It’s The New York Times’ Brilliant, Thorough And Controversial Account Of The Investigations Around The President, And Trump’s Efforts To Derail Them For Whatever Reason…
Here’s a link to the story. It reads like a little novel. And even if you know all the pieces, the way they weave it together is masterful.
We should note that the President is flatly denying a new assertion in the piece: that Trump told acting-Attorney-General-until-a-couple-of-days-ago, Matthew Whitaker, to intervene in the investigation of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. That case is being handled not by the Mueller team, but by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. The U.S. Attorney in that office, Geoffrey Berman, was hand-picked by Trump (after he fired Preet Bharara, who he initially said he was going to keep on). But Berman is recused from the Cohen case. Although no reason has been publicly given, according to The Hill, he had donated to Trump’s campaign. (Although so did a lot of other people, so that’s not likely why, or at least not the whole reason.) Berman was also a partner in the same law firm as Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. According to the Times article, Trump wanted Berman to un-recuse himself. Also according to the Times, Whitaker knew he “could not put Mr. Berman in charge because Mr. Berman had already recused himself”. The Justice Department pointed out the fact that when Whitaker appeared before the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month, he testified:
“At no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel’s investigation or any other investigation.”
Trump characterized the Times report characteristically: “fake news”.
Anyway, one thing the Times article underscores is a scent in the air that the Mueller investigation is coming to a close.
We keep reading that the new Attorney General, William Barr—who’s in the middle of his first week on the job—is well-respected, but he also will not commit to releasing all of Mueller’s findings. And in some ways, it kind of makes sense: if a prosecutor decides there is not enough evidence to indict someone, they don’t then have to publicly piece together the evidence they do have to prove it’s inadequate. That’s why Democrats were so angry at then-F.B.I. Director James Comey for overstepping when he explained why Hillary Clinton was not indicted over her emails. It wasn’t really his job to do that, nor was it his job to announce right before the election that they’d found new emails without having any real sense of their significance. In effect, Comey stepped over the Attorney General at the time, Loretta Lynch, who maybe should’ve more firmly insisted that Comey didn’t blab all over the place, but wasn’t inclined to talk herself, because after all, no charges were being filed. That is, of course, before Comey suddenly became the patron saint of Democrats by virtue of Trump firing him.
Trump also nominated Jeffrey Rosen to replace Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who’s expected to leave the Justice Department in March. Rosen worked for the same law firm as the new Attorney General, and has been part of prior Republican Administrations. Right now, he’s Deputy Secretary of Transportation, second to Secretary Elaine Chao, who is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife. Not that that means anything…
So where is this all headed? Not likely in a direction that will lead to Trump being impeached or otherwise ousted. Based on the Republican-controlled Senate’s muted reaction to Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build his wall, which is a direct affront to them, we think all that stuff is a pipe dream, unless Mueller presents them with something truly astounding that will make their jaws drop to the floor. We believe any outrage that may be revealed—and there’s sure to be some—is more productively directed at voting Trump out of office coming up on a year and a half from now. A huge field of Democrats–which as of Tuesday now includes Bernie Sanders–ripping each other to shreds while Trump foments fear at rally after rally and Tweets about Democrats going crazy trying to tear him down won’t help either. Democrats need to find a way to be competitive, but neighborly. And to build support, not begrudge it to former competitors as the field invariably narrows down to one. Otherwise, we’ll have more Trump, and more misdeeds, because he can’t help but surround himself with “the best people”.