Editors’ Note: Until the government operating in the name of every American provides straight answers and solves a problem that Trump alone created, the following question will precede my posts:
“Where are the 2,000 kids and when will they be reunited with their families?”
Note to the press: At every daily White House briefing, ask Sarah Huckabee Sanders that question. When she dodges, says “Next question”, and calls on someone else, that reporter should pose it again.
Repeat the process as needed.
When future historians write about the Trump-Russia scandal, the retirement of US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy could loom large in the tale. His departure from the bench now assumes a prominent place in the Trump-Russia Timeline.
The Supreme Court and Trump-Russia
On the Court, Kennedy has been an occasional swing vote creating 5-4 majorities in favor of protecting Roe v. Wade, affirming same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, and upholding the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse cases. But the implications of Kennedy’s retirement for the Trump-Russia investigation could become equally momentous.
Trump is the subject of a serious criminal investigation into whether he (or his campaign) conspired with a hostile foreign power to win a US presidential election. Since then, he has engaged in what sure looks like a separate crime: systematically obstructing that investigation. Now he is poised to select the Supreme Court justice who could cast a final and deciding vote in his case.
Here’s just a partial list of the Trump-Russia issues that could land in the Supreme Court’s lap for a final determination — with Kennedy’s successor providing the decisive vote:
- Does Mueller’s entire investigation violate the Constitution?
- What is the proper scope of various privileges that Trump and witnesses have invoked to block congressional and special counsel inquiries?
- Can a President obstruct justice?
- Can a President be compelled to testify before a grand jury?
- Can a President be indicted?
- Can a President be tried?
- Can a President pardon himself?
- Can a presidential pardon extinguish the recipient’s exposure to separate charges under state law?
Forget the rhetoric about a “constitutional crisis” involving a showdown between the executive and judicial branches. Trump is now positioned to achieve a bloodless victory and conquer the judiciary. The complicit Republicans in the Senate won’t stop him. Until Democrats gain control of the House or Senate, Congress is Trump’s host species.
For the rule of law in America, it can’t get much worse. Apart from an unlikely electoral tidal wave that gives Democrats the House majority required to impeach Trump and the 67 senators required to convict him, only one escape hatch would remain: The new swing vote in the US Supreme Court — Chief Justice John Roberts. If and when the time comes for Roberts to vote in the Trump-Russia case, he’ll define the “Roberts Court” forever — for good or ill.
Kennedy’s Connections to Trump
Although far less significant, another aspect of Justice Kennedy’s retirement prompted the return to a story that first surfaced more than a year ago: Kennedy’s son, Justin, has longstanding family connections to the Trumps and the Kushners.
No one is accusing Justice Kennedy of wrongdoing. But judges are required to avoid even the “appearance of impropriety,” lest it undermine public confidence in the integrity of the justice system. More fundamentally, pursuing questions about connections among the nation’s most powerful leaders is simply investigative journalism. It keeps those leaders accountable, as any democracy should.
Justin, Trump, and Kushner
Justin Kennedy worked at Deutsche Bank and, according to The Financial Times, “was one of Trump’s most trusted associates” during a time that the bank loaned Trump $1 billion and no other major financial institution would touch the bankruptcy recidivist.
When Justin left Deutsche Bank in 2010, he co-founded LNR Property, a real estate firm that became involved in Kushner Companies’ troubled 666 Fifth Avenue building.
The story of the Kennedy-Trump-Kushner connections first appeared in an April 11, 2017 Medium.com article that attracted little attention. Reviewing the Trump-Russia Timeline during that period reveals an understandable reason why: There was a lot happening during the two weeks preceding former FBI Director James Comey’s firing. Since then, even more has happened.
There may be nothing nefarious in any of this. If so, the story will die. But it’s unwise to close the file before reading it.
Here’s a complete list of this week’s update of the Trump-Russia Timeline:
JUNE 2005: Manafort Pitches Himself to Russian Oligarch (revision of previous entry)
MAY 4, 2018: Judge Asks Mueller Team Tough Questions
JUNE 25, 2018: Trump Tweets About Warner, Mueller, FBI
JUNE 25, 2018: House Republicans Ask Mueller to Name Everyone Involved in His Investigation
JUNE 25, 2018: DOJ Responds to Nunes’ Ultimatum
JUNE 25-26, 2018: Trump Tweets About Stzok
JUNE 26, 2018: Nunes Demands More Information from DOJ
JUNE 26, 2018: Judge Who Had Asked Tough Questions Upholds Mueller’s Authority
JUNE 27, 2018: Trump-Putin Meeting Set
JUNE 27, 2018: Strzok Testifies for 11 Hours; Democrats Demand Release of His Transcript
JUNE 27, 2018: Justice Kennedy Announces Retirement
JUNE 28, 2018: Trump Defends Russia; Attacks Strzok, Mueller, Comey, McCabe
JUNE 28, 2018: Rosenstein and Wray Appear Before House