Friday, January 10, 2020

Now Or Never

As The Washington Post's Carol Leonnig and David Farenthold report, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has issued a statement reading

Secretary Mnuchin came to me last year with a proposal to move the Secret Service to the Treasury Department. As part of that effort, I proposed that the cost of presidential travel be included for greater transparency, accountability and oversight associated with protection during travel of presidents and their families.

Feinstein meant a mere few months after Congress would approve the transfer. The Treasury Secretary, however, had a different timetable in mind and

in a Dec. 23 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mnuchin said he was strongly opposed to that earlier reporting requirement. Instead, he is seeking an annual report that begins in fiscal year 2021, releasing information in December 2020 at the earliest.

If you noticed that December 2020 is the month following the presidential election, you win the grand prize.  It's only a guess but Mnuchin's determination not to release the information till then might because

Since taking office, however, Trump has made more than 50 visits to his properties outside the Washington area, according to a tally kept by The Washington Post.

The government spent about $96 million on travel by Obama over eight years, according to documents obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch. A report by the Government Accountability Office, which serves as the congressional watchdog on federal spending, estimated that Trump’s travel cost $13.6 million in just one month in early 2017. That total included the costs of travel for Secret Service and Defense Department personnel, and the costs of renting space and operating equipment such as boats and planes. If spending continued at that pace, Trump would have exceeded Obama’s total expenses before the end of his first year in office.

The extensive international business travel and vacations of his grown children, with Secret Service agents in tow, as well as the expense the Secret Service incurs to secure numerous Trump properties, have added to the agency’s financial strain, according to its budget requests.

Since their father was elected, Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Jr. have made business trips to overseas locales including Ireland, Scotland, Dubai, Uruguay and India. In 2017, Eric Trump’s visit to a Trump building under construction in Uruguay cost taxpayers $97,000....

The White House has also declined to share information with the GAO about how much it spends to coordinate Trump’s travel.

It may be tempting for Senate Democrats to reach what they can sell to their members as a compromise, requiring the President of the United States of America to release full information beginning in 2021.  However, that temptation must be rigorously resisted.

Obviously, the public deserves, and needs to know, this information before voting takes place next fall and not only because if it does, the odds of defeating Donald Trump increase. 

If a Democrat is elected in November, 2020, all material required by law will be released.President Trump, however, would not permit the release of any but the most superficial and innocuous data. Although the Secret Service has not filed all required reports and delayed submitting subsequent reports, placing it under Mnuchin's control would eliminate almost any possibility a re-elected President Trump would allow any relevant reports to be released.

One clue is that Mnuchin wants the added responsibility and work, which is in part in order to protect the President who can fire him on a whim.

Additionally, if and when Donald Trump is re-elected, it's ballgame over.  In late November of 2016, he tweeted "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." That was a brazen lie, an easily refutable claim, in addition to his contention two months later "I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan." That was accurate, aside from the elections of 1988, 1992, 1996, 2008, and 2012. (Thank goodness for Bush the Younger!)

This is a fellow who will claim a mandate even if he again loses the popular vote and this time barely wins in the Electoral College. He and his supporters will boast that the President didn't release the information his enemies wanted him to do before the election, that it was clear he would never do so, and re-election affirms the voters' appreciation for that refusal.

Moreover, he is "the chosen one."  They will argue that Jesus Christ was denied, derided, and crucified for speaking the truth and doing as he knew was best, that God foreordained the election outcome, and that everything Trump does meets God's favor.

Of course, this line of illogic will apply not only to the administration's refusal to release financial information, whether required by law or not.  But Democrats should "just say no." If Donald J. Trump is re-elected, the information isn't coming out, and Democrats should boldly declare that if Republicans want to stonewall the American public, Steve Mnuchin can go pound sand.

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