The Roundup: August 29 – September 4

This week, we’re looking ahead to Democrats’ plans for the upcoming legislative session and their ongoing investigations. You’d be forgiven if you can’t keep the laundry list of Donald Trump’s crimes straight — they run the gamut from obstruction of justice to campaign finance violations. Luckily, Democrats in the House of Representatives have committed to investigating and shining a spotlight on his past and current offenses during the next few months. Anything they find will add to the towering evidence in favor of opening an impeachment inquiry, which 135 lawmakers already support. 

For one, the House plans to continue the work of federal investigators who directly implicated Donald Trump in the felony conviction of his lawyer, Michael Cohen, whose charges included paying hush-money to two women Trump had extramarital affairs with. And second, lawmakers plan to investigate Trump’s recent spate of influence peddling and profiting off the presidency. At the G-7 summit in August, Trump announced to the group of world leaders that next year’s multimillion dollar summit should be held at his Doral resort, a move that would line his pockets and violate laws barring officials from using their public office for financial gain. This kind of behavior sends the clear message that the president’s favor is for sale for the price of a stay at a Trump-owned property.

Does that seem like sound foreign policy to you? We didn’t think so.

It’s bad enough that Trump spends enormous amounts of time at his own properties, which he hasn’t divested from, and thus profits from taxpayer spending at his business. Now he’s blatantly demanding that foreign governments spend money at his hotel, creating an international bribery system in the guise of diplomacy.

It’s long past time that Congress use its constitutionally-mandated powers to push back. 

Read all the stories driving the week:

The Washington Post: Congressional Democrats plan to launch inquiry into Trump’s alleged role in scheme to silence affair accusations
The House Judiciary Committee is preparing to hold hearings and call witnesses involved in hush-money payments to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels as soon as October. 

NBC News: House panel to investigate Trump’s plan to host G-7 summit at his Doral resort
“Trump’s personal financial interests are clearly shaping decisions about official U.S. government activities, and this is precisely the type of risk that the Constitution’s Emoluments Clauses were intended to prevent,” House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler and Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Chair Rep. Steve Cohen, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

The Atlantic: Trump Invites Pence to Stay at His Place—Then Hands Taxpayers the Bill
Vice President Mike Pence and his retinue—including members of his family, his aides, and his Secret Service detail—are on a trip to Europe and will be staying at Doonbeg, Trump’s golf resort on the west coast of Ireland. Pence will participate in a set of meetings in Dublin, on the east coast. To attend those meetings, Pence will fly more than an hour each way.

Vox: The wild corruption of Trump’s golf courses deserves more scrutiny
But I’m hung up on the Pence story and on Trump’s habit of staying at his own clubs at taxpayer expense because in comparison to the bribery side of Trump’s corruption, the outright theft is just so straightforward. There is no holder of any office in America who would be allowed to steer public funds directly to entities he controls. It’s not that this kind of corruption is unheard of by any means. What’s so shocking about it is that it’s common enough that we have tons of precedent for the idea that it’s unacceptable.

The Daily Beast: It’s Not Over: Trump Is Stalked by Investigations He Tried to Stonewall
Trump has done his best to stonewall many of these matters, particularly those before Congress, by litigating almost every demand for testimony and other evidence. That strategy of maximum resistance could backfire. 

Slate: Let’s Compare Donald Trump’s Week to the Impeachment Articles Brought Against Nixon, Clinton, and Johnson
Here’s a sign that things are Really Bad. If one were to consider, again, the articles of impeachment against the three sitting presidents who have historically faced impeachment proceedings, not only has Trump clearly achieved all of them—he actually now achieves most of them in under a week. 

Chicago Tribune: Impeach Trump? More and more Democrats realize there’s no harm in asking.
The holdout Democrats should take their chances, remove their moistened fingers from the wind and do the job they took an oath to perform. A full and formal impeachment inquiry doesn’t have to result in an impeachment or even an up or down vote in the House. The findings can stand on their own.

Politico: Schedule for McGahn legal fight adds to pressure on impeachment backers
The House is suing to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to publicly testify about Trump’s efforts to curtail and even fire then-special counsel Robert Mueller, who was investigating links between Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government.

Newsweek: Liberal Group Targets ‘Moscow Mitch,’ GOP Senators Over Election Security Funding
Stand Up America’s campaign will consist of a digital billboard in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, Facebook ads, calls and emails to constituents, office visits to lawmakers and peer-to-peer texting that will target GOP senators who the group either views as vulnerable in upcoming elections or who have expressed some degree of support for election security funding in the past. 

NPR: As FEC Nears Shutdown, Priorities Such As Stopping Election Interference On Hold
“After 2016, it’s become very clear that it is almost certain that the Russian government and potentially other U.S. rivals will seek to interfere in the U.S. election, including through online propaganda, cybersecurity incursions and other tactics,” Weiner told NPR. As the regulator for campaign spending, he describes the FEC as one of the “front-line” agencies combating foreign interference.

NPR: Cyber Experts Warn Of Vulnerabilities Facing 2020 Election Machines
One glaring vulnerability are paperless voting machines. Experts agree that these machines are insecure because they record votes electronically and could either be manipulated or malfunction without detection. They can’t truly be audited and they leave room for some doubt in the result. “[We need] paper ballots 100 percent … This isn’t hard, this isn’t controversial. As scientists, we know exactly what we need,” Schneier said.