Category Archives: Gov Docs

Did the FBI behave in a politically motivated way when dealing with the Clinton email scandal? DOJ IG report [text]

The DOJ’s Inspector General announced in January 2017 that his office would examine allegations of misconduct surrounding former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. The report says Comey “deviated” from FBI and Justice Department procedures in handling the probe into Hillary Clinton, damaging the agencies’ image of impartiality even though he wasn’t motivated by politics. Here’s the 500+ page report.  — Joe

CRS report on the June 12th Trump-Kim Jong-un Summit

From The June 12 Trump-Kim Jong-un Summit (IN10916, June 12, 2018):

The summit highlighted the change from 2017, when escalating tensions between North Korea and the United States led to increasingly tight U.S. and international sanctions and fears of a military conflict. In addition to the reduction of tensions, both sides can point to specific gains that have occurred since early 2018.

U.S. gains include:

  • Kim Jong-un’s public statements committing to begin a process of negotiating complete denuclearization;
  • North Korea’s moratorium on nuclear and missile testing while dialogue continues;
  • North Korea’s apparent destruction in May of its Pyunggye-ri nuclear test site before international journalists;
    Kim’s statement that he would destroy a missile test site; and
  • North Korea’s release of three U.S. detainees and agreement to restart the POW/MIA recovery program, which the United States suspended in 2005.

DPRK gains include:

  • Breaking free from its diplomatic isolation. Following Trump’s March 2018 announcement that he would hold a summit, Kim has re-established friendly relations with China and Russia, and held two summits with South Korean President Moon;
  • Boosting Kim’s legitimacy and prestige by using nuclear and missile advancements to obtain a meeting with the U.S. President as an equal;
  • Loosening enforcement of sanctions against the DPRK economy;
  • An expectation of future foreign investment and economic and energy assistance if it denuclearizes;
  • A U.S. promise to provide “security guarantees;” and
  • Trump’s announcement of a unilateral cessation of U.S.-South Korean military exercises and his statement that he hopes to withdraw all U.S. forces from South Korea.

— Joe

Overview of the Federal Government’s Power to Exclude Aliens: CRS Report

From the introduction to Overview of the Federal Government’s Power to Exclude Aliens (R44969 Sept. 27, 2017):

The Supreme Court has determined that inherent principles of sovereignty give Congress “plenary power” to regulate immigration. The core of this power—the part that has proven most impervious to judicial review—is the authority to determine which aliens may enter the country and under what conditions. The Court has determined that the executive branch, by extension, has broad authority to enforce laws concerning alien entry mostly free from judicial oversight. Two principles frame the scope of the political branches’ power to exclude aliens. First, nonresident aliens abroad cannot challenge exclusion decisions because they do not have constitutional or statutory rights with respect to entry. Second, even when the exclusion of a nonresident alien burdens the constitutional rights of a U.S. citizen, the government need only articulate a “facially legitimate and bona fide” justification to prevail against the citizen’s constitutional challenge.

— Joe

A catalog of arms control and nonproliferation treaties compilied by CRS

From Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and Agreements (RL33865, May 8, 2018):

Arms control and nonproliferation efforts are two of the tools that have occasionally been used to implement U.S. national security strategy. Although some believe these tools do little to restrain the behavior of U.S. adversaries, while doing too much to restrain U.S. military forces and operations, many other analysts see them as an effective means to promote transparency, ease military planning, limit forces, and protect against uncertainty and surprise. Arms control and nonproliferation efforts have produced formal treaties and agreements, informal arrangements, and cooperative threat reduction and monitoring mechanisms.

— Joe

A brief history of attorney general recusals

While there is no official compilation of recusals, it appears that Attorneys General of the United States have recused themselves at least 15 times since 1989. A Brief History of Attorney General Recusal (Legal Sidebar, March 8, 2017) presents a chronology of AG recusals. — Joe

FBI Director Nominations, 1973-2017

FBI Director Nominations, 1973-2017 (R44842, May 29, 2018) “provides an overview of the development of the process for appointing the FBI Director, briefly discusses the history of nominations to this position from 1973-2017, and identifies related congressional hearing records and reports.” — Joe

The House Journal: Origin, Purpose, and Approval: CRS report

The House Journal: Origin, Purpose, and Approval (R45209, May 31, 2018) “considers the origin and purpose of the Journal as well as the procedures related to its approval. It discusses why a Member might call for a vote and why a Member might vote against the Journal’s approval. The report also examines record approval votes from 1991 to 2016 (102nd-114th Congresses), addressing trends in the frequency of these votes, the percentage of votes initiated by majority party Members, and the procedures used to call for or postpone record votes.” — Joe

CRS reports on the president’s pardon power

Here are three CRS reports on the topic:

  1. An Overview of the Presidential Pardoning Power (R40128, Jan. 7, 2009)
  2. The President’s Pardon Power and Legal Effects on Collateral Consequences (R44571, July 26, 2016)
  3. Presidential Pardons: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), (CRS Legal Sidebar, August 28, 2017)

— Joe

CRS report: Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements: Issues for Congress

From the summary of Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements: Issues for Congress (R45198, May 17, 2018):

Congress plays a prominent role in shaping, debating, and approving legislation to implement trade agreements, and over the past three decades, bilateral and regional trade agreements (RTAs, or free trade agreements (FTAs) in the U.S. context) have become a primary source of new international trade liberalization commitments. The United States has historically pursued FTAs to open markets for U.S. goods, services, and agriculture, and establish trade rules and disciplines to enhance overall domestic and global economic growth. They are actively debated and can be contentious due to concerns over the potential employment effects of greater import competition, among other reasons.

In the current environment of stalled multilateral negotiations, RTAs provide an alternative venue to pursue trade liberalization and establish new rules on emerging issues. RTAs are, however, inherently discriminatory given their limited membership (i.e., they provide preferential treatment to some countries and not others), leading to debate over their global economic effect and whether they serve to facilitate future multilateral agreements or lead to the creation of competing trade blocs. U.S. exporters benefit from the preferential aspects of FTAs when they gain better access to FTA partner markets than their foreign competitors, but may be similarly harmed when third parties negotiate agreements that do not include the United States.

To date there are no RTAs in force between the world’s largest economies (China, Japan, European Union (EU), and the United States). This could change in the near future as these and other major U.S. trading partners are involved in several pending RTAs, including an ongoing negotiation between 16 Asian nations that involves both China and Japan, and two recently concluded but not yet ratified and implemented RTAs: the EU-Japan agreement (one of twelve pending EU RTAs) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

— Joe

Trump’s 2018 public financial disclosure form released by US Office of Government Ethics [text]

Trump’s 2018 financial disclosure form was released on Wednesday, and it says Trump “fully reimbursed” his long-time lawyer Michael Cohen for an unspecified amount and purpose in 2017. (Stormy Daniels payoff?) The disclosure, which includes all of 2017 and part of 2018, is also the first extended look at how his businesses have performed since he became president in January of last year. Text of the 2018 financial disclosure form.

The disclosure form’s admission about the 2017 Cohen payment was flagged by the Office of Government Ethics. The Ethics Office concluded that Trump made a false statement on his prior ethics disclosure, which is a crime if it is done knowingly and willfully, and referred the matter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for potential criminal prosecution. Text of OGE letter to Rod Rosenstein. — Joe

From slip law to United States Code

From Slip Law to United States Code: A Guide to Federal Statutes for Congressional Staff (RL45190 May 2, 2018) provides an overview of federal statutes in their various forms, as well as basic guidance for congressional staff interested in researching statutes. — Joe

Government information, librarians and the Trump administration

Here’s the abstract for Kian A. Flynn and Cassandra J. Hartnett’s Cutting through the Fog: Government Information, Librarians, and the Forty-Fifth Presidency, 57 RUSQ 208 (Spring 2018):

The presidential election of 2016 and the ensuing forty-fifth presidential administration have been marked by an increasingly polarized electorate, concerns about “fake news,” and a greater use of social media. President Trump and his administration have utilized the increased disintermediation of information consumption by communicating directly to the public and going around the “experts.” These phenomena raise issues for government information librarians concerned with the production, distribution, consumption, and preservation of government information, and impact the public’s understanding of—and trust in—government information. The government information issues we see today are not entirely new, as past governmental obfuscation has been well documented, but confronting these issues in the twenty-first century poses unique challenges. Fortunately, individuals, institutions, and libraries across the country are responding to this unique moment with a host of innovative solutions that promise to keep Americans informed in these turbulent times. Current engagement around these issues is reflected in educational programming at universities and public libraries, citizen actions such as the Data Rescue movement, and hybrid projects such as the End of Term Archive. The Government Publishing Office (GPO) is due for modernization, and statutory reform of 44 U.S.C., chapter 19, is being debated by the Committee on House Administration, library associations, and the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) community. To meet the long-term needs of our users, librarians should advocate for the strengthening of existing structures for federal information such as the FDLP, LOCKSS-USDOCS, and the Hathi Trust Digital Library. Future initiatives must ensure that official legal processes remain in place to protect government information, while leaving room for creative nongovernmental collaborations as well.

H/T Free Government Information. — Joe

CRS report: Withdrawal from International Agreements: Legal Framework, the Paris Agreement, and the Iran Nuclear Agreement

From Withdrawal from International Agreements: Legal Framework, the Paris Agreement, and the Iran Nuclear Agreement (R44761, May 4, 2018):

The legal procedure through which the United States withdraws from treaties and other international agreements has been the subject of long-standing debate between the legislative and executive branches. Recently, questions concerning the role of Congress in the withdrawal process have arisen in response to President Donald J. Trump’s actions related to certain high-profile international commitments. This report outlines the legal framework for withdrawal from international agreements under domestic and international law, and it applies that framework to two pacts that may be of significance to the 115th Congress: the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) related to Iran’s nuclear program.

H/T to beSpacific. — Joe

Options to cease implementing the Iran nuclear agreement

Options to Cease Implementing the Iran Nuclear Agreement (R44942, Apr. 30, 2018) analyzes some of the options the Administration and Congress might use to end or alter U.S. implementation of the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran. Potential implications of these options are analyzed as well. — Joe

CRS report on artificial intelligence and national security

From the summary of Artificial Intelligence and National Security (R45178, Apr. 26, 2018):

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is developing AI applications for a range of military functions. AI research is underway in the fields of intelligence collection and analysis, logistics, cyberspace operations, command and control, and a variety of military autonomous vehicles. AI applications are already playing a role in operations in Iraq and Syria, with algorithms designed to speed up the target identification process. Congressional action has the potential to shape the technology’s trajectory, with fiscal and regulatory decisions potentially influencing growth of national security applications and the standing of military AI development versus international competitors.

Military AI development presents a number of potential issues for Congress

  • What is the right balance of commercial and government funding for AI development?
  • How might Congress influence Defense Acquisition reform initiatives that ease military AI adaptation?
  • What changes, if any, are necessary in Congress and DOD to implement effective oversight of AI development?
  • What regulatory changes are necessary for military AI applications?
  • What measures can be taken to protect AI from exploitation by international competitors and preserve a U.S. advantage in the field?

— Joe

House Intelligence Committee Democrats release their final Russia probe report [text]

Following on the heels of the Hourse Intel Committee’s majority report by Republican members of the committee, committee member Democrats released their report on Friday. — Joe

House Intelligence Committee Republicans release final Russia probe report [text]

Here’s the text of Report on Russian Active Measures. — Joe

CRS report on legal authority and limitations on independent executive investigations

From the conclusion of Special Counsels, Independent Counsels, and Special Prosecutors: Legal Authority and Limitations on Independent Executive Investigations (R44857, Apr. 13, 2018):

Both Congress and the executive branch have employed a variety of means to establish independence for certain criminal investigations and prosecutions. The use of special prosecutors, independent counsels, and special counsels all have allowed for the investigation of executive branch misconduct. Nonetheless, efforts to provide independence for prosecutors from executive branch control often raise constitutional questions. In turn, proposals to statutorily protect a special counsel from removal thus raise important, but unresolved, constitutional questions about the separation of powers. As a general matter, simply insulating a future special counsel from removal except for specified reasons appears consistent with the Court’s opinion in Morrison. To the extent the current Court might depart from the functional reasoning of that case and apply a more formal approach to the question, however, such proposals might raise constitutional objections. Likewise, constitutional objections might arise against proposals aimed to insulate a special counsel in a manner beyond the framework approved in Morrison.

— Joe

Federal and state bill drafting guides

At the federal level, see House Office of Legislative Counsel, Legislative Drafting Guide and Style Manual. For a 50-state survey, see this compilation of resources produced by the National Conference of State Legislatures. — Joe

What happens when five Supreme Court justices can’t agree?

What Happens When Five Supreme Court Justices Can’t Agree? (LSB10113, Apr. 5, 2018) begins by discussing the current doctrinal framework for determining what opinion should govern when no opinion commands a majority vote. The Sidebar then explores the facts and issues involved in Hughes before examining Hughes’s potential impact. — Joe