About thebellyofthebeast

Adjunct professor at Northwestern University Law School, regular contributor to Dan Rather’s “News & Guts,” creator/curator of the Trump-Russia Timeline at “News & Guts” and “Just Security,” and author of "The Lawyer Bubble - A Profession in Crisis (2013), "The Partnership - A Novel" (2010), "Crossing Hoffa - A Teamster's Story" (2007) (A "Chicago Tribune" Best Book of the Year), and "Straddling Worlds: The Jewish-American Journey of Professor Richard W. Leopold" (2008). Retired after 30 years at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Graduated from Harvard Law School (magna cum laude) and Northwestern University (combined B.A./M.A. in economics, with distinction and Phi Beta Kappa).

HOW MANY WILL DIE FROM DONALD TRUMP’S LIES

This post first appeared at BillMoyers.com on Mar. 27, 2020. Be sure to check out the animation accompanying it there.

Trump’s magical thinking and contradictory messages about the coronavirus have created public confusion. The consequences are becoming catastrophic.

Lying to the Public for Weeks

Jan. 3: The director of the CDC warns HHS Director Alex Azar that China has potentially discovered a new coronavirus. Azar tells his chief of staff to notify the National Security Council. This is a very big deal, Azar says.

Jan. 18: Azar notifies Trump about the virus.

Feb. 10: “I think the virus is going to be — it’s going to be fine,” Trump says.

Feb. 14: “We have a very small number of people in the country, right now, with it,” Trump says. “It’s like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we’re in very good shape.”

Feb. 19: “I think it’s going to work out fine. I think when we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of a virus,” Trump says. “So let’s see what happens, but I think it’s going to work out fine.” 

Feb. 24: The pandemic is “very much under control in the US,” Trump tweets.

Feb. 25: “You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country. We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are … getting better. They’re all getting better. … As far as what we’re doing with the new virus, I think that we’re doing a great job.” He repeats this self-adulation in a tweet.

Feb. 26: “Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low,” Trump says. “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” 

Feb. 27: “Only a very small number in U.S. & China numbers look to be going down. All countries working well together!” Trump tweets.

Feb. 28: “It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear,” Trump tells attendees at an African American History Month reception in the White House Cabinet Room.

Also Feb. 28: At a campaign rally, Trump politicizes concerns about his handling of the growing crisis as a “Democratic hoax.”

March 4: “Some people will have this at a very light level and won’t even go to a doctor or hospital, and they’ll get better,” Trump says. “There are many people like that.”

Around Mar. 6: The White House task force receives results from a new study by the Imperial College of London projecting that the government’s failure to act swiftly and aggressively could result in 2 million American deaths.

Mar. 10: Trump says, “It will go away, just stay calm. It will go away.”

The Truth Catches Up

Mar. 13: Trump declares a national emergency, but he does not invoke the Defense Production Act that would mobilize national resources to fight the pandemic.

Mar. 14: Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the world’s foremost authorities on infectious diseases, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984, and an adviser to six presidents, publicly urges consideration of a nationwide shutdown similar to those in Europe: “I would prefer as much as we possibly could. I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting.”

Mar. 14-15: The Imperial College researchers send Trump’s task force an early copy of their final written report. By then, some US states and cities have already imposed stay-at-home orders and business closings.

Mar. 16: Trump reverses his earlier rhetoric of denial. Now he recommends that for 15 days Americans avoid gathering in groups greater than 10, work from home, avoid unnecessary shopping trips, and refrain from eating in restaurants.

Mar. 20: Dr. Fauci predicts that Americans will most likely have to stay at home and practice social distancing for “at least several weeks.”

Lagging Indicators of Leadership Failure

Thanks to Trump’s failure to emphasize the seriousness of the pandemic, state governors who took the threat seriously are having difficulty persuading citizens to stay at home. Gov. Mario Cuomo (D-NY) enlisted New Yorkers to get his message across:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sZIdZueiQg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxH_uHFwj30

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTLiYHIIOjE

Like many governors throughout the country, Gov. Cuomo is fighting what economists would call lagging indicators of Trump’s false messaging and administrative incompetence. Trump’s leadership failure produced another lagging indicator: the testing crisis. Without a sufficient medical infrastructure to test, identify and isolate patients, America has been unable to follow South Korea’s successful containment strategy, even though that country and the US reported their first coronavirus cases on the same day — Jan. 20.

Other lagging indicators include the more rapid spread of the virus in the US due to lack of testing and hospitals with too few beds, insufficient ICU space, and an insufficient number of ventilators for those who will need them to survive.

The worst lagging indicator is, of course, hourly increases in American coronavirus deaths.

From Bad to Worse

Mar. 23: Only seven days into his “stay at home” guidance — Trump reverses himself again. Acknowledging that his own public health experts disagree, he says, “America will, again, and soon, be open for business. Very soon… We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”

Mar. 24: The World Health Organization warns that with more that 46,500 confirmed cases and nearly 600 deaths, the US has the potential to become the new epicenter of the global crisis. Only a week earlier, the US had a total of 6,300 cases in and 108 deaths.

Also on Mar. 24: Trump says he wants the country “back to work” by Easter. That’s Apr. 12. “Easter is a very special day for me,” he says. “Easter Sunday, and you’ll have packed churches all over our country.”

Mar. 25: The spokesperson for the World Health Organization who had warned that the US had the potential to become the next epicenter of the virus says that there is still time to “turn it around.” Sending all Americans back to work by Easter was not among her recommendations. Rather, the formula for success is testing people, finding each case, identifying people who have come into contact with those who have been infected, isolating those who are ill or who have been exposed, and quarantining, she says.

“Finally, getting the people who are ill to treatment — and when you do that, really, really protect your health workers,” she says.

Gov. Cuomo and other governors will make state-specific decisions about whether to “reopen the economy.” Unless Attorney General William Barr finds a way to upend federalism for his boss, there’s nothing Trump can do about it — except spout messages on which too many Americans will rely at their peril.

During a pandemic, incompetent leadership is deadly. Heed the advice of medical professionals who know what they’re talking about.

HHS SECRETARY AZAR’S FOLLY IS POTENTIALLY DEADLY

This post first appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts on Mar. 16, 2020.

How many ventilators does the US have on hand to fight the pandemic?

At Trump’s coronavirus task force press briefing on Sunday, Mar. 15, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar refused to answer, citing “national security.”

Less than 10 minutes on the internet yielded the answer: 172,700.

Earlier in the day, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the US has about 12,700 ventilators stockpiled. On Feb. 14, 2020, the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported that the US has approximately 160,000 ventilators in acute care hospitals. The number in use at any given time is unknown.

Why did Azar refuse to provide that number? Because it’s bad news. Stonewalling is a reflexive response and a defining characteristic of the Trump administration. This time, it’s endangering the health of all Americans.

Why Facts Really Matter Now

During an American Hospital Association webinar in February, Dr. James Lawler, a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, projected that the coronavirus pandemic could infect 96 million people and hospitalize 4.8 million of them. In the entire country, the US has approximately 925,000 staffed beds (including all types).

Of those 4.8 million projected hospital patients, 1.9 million could require intensive care beds. We have about 98,000 (included in the above total).

Of those 4.8 million hospital patients, 960,000 could require ventilators. We have 172,700. Even more importantly, according to the Johns Hopkins study, the limiting factor for treatment during a pandemic will be respiratory therapists. Dr. Lawler also calculates that the number of US deaths from the virus could be 480,000 — 10 times worse than the mortality rate for the seasonal flu.

If we can spread out the number of infected victims so they show up at hospitals over a longer period of time, we can reduce peak demand for hospital admissions, ICU beds, ventilators, and necessary medical personnel. We would have a chance to avoid the situation facing Italy, where doctors are making life and death decisions about patients who get the treatment they need and those they send home to die. More available beds, ventilators, and therapists means more lives saved. And by we, I mean all of us.

That’s the urgency of “flattening the curve.”

If CNBC’s reporting is correct, the White House task force has it backwards. Under its so-called “optimistic scenario,” peak virus in the US would come one month from Saturday, Mar. 14. Under its “pessimistic scenario,” peak virus would occur two months later. But as the peak becomes earlier, the number of deaths from an overtaxed medical system increases. And that doesn’t take into account spillover deaths from patients requiring care they cannot get for other diseases and illnesses.

Azar and Trump’s entire task force could use these facts to drive home simple messages — wash your hands, no handshakes, social distancing, stay home if you can — every individual can make a difference. Instead, they’re playing to an audience of one, who is working in vain to save a stock market that is reacting to presidential incompetence. In the process, they’re killing Americans. Literally.

WASH YOUR HANDS AND STAY AT HOME, PLEASE

The absence of US presidential leadership in the face of a global pandemic has left people feeling:

a) Panic;

b) Unconcerned because they haven’t yet felt the impact personally and Trump has said everything will be ok; or

c) Concerned but helpless because they don’t think they can make a difference.

I can’t do anything about the individuals in category b). Among them are those whom Trump had in mind when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose their support. Because of his incompetence, he will have the blood many American coronavirus victims on his hands.

Unparalleled Presidential Malfeasance

In 2018, Trump dissolved President Obama’s pandemic response team, which had been created to deal with the crisis we now face. When pressed on the decision last week, Trump said, “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

As people were dying in China and the World Health Organization was sounding the alarm, Trump proclaimed that the coronavirus was a “Democrat hoax” —  just like Trump-Russia and impeachment. He was 0-for-3 on that assertion.

Trump preferred that infected Americans aboard a cruise ship be left at sea because he didn’t want them to add to the total number of coronavirus cases in the US. “I like the numbers where they are,” he said. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault. And it wasn’t the fault of the people on the ship either, okay? It wasn’t their fault either and they’re mostly Americans. So, I can live either way with it. I’d rather have them stay on, personally.”

Trump unilaterally announced a travel ban that has created chaos and long lines of citizens waiting hours to clear customs at airports, which have become petri dishes for the virus. His xenophobic actions will spread the virus, not slow it.

After declaring a national emergency on Friday, Mar. 13 — complete with lies about Google’s supposed work on a nationwide screening website — he could have set an example for hygiene and social interaction that every citizen should follow. Instead, he shook hands, patted backs, or touched the microphone at the White House lectern 31 times — the very behaviors that the CDC had advised against to stop the spread of the virus. As for social distancing, forget about it.

If the nation doesn’t succeed in “flattening the curve” of coronavirus cases, the US hospital system will become overwhelmed. People who need respirators to survive and recover won’t get them. For an example of medical triage separating those who will live from those who are turned away, look at what’s happening in Italy. The criteria for admission into intensive care units has moved from “first come, first served” to “who has the best chance for survival.” Using that standard, I would not fare well.

But according to every health expert, every individual can make a profound difference in slowing the spread of the virus. Here’s how:

First and foremost: Stay at home. Other than walks to remain healthy, don’t leave home unless you have an essential reason for doing so.

Wash your hands. Do it frequently and correctly. That means using soap and water for 20 seconds — a lot longer than most people typically do — “especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing,” according to the CDC.

Don’t shake hands. The virus spreads through contact. Handshakes are the opposite of social distancing. Here’s a vivid illustration of the difference that social distancing can make:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/?utm_campaign=wp_post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most 

True social distancing. Even people who show no symptoms of the coronavirus can spread it. Here are recommendations from the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health:

  • Avoid going to places where 25 or more people may gather (Update: Don’t go where 10 or more people may gather);
  • Go places where you can maintain at least six feet of distance from other people;
  • Keep in mind your personal risk: If you’re 60 years old and up or have a compromised immune system, you should stay home as much as possible.

No one can achieve 100% social distancing. But if everyone tries, the most vulnerable among us will have a better chance to survive.

By the way, here is a list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and Just Security. When the coronavirus crisis ends — as it eventually will — the Trump-Russia story will return.

AUG. 26, 2019: On Ukraine Aid, ‘Final Decision Rests with POTUS’

DEC. 5, 2019: Burr Warns Grassley and Graham About Biden Investigations

REVISED: FEB. 13-21, 2020: Aide to Acting DNI Maguire Gives Briefing to Congress on Election Security; Trump is Reportedly Furious, Replaces Maguire with Loyalist Grenell; Other High-Ranking ODNI Officials Depart

FEB. 26, 2020: Trump Sues NY Times

FEB. 28, 2020: Appeals Court Rules House Can’t Sue to Enforce McGahn’s Subpoena

MAR. 1, 2020: Republican Senators Subpoena Burisma Witness

MAR. 2, 2020: Former Nunes’ Aide Promoted to Top Intelligence Post at NSC

MAR. 2, 2020: Top Government Officials Issue Warning About Election Interference

MAR. 4, 2020: Senate Republicans Pursue Burisma

MAR. 5, 2020: Judge Says Barr’s ‘Lack of Candor’ and ‘Distortions’ of Mueller Report ‘Call Into Question’ the Credibility of the Justice Dept.’s Redactions

MAR. 6, 2020: Trump Sues CNN

 

TRUMP v. THE NEW YORK TIMES

Trump has just fulfilled another promise. On Feb. 26, his presidential campaign sued The New York Times. For years, he has been warning us.

On Feb. 26, 2016, then-presidential candidate Trump said:

“One of the things I’m going to do if I win… I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post… writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.”

On Mar. 30, 2017, Trump tweeted:

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/847455180912181249

And during the public portion of a cabinet meeting on Jan. 10, 2018, Trump said:

“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws, so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts.”

At least one US Supreme Court justice now appears to agree with him.

How the Libel Laws Work

Libel and defamation actions arise under state laws, but the First Amendment limits their application. When Trump complains that the media are “totally protected” from such lawsuits, he’s wrong.

Trump is referring to the US Supreme Court’s 1964 landmark decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, which involved alleged defamation of a public official. The Court observed that America has “a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”

The Court was concerned that “would-be critics of official conduct may be deterred from voicing their criticism, even though it is believed to be true and even though it is, in fact, true, because of doubt whether it can be proved in court or fear of the expense of having to do so,” the Court wrote. Such deterrence “dampens the vigor and limits the variety of public debate.”

To minimize the risk of self-censorship in political discourse, the Court ruled that a public official must prove “actual malice” — that is, the statement must have been made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” In 1967, the Court extended the rule to “public figures.” But that heightened standard of proof doesn’t apply to suits against ordinary individuals.

How Trump Works the Libel Laws

When it comes to defamation lawsuits, Trump is a seasoned litigant, but not a particularly successful one. In 1984, he sued an architecture critic and lost. In 2006, he sued Timothy O’Brien, author of TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald, because O’Brien’s book said that Trump’s net worth was between $150 million and $250 million, not billions as Trump claimed. Trump lost again. In 2013, Trump sued comedian Bill Maher over a joke — but then quickly withdrew the complaint.

On Jan. 4, 2018, Trump’s newest libel lawyer, Charles Harder, sent an 11-page cease-and-desist letter to the publisher of Michael Wolff’s forthcoming book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. The publisher responded by moving up the book’s release date. Shortly after publication, it soared to the top of The New York Times best-seller list.

On Oct. 16, 2019, Harder sent a letter to CNN threatening suit over its allegedly biased coverage of Trump. Nothing came of that either.

Harder’s latest salvo is aimed at Max Frankel, executive editor of The New York Times from 1986 to 1994. The Trump campaign’s basic complaint about Frankel’s Mar. 27, 2019 opinion piece, “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo, is that there was no “deal” or “quid pro quo” between the campaign and Russia.

But Trump can’t possibly want people to read Mueller’s report, which concluded that his campaign knew about and welcomed Russia’s help. It can’t serve Trump’s interests to review anew the extensive evidence of contacts between his campaign and Russia throughout 2016. Trump can’t want the public to recall his efforts to obstruct the investigation into those contacts or Mueller’s refusal to exonerate him on those charges. Nor can it help Trump’s 2020 campaign to scrutinize his policies that have promoted Russian interests. He certainly doesn’t want the public poring over the Trump-Russia Timeline.

So what’s the agenda motivating the complaint that Harder filed on Feb. 26?

Justice Thomas Weighs In

The Times vows to fight the case, but the path to victory will require significant legal fees. That alone contributes to a chilling effect on free speech and a free press. The public never knows about self-imposed censorship resulting from media fear of a powerful libel bully.

But the stakes could be even greater. In February 2019, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Court should reconsider the Sullivan standard because it had no basis in the Constitution.

New York Times [v. Sullivan] and the court’s decisions extending it were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law,” Thomas said. No other justice joined him — for now.

I don’t know if Thomas has been listening to Trump’s public proclamations about libel law. But Thomas’s wife, Ginni, appears to have Trump’s ear on another important issue. According to The New York Times, “For the past 18 months, she and other conservatives have plied the White House with memos and suggestions about which people to fire — and who should replace them.”

One more thing: Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but on Mar. 2, 2020, one of Trump’s most loyal congressional allies, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), sued The Washington Post for defamation too.

THE PURGE CONTINUES: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH FEB. 23, 2020

While Trump and Attorney General William Barr were intervening in the sentencing of Roger Stone and hollowing out the Department of Justice in various other ways, US intelligence officials were warning senior members of the House Intelligence Committee that Russia is, once again, interfering in a US presidential election to help Trump win. Among their efforts is supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the Democratic primary.

When Trump learned about the House briefing, was he outraged?

Yes, but not at Putin for yet another round of election interference. Trump was furious that an aide to Trump’s acting director of national intelligence (ODNI) Joseph Maguire had briefed Congress on Russia’s ongoing efforts to help Trump win re-election. Six days later, Trump fired Maguire and appointed a new acting ODNI — Richard Grenell. He’s a Trump loyalist who has no real intelligence experience at all.

But Grenell has an important qualification that Trump values more highly than competence: Grenell still expresses skepticism about Russian interference in 2016. Now he heads an entire US intelligence apparatus that — based on facts and evidence — disagrees with him.

Trump also replaced Maguire’s deputy. Grenell’s new senior adviser is Kash Patel — formerly a close aide to Rep. Devin Nunes. Patel and Nunes worked together in an effort to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Go to the Timeline, click on Nunes’ name, and take a look at the July 2017 entry featuring Patel. Here’s the first sentence:

“Seeking to contact Christopher Steele, two members of the House Intelligence Committee staff — one of whom is Kashyap Patel — visit the offices of Steele’s lawyers.”

By the way, Nunes — the ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee — was the person who told Trump about the classified briefing on Feb. 13, 2020.

At the Justice Department and throughout the US intelligence community, Trump is placing people in high places who will do his bidding and tell him only what he wants to hear. As Trump continues his war on the truth, he is protecting his friends and attacking his enemies. If you’re not alarmed by what is happening, then you’re not paying attention.

Here is a list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and Just Security:

REVISED:  AUG. 16, 2017: Rohrabacher Echoes Assange: Russia Didn’t Hack Election; Assange’s Attorney Later Claims Rohrabacher Offered Pardon from Trump

DEC. 10, 2019: Trump Announces New US Attorney for DC

JAN. 17, 2020: Deputy Attorney General Sends Internal Notice: All Ukraine-related Investigations Will Be Supervised by US Attorney for Eastern District of New York

FEB. 9-10, 2020: Flynn Sentencing Postponed Again

FEB. 10-11, 2020: Prosecutors Seek Seven- to Nine-Year Sentence for Stone; Trump Tweets That It’s ‘Excessive’; DOJ Retreats; Stone’s Prosecutors Resign

FEB. 11-13, 2020: Trump Withdraws Liu’s Nomination and She Resigns

FEB. 11, 2020: Senate Republicans Block Election Security Bills Again

FEB. 11, 2020: Spicer and Priebus Return to White House

FEB. 12, 2020: Trump Praises Barr for ‘Taking Charge’ of Stone Case

FEB. 13, 2020: Hicks to Return as Kushner Aide

FEB. 13, 2020: Barr Criticizes Trump’s Tweets

FEB. 13, 2020: Trump Admits Sending Giuliani to Ukraine for Damaging Information on Political Opponents

FEB. 13, 2020: Trump Attacks Foreperson on Stone Jury

FEB. 13-20, 2020: Aide to Acting DNI Maguire Gives Briefing to Congress on Election Security; Trump is Furious, Replaces Maguire with Loyalist Grenell; Another High-Ranking ODNI Official Departs

FEB. 14, 2020: Barr Assigns Outside Prosecutors to Review Flynn and Other ‘Politically Sensitive National-Security Cases’ in DC Office

FEB. 14, 2020: DOJ Says It Won’t Pursue Charges Against McCabe; Transcript of Sept. 2019 Hearing Released, Reveals Judge Blasted Trump

FEB. 14, 2020: Stone Asks for New Trial

FEB. 18, 2020: Trump Issues Pardons and Commutations, Incorrectly Blames Comey for Blagojevich’s Conviction

FEB. 19, 2020: Rood Resigns

FEB. 20, 2020: Stone Sentenced to 40 Months in Prison

FEB. 21, 2020: Trump Tries to Block Bolton’s Book

TRUMP, STONE AND BARR v. THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

This post first appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts on Feb. 16, 2020.

Back in 2017, Roger Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee. Then he threatened a witness who was going to expose him. A jury deliberated for slightly more than seven hours before convicting him on all seven counts of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

On Feb. 10, career prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of seven to nine years. As Trump tried publicly to get him a lighter one, Attorney General William Barr was working behind the scenes to help. Former Attorney General Eric Holder called Barr’s direct intervention “unprecedented, wrong and ultimately dangerous.”

Why is Trump so concerned about Roger Stone and what is Barr’s role in the growing scandal?

The Facts

Aug. 6, 2015: The Trump campaign says it fired Stone, although Stone claims he quit. Either way, Stone remains a prominent Trump surrogate, maintaining regular contact with Trump and the campaign through the November 2016 election.

June 14, 2016: On the day that the DNC announces that its computer system has been hacked, Stone calls Trump.

July 18 or 19: Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen is in Trump’s office when Stone calls, according to Cohen’s later congressional testimony. Over Trump’s speakerphone, Stone tells Trump that he has just spoken by phone with WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, who lives in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Stone says to expect within a couple of days “a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” According to Cohen, Trump responds “to the effect of ‘wouldn’t that be great.’”

July 22: As the Democratic Convention begins, WikiLeaks releases close to 20,000 emails sent to or received by several top Democratic Party officials.

On or shortly after July 22, 2016: Paul Manafort directs his deputy, Rick Gates, to contact Stone for information about any additional releases and other damaging information WikiLeaks has regarding the Clinton campaign.

Late July 2016: During a ride with Trump to LaGuardia Airport, Gates and two secret service agents are in the car when Stone calls Trump on the phone. After Trump hangs up, he tells Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming. By late summer, the Trump campaign is planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and political messaging based on WikiLeaks’ possible release of Clinton emails.

July 31: Stone calls Trump and they speak for ten minutes.

Aug. 2:  Stone emails Manafort about the “word” coming from the “friend” in the embassy (Assange).

Aug. 3: Stone emails Manafort that he has an idea “to save Trump’s ass” and asks Manafort to call him.

Aug. 16: Stone emails Steve Bannon, who is about to be named the Trump campaign’s CEO. “Trump can still win — but time is running out,” Stone says, adding that he knows how to “win” this, but “it ain’t pretty.”

Sept. 21: On The Joe Piscopo Show, a local New York City radio program, Stone says that he spoke with Trump late the prior evening around 1:00 or 1:30 am.

Oct. 3: Stone messages Erik Prince, who is acting as an outside adviser to the Trump campaign. “Spoke to my friend in London last night,” Stone says, and a “payload” is coming.

Oct. 7: In a joint statement, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence say that the US Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian government directed the hacking of both Clinton campaign and DNC emails.

Meanwhile, according to Jerome Corsi, Stone calls him on the morning on Oct. 7, claiming to have advance knowledge about the “Access Hollywood” tapes containing Trump’s vulgar comments about women. Stone says, “If you have any way to get to Assange to start dropping, tell him to start dumping.”

At 3:30 pm (ET) — 30 minutes after the release of the intelligence community’s warning about Russian election interference — the “Access Hollywood” tapes become public. At 4:30 pm (ET), WikiLeaks begins publishing stolen emails from the account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

Shortly after WikiLeaks’s release of the emails, an associate of Steve Bannon sends a text message to Stone that reads “well done.” In subsequent conversations with senior Trump campaign officials, Stone claims credit for having correctly predicted the October 7, 2016 release, according to his later indictment.

Nov. 2: Stone says he talks to Trump about once a week, on average, according to The Guardian.

The Lies

Nov. 20, 2018: In sworn answers to special counsel Robert Mueller’s written questions, Trump says that he has no recollection of discussing WikiLeaks with Roger Stone between June 1, 2016 and Nov. 8, 2016. (Mueller Rep. Vol. II, App. pp. C-18-19)

Jan. 31, 2019: During an interview with The New York Times, reporter Maggie Haberman asks Trump, “Did you ever talk to him [Stone] about WikiLeaks? Because that seemed —“

Trump: “No.”

Haberman: “You never had conversations with him.”

Trump: “No, I didn’t. I never did.”

Haberman: “Did you ever tell him to — or other people to get in touch with them?”

Trump: “Never did.”

The Fix

Dec. 10, 2019: Trump announces plans to nominate US Attorney for the District of Columbia Jesse Liu to become the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes. As the US attorney in DC, Liu had been managing several of special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutions and referrals, including those involving Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, and Rick Gates.

Jan. 30, 2020: Attorney General William Barr names Timothy Shea, one of his closest advisers, to replace Liu as interim US attorney for the District of Columbia.

Awaiting Senate confirmation of her new post, Liu becomes a senior counsel to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Feb. 10-11: Based on federal sentencing guidelines, career prosecutors in Shea’s office handling Stone’s case recommend a prison sentence of seven to nine years. Trump protests:

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1227122206783811585

Hours later, the Justice Department says that its recommendation is “extreme” and “excessive” and that a new memorandum will outline its revised position. Shortly thereafter, the four federal attorneys who signed the original sentencing memorandum resign from the case. Jonathan Kravis — one of Stone’s prosecutors at trial — resigns from the Justice Department altogether.

As the day ends, Shea and Assistant US Attorney John Crabb Jr., who is newly assigned to the Stone case, file a revised memorandum acknowledging that the sentencing guideline factors set forth in the original memo were “perhaps technically applicable.” But the memo asserts that the previously proposed sentence of 87 to 108 months “could be considered excessive and unwarranted.”

The same day, Trump withdraws Liu’s nomination for the Treasury Department position and on Feb. 13, she resigns.

Feb. 12: Trump congratulates Barr for “taking charge” of the Stone case, “which perhaps should not even been brought”:

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1227561237782855680

Feb. 13: After Barr lets Trump know some of what he plans to say, Barr tells ABC News that Trump’s tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job…”

America is getting a first-hand look at what Barr thinks his job is. In the Stone case, Trump’s tweets outed him. Autocrats can punish their enemies and reward their friends. With the help of savvy accomplices, the rule of law can die at their hands — before our very eyes.