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‘There is a real danger’ Bill Barr could get the courts to make Trump totally immune from oversight: Ex-DOJ official

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On Monday, The New Yorker profiled Attorney General William Barr, and identified him as the key figure behind the Trump administration’s ideological drive to concentrate power within the executive branch — a battle that has intensified as impeachment proceedings have heated up and is gearing up to play out in federal courts.

“Barr maintains that Article II of the Constitution gives a President control of all executive-branch agencies, without restriction,” wrote The New Yorker‘s David Rohde. “In practice, this means that Trump would be within his rights to oversee an investigation into his own misconduct.”

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Republican attorney Chuck Cooper argues that Barr’s ideology is the culmination of a drive that began during the Reagan years. “He is building and extending on a foundation. It was popularized and very robustly advanced by the Meese Justice Department,” said Cooper. Meese, a controversial attorney general who also had a broad view of executive power, was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Trump.

Some legal experts, like Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes, believe Barr’s moves to weaken congressional oversight of executive power will be largely repudiated by the courts, particularly the administration’s stance on executive privilege. “The idea that the President gets to assert executive privilege over material that has already been made public is laughable,” said Wittes. “I think they are very likely to lose a lot of this.”

But others, like George W. Bush’s former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer, believe Barr has a chance of victory. “The ultimate question is what happens when these reach the Supreme Court, which has two Trump appointees,” said Ayer. “There is a real danger that he succeeds … This, I believe, was his opportunity — the opportunity of a lifetime — to make major progress on advancing his vision of an all-powerful Chief Executive.”

And NYU Law professor Stephen Gillers warns that this battle is not just playing out in the courts, but in the staffing of the FBI and Justice Department itself — by creating such a hostile environment for the old guard of career public servants that they leave and make room for partisan loyalists. Gillers fears this trend will accelerate if Trump is re-elected in 2020.

“One way that Trump seeks to maximize control is minimizing the disclosure of information and undermining the credibility of information,” said Gillers. “The Congress needs information to do its job, and the President has frozen it out — especially in the impeachment investigation. Another check is the media, and the President’s use of the term ‘fake news’ can cause people to lose faith in the media. What remains are the courts, which are slow and cumbersome.”

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There’s no respite from Trump’s vindictiveness and foolishness

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As we know, even in the midst of a national emergency, Donald Trump could find time and bandwidth to continue his retribution campaign.

He dismissed Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence agencies, for doing “a terrible job,” satisfying his own thirst for vengeance for anyone who actually adhered to law and practice over blind loyalty to Trump himself. Indeed, asked about it the next day, Trump underscored his action by saying, Atkinson “was no Trump supporter, that I can tell you.”

It was an act that we once would have labeled corruption, by Democrats and Republicans – that is using the office for personal purposes – if Congress and too many Americans had not since become inured by so many like instances.

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This is how Taiwan and South Korea bucked the global lockdown trend

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As the coronavirus pandemic sparks global lockdowns, life has continued comparatively unhindered in places like Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong after their governments and citizens took decisive early action against the unfolding crisis.

At first glance Taiwan looks like an ideal candidate for the coronavirus. The island of 23 million lies just 180 kilometres (110 miles) off mainland China.

Yet nearly 100 days in, Taiwan has just 376 confirmed cases and five fatalities while restaurants, bars, schools, universities and offices remain open.

The government of President Tsai Ing-wen, whose deputy is an epidemiologist, made tough decisions while the crisis was nascent to stave off the kind of pain now convulsing much of the rest of the world.

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Republican ex-lawmaker with coronavirus scolds Wisconsin GOP for forcing voters to risk their health

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On CNN Tuesday, former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), who is himself dealing with a bout of COVID-19, chastised the Wisconsin GOP for doing everything in their power to block the state elections from being moved — and forcing many voters to stand in line and risk exposure to the virus to cast their ballot.

"I have to tell you, here in Pennsylvania we have a Democratic governor and Republican legislature," Dent told host Don Lemon. "They postponed the election here from April 28 until June 2. Without any controversy. Everybody agreed it was the right thing to do and they moved on. I'm surprised Wisconsin took this risk, knowing they don't have to."

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