Congressman John Sarbanes, Senator Chris Van Hollen and a host of other federal elected officials say they have a bone to pick with President Donald Trump.
Van Hollen, along with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (talk about your strange bedfellows) are among those urging the Trump administration not to return two diplomatic compounds in the U.S. to Russian control. Intelligence reports indicate the two compounds – one in Maryland and one in New York – were used by the Russian government for intelligence-related purposes.
“The properties were seized because 17 U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that Russia used covert cyberattacks, espionage and harmful propaganda to try and undermine our democracy,” Van Hollen and Graham said in a letter to the president.
The senators say returning the compounds to the Russians is unjustifiable.
“It would both make it easier for the Kremlin to continue its intelligence operations in our own backyard and make it clear that they can avoid consequences for their actions,” the senators said in the letter.
It may be a while before Van Hollen gets an answer – if he ever does. Sarbanes, the chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force claims the new presidential administration is very good at avoiding information requests and he has outlined dozens if not hundreds of instances where the administration has simply ignored information requests.
“The Trump administration’s refusal to respond to basic information requests . . . is an assault on our Constitutional system of checks and balances,” Sarbanes said.
As former FBI director James Comey takes the national stage to talk about problems with the Russians and our elections, the actions of Sarbanes and Van Hollen point to a greater problem inside the executive branch of government.
The administration is both undermanned and outgunned. Slow to fill slots in the administration many of those working in the executive branch are overworked to the point that answering emails is nothing more than a fairy tale to be told to reporters and congressmen.
“Just email us. We’ll get back to you,” is a common cry in the Trump White House and whether or not you are a member of the Fourth Estate or a member of Congress then chances are your inquiries are not being answered in a timely fashioned – unless your last name is McConnell or Ryan – and those guys don’t seem to happy with the administration either. Maybe they aren’t getting their questions answered either.
Sarbanes says there is a bit of partisan rancor to the administration’s inability to answer inquiries and at the same time believes the president is not only overwhelmed and understaffed, but inadequately staffed to boot.
Administration plans, like tax reform, are relegated to a simple one-sheet guidance. Healthcare has been stillborn in the Senate while the border wall has been delayed and other plans by the administration delayed or put on hold.
“I’m still waiting for a plan in any traditional sense on any issue,” Sarbanes said Tuesday. “This entire administration is a series of giant head fakes.”
Monday the president announced a major infrastructure initiative without a concrete plan – other than to turn over a lot of investment in the nation’s infrastructure to private enterprise – a move even members of the G.O.P say could be disastrous.
“We have good plans from the G.O.P and from Democrats,” Sarbanes said. “We need to have the public sector take the lead on any infrastructure because these are projects which benefit the public.”
But the president is pushing for privatization of infrastructure, and as an investigation conducted by The Sentinel last year showed, aging infrastructure is a huge problem many municipalities cannot deal with in any coherent fashion.
Some water mains in Montgomery County are nearly 120-years-old. Where are the profits to be made for private enterprise in replacing those old pipes and at what cost would such a move be to tax payers?
It is hard to believe the Trump administration has a handle on our infrastructure problem when it cannot handle Russian espionage and won’t even answer informational inquiries from the legislative branch of government.
It is but one more example of how people in Montgomery County are currently suffering from a lack of attention to detail and how we’ll be paying for it for years to come.
Far from bringing us all together the current administration seems only to succeed at driving a wedge between us all - making life more difficult for no reason at all.