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Daily Archives: October 26th, 2019


The Post’s View
Opinion

By Editorial Board
Oct. 24, 2019 at 5:51 p.m. CDT
THERE IS an old Washington saying that if you’re arguing about process, you’re losing. A follow-on maxim might be: If you are wrong on process, too, you must really be in trouble.
That would apply to the 30 or so Republicans who stormed a Wednesday House Intelligence Committee hearing in a secure Capitol facility, objecting that Democrats have, so far, conducted impeachment proceedings behind closed doors.
The stunt disrupted the testimony of Pentagon official Laura Cooper and temporarily distracted Washington from the evidence of President Trump’s misconduct. The latter seemed to be the point, but Ms. Cooper simply testified a few hours later.

It’s already clear that the president grossly abused his office. Mr. Trump himself released a rough transcript of a call in which he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his family, as Mr. Zelensky sought military aid and a White House meeting. Republicans have offered no persuasive defense of the president’s actions, because there is none.

Fear-driven Republicans have been enablers of President Trump with their silence, argues Post columnist George F. Will. (Joy Sharon Yi/The Washington Post)
Yet questions remain, and House committees are methodically looking for answers. Lawmakers lack a voluminous investigative record like independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr’s 1998 report. They must do their own basic investigating, which is why it makes sense to hold some hearings behind closed doors. Investigators don’t want witnesses to play for the cameras or dishonestly align their testimony with that of earlier witnesses. Classified material may be discussed. Republicans, in their incessant and fruitless investigations of Hillary Clinton and the 2012 Benghazi attacks, held many closed hearings — and insisted they were the most useful.
Moreover, Republican legislators are present at all of these closed-door sessions and are free to pose questions. In fact, the rules allowed many of those who stormed Wednesday’s testimony to enter the room in a civilized fashion if they so chose. The impression Republicans tried to convey, of Democrats cooking up an illegitimate indictment of the president while locking all others out of the room, is a partisan fantasy.

Marginally more persuasive was a memo Senate Republicans released Thursday complaining that the full House had not formally voted on conducting an impeachment inquiry and that Mr. Trump is not allowed counsel in the room. Neither is required by the Constitution or House rules. But holding a vote would add legitimacy, and, more to the point, the sooner House investigators move from closed hearings to open ones, the better. Citizens should learn the scope and gravity of the president’s misdeeds so they can form their own conclusions. House leaders should release transcripts of closed hearings, consistent with the protection of classified material, as soon as possible.

Of course, all of this could happen sooner if the Trump administration were not stonewalling lawmakers’ legitimate requests for information.

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The hits keep coming.MA
ABC News

5 hrs ago

Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin joined ABC News’ “The Briefing Room” on Friday, expressing concern over a “shadow government” within the Trump administration that, he said, made it more difficult to do his job.

“You serve at their pleasure, and the president should have the team around him or her that allows them to feel comfortable and to get the advice they want, there’s no issue with that,” he told ABC News Deputy Political Director MaryAlice Parks. “The issue that I’ve raised in the book and just laid out the facts — for people to decide — is this was being orchestrated by a small number of political appointees who weren’t elected and weren’t put in place to decide who should be secretary.”
When asked about the current administration, Shulkin added, “I think that President Trump is struggling right now.”
Shulkin served as VA secretary from February 2017 until his departure in March 2018, after an ethics investigation and alleged misuse of taxpayer dollars.
He said they created the situation by leaking and creating “false information” that had an influence on the other members of government.
In his new book, “It Shouldn’t Be This Hard to Serve Your Country: Our Broken Government and the Plight of Veterans,” Shulkin describes the nation’s capital as “toxic, chaotic and subversive.”
When Parks asked if the book, in part, was a way for him to settle the score after he said a “shadow government” of political appointees worked to undermine him, Shulkin said it wasn’t.
“I wrote the book because I feel so strongly that our veterans deserve the very best care and services that this country can offer,” Shulkin said. “I had found a formula, I think, for working within government to make that better and I wanted to share what was working and what wasn’t.”
Shulkin’s advice? More Americans need to volunteer to serve and help make the government better, including helping to protect whistleblowers.
A report published Thursday by the VA inspector general showed the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection failed to meet its stated goals under the Whistleblower Protection Act. The office, specifically created by President Donald Trump to clean up the challenged agency, didn’t meet its objectives and created circumstances that could put whistleblowers at further risk for retaliation.
“In its first two years of operation, the OAWP acted in ways that were inconsistent with its statutory authority while it simultaneously floundered in its mission to protect
Shulkin said he agreed it was tough for people to speak out even when he was in office, but that it wasn’t his intention.
“Well, I think that there’s no doubt that this has been an environment that has been tough for many people who have tried to speak out. When I was secretary we passed through Congress, and the president signed, the Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act,” Shulkin added. “We were enacting new legislation to be able to make sure that people felt comfortable speaking out when they saw wrongdoing and that certainly was not the intention or an environment that I supported where there was retaliation.”
He expressed concern over partisanship preventing what he feels should be a bipartisan effort.
“Unfortunately, I think that this pattern of behavior, the experience that I had, which I think took away from the ability to focus, in this case on veterans, is not, unfortunately, a unique experience,” he said. “I’ve seen the same thing happen to many other people who have come to serve, many dedicated career professionals, who, trying to do the job and there for the right reason because they believe in government and they believe in their country, being prevented from doing their job every day.”
Shulkin said Trump and “others in Washington” should take a lesson on service from veterans.
“Veterans are about serving and putting country first and I think we all have a lot to learn from them,” he said. “I think that this is a country that is divided, and it’s hard to be a leader of a divided country, and I would hope that he would see that this is the opportunity to really lead in a very different direction.”

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