WASHINGTON—The biggest news about this corrupt administration* was not made in the Senate chamber on Tuesday. It was made out on the campaign trail by Senator Professor Warren. From CNBC:
“If we are to move forward to restore public confidence in government and deter future wrongdoing, we cannot simply sweep this corruption under the rug in a new administration,” Warren wrote in the plan. The progressive Democrat cited a report by a nonpartisan good government group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which found “unprecedented” corruption in the Trump administration, as well as other reports of self-dealing among administration officials and the president’s family members.
“That’s why I will direct the Justice Department to establish a task force to investigate violations by Trump administration officials of federal bribery laws, insider trading laws, and other anti-corruption and public integrity laws, and give that task force independent authority to pursue any substantiated criminal and civil violations,” she said.
Make no mistake. If we ever are going to repair the damage done by this administration*, it is going to have to include a thorough fumigation of every corner of the national executive. The first big mistake made by President Barack Obama was his determination to look forward, and not back. Too many of the criminals working for the last worst president in history skated. Too many Wall Street vandals got away clean. That cannot be allowed to happen again. The corruption of this administration* is unprecedented. It demands this kind of unprecedented response.
Donald Trump has done serious damage to our government. Of over 700 key government posts requiring Senate confirmation, the Trump administration has failed to confirm nearly a third. At both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, less than half of all key positions have been filled. The Trump administration has had 28 acting cabinet secretaries over three years – more than the total number of acting secretaries in either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama’s eight years in office. Senior career civil servants have been leaving the Trump administration at a record pace. Approximately 1 in 5 members of the Senior Executive Service left the administration in 2017 – a far greater share than during previous transitions, draining the agencies of long-held expertise and institutional knowledge.
Of the positions he has filled, Donald Trump has been stacking the government with lobbyists, campaign donors, and cronies. Halfway through his first term, he had already hired 281 lobbyists into political appointments. Shortly after being elected, thirty-eight percent of those he picked for high-level government jobs were donors and during his first two years, 40% of his ambassadors came from outside the foreign service. The mix of industry insiders and donors has both created turmoil and opened up an opportunity for big businesses to tilt the rules in their favor. This government run by and for lobbyists has dismantled workplace safety and environmental rules, health care protections, and dozens of other programs and regulations that benefit working people.
And we might as well look to the future, because the present is too dismal to contemplate. In the Senate on Tuesday, the Republican Party, represented by its majority caucus, formalized its fealty to this renegade administration*. It had several chances to demonstrate a modicum of independence, a smidgen of human courage, and it failed every time. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer proposed amendments to add further documents and witnesses to the deliberations. All of them failed by a straight, party-line 53-47 margin.
In this, no Republican was different from any other Republican. Lisa Murkowski and Tom Cotton were the same. Thom Tillis and Ted Cruz were the same. Cory Gardner and Jim Inhofe were the same. Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse were the same as Mike Rounds and Mike Enzi. And they were all the same as Mitch McConnell. There were no moderate Republicans in the Senate on Tuesday. There were no Never Trumpers. There were only collaborators. There was no independence in the Senate on Tuesday, only complicity. And it was a deadening, sad thing to watch. The only real reaction was another cup of soggy oatmeal from the increasingly useless Susan Collins.
After hearing the case and asking questions, Senators will be able to make an informed judgement about what is in dispute, what is important, and what remains relevant to the underlying issues. That is one of the reasons why all 100 Senators agreed to this sequence during the Clinton trial. As I said last week, while I need to hear the case argued and the questions answered, I anticipate that I would conclude that having additional information would be helpful. It is likely that I would support a motion to subpoena witnesses at that point in the trial just as I did in 1999.
First of all, I don’t believe a word of that. I think that three weeks from now, or whenever, she’ll find a way to weasel out and, even if she doesn’t, I don’t think there are three other Republicans who would follow her to a free buffet, let alone to a vote that would inconvenience the White House. Every single Republican in the chamber on Tuesday looked like they’d rather be anywhere else, up to and including hanging by their thumbs from the Key Bridge.
“I like to look around and see how many of my colleagues are looking guilty,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar. “I saw a lot of them just sitting there, looking down.” The Democratic senators seem content to plug along, letting the majority keep voting down what would seem to anyone who’s ever watched a police procedural on TV to be reasonable requests. “All this talk about how they’re asking the Senate to do the House’s work, that’s just BS,” said Senator Mazie Horono. “I’m listening very carefully, I take notes, and then I make my comments parenthetically, like, ‘What a bunch of…’”
House manager Hakeem Jeffries later made a fine presentation of how many witnesses testified in previous impeachments. (Andrew Johnson’s trial had 40 of them.) That’s the kind of thing that will survive on the record after all the knee-jerk constitutional negligence has been toted up. Barack Obama was wrong in 2008 and Joe Biden is wrong today. The fever never will break. The patient is going to have to die.