Congressional Republicans are worried that Donald Trump might overreach his authority by misusing the National Emergency Act to steal billions for his wall, but that’s not the only sign that Trump is simply done even pretending about this separation of powers thing.
Last November, following the brutal torture and murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the Senate issued a bipartisan demand under the Magnitsky Act that the White House investigate and produce a report on the killing. But on Friday, Feb. 8, when that report was due, Congress did not get a report. Instead, according to Politico, it got a statement from Trump that he “reserved the right to decline.” That’s right. Trump declared that for him, following the law is strictly optional.
U.S. resident Khashoggi was lured into a diplomatic consulate in Turkey, ambushed by a hit squad who came equipped with a bone saw, tortured, dismembered, and then murdered, all at the order of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. As the Saudi denials became ever more ludicrous, Republicans signed on to trigger the required 120-day investigation. The Magnitsky Act report is required when demanded by both the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee file a demand. And they did.
Now that Trump is openly flouting the law, Republicans are, in Politico’s words, “fuming.” They’re fuming so much that former Sen. Bob Corker, who signed on to require the report ... had no comment. Neither did many others who beat their chest over the topic four months ago.
But there are a handful of Republicans willing to complain—enough that Politico classifies it as an “uproar,” even though that uproar is getting almost no media attention, and no Senate action. It’s a Republican uproar that looks like this:
“They owe us a report,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said. “We can make a fuss about it.”
Well, that should definitely put some fear into Trump: a fuss.
This isn’t a gray area. This report is part of existing legislation—the same legislation, not at all coincidentally—that was the subject of discussion in the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian operatives. The same legislation that Michael Flynn assured the Russian ambassador they’d take care of after getting in the White House.
Trump hasn’t managed to get the Magnitsky Act repealed. He’s just stopped following the law.
So how much “fuss” will Republicans actually generate out of Trump telling them directly that following the law is an offer he can definitely refuse? Exactly none. The retired Corker may be mum, but the new Republican chair of the Senate committee is certainly willing to express his beliefs.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), hasn’t shown discomfort with the administration’s Friday letter. He wouldn’t commit to further action to compel compliance with the Magnitsky Act, a marked contrast to Corker’s time as chairman.
And the ever vigilant Sen. Lindsey Graham had these strong words for Trump’s action: “That’s up to them.”
Fuming. They’re absolutely fuming.
Note: This is your regular reminder that Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner told his pal bin Salman to just ignore the complaints about brutal torture, beating, cutting off fingers, murder, dressing someone up in the dead journalist’s clothes, etc. and it would all go away. Don’t let Jared be right.