Political Update: Week of April 7
By Maya Gomes and Amelia Killackey
Two key debates hanging over the United States Congress this week are the status and content of the Robert Mueller’s Probe into Russian Interference and Collusion in the 2016 Presidential Election and the subpoena of Donald Trump’s tax returns. While neither are new topics, nor look to be going away any time soon, both have the potential for huge ramifications– if they can move forward.
Since Special Counsel Robert Mueller handed in his report on the 22nd of March, speculation about the contents of the report has run rampant amongst politicians and citizens alike. Attorney General William Barr submitted a four-page summary that cleared him of any collusion with the Russians, but made clear that he was not exonerated of obstruction of justice. However, the New York Times reported that several of the investigators on Mueller’s team felt that Barr’s summary didn’t fairly represent their findings. It was further revealed by Mueller investigators that the report has a summary section for each chapter in the report, which was created by the Mueller team for public consumption– none of which has been released. Barr has said that he has not released the full report yet because is redacting four elements from the 400-page report; grand jury testimony, content that would damage the reputation of people who were not indicted (which would include Trump himself), secret sources used in intelligence collection, and any content relating to ongoing investigations.
There is continuing dissent over the actions of Barr, as previous attorney generals during special counsel investigations have collaborated with Congress to allow the exposure of evidence. Barr has further muddied the water by asserting, without any evidence, that “spying did occur” on the Trump Campaign by the Obama Administration, an old Trump accusation from March of 2017. In light of this baseless claim, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has gone on record saying that William Barr, the attorney general of the United States, is “going off the rails.”
On a separate note, battle for the reveal of Donald Trump’s tax returns has, while making zero progress, come to a head this week, as Richard Neal (D-MA), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has formally requested, from the IRS, Trump’s federal tax returns dating back to 2013. The request had a deadline of April 10, however, Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin stepped in to oversee the request, as he wrote in a letter that he is worried that the request could “affect protections of all Americans against politically-motivated disclosures of personal tax information.” Essentially, they missed the deadline, once more prolonging a ridiculously drawn out, and completely avoidable, fiasco.
The situation did provide some comedic relief, however, as Mnuchin went head to head with the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee Maxine Waters over his request for an early dismissal from a committee hearing– the day before it was happening. Mnuchin worked to try and leave the hearing early, which Waters wanted no part of. Mnuchin told Waters that “If you’d wish to keep me here so I don’t have my important meeting, and continue to grill me, then we can do that. I will cancel my meeting and I will not be back here,” an offer that she then accepted, much to the displeasure of Mnuchin, who then told her that she should “take the gavel and bang it,” ending the hearing. Waters responded by requesting that Mnuchin not “instruct me as to how I am to conduct this committee,” and telling him that while he was free to leave at any time, she would not be adjourning a congressional hearing just for his sake. (Video)