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Tag Archive: Congressional Oversight

About that Executive Privilege “Policy”: Congress Should Call the Bluff

 

 

During last week’s hearing of the Senate intelligence committee, Attorney General Jeff Sessions generated withering criticism by repeatedly refusing to answer Senators’ questions about his communications with President Donald J. Trump, including discussion of the President’s decision to fire James Comey as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.…   continue »

America’s AUMF Problem: Tomorrow’s Senate Hearing and a New Proposal from Eliot Engel

Events over the last several weeks show that not only is the AUMF issue not going away, but that Congress continues to inch closer to agreement. This Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on “Reviewing Congressional Authorizations for the Use of Military Force.” As readers well know, the executive branch continues to rely on the war authorization Congress passed a week after the 9/11 attacks.…   continue »

Fight It with FOIA: How Congress Can Respond to White House Attempts to Block Congressional Oversight

 

The Trump White House took another step last week to weaken the checks and balances at the center of our constitutional system.  According to Politico, President Donald Trump’s “White House is telling federal agencies to blow off Democratic lawmakers’ oversight requests.”  As Politico reported, “a White House lawyer told agencies not to cooperate with such requests from Democrats, according to Republican sources inside and outside the administration.”

Politico’s reporting was reinforced by the release of a memorandum from the Trump Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to the White House Counsel entitled “Authority of Individual Members of Congress to Conduct Oversight of the Executive Branch.”  That memorandum states that “Individual members of Congress, including ranking minority members, do not have the authority to conduct oversight in the absence of a specific delegation by a full house, committee, or subcommittee.”

This is a brazen statement and one for which the OLC memo lacks support.  …   continue »

Never Waste A Good Crisis, FBI Edition

President Trump’s decision to summarily dismiss now-former FBI Director James Comey has sparked grave concerns in many quarters.  The move has been described as a profoundly dangerous example of the President’s authoritarian instincts.  It has led to warnings of a potential constitutional crisis, speculation whether the president is guilty of obstruction of justice, and skepticism that the President’s proffered reasons for the termination actually underlie his decision.  continue »

Sally Yates, Russia Testimony & Executive Privilege in the Trump Era

This week has shed light on the Trump administration’s aggressive approach to executive privilege, but it has also cast doubt over President Donald Trump’s ability to assert it successfully over the longer term. We watched this play out when the Justice Department warned former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates that she needed White House clearance to testify before the House intelligence committee due to issues of executive privilege.…   continue »

National Security-Related Congressional Hearings, March 27-March 31

Tuesday, March 28

10:00am – House Committee on Armed Services – Military Assessment of Russian Activities and Security Challenges in Europe (here)

10:00am – House Committee on Homeland Security – The Current State of DHS’ Efforts to Secure Federal Networks (here)

10:00am – House Committee on Foreign Affairs – The Budget, Diplomacy, and Development (here)

10:30am – Senate Committee on Foreign Relations – U.S.…   continue »

Reforming Surveillance In the Age of Donald Trump

An NSA site in Germany.

On Wednesday, the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes (R-CA), gave a press conference in which he reported that Trump transition team members’ communications were intercepted by US intelligence agencies through “incidental collection.” This follows on Nunes’ concerns, after Michael Flynn stepped down following intelligence reports that he had talked to the Russian ambassador.…   continue »

Incidental Collection Is Extremely Troubling, Regardless of Legality

A lot of ink has been spilled over statements by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Nunes that President Trump’s communications were incidentally collected pursuant to a surveillance order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This has a lot of Americans scratching their heads and asking what incidental collection is, so now seemed like a good time to explain.…   continue »