Background Briefing: April 29, 2019


In the Standoff Between Trump and the House, The Constitution Has No Answers

We begin with the growing conflict between the executive and the legislative branch over subpoenas and oversight and speak with a journalist and legal scholar who has found that the constitution has no answers when it comes to solving this conflict. Noah Feldman, a columnist at Bloomberg and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School who previously served as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice David Souter and is the author of “The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President” and host of the new podcast “Deep Background”, joins us to discuss his article at Bloomberg ‘Trump and Barr Vs. Congress Can Only End in a Stalemate”. We look into how the framers provided no remedy for a struggle between Congress and the president over congressional subpoenas or specify congresses right to investigate, nor did they define executive privilege in the Constitution. So with an Attorney General unlikely to act even if the House finds the Secretary of the Treasury has broken the law, and uncertainty of how to enforce penalties of contempt on Trump officials who refuse to testify to House Committees on orders from the president, we assess whether the public will ever learn from the leads the Mueller report left for the Congress to investigate and what went on behind the scenes with Mueller and Barr.


Why Do the Press Who Trump Vilifies, Normalize Him?

Then we try to understand why the press which Trump vilifies, as he did again at Saturday’s rally in Wisconsin, normalizes his outrageous behavior and dishonest statements in covering his rallies where he calls Democrats murderers of babies, the press “sick people” and FBI officials “scum”. Nevertheless CBS described the rally with the headline “Trump energizes supporters in Wisconsin”, USA Today’s headline was “Trump takes swipes at media in rally during White House correspondents dinner” and the AP headlines with “Trump cheers economy, criticizes Democrats at Wisconsin rally”.  Aaron Rupar, a journalist and the Associate editor at Vox where he has an article “Coverage of Trump’s latest rally show how major media outlets normalize his worst excesses”, joins us.


Letting Trump Be Trump is a Recipe for Disaster

The finally we speak with Chris Whipple, the author of the bestseller “The Gatekeepers: How the White House chiefs of staff define every presidency” about reports that the current acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney got the job by telling Trump he would let Trump be Trump and get rid of the guardrails on his presidency. This Chris Whipple argues, is a recipe for disaster, making a dysfunctional presidency even more chaotic, in contrast to how James Baker made Reagan’s presidency a success.