“cc: Honorable Bob Goodlatte, Chairman”

Congressman Goodlatte is currently leading a Congressional delegation on a tour of the Balkans, and may be somewhat out of the loop. But John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, made sure he got a copy of a letter that Conyers and Elijah Cummings, ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, sent Friday to White House counsel Donald McGahn.

President Trump took to Twitter earlier today to threaten former FBI Director James Comey, stating that he “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

Under Section 1512 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, it is a crime to intimidate or threaten any potential witness with the intent to influence, delay, or prevent their official testimony.

The President’s actions this morning—as well as his admission yesterday on national television that he fired Director Comey because he was investigating Trump campaign officials and their connections to the Russian government—raise the specter of possible intimidation and obstruction of justice.  The President’s actions also risk undermining the ongoing criminal and counter-intelligence investigations and the independence of federal law enforcement agencies.

We believe Congress should immediately seek the testimony of Director Comey to better understand the circumstances surrounding these events, although no House Committee Chairman has yet agreed to any such hearings.

Under normal circumstances, we would not consider credible any claims that the White House may have taped conversations of meetings with the President.  However, because of the many false statements made by White House officials this week, we are compelled to ask whether any such recordings do in fact exist.  If so, we request copies of all recordings in possession of the White House regarding this matter.

We also request all documents, memoranda, analyses, emails, and other communications relating to the President’s decision to dismiss Director Comey—a decision which the President declared yesterday he planned to make “regardless of [the Deputy Attorney General’s] recommendation”—and all discussions with Director Comey.

It would be nice to believe that Goodlatte is as eager to get to the bottom of the strange events and contradictory explanations surrounding the Comey firing as he was to prosecute Hillary Clinton for perjury. We’ll have to wait and see.

Judiciary Democrats call on Goodlatte to hold hearings on Comey firing

All 17 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have written to Chairman Bob Goodlatte urging immediate hearing on President Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey.

In their letter, the Members noted the “decision to abruptly fire Mr. Comey not only undermines the Department of Justice’s investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the recent U.S. elections in possible coordination with the Trump campaign, but also threatens to erode confidence in the Department as a bedrock of independence and integrity within our system of government.”  They asked that the hearings include former FBI Director Comey, Attorney General Sessions, and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and that they be held no later than May 25, 2017.

(You can read the letter here.)

Given Goodlatte’s meek response to the Comey firing, it’s unlikely he will agree to the request.

In November, committee Democrats wrote to Goodlatte asking for hearings on potential conflicts between Trump’s business interests and his future position as president of the United States. The hearings were never called. Goodlatte didn’t even give the Democrats the courtesy of a reply.

Unfortunately there’s no reason to expect he’ll act any differently this time.

Update: In his statement on the Comey firing, Goodlatte said: “It is clearly the President’s prerogative to remove the FBI Director, as was recommended by the top two officials at the Department of Justice.”

Now we know that Trump was determined to fire Comey regardless of what the DoJ recommended. It’s clear that Trump’s determination to get rid of Comey came before the recommendations that Goodlatte cites. The recommendations were simply cover for what Trump wanted to do. Surely even Goodlatte can acknowledge that.

 

Goodlatte shrugs off Comey firing

While other Congressional Republicans expressed dismay at President Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey, Congressman Goodlatte meekly accepted it.

“The FBI is the premier law enforcement agency in the world and it is critical to have a director who holds the trust of the American people. It is clearly the President’s prerogative to remove the FBI Director, as was recommended by the top two officials at the Department of Justice.

“I would like to thank Director Comey for his many years of faithful service, and I look forward to working closely with the White House to identify a suitable successor as quickly as possible.”

As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte should be demanding answers from the Trump administration about the troubling timing of Comey’s dismissal– which came while the FBI director was leading a probe of possible links between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Russian government– and calling for an independent investigation. 

Instead what we get is a bland statement about the president’s prerogative and the need for a trustworthy FBI director.

Congressman Goodlatte: Even before Tuesday’s news, a majority of Americans disapproved of President Trump’s job performance. After this latest action by the president, are you convinced that he “holds the trust of the American people”?

Republican snowflake watch

Congressman Goodlatte isn’t the only Republican who apparently trembles at the thought of facing his or her own constituents at an open town hall meeting.

With Congress on a two-week recess, you might think the House Republicans who voted to kill the Affordable Care Act– which has allowed tens of millions of Americans to obtain health insurance– would want to take the opportunity to explain face-to-face to folks in their districts how this will benefit them.

But of the 217 Republicans who voted to replace the ACA with the atrocious American Health Care Act, only 14 (6.4 percent) have in-person town hall meetings scheduled in their districts, according to the Town Hall Project. (Another, Raul Labrador of Idaho, held a town hall meeting Friday at which he made a rather startling claim. At least he had the courage to stand up and spout this nonsense publicly.) Of course Goodlatte is one of the 93.6 percent who have chosen to keep a lower profile.

In recent years, conservatives have taken to calling supposedly oversensitive liberals “snowflakes.” But I think people are starting to understand who the real snowflakes are.

Charges dropped in rape case exploited by Goodlatte

One of Congressman Goodlatte’s favorite pursuits is an effort to link undocumented immigration (and Barack Obama’s allegedly lax attitude toward it) to criminal behavior.

Despite well-pubicized cases, there is no evidence that immigrants in the US, illegal or otherwise, commit crimes at a higher rate than native-born Americans– a fact which does not unduly trouble Goodlatte when it comes to fear-mongering.

When two immigrant teenagers at a high school in Rockville, Maryland, were charged with raping a 14-year-old classmate, Goodlatte was quick to exploit the case to stoke fear and prejudice. He squeezed out every ounce of political advantage he could. He posted on his website, on Twitter and on Facebook. He wrote to the secretary of Homeland Security effectively blaming the Obama administration for the alleged crime. He went on Fox News and did the same.

The Washington Post reported Friday:

Maryland prosecutors said they will drop rape and sex offense charges against two immigrant teens accused of attacking a 14-year-old classmate in a high school bathroom stall in a case that shocked local parents, attracted international and White House attention and stoked the debate about illegal crossings into the U.S.

…..

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said at a press conference that “the original charges cannot be sustained and prosecution is untenable” because of “substantial inconsistencies” from witnesses.

In other words, there isn’t sufficient evidence that the crime even happened.

Rape is an awful crime, and those who commit it deserve to be punished no matter where they were born or how they entered the country. But using reported cases as a tool for political advantage does not contribute in the least to stopping it.

“Proud to support”? We’ll remember that, Congressman

After he and 216 other House Republicans voted Thursday to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and replace it with the abominable American Health Care Act, Congressman Goodlatte issued a statement claiming that “Obamacare is collapsing” and that the AHCA would give patients “more options.”

There is no question that Republican-induced uncertainty over the fate of the ACA is causing problems with the law. Goodlatte cited a report that Aetna is leaving the ACA marketplace in Virginia.

But Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine pointed out that the problems with the ACA can be fixed without repealing the law and replacing it with an ill-thought-out plan which would deprive tens of millions of Americans of affordable health insurance:

Aetna’s decision to leave the Virginia marketplace in 2018 shows the real-life consequences of President Trump playing politics with health care and unfortunately Virginians will be the ones paying the price for his actions. This week, Aetna’s CEO pointed directly to the Trump Administration’s threat to eliminate cost-sharing reductions as a move that put too much uncertainty into the system. He said he believes it’s time to admit that the ACA needs to be fixed, not repealed.

Finally, Goodlatte stretched the truth to the breaking point when he claimed:

[U]nder the AHCA no one can be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. In fact, new protections are included in the AHCA for these individuals.

The Politifact website rates this claim as Mostly False. Under the AHCA, millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions could be forced to pay much higher premiums and forced into dubious “high risk pools” in order to obtain health insurance. Simply put, insurance companies would once again be allowed to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.

Even some Republicans who voted for the bill recognized that it wasn’t much good.

“This bill is highly imperfect, imperfect, okay? There’s no doubt about that,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said after supporting the legislation.

The Florida Republican — who represents a competitive district — waited until the last 24 hours to come on board. He cited conversations with senators who vowed to address his concerns about how to handle the tens of thousands of his constituents who are signed up for the ACA insurance exchanges.

“Is this bill good? No, I don’t like it,” Diaz-Balart said. But he suggested that voting for the bill would allow him to be part of future negotiations: “So my decision was, how do I stay involved?”

But Goodlatte tweeted:

Proud to support in the House today.

The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release next week its report on the real-life impact of the AHCA in terms of insurance coverage and costs. For some reason, Goodlatte and his Republican colleagues couldn’t even wait for that before they voted. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say– or more likely, doesn’t have to say– when the report comes out.

Goodlatte says he’ll vote for latest version of ACA repeal

During another of his impersonal, tightly-controlled Facebook Live events, Congressman Goodlatte said he plans to vote Thursday to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with the latest version of the misbegotten American Health Care Act– without waiting to find out from the Congressional Budget Office how it would impact insurance coverage for tens of millions of Americans.

While reducing coverage for ordinary Americans, the bill would provide a huge tax cut for the wealthy.

Despite a cynical last-minute maneuver, the bill would severely weaken the provision in the current law preventing health insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. 

You can let Goodlatte know how you feel about this by calling his office at (202) 225-5431.