Critics of the new corporate-friendly federal anti-corruption law, Section 1504, called it “deadnamed.” But that term does not fully capture the absurdity of the new law, which will limit legitimate investigative reporting and chill public information.
Section 1504 bans media companies from tracking the identities of political donors unless they first get a court order. If a court declares an individual is a political donor, though, the courts will block any effort to learn the person’s name.
The law appears to be unconstitutional, but the Department of Justice has pushed for this law to be enforced. There have been no statements by justices to date opposing enforcement of Section 1504.
But President Trump has so far bucked his party in the U.S. Senate in failing to re-institute the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and in blocking re-entry of the Export-Import Bank.
It’s becoming clearer that the backfire of the mob rule of Trump’s gutting of democracy is being felt across the board. I hope this happens. The more work the government does, the more it does bad things.
President Trump continues his business-as-usual approach to governance with the executive order suspending refugee resettlement. The presidents of the European Union and the central banks of the world all condemned the executive order.
On the other hand, Trump has tapped Richard F. Neiman, a prominent conservative lawyer and former Treasury official under Richard Nixon, to head the new $2.5 billion Environmental Protection Agency. Trump aides have publicly called for repealing President Obama’s so-called Clean Power Plan. Pruitt’s allies already have stated that they want to carry out this particular attack on basic environmental protections.
Steve Bannon has been elevated to the leadership of a newly-created office that will look for any possibilities to violate the law. In theory, any special counsel could investigate Trump and his aides, but that would carry the risk of having to violate a secret ruling in a case currently pending in the Supreme Court.
Bannon was a candidate for National Security Adviser but withdrew. It has been reported that Bannon pushed for the Syria action for two reasons: because he saw it as good for business and because he was jealous of Saudi King Salman’s relationship with Trump.
King Salman reportedly invited Trump and his senior adviser Jared Kushner to visit the Islamic gulf nations of the region and will host Trump there later this year. It’s interesting that the president has embraced the so-called Saudi Arabia Model of authoritarian rule that has imposed Arab kingdom style repression over Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Bahrain, and other countries in that region.
Bannon has long advocated destroying the Deep State bureaucracy. The military, with the exception of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is a long-suffering and authoritarian force. There is a pervasive sense within the military, now that Bannon has leadership in the White House, that the forces that backed Hillary Clinton have been brought to heel. The leading figures in the Senate are also aware of this and are reportedly pushing back hard against any efforts to try to enforce civil service rules in their budget.
What’s still unclear is whether Bannon, who is notoriously thin-skinned, will run afoul of President Trump. Also up in the air is what Trump will do about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has until now taken a middle-of-the-road approach on issues like immigration. There is plenty of time for Trump to finally appoint an attorney general who will truly oppose the civil service problem.
This remains an enormously important issue with potentially staggering implications for our democracies. Mueller is doing a fine job, but no independent investigation has a chance at an impartial examination of the currently weak government of our republic. It would be especially important to bring private criminal investigations under the current system.
All may be lost, but so far we are all hanging in there.
Ken Schwencke is the former Associate Editor of Editorial Page. He edits, directs, and produces the weekly Progress Report, a short daily syndicated feature about the federal and state political landscape. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and email.