Thursday, October 21, 2021

Massive effort in Senate to counter Trump’s ‘crisis of leadership’

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John Brennan is the voice for Republicans trying to distance themselves from President Trump at a time when his lawyer George Conway’s wife, Kellyanne Conway, is appearing on TV to say she fears for the country.

Between Monday and Thursday, the former president will be appearing on ABC’s This Week, NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’s Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday, as well as sitting down for an interview with HBO’s Rachel Maddow.

The intensifying crisis of Trump’s leadership may seem to demand a more powerful public figure. But on the Senate floor this week, Democrats will try to push through a series of votes – from abortion to judicial nominations – that seek to push back against Trump.

The dynamic will not be a wholly partisan affair. The high-profile votes will be asked of two former governors, one a Republican, the other a Democrat, who have become embroiled in the coverage of Comey’s claims, and are now in the uncomfortable position of having their former boss intervene.

At issue is Bill Clinton’s testimony before the US Senate in 1999, in which he denied he had an affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. It is one of the most scrutinized moments in recent history, and it involved a former president who happened to be in office at the time. Clinton argued against grand jury witnesses at the time, and was assured by his lawyers that he did not have to answer questions under oath.

President Trump the ex-husband denied any relationship with adult film star Stormy Daniels, who was paid $130,000 in 2016 under threat of a lawsuit. Trump’s lawyers have said such payments were not an admission of an affair; Daniels’s attorney says that testimony will be presented to a federal judge later this month.

Democrats on the floor of the Senate will be attempting to make the case that Clinton’s immunity hearing disqualified him from testifying about Trump’s ties to Russia – as a Democratic senator, Richard Blumenthal, has said. The offer to testify has never been made in public, and that is no guarantee a former president will agree to answer questions, as Trump has recently.

Also to be voted on are two different civil lawsuits against Trump, one by Robert Mueller regarding obstruction of justice and the other by Stormy Daniels. As Trump’s personal lawyer and onetime fixer, Michael Cohen, began cooperating with Mueller, the president announced plans to pull down the Michael Cohen Twitter account.

Mueller is expected to release any indictments brought against Trump associates as soon as Monday, including Cohen and others. He has indicted 13 Russians for interfering in the 2016 election, two Russian companies and four Russian nationals, as well as seven US citizens.

Friday is a big day on Capitol Hill, too. Congress is expected to vote to continue funding the government, which expires Thursday. If the funding continues as planned, it will have been a $1.3tn spending bill over a two-year period, with increased money for the military, disaster relief, and more than $400bn for health care programs.

The latest confluence of politics should make for an interesting set of circumstances.

In an effort to establish itself as the Trump foil in Senate committee meetings this week, the Democratic majority on the judiciary committee will be holding a hearing with former US attorney Preet Bharara, who was fired by Trump last spring. Bharara’s firing was widely seen as retaliation for not following the White House’s instructions to fire Clinton associate James Comey, and has raised questions about the need for obstruction of justice charges to be brought against Trump.

Democrats will attempt to question Bharara, who spent most of his post at the justice department as special counsel for the southern district of New York, on Friday. Trump has assailed Bharara for not working for the president after he left the job last year.

That day, the Senate will also vote on a measure to decriminalize abortion; a Democratic senator, Cory Booker, is sponsoring the measure, which has drawn opposition from many abortion rights groups.

And Wednesday, the Senate will consider legislation to address legal issues raised by the Trump administration’s moves on immigration.

The sheer breadth of the discussion reflects the argument that has become apparent over the last year. When liberals argue the central role the FBI and others played in the Russian investigation, they are not speaking broadly about the fate of Russian officials or the political future of the country.

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