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Republicans will have to answer for Trump’s sustained assault on law enforcement

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- Commentary
Terry H. Schwadron
Terry H. Schwadron

Opening a broad review of how over two years, Trump has worked publicly and privately to thwart the widening investigations that threaten him, his family, his presidency and his businesses, The New York Times had a startling disclosure:

Trump asked his acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, to put a political ally—who had recused himself—in charge of the Michael Cohen investigation, apparently to halt it or put a friend in charge of it. Whitaker apparently said no, but the disclosure drew wide perceptions from both sides of the aisle as a blatant attempted obstruction of justice—and coincidentally put Whitaker in the position of coming very close to having lied to Congress about any presidential request to interfere in the investigations.

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The Times said Trump called Whitaker as the case involving Trump payments to silence two women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign. Trump asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the former Rudy Giuliani partner named U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call.

This article was originally published at DCReport

“Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to ‘jump on a grenade’ for the president, knew he could not put Berman in charge because Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away.”

That incident and others described in dozens of interviews and documents were depicted as part of a pattern over two years that shows “the extent of an even more sustained, more secretive assault by Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement.”

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The Times added: “The story of Mr. Trump’s attempts to defang the investigations has been voluminously covered in the news media, to such a degree that many Americans have lost track of how unusual his behavior is. But fusing the strands reveals an extraordinary story of a president who has attacked the law enforcement apparatus of his own government like no other president in history, and who has turned the effort into an obsession. Mr. Trump has done it with the same tactics he once used in his business empire: demanding fierce loyalty from employees, applying pressure tactics to keep people in line and protecting the brand—himself—at all costs.”

So, what are we to make of all of this? Surely, Trump has defended himself, and just as surely, he has put his own well-being at the center of his defense, allowing others to be thrown under the bus along the way.

This is not about Russian “collusion.” These questions that have arisen with Cohen have centered on Trump’s own behaviors and statements.

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That the president is not a good guy is not exactly news. That in obsessive pursuit of his own innocence, Trump may indeed have committed what looks like obstruction of justice is obviously more fodder for the continuing Special Counsel investigation.

Meanwhile yesterday, NBC reported that former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the “Today” show that he briefed congressional leaders about the counterintelligence investigation he had opened into Trump and that “no one objected.” That, of course, was about the Russian connections.

McCabe said, “That’s the important part here,” that upon informing the “Gang of Eight” bipartisan group of leaders in Congress, “No one objected. Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds and not based on the facts.”

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The purpose of the briefing in 2017 was to let the congressional leadership, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, then-House Speaker Paul Ryan and their Democratic counterparts, know what the FBI was doing in the probe into Russian election interference and possible collusion by the Trump. Nary a word from those who were briefed. But there were plenty of Republicans charging a political “witch hunt” in the months that followed.

Those congressional leaders declined to comment but eventually will have to explain the discrepancies.

In the meantime, we can all wonder just why the man in charge can’t color within the legal lines, and why he does not understand that it is illegal to try to manipulate the Justice system to his personal protection.

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And hope that all of it is recorded and explained in the Special Counsel’s report.


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Republicans are sending out a ‘cry for help’ as Trump’s public impeachment hearings loom

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House Republicans’ request for witnesses in the impeachment inquiry reads more like a “cry for help” than an actual contribution to the investigation into President Donald Trump’s conduct, argued MSNBC’s Steve Benen.

He’s not wrong. The list includes:

The whistleblower“All individuals relied upon by the anonymous whistleblower in drafting his or her secondhand complaint”Hunter BidenDevon Archer, a business associate of Hunter BidenNellie Ohr of Fusion GPS, which directed the work behind the Steele DossierAlexandra Chalupa, a Democratic National Committee employee who reportedly conducted research on Paul Manafort’s work in Ukraine

Not one of these people will have information that could exonerate Trump from the mountain of evidence indicating he oversaw a vast bribery scheme aimed at pressuring the Ukrainian government into smearing and opening up investigations into his political rivals. At best, they could serve to distract from that central narrative, which documents and comments from the White House and Trump himself confirm. Creating a distraction is, of course, exactly what Republicans intend to do since they have no substantive defense of the president’s actions.

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Commentary

There are only 5 ways to become a billionaire — and none of them involve being successful in free market capitalism

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Billionaires are wailing that Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’s wealth tax proposals are attacks on free market capitalism.

Warren “vilifies successful people,” says Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase.

Rubbish. There are basically only five ways to accumulate a billion dollars, and none of them has to do with being successful in free market capitalism.

The first way is to exploit a monopoly.

Jamie Dimon is worth $1.6 billion. That’s not because he succeeded in the free market. In 2008 the government bailed out JPMorgan and four other giant Wall Street banks because it considered them “too big to fail.”

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David Cay Johnston explains how Trump’s trade tariffs are really a tax on his base

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Candidate Donald Trump railed against America’s chronic trade deficits, vowing to eliminate them if he became president.

So, how’s Trump doing? Awful. Trade deficits are growing on his watch.

The overall trade deficit in September was 21% larger than during his first full month in office.

In 2016, under President Barak Obama, America imported $502.9 billion more in goods and services than it sold in exports.

In 2018, under Trump, that ballooned to $627.7 billion, an increase of $124.7 billion, and the deficit is on pace to run even deeper in 2019. For the nine months ending in September, the overall trade deficit was $481.3 billion, up $24.8 billion for the same period of 2018.

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