Terry H. Schwadron
Oct. 20, 2020
It’s obvious that Donald Trump isn’t doing much these days as president except the constant campaign. It’s that predictable last couple of weeks of all-campaign-all-the-time, of course.
But those policies that still emerge from someone at the White House or by tweet to represent our government at work are proving unclear even to the people who would carry them out. Did we order a policy by tweet or not?
It makes you wonder who’s driving the bus while we argue about debate moderators. A few examples:
— The coronavirus stimulus talks may finally move today, but have been stuck despite Trump orders and statements to “go big” even if not exactly agreeing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said no to all such talk. Can we interrupt politicking just for a minute to get needed aid out there? It might ber good politics.
— We are going through a huge increase in coronavirus infection, but as a government, we are not owning it. Trump insists that vaccines, treatments and cures are “around the corner,” justifying doing nothing more, and, in fact, opposing more testing. Trump is publicly criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top immunologist, and backing the idea that we will reach herd immunity soon, against all medical evidence.
— Trump keeps talking of adding new jobs even as big employers are announcing massive layoffs.
— And by tweet, Trump has “fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. “Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!” But officials say they don’t know what that means.
Order or No Order
Now a federal judge is chastising the Justice Department and the White House Counsel’s Office for dismissing without explanation those orders by tweet to release all documents in the government’s probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Among those who want that information are reporters, who are using the Freedom of Information Act to get the information. BuzzFeed, CNN and the Electronic Privacy Information Center sued to obtain Mueller-probe documents.
But Justice and the White House are saying no dice, that there is no reason to provide documents from the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III investigation of all-things-Russia. Notwithstanding Trump’s tweet, “there is no order requiring wholesale declassification or disclosure of documents at issue.” The White House told federal Judge Reggie B. Walton.
Walton refused to accept that argument. “It seems to me when a president makes a clear, unambiguous statement of what his intention is, that I can’t rely on the White House Counsel’s Office saying, ‘Well, that was not his intent,’ ” the judge said
As it turns out, this is the same Judge Walton who criticized Atty,. Gen. William P. Barr in March for providing “distorted” and “misleading” public statements summarizing Mueller’s work that were later contradicted by the public release of the partly redacted version of the special counsel’s report. Still, it is unusual for a federal judge to publicly question whether the White House Counsel’s Office speaks for the president.
There is a deadline for resolution this week.
Who’s in Charge?
This is the same Donald Trump who this week refused emergency federal aid to California for widespread harm from raging wildfires, only to recant a few hours later with no explanation other than a begging appeal from California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
It’s the same Trump who is ordering $200 discount cards for prescription drugs a couple of weeks before Election Day, only to run into refusals by the pharmaceutical companies to go along with a blatant political act and warnings from his own administration that the action would be illegal.
This is the same Trump who is using his potentially waning days to shove a load of limits on regulations of all sort through the system without appropriate review or normal periods for public review. “What they are destroying at the moment is regulatory agencies, advisory boards, and the regulations that actually hold government, business, and our daily lives together,” said The Daily Kos.
It is the same Donald Trump whose policies so regularly turn up before the courts to adjudge their Constitutionality that the nation’s health care system and whether the Census can magically eliminate undocumented or not fully documented immigrants hang in the balance in the next few weeks. President Trump has handed governing to the Supreme Court, and then insists he is appointing justices who will not “govern.”
As the election campaigning hurtles towards an ignominious end, we ought to be asking who’s in charge of governing.
After all, that’s supposed to be what this election is about.