In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said that December 7 was a “date which will live in infamy.” Seventy-seven years later, it became infamous again. But the Pearl Harbor Day bombs of 2018 overshadowed an important new twist in the larger Trump-Russia conspiracy against the United States. It involves what became a favorite Trump campaign lie about Hillary Clinton.
And Russia helped Trump promote it.
The latest revelations about the Trump-Russia conspiracy to create and disseminate a false narrative around Hillary Clinton’s health became lost in last week’s sensational court filings relating to Mike Flynn, Michael Cohen, and Paul Manafort. So let’s start this week’s post by shining a spotlight on the “Hillary’s Health” smoking gun. Then we’ll get to Mueller’s Pearl Harbor Day 2018 and Trump’s newest problems arising from the separate federal prosecution of Cohen in Manhattan.
The Hillary Clinton Health Conspiracy
How did lies about Hillary Clinton’s health become a central feature of Trump’s campaign?
Here are the links in the chain behind that falsehood, which hit the stage in early August 2016:
WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange (custodian of emails that Russian Intelligence hacked) and RT (Russia’s state-owned television propaganda network) –> Jerome Corsi (Roger Stone’s associate) –> Roger Stone (Trump confidant) –> Trump (GOP presidential nominee) –> RT (media amplifier) –> Russian Intelligence (social media amplifier)
Go to the Trump-Russia Timeline, click on Julian Assange and Roger Stone, and pay particular attention to events beginning in June 2016. Many of them became public only last week:
JUNE 4, 8, 10, 17, 23, 2016: Representatives of Russia’s state-owned television propaganda network, RT, visit Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he is living in exile.
JULY 25: Roger Stone tells Jerome Corsi to get from WikiLeaks the emails that the Russians had hacked.
AUG. 2: Assange tells RT that WikiLeaks will release Clinton Foundation emails soon.
AUG. 2: Corsi informs Stone that WikiLeaks plans to release the hacked emails. Corsi also suggests that the Trump campaign should attack Clinton’s health.
AUG. 3: Stone speaks with Trump.
AUG. 4: Stone says that he “dined with Assange last night” and “devastating” WikiLeaks documents aimed at Clinton are coming soon.
AUG. 5: Stone tweets that Assange is a hero.
AUG. 8: Stone boasts that he has communicated with Assange.
AUG. 8: RT publishes a false story about Clinton’s health. The same day, Russian Intelligence operatives post the first of almost 500 tweets or retweets featuring the hashtag #HillarysHealth.
AUG. 8-11: Sean Hannity devotes an entire week to the bogus issue of Clinton’s health.
AUG. 15: Trump attacks Clinton’s health.
AUG. 30: RT itself begins using the hashtag #HillarysHealth in tweets to promote its articles on Clinton’s condition.
And so on and so on and so on…
When multiple pieces of evidence point in the same direction to yet another dimension of the Trump-Russia conspiracy to elect a US president, Trump’s defenders dismiss them as coincidences. But without any evidence at all, those same defenders claim that Trump — the clear beneficiary of Russia’s assistance — is the victim of a conspiracy against him, led by….Trump’s Justice Department, career federal servants, and lifelong Republicans, including Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein.
Here’s an idea: Let’s agree on a definition of conspiracy. Then let’s apply that definition in an even-handed way to the evidence in the Trump-Russia scandal. The only prerequisite to playing is a willingness to consider facts and put America ahead of political preferences.
That’s what Robert Mueller is doing. And he is discovering that the Trump-Russia octopus has many tentacles. That’s why Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone expect to be indicted. It’s also why — based on the Timeline, together with evidence that Mueller has and the public doesn’t — those expectations are reasonable.
Mueller’s Pearl Harbor Day 2018
Understandably, the media gave far more attention to the memoranda that Mueller filed in the cases involving Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, and Mike Flynn. Those filings include hints of much more Trump-Russia scandal to come:
— During the campaign, Trump and Cohen discussed ongoing prospective business deals with Russia that would bring “hundreds of millions of dollars” to the Trump Organization.
— During the campaign, intermediaries offered “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level” from Russia to help Trump win the election.
— Flynn is assisting Mueller’s “investigation concerning any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald J. Trump”;
— Well into 2018, Manafort’s representatives were in contact with representatives of the Trump administration. The lawyers among them who believe that attorney-client privilege and joint defense agreements will save them should take another look at the crime-fraud exception. At best, all of those individuals are now witnesses in Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation. Some could be subjects; some may be even targets. Stick with Trump long enough and that’s your fate.
A Separate Front: Campaign Finance Law Violations
Finally, a Dec. 7 filing in the Southern District of New York puts Trump in a new world of hurt that even firing Robert Mueller can’t stop. Prosecutors in the New York office of the acting US attorney — which is headed by Trump’s personal selection to replace Preet Bharara — accused Trump of directing Michael Cohen to violate federal campaign finance laws. Twice.
Together with David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer, Trump and Cohen devised a scheme to buy the silence of women claiming to be Trump’s former mistresses. The goal was to shut them up and thereby preserve Trump’s presidential prospects. At Trump’s direction, six-figure payments went to a former Playboy model and an adult-film actress.
Whether Trump can escape criminal prosecution while in office has been the subject of debate. But with respect to the SDNY case, Prof. Laurence Tribe argues persuasively that the Constitution mandates prosecution of a president who breaks the law to win the office. In any event, the SDNY filing renders three things beyond question:
First, even if Prof. Tribe’s analysis is wrong, Trump must win a second term to eliminate his criminal exposure. The moment he leaves office, the law can land on him like a ton of bricks — just as it would any other citizen. If convicted of the felonies in which he is now implicated, he’ll go to jail, unless he gets a pardon from his Oval Office successor.
Second, even assuming that Trump personally cannot be prosecuted while in office, other co-conspirators can. Future defendants could include the Trump Organization, senior executives, the Trump Foundation, and Trump family members Ivanka, Don Jr., and Eric. In fact, the key allegation against Trump refers to “one or more members of the campaign,” suggesting to Prof. Ryan Goodman and Andy Wright at JustSecurity.org that “more indictments for the hush money scheme may still be in the offing.” (Their analysis of the last week’s court filings is worth a careful read.)
And third, special counsel Robert Mueller isn’t prosecuting the campaign finance law conspiracy charges in Manhattan; the New York office of Trump’s Justice Department is. Even getting rid of Mueller won’t make that front in Trump’s war against the rule of law go away.
All around Trump, the walls are collapsing. Like a cornered, rabid animal, he becomes more dangerous every day.
And where is the complicit GOP in Congress? The silence is deafening.
Here are the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:
SEPT. 16, 2015: Trump Says He’d Get Along With Putin
SEPT. 17, 2015: Cohen Says Trump and Putin Might Meet Later This Month
OCT. 28, 2015: Trump Signs Letter of Intent for Trump Tower in Moscow (revision of previous entry)
NOVEMBER 2015: Cohen Speaks with ‘Trusted Person’ in Russia Offering ‘Political Synergy’ and ‘Synergy on a Government Level’ to Trump Campaign
JUNE 4, 2016: RT Visits Assange
JUNE 8, 2016: RT Visits Assange
JUNE 10, 2016: RT Visits Assange
JUNE 17, 2016: RT Visits Assange
JUNE 23, 2016: RT Visits Assange
AUG. 2, 2016: Assange Tells RT That WikiLeaks Will Release Clinton Foundation Emails
AUG. 5, 2016: Pecker Buys Rights to Karen McDougal’s Story; Trump Directs Cohen to Violate Campaign Finance Laws
AUG. 8-30, 2016: RT and Russian Intelligence Follow Corsi’s Predicted Strategy On Clinton’s Health, Clinton Foundation Through Media and Social Media
AUG. 8, 2016: Pecker’s National Enquirer Attacks Clinton’s Health
AUG. 15, 2018: Trump Attacks Clinton’s Health
OCT. 25-26, 2016: Giuliani Discusses Coming ‘Surprise’; Comey Orders Internal Investigation of FBI NY Office (revision of previous entry)
OCT. 26-27, 2016: Trump Again Directs Cohen to Violate Campaign Finance Laws; Cohen Signs Non-Disclosure Agreement with Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) (revision of previous entry)
AROUND MAY 15, 2017: Manafort Tries to Broker Assange Deal
AUG. 28-30, 2017: Story Breaks on Trump Tower-Moscow; Cohen Lies to Congress; Russia Participates in Trump/Cohen Cover-Up (revision of previous entry)
MAY 26, 2018: Manafort Authorizes Representative to Speak with Trump Administration Official On His Behalf
AUG. 7, 2018: At Cohen’s Request, He Meets with Mueller, Provides False Answers Regarding Trump Tower-Moscow
NOV. 26, 2018: Mueller Says Manafort Lied After Plea Agreement (revision of previous entry)
DEC. 3, 2018: Trump Tweets; Cohen Should Get ‘Full and Complete Sentence’; Praises Stone’s ‘Guts’; Attacks Mueller
DEC. 3, 2018: Stone Invokes Fifth Amendment
DEC. 4, 2018: Mueller’s Sentencing Memo Urges Leniency for Flynn
DEC. 5, 2018: Erickson Has Received ‘Target’ Letter
DEC. 6, 2018: Trump Tweets ‘Witch Hunt’, ‘Presidential Harassment’; Quotes Corsi: ‘This Is Not Justice’; Attacks FBI
DEC. 7, 2018: Trump Tweets Attack ‘Mueller Conflicts’, ‘Lyin’ James Comey’, Mueller’s Team Members, ’17 Angry Democrats’, ‘Crooked Hillary’, Clinton Foundation, Rosenstein ‘Conflicted’, Bruce Ohr, John Brennan, James Clapper, ‘Final Witch Hunt Report’
DEC. 7, 2018: Trump to Nominate Barr as AG
DEC. 7, 2018: Comey Testifies; Trump Tweets
DEC. 7, 2018: Mueller Aims at Manafort
DEC. 7, 2018: Mueller and SDNY File Briefs on Cohen; SDNY Implicates Trump
DEC. 7, 2018: Trump Tweets Another Lie: ‘Totally Clears the President’
DEC. 7, 2018: Treasury Dept. Delays Sanctions Against Rusal
DEC. 8, 2018: Trump Tweets: ‘NO COLLUSION!’, ‘Time for the Witch Hunt To END’
DEC. 9, 2018: Trump Tweets About Comey’s Dec. 7 Testimony
DEC. 10, 2018: Trump Tweets: ‘NO COLLUSION’, ‘WITCH HUNT’, ‘Cohen Just Trying To Get His Sentence Reduced’
Michael Cohen‘s surprise guilty plea on Nov. 29 and his sentencing memorandum the next day suggest that special counsel Robert Mueller is hard at work with a long way to go. For months, the media have reported the wishful thinking of Trump’s lawyers pushing the narrative that Mueller is “almost done” or “wrapping things up.”
None of that is coming from Mueller’s team. So when you hear or read that the “concluding phase” of the special counsel’s work is underway, consider the source. The media reporting those stories aren’t. Such predictions are not news. They are Trump-based propaganda.
Cohen Confirms Putin’s Leverage Over Trump
Mueller speaks exclusively through his court filings. And on Nov. 29, he did it through Michael Cohen’s plea. Trump’s trusted personal attorney for a dozen years has now told federal courts that he lied to Congress about what was happening during the 2016 presidential campaign. Specifically,
— Cohen followed Trump’s instructions and violated campaign finance laws by buying the silence of Trump’s former mistresses.
— Cohen pursued the Trump Tower-Moscow project as late as June 2016 and, along the way, kept Trump and the Trump family informed personally of its status and progress.
— Cohen and Trump discussed possible trips to Russia for meetings with top government officials about approvals and financing for Trump Tower-Moscow.
— All of Trump’s contrary statements that he never had anything to do with Russia were lies.
The last item is especially important.
For more than three years, Putin has known more about Trump’s dealings with Russia than the American people have. That information gap has been a source of Putin’s leverage over Trump and highlights the fundamental question driving Mueller’s counterintelligence investigation:
What else does Putin know about Trump that the American public does not, and when did he learn it?
More is coming. Cohen is cooperating with Mueller, the New York Attorney General, and the New York State Department of Tax and Finance in connection with ongoing investigations into Trump, the Trump Organization, and the Trump Foundation.
Less Obvious Danger to Trump Loyalists and Lawyers
Here’s an under-reported nugget in the Cohen sentencing memo that should have Trump’s lawyers especially concerned: As Cohen was crafting lies that he told Congress, he kept Trump’s legal team informed. He wanted to make sure that he was following Trump’s desired Trump-Russia messaging. That could be a problem for Trump’s lawyers.
I’ve read all of the publicly released transcripts of witnesses who testified before the farcical House investigation into Trump-Russia. Some witnesses treated the proceedings cavalierly. They probably thought that blowing off the Trump Party-controlled Congress posed had no downside risk.
Donald Trump Jr. and Erik Prince, for example, knew that their allies in the Trump Party (formerly the GOP) would never authorize contempt proceedings and thereby force full and complete answers to proper questions that Democrats in Congress had posed to them. Absurd invocations of “executive privilege” and evasive non-answers went unchallenged. Trump and his loyalists emerged unscathed.
Or so they and Trump thought.
Case Studies for Future Law Students
On Nov. 6, Trump, Don Jr., and Prince probably started sweating when Democrats won control of the House. Suddenly, the prospect of new subpoenas and contempt proceedings loomed large.
But Cohen’s surprise plea must have sent them reeling as much as it sent Trump tweeting. That’s because Mueller prosecuted Cohen — and obtained a guilty plea — for his false statements to Congress, not to Mueller or his team. In the long run, the Trump Party in the House had afforded them no protection at all.
Mueller has some of those congressional transcripts, including Don Jr.’s and Prince’s. Soon he’ll have the rest. That means more indictments are coming. It also means predicting that Mueller will wrap up his work by the end of the year is, well, wandering out on a fragile limb.
For a summary of the many Trump minions who have lied to federal authorities (including Congress) about Trump-Russia, look at Ryan Goodman’s thorough and meticulously sourced “Perjury Chart” at JustSecurity.org.
History Lesson Not Learned
Which takes us to the problem for Trump’s lawyers. They have crafted more than 30 “joint defense agreements” with various witnesses and subjects in Mueller’s investigation. In doing so, the Trump legal team may have outsmarted itself.
Based on Cohen’s plea, it sure looks like some of Trump’s attorneys were aware that Cohen was going to appear before Congress and spout Trump’s false messaging — i.e., lie. Who else besides Cohen went through such a coordination exercise? Mueller knows and soon the public will, too.
At best, those attorneys are now witnesses to potential obstruction of justice. At worst, they are targets of such an inquiry.
Watch This Space
More than 20 Watergate attorneys were involved in wronging. Some lost their licenses; some landed in prison; some suffered both fates. It’s time to start a tally of imprisoned and/or disbarred Trump-Russia players with law degrees.
In the weeks and months ahead, this list will grow:
Paul Manafort (JD, Georgetown, ’74)
Michael Cohen (JD, Cooley, ’91)
Alex van der Zwaan (LLB, King’s College, ’06)
Here are the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:
OCT. 28, 2015: Trump Signs Letter of Intent for Trump Tower in Moscow (revision of previous entry)
NOVEMBER 3, 2015: Sater and Cohen Pursue Trump Tower-Moscow
REVISED: NOVEMBER 2015-JUNE 2016: Cohen Keeps Trump Informed of Trump Tower-Moscow Developments; Sater and Cohen Consider a Free $50 Million Penthouse for Putin (revision of previous entry)
JAN. 14, 2016: Cohen Seeks Kremlin’s Help in Trump Tower Deal (revision of previous entry)
JAN. 16-21, 2016: Cohen Sends Another Message to Moscow; Kremlin Responds
MAY 4, 2016: Cohen and Sater Discuss Trump Trip to Russia
MAY 5, 2016: Sater Invites Cohen to St. Petersburg, Russia for Potential Putin/Medvedev Meeting
JUNE 2016: Cohen Discusses Status of Moscow Project with Trump
JUNE 14, 2016: Cohen Ditches Plan to Visit Russia
JULY 25, 2016: Stone Tells Corsi to Get WikiLeaks’ Hacked Emails
JULY 26, 2016: Trump: ‘I Have Nothing to Do With Russia’
AUG. 2-11, 2016: Corsi Informs Stone of WikiLeaks’ Plans, Suggests Attacking Clinton’s Health; Stone Talks to Trump; Hannity Helps
OCT. 9, 2016: Trump on Russia: ‘I Don’t Deal There’
OCT. 24, 2016: Trump: ‘I Have Nothing to Do With Russia’
OCT. 26, 2016: Trump: ‘I Have Nothing to Do With Russia’
JAN. 11, 2017: Trump: ‘We’ve Stayed Away’ From Deals in Russia
FEB. 7, 2017: Trump Tweets: ‘I Don’t Know Putin; Have No Deals in Russia’
AUG. 28-30, 2017: Story Breaks on Trump Tower-Moscow; Russia Participates in Trump/Cohen Cover-Up
SEPT. 1, 2017: Trump’s Lawyers Ask Rosenstein to Investigate Comey
SPRING 2018: Trump Tells McGahn to Investigate Clinton and Comey
REVISED: SEPT. 14, 2018: Manafort Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Cooperate with Mueller But Continues Feeding Info to Trump (revision of previous entry)
OCT. 22, 2018: Giuliani Admits Manafort Is Feeding Mueller Info To Trump Lawyers; Trump Has 32 Joint Defense Agreements with Mueller Witnesses or Subjects
NOV. 9, 2018: Court Wants Briefs on Impact of Whitaker Replacing Sessions (revision of previous entry)
WEEK OF NOV. 12, 2018: Trump Gets Draft of Corsi Plea Deal
NOV. 16, 2018: Papadopoulos Seeks Postponement (revision of previous entry)
NOV. 16-29, 2018: Comey Responds to GOP Congressional Demands With Desire to Appear Publicly; Cuts Deal (revision of previous entry)
NOV. 19, 2018: Senate Democrats File Suit to Remove Whitaker
NOV. 20, 2018: Trump Has Provided Written Answers to Mueller; Topics Include WikiLeaks, Trump Tower Meeting, and GOP Platform Change
NOV. 23, 2018: Corsi Says He’s in Plea Talks With Mueller
NOV. 25, 2018: Russia Captures Ukrainian Naval Vessels in Black Sea; EU Issues Immediate Condemnation; Trump Equivocates
NOV. 26, 2018: Trump Tweets About Anticipated Mueller Report, ‘Hundreds of People’ Who Had No Campaign Contact with Russians
NOV. 26, 2018: Mueller Says Manafort Lied After Plea Agreement
NOV. 27, 2018: Trump Tweets About ‘Conflicted’ Mueller, ‘Phony Witch Hunt’, ‘Gang of Angry Democrats’, Clinton E-mail Server
NOV. 27, 2018: Trump Retweets Image of Critics, Mueller, and Rosenstein: ‘When Do Trials For Treason Begin?’
NOV. 28, 2018: Trump Tweets About ‘Gang of Angry Dems’, ‘Witch Hunt’, ‘Hoax’
NOV. 28, 2018: Trump Says Manafort Pardon ‘on the Table’, Rips Mueller
NOV. 29, 2018: Trump Tweets About ‘Mueller and the Angry Democrats’, ‘Crooked Hillary’
NOV. 29, 2018: Cohen Pleads Guilty in Mueller Probe; Coordinated False Congressional Statements with Trump Legal Team
NOV. 29, 2018: Kremlin Reverses Earlier Cover-Up Statement About Cohen Emails
NOV. 29-30, 2018: Trump Cancels G-20 Meeting with Putin; Kremlin Pushes Back; Trump Says He Might Meet with Putin After All
NOV. 29, 2018: Trump Blasts Cohen
NOV. 29, 2018: German Authorities Raid Deutsche Bank
NOV. 29, 2018: Trump Tweets: ‘Witch Hunt’, ‘Hoax,’ Cites Dershowitz
NOV. 30, 2018: Trump Tweets: ‘Lightly Looked at Doing a Building Somewhere in Russia’ While Running for President
After pushing Attorney General Jeff Sessions out of office, Trump bypassed a plethora of qualified potential replacements. Without question, they would have been constitutionally eligible for the job of acting attorney general. They would have no disabling conflicts of interest relating to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. They would not have brought with them a history of conspiracy theories, nonsensical legal views, and untoward business ventures.
Instead, Trump chose Matthew Whitaker, who comes with all of that baggage and more. To Trump, he’s a “three-fer”: political hack, vocal critic of Mueller’s probe, and unapologetic Trump loyalist.
In March 2017, Trump was increasingly frustrated with his unsuccessful efforts to stop the Trump-Russia probe. Referring to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s (R-WI) notorious 1950s attorney and hatchet-man, he asked:
“Where’s my Roy Cohn?”
Now Trump has provided the answer: Matthew Whitaker.
The federal courts will resolve the serious legal questions surrounding Whitaker’s legitimacy as acting attorney general. But that may be the least of his problems — which are now the country’s problems — revolving around a single question: Why did Trump send Attorney General Jeff Sessions packing and appoint Whitaker in his place?
Don’t ask Trump. He’ll lie. Even when the truth is obvious, he lies.
Whitaker Got the Job for a Reason
Go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on Jeff Sessions’ and Matthew Whitaker’s names. Combining the entries for the two men reveals how Whitaker auditioned for and won a leading role in Trump’s ongoing attack on the rule of law.
On March 3, 2017 — the day after Sessions’ recused himself from the Russia probe — Trump began his relentless barrage against the attorney general. After Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel on May 17, Trump turned up the heat.
Enter Matthew Whitaker, who followed the advice of his fellow failed Iowa politician, Sam Clovis — a grand jury witness in Mueller’s investigation. Clovis had told Whitaker that if he wanted Trump’s favorable attention, Whitaker should get a gig as a cable news commentator and use that forum to blast the Mueller probe.
Roll the Tape
— June 21: Whitaker appears on a right-wing talk radio show and declares: “The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign.”
— July 10: Whitaker defends Don Jr.’s decision to meet with Russians at Trump Tower.
— July 19: Using the vehicle of a New York Times interview, Trump continues attacking Sessions.
— July 26: As a CNN pundit, Whitaker outlines a strategy for killing the Mueller probe: fire Sessions; install a Trump lackey as an acting attorney general; let the lackey starve the Mueller probe of funds; Trump-Russia investigation dies.
— July 2017, White House counsel Don McGahn interviews Whitaker about becoming a Trump “legal attack dog” against Mueller. Reportedly, Whitaker didn’t get the job, but you wouldn’t know it from his subsequent behavior:
— August 6: Whitaker criticizes Mueller as “going to far” if he crosses the red line of looking into Trump or Trump family finances.
— August 7: Whitaker says he fears Mueller will engage in a “fishing expedition.”
— August: McGahn pressures Sessions to hire Whitaker as Sessions’ chief of staff.
— Sept. 22: Sessions hires Whitaker as his chief of staff.
— Nov. 7: Trump fires Sessions and appoints Whitaker as acting AG.
Trump Lies About Whitaker for a Reason
In a Nov. 16 interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Trump said with a straight face that he had no idea Whitaker held views that were hostile to the Mueller investigation. He claimed not to know that Whitaker-as-CNN pundit had outlined the very strategy that Trump has now employed: fire Sessions and appoint a loyalist lackey who is hostile to the Mueller probe.
But during an interview with the Daily Caller only two days earlier, a reporter’s question about the new acting attorney general caused Trump to make the immediate and obvious connection between Whitaker’s appointment and the Russia probe. Trump said:
“I knew him only as he pertained, you know, as he was with Jeff Sessions. And, you know, look, as far as I’m concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. It should have never been had. It’s something that should have never been brought. It’s an illegal investigation.”
It was another “Lester Holt moment.” Just as Trump had admitted on national television that he fired James Comey because Comey was allowing “the Russia thing” to proceed, so, too, Trump acknowledged to the Daily Caller his true motive for firing Sessions and appointing Whitaker: the Russia investigation.
Whitaker Can’t Win This One
Blinded by ambition and personal loyalty to Trump, Whitaker won Sessions’ job. Assuming the federal courts don’t boot him first, he’s still destined for an ignominious end. After completIng Trump’s assigned mission, he’ll go the way of all Trump lackeys who outlive their usefulness. Like them, he will have planted himself firmly on the wrong side of history; his reputation will lie in tatters; his legacy will be another page in the dark chapter of American history known as the Trump era.
It’s the Trumpian way. Call it the reverse-King Midas touch. There’s no honor in becoming Trump’s Roy Cohn.
Here are the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:
AUG. 27-28, 2016: Smith Meets with Hackers in DC
AUGUST 2017: McGahn Pressures Sessions to Hire Whitaker
SEPT. 22, 2017: Sessions Yields to White House Pressure; Whitaker Becomes Sessions’ Chief of Staff, West Wing’s ‘Eyes and Ears’ at DOJ (revision of previous entry)
AUG. 13, 2018: Another Judge Rejects Challenges to Mueller’s Authority (revision of previous entry)
AUG. 22, 2018: Court Filing Refers Mysteriously to Assange
NOV. 12, 2018: Corsi Says He Expects to Be Indicted; Doesn’t Recall Meeting Assange
NOV. 12, 2018: Trump Refuses to Sign Int’l Cyberattack Attack Accord
NOV. 13, 2018: State of Maryland Challenges Whitaker Appointment
NOV. 14, 2018: McConnell Blocks Bill to Protect Mueller
NOV. 14, 2018: Gates Still Cooperating: Sentencing Process Delayed
NOV. 14, 2018: Trump Pleased with Whitaker
NOV. 15, 2018: Trump Tweets about ‘Inner Workings’ of Mueller Probe; Lies About Mueller; Decries ‘Witch Hunt’; Slams Others
NOV. 15, 2018: Graham: Whitaker Sees No Reason to Fire Mueller
NOV. 16, 2018: Papadopoulos Seeks Postponement
NOV. 16, 2018: Trump Comments on Mueller ‘Hoax’ and Answers to Written Questions
NOV. 16, 2018: Comey Responds to GOP Congressional Demands
NOV. 16, 2018: Trump Trusts Whitaker to Do ‘What’s Right’, Claims Ignorance of Whitaker’s Views about Mueller Probe
NOV. 18. 2018: Trump Attacks Schiff, Mueller
The Trump-Russia Timeline is particularly useful this week. It helps seemingly unrelated pieces of the puzzle come together. The emerging picture is frightening.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions “resigned” — at Trump’s request. The more appropriate employment law concept for his departure is “constructive discharge” — that’s when a hostile work environment drives an employee from a job. Whatever the reason, the implications for the country are profound: Trump has begun his final assault on special counsel Robert Mueller and the rule of law. American democracy’s alarm bells are blaring.
This is not a drill.
Mueller Protector Gone
When Sessions recused himself from the Mueller probe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein assumed supervisory responsibility for the investigation. The results through Nov. 13, 2018: criminal charges against 32 individuals and 3 entities; guilty pleas from several prominent Trump advisers, including former national security adviser Mike Flynn, George Papadopoulos, and deputy campaign Rick Gates; jury verdicts against campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Mueller isn’t done. Absent interference, more indictments and a final report are coming. But compared to all previous special counsels, he has already achieved stunning results in record time. For example, the Iran-Contra and Whitewater investigations and related proceedings each continued for more than four years and yielded far less.
Matthew Whitaker’s Mission
This week, Matthew Whitaker became Trump’s latest assault weapon. For that, Whitaker earns his own pop-up bubble and name filter on the Trump-Russia Timeline. He could be on his way to earning an orange jumpsuit, too.
Trump chose Whitaker to complete a mission: end the federal investigations that threaten Trump’s presidency, his wealth, and even his personal freedom. Any doubters need look no farther than Whitaker’s record before Sept. 22, 2017, when he became Sessions’ chief of staff at the Justice Department.
Whitaker Has A Mueller Problem
Sam Clovis was national co-chairman of the Trump campaign. In 2014, he had run unsuccessfully for the Iowa Republican nomination to the US Senate. So did Matthew Whitaker. They became such good friends that Whitaker ran Clovis’ next campaign — for Iowa state treasurer, also in 2014. Clovis lost that one, too, but the two men remained friends.
Here’s the thing: Clovis has appeared before Mueller’s grand jury. To see why, go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on his name. Clovis intersects with several important Trump-Russia players: including George Papadopoulos and Carter Page. Click on all three names and look at the resulting entries to get a small sample the breadth and depth of Clovis’s Trump-Russia problems.
Here’s the punchline: Shortly after Clovis’ grand jury appearance and Papadopoulos’ guilty plea identifying Clovis as the recipient of emails relating to Trump campaign contacts with Russia, Clovis withdrew his nomination to become Trump’s top scientist for the US Department of Agriculture — a position he was never qualified to hold.
Whitaker Has A Bias Problem
From October 2014 to September 2017, Whitaker was executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT). The organization publicizes what it describes as ethical lapses by prominent Democrats and asks government agencies and law enforcement to investigate them. In other words, Whitaker was a GOP attack dog.
Immediately before Whitaker joined Trump’s Justice Department, he was a paid legal commentator for CNN — a gig that Clovis recommended he pursue. Among Whitaker’s stated opinions:
— Hillary Clinton should have been indicted (he wrote that in a July 2016 op-ed complaining about Comey’s explanation for not recommending prosecution);
— There was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign;
— Donald Trump Jr. did nothing wrong in meeting with Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016;
— Mueller would exceed his mandate if he ventured into the financial affairs of Trump or his family;
— One way to kill the Mueller probe would be for Trump to fire Sessions, name an acting AG who could then cut Mueller’s budget and starve the investigation to death.
And so on, and so on, and so on….
Whitaker has other baggage. Beginning in October 2014, he was an advisory board member for a scam company that the federal government shut down in May 2017. The FBI still has an active criminal investigation on the company. If Whitaker keeps his job as head of the Justice Department, he’ll be in ultimate charge of all DOJ agencies, including the FBI.
And for the lawyers in the audience, Whitaker thinks Marbury v. Madison — the seminal case establishing the federal courts’ power to review the constitutionality of legislation — is a “bad ruling.” He also said “good judges” follow the New Testament.
As for whether he’ll remain in the position that he nominally holds, a bipartisan group of lawyers and legal scholars — including Kellyanne Conway‘s husband — insists that his appointment is unconstitutional.
America Has a Whitaker Problem
Reportedly, Whitaker has already told aides that, even though the DOJ’s ethics experts should review Whitaker’s conflicts of interest and admitted biases, he will not recuse himself from the Mueller’s probe.
Here’s what CNN reported last week:
“‘He’s political to his core,’ a friend said of Whitaker.
“Several GOP officials in Iowa who have known Whitaker for a long time say they were surprised by his shift in the Trump era. He was a George W. Bush loyalist — named a former US attorney in Iowa under Bush — but like many others, he has become a big admirer of Trump along the way.
“‘He worships him,’ a longtime friend said of Whitaker and Trump.”
American democracy’s alarm bells are blaring. This is not a drill.
Here’s the complete list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:
OCTOBER 2014: Whitaker Participates in GOP Assault on Democrats; Involved in Scam Company
NOV. 4, 2014: Clovis Loses Bid to Become Iowa State Treasurer
AUGUST 2015: Trump-Pecker Deal To Silence Women
JULY 5, 2016: Whitaker Says He Would Have Indicted Clinton
AUG. 4, 2016: Stone Talks About WikiLeaks’ Impending Releases
OCT. 3-4, 2016: Stone and Bannon Discuss WikiLeaks and Raising ‘$$$’
OCT. 26, 2016: Cohen Signs Non-Disclosure Agreement With Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) (revision of previous entry)
MARCH 3, 2017: Whitaker Says Trump-Russia Conspiracy ‘Crazy’
JUNE 21, 2017: Whitaker Says ‘No Collusion’
JULY 10, 2017: Whitaker Defends Don Jr.’s Trump Tower Meeting; Gets Trump’s Attention
JULY 26, 2017: Whitaker Outlines Strategy For Killing Mueller Probe
AUG. 6, 2017: Whitaker: Mueller Investigation ‘Going Too Far’; Tweet ‘To Trump Lawyers’
AUG. 7, 2017: Whitaker Fears Mueller ‘Fishing Expedition’
SEPT. 22, 2017: Whitaker Becomes Sessions’ Chief of Staff, West Wing’s ‘Eyes and Ears’ at DOJ
SEPT. 7, 2018: Credico Appears Before Mueller’s Grand Jury; Corsi Initially Bows Out, But Appears Two Weeks Later (revision of previous entry)
OCT. 11, 2018: Trump: ‘Matt Whitaker’s a Great Guy… I Know Him”
DURING THE WEEK OF OCT. 22, 2018: Mueller Reports Pay-Off Scheme to FBI
OCT. 23, 2018: Trump: I ‘Probably Will‘ Meet With Putin in Paris on November 10-11 (revision of previous entry)
OCT. 26, 2018: Mueller Questions Bannon About Stone
NOV 2, 2018: Kremlin: Putin and Trump to Meet at G-20 in Buenos Aires
NOV. 5-11, 2018: Trump Says He Won’t Meet With Putin In Paris; Kremlin Disagrees; They Meet
NOV. 6, 2018: Election Day: Rohrabacher Loses; Democrats Win House; Republicans Keep Senate
NOV. 7, 2018: Trump Tweets About Mueller ‘Witch Hunt’
NOV. 7, 2018: Trump Fires Sessions; Whitaker Becomes Acting AG
NOV. 9, 2018: Trump: ‘I Don’t Know Matt Whitaker’; Didn’t Discuss Mueller Probe With Him, Russia ‘Hoax’
NOV. 9, 2018: Court Wants Briefs on Impact of Whitaker Replacing Sessions
NOV. 9, 2018: Trump Defends Whitaker
Three domestic white supremacist terror attacks on America in three days. Future historians may view these events as early shots in the nation’s Second Civil War. If so, Trump is supplying the ammunition.
Future historians may also ask why Trump would do that.
Here’s a lead for them to pursue: Trump’s scorched-democracy strategy may be his only path to surviving the Trump-Russia probe. Trump’s biographers — especially those who have gotten to know him and his techniques best, including Tim O’Brien and David Cay Johnston — have warned that Trump will do anything to survive.
That is exactly what we are seeing in real time.
Lost in the Shuffle
On Thursday, Oct. 25, a white supremacist attacked in Louisville, Kentucky. Gregory Bush, an armed, 51-year-old white man, tried to enter a black church. Locked doors stopped him. His consolation prize became two innocent black senior citizens at the nearby Kroger supermarket.
Trump’s response: silence.
Then two more prominent attacks swamped the episode.
“On Both Sides…”
On Friday, Oct. 26, federal authorities arrested the suspected MAGAbomber. Another middle-aged white male, Cesar Sayoc, was accused of sending pipe bombs to Trump’s most prominent rhetorical targets, including Hillary Clinton and CNN.
When the bombs began arriving two days earlier, Trump responded initially by echoing the “false flag” hypothesis that his most ardent supporters were pushing: This was an attempt by Democrats to rob him of media coverage going into the midterms. Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Lou Dobbs, Geraldo Rivera. Donald Trump Jr., and others suggested variously that: 1) liberals and/or Democratic operatives were behind the plot; 2) the bombs were “fake” (they weren’t according to FBI Director Christoper Wray); and/or 3) the whole thing was an elaborate hoax.
Then came the truth: Sayoc is a fanatical Trump supporter. At a Trump rally last year, he held up a “CNN sucks” sign. When asked about the accused attacker, Trump said: “I heard he was a person who prefers me over others, but I did not see that.”
Trump refused to answer a reporter’s follow-up question: Does he disavow Sayoc’s support? But the answer came less than two days later when Trump led rally crowds cheering “CNN sucks” and “Lock her up.”
“If There Was An Armed Guard…”
On Saturday, Oct. 27, another domestic terrorist killed eleven worshippers at Pittsburgh’s oldest synagogue. Shortly before he attacked, 46-year-old Robert Bowers railed against the “migrant caravan” — a favorite Trump midterm campaign theme — and the role of Jews who were bringing in immigrants determined to destroy America.
“If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him,” Trump told reporters as he boarded a flight to rallies in Indiana and Illinois. Most telling of all: Trump didn’t cancel his campaign rallies.
Method, Not Madness
Trump understands the impact of his words, especially on his most ardent and psychologically fragile followers. Those words are no longer dog whistles; they’re bullhorns summoning the lesser angels of human nature. When Trump boasts that he’s a “nationalist” and talks about good people “on both sides” of hate crimes — drawing a false moral equivalence between the perpetrators and their victims — he knows exactly what he’s saying and to whom he is saying it. He uses words as bullets, and he knows when he’s pulling the trigger.
Remember when Trump said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”
Well, right now, he has aimed the gun at the heart of American democracy.
Trump the predator has made what was once the Republican party his host species. As a result, for the past two years he has functioned without any legislative check on his power.
On November 6, that must change. Vote for a Democrat. Any Democrat. A single Democratically-controlled house of Congress won’t solve the nation’s Trump problem. That will take generations. But it’s a start. And if we don’t start somewhere, well…
Vote. On November 6, just vote.
Here are the latest additions to the Trump-Russia Timeline:
JAN. 6, 2018: Stone Says He’s Urging Pardon for Assange
OCT. 22, 2018: Bolton Says Russian Election Interference Had No Impact
OCT. 23, 2018: Trump Blasts Cohen Over Tapes
OCT. 23, 2018: Trump: I ‘Probably Will‘ Meet With Putin in November
OCT. 25-26, 2018: House Republicans Interview Papadopoulos; Papadopoulos Has Second Thoughts About Plea Deal, Seeks Immunity from Senate
OCT. 26, 2018: White House Formally Invites Putin to Washington
Vile intent + Trump’s incompetent government + Fox News = unspeakable tragedy.
That’s the equation for the latest developments in the family separation saga and Trump’s related immigration demagoguery.
More Kidnapped Kids? Now?
In an Oct. 25 court filing, the Department of Health and Human Services admitted that it has “found” another 14 kids who should be recategorized as “possible children” separated from their parents at the border. According to Trump’s government, the total number has now risen from 2,654 to 2,668.
If Democrats gain control of just a single house of Congress, a real investigation will reveal the truth. When that happens, expect that number to go up.
Reunification Is No Panacea
Of course, reunification after weeks or months of separation doesn’t undo the damage. For example, after a three-month separation from her parents, a two-year-old girl from Honduras appeared in a federal immigration court where an attorney on her behalf requested voluntary return to her home country.
Two weeks later, she and seven other separated children arrived at San Pedro Sula airport. She greeted her mother with a blank stare. No smile of recognition. Nothing.
There Is No Bottom, But There Is Violence
Meanwhile, Trump politicizes the immigration issue, calling the upcoming election the “caravan-Kavanaugh” midterms. He’s sending thousands of US troops to the southern border to deal with what he describes as an “invasion” by refugees. To do what, exactly? The answer: Serve as props in Trump’s latest publicity stunt.
Under the Posse Comitatus Act, it’s unlawful to deploy the US military for domestic law enforcement purposes. (As for Trump’s assertion that he’ll issue an executive order declaring that children of illegal immigrants born in the US are not citizens, ignore him. The US Constitution’s 14th Amendment stands in his way.)
Trump supporters at Fox & Friends have followed his lead, describing the threat as migrants who may be carrying “diseases.” “They will infect Americans,” Fox’s guests proclaim, rattling off an absurd list: leprosy (almost zero cases in the migrants’ South American countries of origin), smallpox (no evidence of that anywhere in the world), and tuberculosis (the US already has cases of those).
When Fake News Is Really Fake — and Deadly
In the deranged mind of the Pittsburgh synagogue killer, Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric intersected with his immigration policy to produce tragic consequences. On social media, Robert Bowers had railed against the “migrant caravan” and the role of Jews in bringing immigrants to America. And then he gunned down 11 unarmed Jews during a worship service.
Where would Bowers get such a nonsensical idea? Try Fox News. For weeks, the “Jews funding migrant caravan” theme has been a network staple. In particular, Fox has joined Alex Jones’ Infowars and other far-right voices linking George Soros, a prominent Jew, to the caravan.
Only two days before the synagogue attack, Fox News’ Lou Hobbs interviewed Chris Farrell, Judicial Watch’s director of investigations and research. Farrell talked about the migrant caravan, saying, “A lot of these folks have affiliates that are getting money from the Soros-occupied State Department.”
Hours after the shooting, Fox rebroadcast the interview.
In a tweet, Dobbs — who attacks Soros regularly — had also ridiculed news coverage of pipe bombs sent to 14 prominent Trump critics: “Fake news – Fake bombs. Who could possibly benefit by so much fakery?” When a fanatical Trump supporter became the prime suspect in that attack, Dobbs deleted the tweet.
Where else might Bowers have heard the lies that motivated him? Try congressional Republicans. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) questioned whether Soros was funding the caravan; Fox News dutifully reported it.
And last week, George Soros was one of the pipe-bomber’s intended victims.
Vote. On November 6, just vote.