Friday, April 20, 2018

The Week That The Russia Scandal River Overflowed Its Banks & Became A Flood

© NANCY OHANIAN / USED WITH PERMISSION
Several things are glaringly obvious as the river of Russia scandal developments overflows its banks and becomes a flood of historic proportions: Donald Trump is a seriously evil person who happens to be president because of Vladimir Putin and James Comey.  He has surrounded himself with an extraordinary rogue's gallery of bottom feeders.  His increasingly delusional rages against Comey, Robert Mueller, the Justice Department and FBI reveal not just that he believes the Rule of Law does not apply to him, but a shocking number of powerful people in important places agree with him. 
This leads us to the biggest development in a week chockablock with them.   
No, not Comey's memos about Trump being made public and backfiring on the Republicans who demanded their release.   
No, not Michael Cohen's increasing legal peril after FBI raids and talk that his loyalty to Trump will end at the jailhouse door. 
No, not a revelation by Trump political adviser Roger Stone that Trump has long treated Cohen "like dirt."
No, not Attorney General Jeff Sessions's threat to resign if Trump fired Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein over the Cohen raids.  
No, not that Cohen has withdrawn a lawsuit over being cited in the Steele dossier as a key player in the Trump campaign's collusion with the Kremlin.   
No, not a Democratic lawsuit asserting that Russia, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks conspired to damage Hillary Clinton's campaign. 
And no, not Trump's continuing obeisance to Putin as he retreated from imposing new Russia sanctions. 
We're talking about the lawyerly knight in tarnished armor who is riding to Trump's rescue after the creme de la creme of the white-collar criminal defense bar spurned entreaties to help save him from the twin pincers of Mueller's Russia investigation and 
an investigation into Cohen's labors as Trump's fixer, including his role in helping to arrange payments during the 2016 campaign to silence women with whom Trump had affairs. 
Rudy Giuliani! 
In one respect, Giuliani's appointment to Trump's anorexic legal team is no surprise.  He'll spend a lot more time barking on Fox News than actually prepping Trump for his long-anticipated sitdown with Mueller, a onetime Giuliani pal whom he thinks he can sweet talk into going easy on the poor, beleaguered president. 
Politics always has been populated by bottom feeders, but every generation or so one comes along who is so vile that he stands out from the pack.  So it is with Giuliani.    
The stories of Giuliani's sleaziness are legion, and that is quite an accomplishment since he came into most of our lives on the highest of notes -- as "America's Mayor" who took charge after the 9/11 disaster.    
But from there it has been all downhill.    
Giuliani liked to brag that as mayor of New York City, he spent more time at Ground Zero than rescue and clean-up workers, which was a lie.  Actually, his administration had failed to address the gaping flaws in the response to the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, which came back in spades on 9/11, and he knowingly sent workers into the toxic hell of the collapsed Twin Towers.  
Then there are Giuliani's ample personal shortcomings, including being a serial adulterer like Trump who broke the news to his wife that he was getting a divorce during a televised press conference, and his embrace of a succession of creepy characters from televangelist Pat Robertson to Bernard Kerik to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, about whom more later.  
© NANCY OHANIAN / USED WITH PERMISSSION
Had Giuliani been nominated by the Republican Party and then elected president in 2008, Kerik would have missed his inauguration.    
This is because the former NYC corrections chief, promoted to police commissioner by Giuliani, was doing prison time for just one of his multiple legal entanglements, which included glomming onto $165,000 in free renovations to his Bronx apartment by a construction company with mob ties, shacking up with his mistress in a Manhattan condo reserved for cops with post-9/11 traumas, and that timeless toe stubber, failing to pay taxes on an illegal immigrant nanny whom he was boinking on the side.   
None of this prevented Giuliani from drawing on his vast reservoir of good judgment and recommending that Kerik become Dubya's first homeland security czar.  Dubya wisely demurred.  
Giuliani is a gold medalist in flip-flopping.   He was for gay rights before he was against them.  He was for gun control before he hearted the National Rifle Association.  He was for forgiving illegal immigrants eking out honest livings in the Big Apple until he wanted to deport them.  He was once a hawk on Iran, but . . . more about that later, too.  
America's Mayor flailed at becoming the GOP presidential nominee again in 2012 and yet again in 2016, but he was a familiar warm-up act at Trump campaign rallies.    
With Trump's poll numbers plunging, Giuliani bragged on October 26, 2016 on the Lars Larson radio show that he was in contact with FBI agents and had "a surprise or two that you're going to hear about in the next few days."  Two days later, Comey reopened the Clinton email investigation, prompting credible but unproven allegations that Giuliani played a sub rosa role in an event 11 days before the election that sent the Clinton campaign into a tailspin from which it never recovered. 
Giuliani ended up on the A-list to become the president-elect's secretary of state while helpfully bragging that he had advised the newbie president about how to impose his patently illegal Muslim ban "legally."   But it turned out his conflicts of interest were too enormous and the top job at State went to Rex Tillerson, whose tenure was short circuited when he actually advocated getting tough on Putin. 
Giuliani has assuaged his grief over not serving his country in an official capacity by becoming filthy rich representing misunderstood oligarchs.  One of his latest clients was Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman.    
Zarrab has struggled through life getting his hands dirty counting money.  The multi-billionaire owns 20 houses, seven yachts and a private jet, is married to one of Turkey's biggest pop tarts, and counts among his friends that Erdoğan fella, who is Turkey's now stronger than ever strongman thanks to the kind of magical thinking by Turkish voters that made Trump emcee of the reality show known as the US of A.  And of course has now become one of Trump's new best friends because, you know, it takes an authoritarian to know one.   
The U.S. government busted Zarrab in Miami in 2016 at the request of the Obama administration (remember those folks?) while he was en route to Disney World with the pop tart and their daughter.  He was held on charges that he masterminded a huge operation to help the Iranian government evade economic sanctions put in place to hinder its efforts to build nuclear weapons.  This is how it worked: Gold would be shipped to Iran from Turkey in exchange for Iranian oil and natural gas, and the feds say that at the peak of the operation Zarrab was buying a metric ton of gold and packing it off to Iran every day. 
Zarrab had been moldering in the federal lockup in Manhattan despite the unsuccessful efforts of Giuliani and Michael Mukasey (the last of Dubya's three non pareil attorneys general) to spring him, which besides causing long faces in Istanbul screwed up a plot involving Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and son Michael Jr. to kidnap Fetullah Gulen, an imam and former Erdoğan ally who is living in exile in the Pennsylvania Poconos, in exchange for up to $15 million. 
In November, Zarrab agreed to testify against a co-defendant.  In December, Flynn agreed to cooperate with Mueller in the special prosecutor's deep-state plot to engineer a bloodless coup against Trump, or so Giuliani would have you believe from some of his vitriolic teevee appearances.
© NANCY OHANIAN / USED WITH PERMISSION
Before we get back to those powerful people in important places like Giuliani who don't believe that the Rule of Law applies to Trump, it should be noted that in the flood of developments a fundamental fact keeps getting lost.  Even the most zealous Trump defenders know what the rest of us know: That Trump (and Cohen) have committed not just crimes, but very freaking serious crimes.
This crowd also has had quite a week. 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared in no uncertain terms that he has no intention of letting any bill to protect Mueller be brought up for a full Senate vote.  Eleven House Republicans called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute Comey, more than a half-dozen current or former Justice Department officials and of course Clinton, because the FBI's investigations into Clinton's and Trump's campaigns were marked by "dissimilar degrees of zealousness." 
It is an indication of low Trump's sycophancy will go that they are now trying to tar Mueller as being complicit in one of the worst scandals in the F.B.I.’s history — the decades-long wrongful imprisonment of four men for a murder they didn’t commit.  
Alan Dershowitz, civil libertarian turned Trump toady, as well as Sean Hannity, Fox News anchor and Cohen client, and the reliably vile Rush Limbaugh, are claiming that Mueller was central to protecting the cover of Boston crime boss and FBI informant Whitey Bulger at the expense of the four men, who eventually were awarded $101.8 million for their suffering. 
Only one problem with that: The assertion is false, according to the federal judge who wrote the 105-page opinion awarding the four men the money.  She says Mueller had no involvement in the case and never even was mentioned in conjunction with it.  
For good measure, Trump claimed that he didn't fire Comey "because of the phony Russia investigation" and railed that he is being victimized by Mueller, with whom he claims he has had "a cordial working relationship" if you don't count all the times he's threatened to fire him, as well.   
Enter Rudy Giuliani, whom we can be sure will sort things out.  Just you wait and see.  

Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.

Richard Codor's Cartoon du Jour

FROM CRAIN'S NEW YORK BUSINESS (2001)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I Liked Babs Bush, But Her Entire Freaking Family Has Been A Plague On America

WLRN
I liked Barbara Bush.  It seemed to me that she was secretly in on a big joke.  That she understood that the world of money, power and politics in which she lived was so much bullshit.  But she just smiled, smiled, smiled as the Bush Dynasty dominated Republican politics for three decades and gifted us two presidents.   
Who could forget that special moment when Babs and Poppy, who was running for re-election in 1992, went out to mingle with the lumpenproletariat in an effort to bolster his sagging poll numbers and ended up in a supermarket checkout line with a quart of milk, a light bulb and a bag of candy.  They looked on in wonder as the cashier ran the items over an electronic scanner and the price registered on the cash register screen.   
We wondered where the heck they had been? 
Kennebunkport.
Okay, so the story may be an urban legend.  And I do not wish to speak ill of the dead as did Trump consigliere Roger Stone, who suggested just hours after Babs left this mortal coil on Tuesday that if you lit her body on fire it would "burn for three days."  Never mind that Stone's body would burn forever.  
But how about that sorry-assed bunch of so-called men Babs surrounded herself with?  They get no slack. 
There was Poppy, whose presidency was four looong years of hitting the read-his-lips Pause button.  Over and over.  And over. 
There was Dubya, responsible for the Iraq debacle, but who actually looks pretty good these days because of You Know Who. 
And finally there was Jeb, who was such an extraordinary milquetoast mediocrity that You Know Who rolled over him with ease.   
Ah yes, the Bush Dynasty.

Richard Codor's Cartoon du Jour

Monday, April 16, 2018

Will Cohen & The Family Business, Not The Kremlin, Finally Cause Trump’s Fall?

JEENAH MOON FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES
Will we look back on this week as the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency?  If that is the case -- and I'm somewhat skeptical it is despite the pronouncements of a goodly number of pundits -- will Trump's fall have more to do with the rampant corruption surrounding Michael Cohen and his own family business than Kremlin collusion? 
Possibly.  Any way will suffice so long as it's the highway, but it is a pisser that all that rot has been hiding in plain view for many years. 
Way back in the late 1990s -- you know, when Bill Clinton was getting spit roasted for having sex with that woman and lying about it -- tens of millions of money-laundered dollars were flowing into Trump's luxury developments and Atlantic City casinos from Russians, many of them mobsters. 
It is not an exaggeration to say that dirty Russian money saved Trump, if only barely.  By the late 1990s, he owed $4 billion to more than 70 banks, with $800 million of it personally guaranteed, but his own economic crisis coincided with one in Russia.  
In 1998, Russia defaulted on $40 billion in debt, which accelerated the exodus of money.  By one estimate, some $1.3 trillion in illicit capital has poured out of Russia in the last 25 years, including many tens of millions of dollars that flowed into Trump properties.  Trump's Taj Mahal casino subsequently received a $10 million slapdown by the Treasury Department in what was then the largest fine in U.S. history for money-laundering violations.   
"Without the Russian mafia," says journalist Craig Unger, who has written extensively on Trump's businesses, "it is fair to say Donald Trump would not be president of the United States." 
In Azerbaijan, Trump did business with a sanctions-busting money launderer for Iran's Revolutionary Guard.   In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group involved in an immense bank fraud scheme, while in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia, he climbed into bed with known crooks. 
Then there are all of Trump's links to New York mafiosi and myriad other homegrown financial irregularities, which bring us back to Cohen, whom Trump hired because he viewed him as a conduit for money from Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union because of his extensive cash-intensive business contacts.  (These include taxi medallion businesses in New York, Chicago and elsewhere that have piqued investigators' interest.)  And because Cohen could make Trump's "problems" go away, whether through legal sleight of hand, lawsuits or intimidation. 
Cohen and Donald Jr. and Ivanka, Trump's two eldest children, basically ran the Trump Organization while Daddy-O starred in a reality TV show and chased glamorous Playboy model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels, among many other women.  It was Cohen and the kids, not Don't Bother Me With the Details Donald, who did most of the deal making with an astonishing array of bad people from whom other businesses fled in horror. 
While all that all rot has indeed been hiding in plain view for many years, it did not escape the notice of the elite Public Corruption Unit of the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, which has such an impressive record of bringing down politicians and businesspeople, Democrats and Republicans alike, that it is jokingly referred to as the "Sovereign District" in legal circles because of its nonpartisanship and autonomy. 
CNBC
Lawyers for Cohen and Trump were back in court on Monday, and Daniels put in an appearance, as well. 
Their lawyers argued that many of the records seized by FBI agents assigned to the Public Corruption Unit in April 9 raids on Cohen's office, apartment and hotel room (based in part on a referral from Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller).  Agents took 10 boxes of documents and as many as  a dozen electronic devices, including cellphones and computer hard drives. 
The lawyers want to examine the records first in order to determine which among them might be protected by that privilege. a very important step because it could affect which documents prosecutors can ultimately use.  And in a play from Trump's campaign to undermine the Justice Department and FBI, they argued that the raids and document seizures were tainted by  "toxic partisan politics." 
At the insistence of U.S District Judge Kimba Wood, the lawyers reluctantly revealed that Cohen currently has only three clients -- Trump, Elliott Broidy, the Trump mega-fundraiser and Republican National Committee finance chair . . . and following a heated debate and to gasps from the gallery, Sean Hannity, the Fox News anchor and Trump sycophant and apologist.   
Cohen had resisted naming Hannity, citing his client's expressly made request that his identity not be made public.  Cohen lawyer Stephen Ryan further explained to Wood that the client would be "embarrassed" to be identified as having hired Cohen.  At that point -- and in a singularly amazing moment in American jurisprudence -- Robert Balin, a lawyer for several media outlets, interrupted the proceedings to argue that embarrassment was not a sufficient legal argument to keep a client's name secret.  Wood agreed.  
(Like a deer caught in headlights, Hannity in effect said that Cohen was not his lawyer but was his lawyer.  "To be absolutely clear," he added, his contacts with Cohen "never involved any matter between me and a third-party."  Hmm.  We shall see.)
Because Cohen was the key intermediary between the Trump family and its sleazy global partners and presumably kept records of it all, his records should provide prosecutors with an invaluable window into Trump's relationship with Cohen, including his role in helping to arrange payments during the 2016 campaign for women having sex with Trump and him lying about it. 
At the end of the two-and-a-half hour hearing, Wood rejected the  attempt to block prosecutors from immediately reviewing the seized material while signaling that she was considering appointing a special master to assist in the document review.   
Adding to Cohen's woes, and indirectly to Trump's, is evidence that Cohen and Keith Davidson, who was Daniels' first lawyer and negotiated big-buck deals for her and McDougal to remain mum about their affairs with Trump, were operating in concert.  
When a former Playboy model found out she was pregnant by Broidy, she contacted Davidson, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Davidson then brought in Cohen to contact Broidy.  Cohen was Broidy's lawyer in negotiations that resulted in a $1.6 million settlement and confidentiality agreement, for which the Journal says Davidson bagged a $640,000 fee and Cohen $250,000.  
(Broidy also is emerging as a big Russia scandal player because of his association with fixer George Nader, who arranged a secret meeting with Erik Prince and a Russian in the Seychelles in an effort to open a back channel between Trump and the Kremlin, and the efforts of Broidy and Nader to buy off Trump associates on behalf of Gulf state potentates.) 
A couple, three wee questions here: If  Davidson and Cohen were operating as a team, was that not unethical and may represent criminal fraud and possibly even extortion? And isn't it curious that Cohen used the Delaware shell company he created for the Daniels payoff for his legal fees until StormyGate broke when he then began using a personal account? 
The backdrop to all of this is, of course, James Comey's Personal Absolution Tour. 
While the tour will sell lots of copies of the fired FBI director's scathing take-down memoir of Trump, it should change few minds  regarding how quick he was to investigate Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while secretary of state and painfully  -- and unforgivably -- slow to take seriously the Kremlin's attack on a bedrock of American democracy and the Trump campaign's complicity.   
Then there is the backdrop to the backdrop. 
Mueller has notched Russia scandal indictments against 19 individuals and has secured the cooperation of several key players in the Trump campaign, but is only just getting started.  A journalist colleague says he'll be furious if a big-boobed broad ends up bringing down his presidency and not the special prosecutor.  But like I said, any way will suffice so long as it's the highway. 
ANOTHER VICTIM FOR PUTIN'S HIT LIST  
Meanwhile, another victim -- and yet another Russian investigative journalist -- can be added to the hit list of Donald Trump's best friend, Russian president Vladimir Putin.  
Maxim Borodin, 32, who had incurred Putin's wrath in writing recently about Russian mercenaries being killed by U.S. special forces in Syria for the newspaper Novy Den, died on Sunday from severe injuries sustained after falling from his fifth-floor balcony in Yekaterinburg on April 12.  
The mercenaries, known as the Wagner Group, were reportedly killed in the clash in Deir al-Zour province on February 7.  Outgoing CIA Director Mike Pompeo said last week that "a couple hundred" mercenaries died while taking part in an attack by pro-Syrian government fighters on the headquarters of a U.S. ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces. 
In February and March, Novy Den published several dispatches by Borodin from the town of Asbest, home to several men who had left for Syria to fight with the Wagner Group,  a secretive paramilitary organization with murky ties to the Kremlin and Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch nicknamed "Putin’s chef," who was indicted in February by Mueller for overseeing a St. Petersburg troll factory that waged information warfare against the U.S.  
Predictably, authorities said Borodin's death was a suicide.
Mysterious falls from high places masked as suicides are a recurring theme among the 30-plus other possible victims of Putin's use of assassination as a political weapon.   They sometimes involve exotic, hard-to-trace poisons and often are carried out by hitmen for the FSB, a state security agency headed by Putin until he became prime minister and then president, and sometimes by mobsters loyal to Putin. 
As if on cue, Trump on Monday put the brakes on a plan to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia for its involvement in Syria, walking back a Sunday announcement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley of the new punishment  His move came shortly before U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies warned that state-sponsored Russian hackers are actively seeking to hijack essential internet networking hardware that could be used in a future hacking offensive.


Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Biggest Bomb This Week Was Not Dropped On Syria; It Landed On Trump

MARK WILSON / GETTY
Donald Trump has been in a world of hurts since the day he became president, but with his long anticipated firing of Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein -- the predicate act to axing Special Counsel Robert Mueller -- he and we would enter uncharted and extraordinarily perilous territory.   What has been a slow-motion constitutional crisis as the Russia scandal engulfs the White House would become a conflagration. 
Several of the multiple crises dogging the Trump presidency came to a head in a week filled with dramatic developments.  
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who always has been willing to apologize for Trump no matter how outrageous the president's behavior but was unable to deliver legislative victories for him, announced that he's fleeing a sinking Republican congressional ship, portending further trouble for the party ahead of midterm elections that have become a referendum on Trump and the growing possibility of a Democratic takeover of the House and onset of impeachment proceedings that in a less hyper-partisan age already would be well underway.  
Trump fixer Michael Cohen was in a huge fix himself following FBI raids on his office, apartment and hotel room in search of evidence that there has been a strategy to buy the silence of women by suppressing accounts of Trump's infidelities that could have harmed his election chances.  The agents seized Cohen's computer, cell phone and a slew of records, including communications between Cohen and Trump that may reveal evidence of  federal crimes including bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations.  
Meanwhile, Mueller continues to turn up the heat.  Trump's former campaign manager is under indictment and faces spending the rest of his life in prison, his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his own illegal activities, son-in-law Jared Kushner is in deep legal trouble, and sundry other reprobates and grifters surrounding the president also are under scrutiny beyond the 19 individuals already indicted.  
And A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, fired FBI Director James Comey's tell-all memoir on Trump, is a runaway pre-publication bestseller.  The former FBI director has written a devastating takedown of Trump as a relentless liar and slave to his ego who is obsessively unethical, devoid of humanity, clueless about his job and unconcerned about Russian President Vladimir Putin's ongoing assault on American democracy.
YANA PASKOVA / GETTY
But the biggest bomb did not drop on Syria.  It landed squarely on Trump's head. 
In the most convincing and powerful evidence to date that the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to cyber sabotage Hillary Clinton, the McClatchy News Service reported as bombs were raining down on Syrian targets that Mueller has evidence Michael Cohen -- yes, that Michael Cohen -- secretly traveled to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign where he strategized with a powerful Kremlin figure and other Russians about ongoing election interference. 
The development is by far the most significant in the special counsel's deepening investigation into how -- not whether -- the campaign and Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House.   
The revelation undercuts Trump's repeated pronouncements that "there is no evidence of collusion" and Cohen's disingenuous denials that he never was in the capital of the Czech Republic.  Cohen flashed his passport for inquiring reporters, noted that it lacked anything showing he had visited the Czech Republic and swore he had not ever been there.   
The revelation also will considerably increase the stakes if the president makes good on his repeated intimations that he will order Mueller's firing after removing Rosenstein.  
Perhaps the biggest lesson from the infamous Christopher Steele dossier is that what the former British spy's confidential sources said was happening and predicted would happen were stunningly accurate and dovetail with the McClatchy report on Cohen. 
Cohen is said to have taken over certain duties after Paul Manafort was fired as Trump's campaign manager on August 19, 2016 following a Washington Post report that Manafort had received millions of dollars in payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.  Among those duties, according to a dossier source, was managing the stateside arm of the Kremlin's conspiracy to exploit hacked emails and other documents embarrassing to Clinton, working with the Kremlin on how to take maximum advantage of the hacked materials, and making cash payments to some of the hackers. 
A trip to Moscow was considered too risky for Cohen, according to the dossier, while Mueller's investigators now have evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany during late August or early September of 2016.  He would not have needed a passport for such a trip because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders. 
Once in Prague, according to the dossier, Cohen attended a meeting at the office of a Russian government-backed social and cultural organization, Rossotrudnichestvo. 
Attending the meeting was a prominent Russian purported to be Konstantin Kosachev, a Putin ally who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council.  Kosachev is among 24 high-profile Russians recently hit with stiff U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia's election interference.  Also in attendance were Oleg Solodukhin, the deputy chief of Rossotrudnichestvo’s operation in the Czech Republic, and several Eastern European hackers. 
Citing information from an unnamed "Kremlin insider," the dossier alleges that Cohen, Kosachev and the others discussed "how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers in Europe" who had worked under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign "in cryptic language for security reasons," and of ways to "sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connection could be fully established or proven." 
Romanians were among the hackers present, the dossier says, and the discussion touched on using Bulgaria as a location where they could "lie low" should they be exposed. 
As the week slouched to an end, Trump's advisers were telling him that the wide-ranging corruption investigation into his consigliere posed a greater and more imminent threat to him than even Mueller's investigation.  After all, Cohen was widely seen as being so dirty that he never would be given an official White House position even if he was a Trump loyalist, a damning conclusion considering how corrupt many of the people with White House positions are. 
But the view that Cohen the fixer is more trouble than Cohen the campaign go-between is highly debatable given that his secret mission to Prague on Trump's behalf now has been laid bare. 

Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.

Friday, April 13, 2018

As Comey Roasts Trump, Is He About To Go 'Full Nixon' & Fire Maximum Bob?

BUZZFEED NEWS PHOTO ILLUSTRATION
Logic -- you know, reasoning based on strict principles of validity -- has taken a beating over the course of the grotesquery known as the Trump presidency, but you have to really ignore reason to swallow the latest assault on logic emanating from the bowels of the White House as Trump fulminates over James Comey's tell-all memoir: Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein can no longer oversee Robert Mueller's Russia scandal probe because he was a big player in one of the president's many bad acts under investigation by the special prosecutor. 
Axing Rosenstein would be Trump's predicate act prior to finally making good his oft-repeated rant that the special prosecutor must be fired because it logically follows that he is a Hillary Clinton stooge who is engineering a deep-state plot against the president.  But to fire Mueller, inconveniently Trump probably must first get rid of Rosenstein, who supervises the special prosecutor's increasingly deep and broad investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Trump campaign's collusion in the cyber-espionage of Clinton and the president's repeated attempts to shut down the whole megilla. 
Getting rid of Rosenstein because he authored the letter articulating the reason Trump used to fire FBI Director Comey -- that he was mean to Clinton during the campaign -- does have a sort of comedic logic.   
That is until one recalls that although Comey did treat Clinton unfairly in the course of the FBI's off again-on again-off again investigation into her use of a private email server as secretary of state, in the process further crippling a campaign already being kneecapped by the Kremlin with the help of the Trumpsters and their Cambridge Analytica helpmates, the real reason Comey was fired was his fledgling Russia investigation, which was getting way too hot for Trump to handle.  So he had to go. 
Go Comey did, but in one of the more amazing episodes in this entire Dostoevsky-esque saga, it then fell to Rosenstein, a Trump appointee and lifelong Republican, to appoint a special prosecutor to sift through the wreckage of Comey's efforts.  That was Mueller, a Bush appointee and another lifelong Republican, who happened to be perhaps the only investigator with the chops to take down Trump.  Which he is well on his way to doing. 
The mastermind of the Get Rosenstein brainstorm is said to be Steve Bannon, Trump's campaign and White House strategist, who departed the adult day care center known as the West Wing for a whirlwind Revenge on Mainstream Republicans Tour but like the proverbial bad penny, keeps coming around. 
Bannon, according to The Washington Post, is also recommending the White House cease its cooperation with Mueller, reversing the policy of what's left of Trump's legal team to provide information to the special counsel's crew and allow staff members to sit for interviews, which 20 or so already have done.  And he's telling the president that he needs to create a new legal battleground to protect himself from Mueller by asserting executive privilege and arguing that Mueller's interviews with White House officials over the past year should now be null and void. 
This is a not-so-clever iteration of the Dumb and Dumber Strategy first rolled out by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and later picked up by other Trumpkins when Mueller began turning up the heat: The campaign was too chaotic and incompetent to collude with those clever Ruskies. 
Bannon's view is that Trump's lawyers are too incompetent to give him proper legal advice.  
"The president wasn't fully briefed by his lawyers on the implications" of not invoking executive privilege, Bannon told The WaPo.   "It was a strategic mistake to turn over everything without due process, and executive privilege should be exerted immediately and retroactively."
The timing for these turn of events does have a certain logic. 
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who could never deliver for Trump (let alone the American people, whom he repeatedly tried to hoodwink) finally delivers in announcing that he's fleeing the sinking Republican congressional ship. 
Trump fixer Michael Cohen is now in a big fix himself as evidence mounts that there was a strategy to buy the silence of women and others by suppressing accounts of Trump's infidelities that could have harmed his election chances, including the bomblet dropped on Thursday that the publisher of The National Enquirer not only paid former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 for her "catch and kill" silence but coughed up $30,000 to a former doorman at a Trump building to prevent him from publicizing a (possibly false) rumor that Trump fathered a child out of wedlock. 
Meanwhile, Mueller continues to turn up the heat, Trump's former campaign manager is under indictment and faces spending the rest of his life in prison, his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his own illegal activities, Kushner is in very deep legal doo-doo, and sundry other reprobates and grifters surrounding the president also are under scrutiny. 
And most timely of all, Comey's tell-all memoir on Trump, already a runaway pre-publication bestseller, hits doorsteps all over America on Tuesday. 
Reviewers are portraying A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership as a devastating takedown of Trump as a relentless liar and slave to his ego who is obsessively unethical, devoid of humanity, clueless about his job and unconcerned about Russia's ongoing assault on American democracy. 
The Republican National Committee has responded by launching a digital ad campaign and website that will brand the former FBI director as "Lyin' Comey," while Trump, in a pair of tweets on Friday, called him an "untruthful slime ball," a "proven LEAKER & LIAR," and said it was "my great honor to fire" him. 
The activist group MoveOn claims more than 300,000 people have pledged to attend "rapid response" protests should Trump go "full Nixon" and fire Mueller, while it does seem like all he needs to do so is a wee nudge. 
According to the West Wing leak machine, Trump is "nearing a meltdown" -- or "Acting on Impulse," as a scary WaPo headline put it -- and telling friends and aides that he is willing to engage in political warfare to stop his presidency from being consumed by the Russia scandal investigation.   
That, of course, is illogical, although you have to give the guy credit for having learned nothing from firing Mueller.  Which Bannon, in an outbreak of truthiness, told "60 Minutes" was one of the worst mistakes in "modern political history."   
What is logical is that Trump's presidency already has been consumed by the investigation and getting rid of Mueller will be like pouring gasoline on the conflagration. 

Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.