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