Steven Mnuchin Tells Congress To Get F*cked, Citing Very Serious Legal Reasons TBD
As expected, Steven Mnuchin ended the day Monday by inviting Congress to conduct oversight of his wrinkly, white ass. In a five-paragraph letter, Mnuchin informed the House Ways and Means Committee that the Justice Department has discovered this one weird trick to make unwanted congressional document demands disappear. They haven't actually told him the trick yet -- Bill Barr will whisper those magic words in his ear "as soon as practicable" -- but in the meantime, ummm, Alla Kazam, Alla Kazoo, Fuck You and MAGA, No Tax Returns For You!
More or less.
In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, I have determined that the Committee's request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose, and pursuant to section 6103, the Department [of Treasury] is therefore not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.
The statute mandates that the IRS shall hand over any tax return upon request, but one time in 1975 the Supreme Court suggested in a footnote that courts might have the right to determine whether a congressional subpoena has a legitimate legislative purpose. And even though Steven Mnuchin is in no wise a court, and even though this statute has nothing to do with Eastland, and even though section 6103 makes no mention of legitimate legislative purpose, and even though Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal was very careful to supply a legislative rationale for the request for Trump's taxes, Steven Mnuchin is now the final arbiter of what is and what is not a legitimate legislative purpose.
And we are, quite frankly, sick to death of explaining that no, the law does not say that. No one at the Justice Department actually believes that the Supreme Court is going to agree that Steven Mnuchin's determination of CONGRESS HOW DO IT GO overrides the plain language of the statute. This argument is transparently bullshit, and everyone knows it. The only issue now is whether Justice Roberts allows Trump to drag it out past November 2020. Third verse, same as the first.
So let's talk instead about Sally Yates. In January 2017, Donald Trump ordered Acting Attorney General Sally Yates to go to court to defend his facially illegal Muslim travel ban, and she refused. Because the the law is the law, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, and she wasn't going to stand before a judge and make a patently false legal argument. Federal prosecutors swear an oath to defend the constitution, not the president. Our system of justice depends on having lawyers who swear to uphold the rule of law, and mean it. Sally Yates meant it, and she was willing to get fired rather than betray her oath. The 500 former federal prosecutors who signed onto that letter excoriating Bill Barr for his handling of the Mueller Report meant it. Even Jeff Sessions meant it, more or less.
BILL BARR DID NOT MEAN IT. He took that oath to protect the Constitution with his fingers crossed. He admitted as much in testimony to the House on April 9 when grilled by Rep. Matt Cartwright about the DOJ's abrupt decision to reverse its position and declare the entire ACA illegal.
"Do you think it's likely we are going to prevail?" Barr scoffed at Cartwright's suggestion that the Justice Department was advocating for 10 or 12 million Americans to immediately lose their health insurance. Barr himself had advocated against changing the DOJ's stance arguing that the entire statute must fall if the individual mandate was declared illegal. He knows he's taking a facially preposterous legal stance because Trump thinks, for whatever reason, that running against the ACA is a good position for the GOP in 2020. In Barr's mind, it's just fine for the Justice Department to make political arguments that are facially illegal, because the courts will sort it out in the end.
We're in litigation. We have to take a position. I'm just saying that if you think it's such an outrageous position, you have nothing to worry about. Let the courts do their job.
A lawyer in private practice does "have to take a position." He has to make the best argument he can for his client -- guilty or innocent, right or wrong. But a lawyer who has sworn to uphold the Constitution has to make the best argument under the law. And the fact that the sitting attorney general admits before Congress that his department makes arguments based purely on politics is a BIG FUCKING DEAL.
But back to Mnuchin. Let's make an educated guess as to why he came to Congress with this flimsy-ass letter telling them to piss off for legal reasons TBD. We already know what the legal argument will be -- we've seen Trump's lawyers spamming the IRS with their Eastland footnote nonsense. The problem is getting a lawyer who actually cares about the rule of law, not to mention her reputation, to put her name on it.
When Sessions withdrew Justice Department support for the individual mandate in 2018, one career DOJ lawyer resigned and two withdrew from the case. Last month when Barr switched the DOJ's position to REPEAL AND GO FUCK YOURSELF, not one single career Justice official was willing to sign onto it. And when the DOJ does finally barf up some nonsense to justify withholding Trump's tax return from Congress, we're betting there won't be any career employees willing to back it up. Because making a farcical legal argument as a blatant tool to delay legitimate congressional oversight violates the prosecutor's oath of office. In fact, it slips perilously close to obstruction of Congress. If the DOJ had lawyers willing to put their reputations on the line to do it, they'd have already done it.
For now it's just Mnuchin and Barr, the two cheapest whores in DC. And they'll do anything.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.