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After years of legal sparring, the House Ways and Means Committee finally received former President Donald Trump's tax returns from while he was president when the IRS transmitted them this week, belatedly allowing for congressional oversight of his finances in the brief window before the incoming Republican House majority takes over the committee.
On Thursday's edition of MSNBC's "Deadline: White House," Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen raged about how long this process had taken — and how the former president has gamed the system every step of the way.
"The Mueller team never had Trump's taxes," said anchor Nicolle Wallace. "Do you think DOJ has them, and how long do you think they had them?"
"It would be nice for them to tell us," said Cohen, who once went to prison after committing tax fraud for Trump. "But while I was on your show so many times, I've always said that Donald Trump's power is delay, delay, delay ... what Donald did is he delayed the ability to get the tax returns. You remember at the House Oversight Committee, you have people like Mr. Clay and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and all asking me questions about Donald Trump's taxes, about how he moves money around. And I gave them the answer. They should have been able to get those tax returns immediately. So that now with the change of the House, it wouldn't be affected by it. And this is unfair. It is unfair to America, it is unfair to the American people. You would never have gotten away with it, certainly, I would have 48 hours to turn them over based on Southern District of New York's attitude."
The upshot, fumed Cohen, is that "this guy skates over two and a half years ... weaponizing the government and to prevent the returns from being shown. And now it looks like he's going to win that again."
"This is just wrong," said Cohen. "We have to hold government accountable to move in a more expeditious manner. Because the way that they move now, only benefits the guilty. And Donald Trump is guilty of all of the allegations regarding his tax returns that I put forth during that oversight hearing."
Michael Cohen slams Trump for "weaponizing" IRS www.youtube.com
Last year, federal prosecutors began investigating Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and an associate, local Florida county tax official Joel Greenberg, over allegations that they transported an underage girl across state lines and paid her for sex. Ultimately, Greenberg was sentenced to 11 years in prison after substantial cooperation with authorities — but Gaetz never faced charges.
On MSNBC Thursday, national security expert Michael Schmidt explained a key reason that might be.
"In documents filed in connection with Mr. Greenberg's sentencing, the Justice Department said he, quote, 'provided truthful and timely information that led to the charging of at least four of other people and provided substantial assistance on other matters that the government would address only in a sealed filing,'" said anchor Nicolle Wallace. "Do you have any sense of what the other matters are, and if Mr. Greenberg is viewed as credible and witnessed Mr. Gaetz, quote, 'having sex with the 17-year-old girl'? I believe it's the same one and having evidence she was paid. Why Mr. Gaetz hasn't been charged with the same crimes that Mr. Greenberg was sentenced for today?"
"A high-profile matter is complicated for the Justice Department," said Schmidt. "The Justice Department, as you have seen, has moved very sort of methodically and, you know, at times, you know, according to the critics, slowly on the issues of politicians because they want to do a painstaking job to make sure they follow the evidence and the evidence is there to bring a case. It is — while we're supposed to be treated equally under the law, it is more difficult to bring a prosecution against a high-profile politician, a member of Congress that allied himself so closely with Donald Trump. And I think that if the department were to bring a case and lose a case, it would have enormous consequences."
Greenberg, by contrast, was much easier to go after, argued Schmidt.
"The decision to bring the charge in that sense against someone like Matt Gaetz is a much weightier decision than when the government had enormous amount of evidence against Joel Greenberg ... and could get him to flip and cooperate," said Schmidt. "He had a lawyer who realized that the only pathway to reduce his sentence time was to cooperate. Greenberg was looking at up to three decades in prison for his crimes. He was sentenced to 11 years. That's a significant departure. That was due to his cooperation."
Watch below or at this link.
Michael Schmidt on why Matt Gaetz wasn't charged with trafficking www.youtube.com
On Thursday, CNN reported that a federal appeals court dealt a massive blow to former President Donald Trump, ending the special master review of the documents FBI agents seized from his Mar-a-Lago resort.
"In a ruling on Thursday, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s order appointing a so-called special master to sort through thousands of documents found at Trump’s home to determine what should be off limits to investigators," reported Tierney Sneed. "'The law is clear,' the appeals court wrote. 'We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so.'"
The ruling overturns the review that was put in place by District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, who ordered the review after Trump requested it. Many legal experts considered this a stall tactic in a case in which the former president has potential criminal liability.
The three-judge panel on the 11th Circuit, which also included two Trump appointees, found that Cannon "improperly exercised" her authority, and to allow the review to proceed would "defy our nation's foundational principle that the law applies to all."
The special master himself, Senior Judge Raymond Dearie of Brooklyn, was himself skeptical of the way Trump and his attorneys were using his review.
Even before this ruling, the 11th Circuit had narrowed the scope of the special master review, holding that the Justice Department and intelligence community were entitled to at least the documents clearly marked classified, to conduct a national security review.