Failure Of Justice
It is amazing to me that it is generally agreed by all parties, the media, the legal community, even among lots of Democrats, that Trump’s plan to obstruct Congressional oversight by forcing Democrats to litigate every document request and every attempt to get government officials and Trump associates to testify is likely to be successful, solely because it will take years, well past the 2020 election, for courts to finally rule on the varied challenges that the Trump administration will present.
The reason for this agreement is that similar attempts to stonewall the Congress have worked in that they have taken years to resolve. In March, 2007, Congress sought documents and testimony from former Bush White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten regarding the politically motivated forced resignations of certain US Attorneys. When the Bush administration claimed executive privilege to prevent Miers and Bolten from testifying after months of negotiations, the House cited Miers and Bolten for contempt of Congress and authorized a civil suit to enforce the subpoenas. The DOJ refused to pursue the contempt charge and the civil suit actually ended without being resolved when the Congress that authorized the suit dissolved in January, 2009 and the incoming Obama administration agreed to produce the documents in question.
In the summer of 2012, the House found Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress over the refusal to produce subpoenaed documents relating to the Fast and Furious scandal. Once again, the DOJ refused to pursue the contempt charge and once again the House initiated a civil action to force compliance with the subpoena in August, 2012. Once again, this case was litigated through the courts until a new administration, this time the Trump administration, took over the executive branch in January, 2017, nearly six years after the start of the proceedings.
These cases are the background that provides the mantra that Trump’s stalling methods will largely be successful in thwarting Democratic oversight until after the 2020 election. And it also drives the desire among some Democrats to begin impeachment proceedings in the hopes that those proceedings will prod the courts, who are loathe to intervene in disputes between the legislative and executive branches, to expedite their decisions.
But the whole premise just highlights the failure of our judicial system. How is Congress supposed to perform effective oversight if it takes years, longer than the typical legislative session, to get the testimony and documents it is entitled to? How is Congress supposed to perform its constitutional duties if the judicial branch delays rendering a verdict on its disputes with the executive branch until a new President is elected? And why should Congress be forced to use its ultimate power, impeachment, just to force the courts to expedite those decisions? The whole process makes a mockery of the concept of Congressional oversight.
Justice delayed is justice denied. For most of this decade, Republicans have been able to continually appeal and litigate judicial decisions that ruled their gerrymanders unconstitutional. Those continual delays have forced thousands of voters to be effectively disenfranchised in almost every election this decade. Justice delayed allows the rich to stay out of jail while they await trail and often while their appeals are being heard. Justice delayed also requires the poor to rot and, in the case of Sandra Bland, die in jail while they await their trial, despite being theoretically innocent until proven guilty.
The fact that it is taken as a given that Trump’s stonewalling of legitimate and constitutionally-demanded Congressional oversight will work because the cases will take years to litigate is treated as a given actually shows just how completely the system has failed.