaPo reported that he also ran the joint like a frat house that really needs to be suspended from campus. “A federal workplace investigation found rampant sexual harassment and retaliation at AccuWeather, a federal contractor, including groping, touching and kissing of subordinates without consent.”

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“Over two dozen witnesses spanning many different departments and in positions ranging from administrative support to senior management described unlawful sexual harassment that occurred at the company,” the report says. “This sexual harassment was so severe and pervasive, that some female employees resigned.”

The investigation, which began in March 2017, also found that AccuWeather was “aware” of the sexual harassment but took no action to correct it, despite the company’s claims that it was not privy to any harassing activity.

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This move is kind of inexplicable. Via Thompson-Reuters

A decision by the U.S. Department of Justice not to fight to defend a federal law banning female genital mutilation (FGM) sends a “damaging message” to those working to end the practice, advocates said on Friday.

Government lawyers said on Wednesday they would not appeal a decision by a Michigan federal judge who dismissed charges involving FGM as unconstitutional, ruling it was a state issue.

Congress in 1996 outlawed FGM, a ritual that involves partial or total removal of external genitalia, which the World Health Organization has called “a grave violation of the human rights of girls and women.”

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According to Pulitzer Prize-0winning tax journalist David Cay Johnston, only a handful of Americans would have to file tax returns if the government simply used the data it already collects to determine people’s tax bill. The only reason that kind of system hasn’t been set up is lobbying by tax preparation companies like H&R Block and Turbotax.

Anyway…

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Speaking of perfectly legal corruption, Buzzfeed News reported this week that “House Republicans are warning drug companies against complying with a House investigation into drug prices.”

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee sent letters to a dozen CEOs of major drug companies warning that information they provide to the committee could be leaked to the public by Democratic chair Elijah Cummings in an effort to tank their stock prices.

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And we shouldn’t forget that as the regime moves to cut off all disaster relief to Puerto Rico, the impact of Hurricane Maria continues to pain the US territory.

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The New York Times reported that the only delivery room on the “ravaged island of Vieques” remains shuttered 18 months after the storm made landfall there, “forcing expectant mothers to travel, usually by sea, to the big island eight miles away to have their babies.”

The original hospital remains a shuttered wreck of rust and mold, home to the occasional rooster and a band of wild horses whose droppings litter the empty parking lot and ambulance bay…

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There wasn’t much in the way of good news this week. But a federal judge in California agreed with the ACLU and “blocked the Trump administration from requiring asylum-seekers to return to Mexico as they await court hearings in the U.S.” NPR has more on that story.

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