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This Week in the GOP Cover-Up

March 2, 2017

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Democrats in the House forced a roll-call vote on a resolution calling for the release of 10 years of Donald Trump’s tax returns on February 27.  The move failed on a straight party line vote (225-189), with all Republicans voting against the measure (two voted “present”). After the vote, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared, “Tonight, House Republicans made themselves accomplices to hiding President Trump’s tax returns from the American people.”

FYI, all the South Florida Republican representatives (Carlos Curbelo,  Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Mario Diaz-Balart) voted against the resolution, even though Curbelo had previously said that Trump should release his tax returns.

This was the latest in a series of Democratic attempts to use congressional powers to compel their release. An earlier attempt introduced by Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett failed in the House Ways and Means Committee on February 14, again on a straight party-line vote.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that a Democratic attempt to force the Justice Department to produce records relating to its probe of Trump’s alleged ties with Russia was killed in the House Judiciary Committee, once again on a straight party-line vote. (Do we see a pattern here?)  This measure seems to have been prompted by Democrats’ suspicions that the Justice Department’s investigation was just a sham–a belief made more credible by Attorney General Sessions’s refusal to recuse himself from participation.

Now Sessions himself is in hot water, with the revelation last night in the Washington Post that during his confirmation hearings he failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador prior to the election. This has led Democrats to call for Sessions to resign, and even a few prominent Republicans are now saying that he must recuse himself from the Justice investigation.  House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (who himself has stifled any inquiries into RussiaGate in his committee) tweeted early Thursday that “AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself.” However, House Speaker Paul Ryan continues to defend Sessions and pretend that there is nothing amiss, while Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has waffled on this issue.

Now the Wall Street Journal is reporting that “U.S. investigators have examined contacts Attorney General Jeff Sessions had with Russian officials during the time he was advising Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.”

Then there is the story that the New York Times broke last night, that Obama administration officials had “scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.”  Significantly, the Times story adds: “American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump.” And, “American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Trump associates.”

The good news here is that the press, especially the New York Times and the Washington Post, are doing a great job of investigative journalism.  Without their work, Congress would be utterly inert and unreactive.  Clearly, the Republicans are doing everything possible to delay and obstruct any real investigation and will be moved only by a massive public outcry.  We need to have a special independent investigation.

Meanwhile, Trump and his minions are doing everything they can to destroy the credibility of a free and independent press. That’s what would-be dictators do. Our democracy absolutely depends on these independent institutions. Social media are nice, but they do not and cannot do the in-depth investigative reporting that these great journalistic organizations do.  They need our help to survive.  Subscribe to them!

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