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Lock Mnuchin up! (And give Maxine Waters the key.)

Dana Milbank on

WASHINGTON -- Ladies and gentlemen, our nation is in a crisis. It is in a crisis about whether to label the current moment a crisis.

Facing the blanket refusal by the Trump administration to cooperate with any and all congressional oversight, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., last week proclaimed a full-blown "constitutional crisis." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she agreed.

On the other side, the man who precipitated the purported crisis, President Trump, respectfully disagreed. "The Democrats new and pathetically untrue sound bite is that we are in a 'Constitutional Crisis,'" he remarked as part of a 118-tweet fusillade that included an attack on his handpicked FBI chief. "They are a sad JOKE! We may have the strongest Economy in our history."

He wrote this before the Dow Jones industrial average tumbled more than 600 points because of his trade war with China.

Is it a crisis or not? And "Would we even know one if it bonked us on the heads?" asked Slate's Dahlia Lithwick. She put the question to 10 legal experts and got a split decision: Four said no crisis, three said crisis, and three disputed the validity of the question. (They are lawyers, after all.) "Crisis schmisis," replied Harvard's Laurence Tribe.

If we're not in a crisis yet, we certainly would be in one if (or when) the Trump administration ignores a court order, or if the Supreme Court (with Trump's appointees) upholds a blatantly illegal act.

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But Congress needn't wait for the crisis to happen. Lawmakers can show the Trump administration how reckless its actions are by responding in kind, with their own brazen attempt to push their powers to the limit. For the first time in nearly 100 years, they should lock him up.

No, not Trump, and not his enabling attorney general, William Barr. That would be way too messy.

But there is another figure who is at once so disagreeable that even Republicans might not object to his confinement, and so ineffective that most people wouldn't notice he's missing: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mnuchin has arguably been the most brazen in rejecting the constitutional balance. He's refusing to turn over Trump's tax returns even though the law explicitly states that the treasury secretary "shall furnish" any tax returns the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee requests.

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