We’re headed for a separation of powers showdown between Congress and the president that will ultimately end up in the Supreme Court.
The Constitution gives Congress the “sole Power of Impeachment.” Yet President Donald Trump has ordered all of his current and former senior advisers to defy congressional subpoenas to testify in the impeachment inquiry. Trump is claiming the subpoenaed witnesses have “absolute immunity” against civil or criminal liability for refusal to provide testimony. However, “absolute immunity” is a creation of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. No court, statute or constitution has ever recognized it.
Some subpoenaed witnesses have obeyed Trump’s command and refused to testify. But others have defied him and testified before the committees of the House of Representatives gathering evidence during the impeachment process.
The seven Catholic peace activists who were convicted on October 24 for their symbolic protest against nuclear weapons at the Kings Bay Naval Base are now facing a two-to-three-month wait to hear their prison sentences. They could face more than 20 years in prison.
“Our own lives are uncertain regarding the possible length of prison sentences,” defendant Martha Hennessy told Truthout in an exclusive interview. “But we rejoice in the fact that more scrutiny is being directed at the purpose of the Kings Bay Naval Base in southern Georgia.”
The Kings Bay Naval Base is home to nuclear armed submarines with two dozen ballistic Trident D5 missiles, each of which is 30 times more powerful than the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The seven peace activists — Martha Hennessy, Mark Colville, Clare Grady, Jesuit Fr. Stephen Kelly, Patrick O’Neill, Carmen Trotta and Elizabeth McAlister, who are collectively known as the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 — were convicted by a Georgia federal jury of conspiracy, destruction of property on a naval station, depredation of government property, and trespass after entering the base on April 4, 2018.
Nearly two weeks have passed since Turkey launched its ground and air attack on Rojava, the autonomous region of northeast Syria, following Trump’s sudden removal of 1,000 U.S. troops from the area.
While the United States and Turkey reached a “ceasefire” agreement on October 17, there are ongoing reports of violations of the deal. A U.S. official told CNN that Turkish-backed forces broke the ceasefire on its first day, saying that they were either acting beyond the scope of Turkish control or Turkey “didn’t care what they did.” Two U.S. officials said the ceasefire “is not holding.”
This term, the Supreme Court will decide whether people can be fired for being transgender or LGBQ, if people brought to the U.S. as children can be deported, whether states can impose restrictions on abortion that disproportionately harm poor women, how firm the separation between church and state is, the scope of the Second Amendment and whether criminal defendants can be convicted by less-than-unanimous juries.
Millions of people will be impacted by the results of these cases. “The court’s decisions will affect 800,000 ‘dreamers,’ in the DACA case…millions of LGBTQ workers in deciding whether federal discrimination laws protect on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, and ‘half the country’ in the abortion case,” The Washington Post’s Robert Barnes wrote, summarizing an interview with ACLU legal director David Cole.
These are some of the cases the Court will decide by the end of June 2020:
As three committees of the House of Representatives proceeded with the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump, the president tweeted, “I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP.” Encyclopedia Britannica defines coup d’etat as “the sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group.”
On the contrary, Congress is fulfilling its constitutional responsibility to investigate allegations that could constitute impeachable offenses — that is, high crimes and misdemeanors. Indeed, during its early history in England, impeachment was called “the most powerful weapon in the political armoury, short of civil war.”
Impeachment is mentioned six times in Articles I, II and III of the Constitution. The “sole Power of Impeachment” resides in the House of Representatives. Impeachment is like an indictment. It requires a simple majority of voting House members. The case then moves to the Senate for trial. It takes two-thirds of the senators to convict the president and remove him from office.
In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee staff report for the Nixon impeachment inquiry noted: “The Revolution had been fought against the tyranny of a king and his council, and the framers sought to build in safeguards against executive abuse and usurpations of power.”
The U.S. government has used the post-9/11 war on terror to launch two major wars, mount gunship and drone attacks on several countries, and institute a widespread program of torture and abuse. Casualties of those conflicts number in the hundreds of thousands.
Another casualty of the war on terror is civil liberties. From the USA PATRIOT Act, to warrantless surveillance, to the Muslim Ban, to the use of metadata to spy on people and target for drone strikes, the deprivation of constitutional rights has continued during the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations.
An additional assault on the Constitution is the terrorism watchlist, a federal government database of “known or suspected terrorists.” In 2013, there were 680,000 people on the watchlist, called the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). By 2017, the number had swelled to 1.2 million, including 4,600 U.S. citizens.
That increase coincided with the Obama administration’s expansion of the terrorism watchlist system in 2013. It established a secret process that didn’t require “concrete facts” or “irrefutable evidence” to designate someone a terrorist, according to The Intercept. The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance” states that even uncorroborated Facebook or Twitter posts may be sufficient to include an individual on the watchlist.
On the eve of the 18-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks and the illegal U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the United States and the Taliban completed nine rounds of peace talks with no deal.
Although they had reportedly reached an agreement in principle, Donald Trump insisted on a secret meeting at Camp David with the Taliban and the puppet Afghan government so he could take credit as dealmaker-in-chief. The idea of finalizing the negotiations at Camp David was “a prospect that appealed to the president’s penchant for dramatic spectacle,” The New York Times reported.
Trump, however, abruptly canceled the meeting, slated to occur last weekend, citing a Taliban car bombing that killed an American.
There are “questions about the accuracy of [Trump’s] assertion that the Taliban had accepted his invitation to Camp David on Sunday, and that he was the one calling off the meeting,” according to The New York Times.“Taliban negotiators said Sunday that they had agreed to come to the United States only after a deal was announced and only to meet with the American side, suggesting that Mr. Trump may have canceled a meeting that the key participants were not planning to attend.”
The Amazon is burning. Nearly 75,000 fires have started in the iconic Brazilian rainforest this year to date, an 84 percent increase from the year before. Since August 10, a spate of intentionally set fires have been raging in the Amazon. But Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January, let them burn for two weeks before sending firefighters to put them out following an international outcry.
Fires ravaging the Amazon pose imminent peril to the 34 million people and 3 million species of animals and plants that live in the world’s largest rainforest, which covers 2 million square miles.
Damage from the raging fires will change the face of the planet. The rainforest is home to 10 percent of the species on Earth, including many types of plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else.
“The loss of the Amazon’s biodiversity will be beyond devastating for the planet,” Dahr Jamail wrote in Truthout, noting that many scientists consider the Amazon to be the Earth’s most important site of biodiversity.
During Congress’s August recess, a group of 41 Democratic and 31 Republican congressmembers traveled to Israel on a delegation sponsored by American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC subsidizes congressional trips to Israel in order to further the “special relationship” between Israel and the United States. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid: $3.8 billion annually. AIPAC is the chief Israel lobby in the United States and a consistent apologist for Israel’s oppressive policies toward the Palestinians.
Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, had planned their own “Delegation to Palestine,” scheduled to begin on August 17. Tlaib, who was born in the U.S., planned to travel to the West Bank to visit her 90-year old Palestinian grandmother, whom she hasn’t seen for a decade. But, aided and abetted by Donald Trump, Israel withdrew permission for the trip unless Tlaib agreed to remain silent about Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians. She refused to abide by the gag order and the trip was cancelled.
On July 30, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported that the Afghan government and international military forces, primarily the United States, caused most of the civilian deaths in Afghanistan during the first six months of 2019. That’s more killings than those perpetrated in the same time period by the Taliban and ISIS combined.
Aerial operations were responsible for 519 civilian casualties (356 deaths and 156 injuries), including 150 children (89 deaths and 61 injuries). That constitutes a 39 percent increase in overall civilian casualties from aerial attacks. Eighty-three percent of civilian casualties from aerial operations were carried out by the international forces.