Transcript of OA322: Blackouts, Taxes & House Rules

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[Show Introduction]

Thomas:         Hello and welcome to Opening Arguments, this is episode 322.  I’m your host Thomas Smith, that over there is Andrew Torrez.  How you doin’, Andrew?

Andrew:         I am fantastic, Thomas!  You know, one of the things that I love the most about my recording studio, which is located in my basement, is that it is served by electricity. So apropos of nothing, how are you doing?

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OA322: Blackouts, Taxes & House Rules

Today’s episode breaks down the recent news relating to (1) legal efforts to subpoena Donald Trump’s taxes, (2) the latest kerfuffle over the standing House rules and whether the impeachment inquiry is “unconstitutional” and “illegal” (it isn’t), with a bonus (3) rant about PG&E’s blackouts — excuse me, “public safety power shutoff events” in Northern California. Phew!

We begin with a discussion surrounding PG&E’s decision to shut off power for up to five days, affecting potentially two million people. These blackouts will have a tremendous economic and social cost — and may cost lives, as well. Why are they happening? What’s the law? Can we do anything about it? Listen and find out!

Then, it’s time for a deep dive into breaking legal news this week. You may have heard that a court ordered the release of Trump’s tax returns, and then that order was immediately appealed and blocked. What does it all mean and why? We dive deeply into this issue, and on the way you’ll learn about Younger abstention, § 1983 cases, and much, much more!

After that, it’s time for a look at the latest goalpost-moving excuse by the Republicans, this time the honestly-not-very-good argument that the impeachment inquiry is “illegal” unless authorized by the entire House of Representatives. Find out why this just isn’t so.

Then, it’s time for a follow-up #T3BE to last week’s child-on-thin-ice. This time, we want to know: can her parents sue the day care? Listen and find out!

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Show Notes & Links

  1. Don’t forget Opening Arguments LIVE in Los Angeles, CA on October 12, 2019. Here is the link!!
  2. The “de-energization events” are authorized, at least implicitly, by Section 451 of the California Public Utilities Code, as further interpreted by recent rules. PG&E, of course, is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
  3. The anti-injunction act is 22 U.S.C. § 2283 , and you can brush up on Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971) while you’re at it.
  4. We discussed the OLC memos in Episode 290, and then again in Episode 300.
  5. You should definitely read Judge Marrero’s order, even though it’s been appealed to the Second Circuit.
  6. Here are the standing House Rules (check out pp. 322-323), and the 2015 CRS report referenced during the show.

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OA241: Is This The C-Hook That Could Send PG&E To Prison??

Today’s episode takes a deep dive into the potential criminal liability for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in connection with the 2018 California Wildfires and the c-hook that just might be the linchpin to the whole thing.  Are people going to prison?  Listen and find out!

We begin by celebrating a brand-new holiday:  Oversight Day, with the inauguration of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.  We talk about funding, job postings, and how they all relate to Yodel Mountain.

After that it’s time to get deep — and we mean deep — into PG&E’s latest court filing, what it has to do with a 2010 explosion and a 2016 order, and what really caused the California Camp Fire.  Along the way you’ll learn about obstruction of justice (again!), the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act (really!), and how a corporation can have an “abandoned and malignant heart.”

Then we end with an all new Thomas Takes The Bar Exam #108 about interstate car collectors-slash-thieves.   As always, if you’d like to play along with us, just retweet our episode on Twitter or share it on Facebook along with your guess and the #TTTBE hashtag.  We’ll release the answer on next Tuesday’s episode along with our favorite entry!


None!  If you’d like to have either of us as a guest on your show, drop us an email at

Show Notes & Links

  1. Your Oversight Day goodies include (a) this fabulous Savannah Guthrie interview with Speaker Pelosi; (b) this equally fabulous Twitter chain from Paul Krugman; (c) the House operations budget for 2019; (d) the Axios story on Republicans seeking to hire investigative counsel; and (e) the screenshot of the jobs posting.
  2. PG&E filings include (a) the PGE Superseding indictment; (b) the jury verdict; (c) the Sentencing and probationary conditions entered by the court; (d) the Court’s Nov. 27, 2018 written questions about the wildfires; (e) the Court’s supplemental order seeking an amicus from the California Attorney General’s office; (f) the answers filed by PGE – PGE Answers, the US Attorneys’ Office, and the California AG; and finally, the PGE written Report – Exhibit A that contains the information discussed on the show.

Support us on Patreon at:

Follow us on Twitter:  @Openargs


Don’t forget the OA Facebook Community!

For show-related questions, check out the Opening Arguments Wiki

And email us at


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