"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

"Oh what a beautiful morning!"

Part Two of Two

Donald Trump seems to realize the roof fell in on him yesterday.  Even Steve Inskeep on NPR this morning kept referring back to how Trump called the search warrants an "attack on the country," as if he couldn't believe a sitting President would be so monarchical.  There are excellent reports available about the cumbersome process involved in obtaining and executing a search warrant on a lawyer (attorney-client privilege has to be preserved).  The Criminal AAG has to sign off on it; reports are Rosenstein had to approve it, as it came from Mueller and went to the U.S. Attorney in New York from whose office it issued.  As Inskeep noted this morning, everyone in that chain is a Trump appointee, despite Trump's claim all the lawyers involved in this were Democrats.  Joe Scarbrough helpfully ran that down this morning:

“Just in case you want to know who these witches are, that Donald Trump says are coming after him, they’re Bob Mueller, a Republican, this is the conspiracy,” he said. “You’ve got Rod Rosenstein, who was screaming about yesterday. He’s a life-long Republican, despite the fact that Donald Trump called him a Democrat from Baltimore. The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who he was raging at — you and I both heard not only Donald Trump, but Jared Kushner (call him) the greatest, most stand-up guy, best Republican ever during the campaign. He, he is also this conspiracy, a Republican.”

“The FBI director, who Donald Trump appointed, Republican,” Scarborough continued. “The four FISA judges that were leading this conspiracy — Republican, Republican, Republican, Republican. The House run by Republicans, the Senate run by Republicans and yesterday’s raid was run by the U.A. Attorney from the Southern District of New York — remember the one that replaced Preet (Bharara)?”

“He fired Preet because he didn’t think he could be loyal, so who did he appoint?” Scarborough added. “He appointed Geoffrey Berman, who executed this raid yesterday, in charge of this raid yesterday, ordered this raid yesterday. Not on Robert Mueller’s behalf, but on the behalf of the people of New York and the United States of America. He was appointed by Donald Trump — and also, he was, his mentor, you guessed it: Rudy Giuliani. He’s a Giuliani guy.”

This was not done on a whim.

“It’s procedurally cumbersome, it’s sensitive, it raises the hackles of the bar,” Sam Buell, a former prosecutor who worked on the Enron investigation, told TPM. “It’s not done on a fishing expedition. It’s only done when you’re reasonably confident that you’re going to find evidence of criminality and you need to do it with a search warrant.”

Issuing the warrant is a complex process; and handling the materials is done carefully, too:

“Attorney-client privilege is not dead because of the way the Justice Department is going to approach this,” [Chris] Christie said. “There’s going to be a ‘taint team.’ They call it a ‘taint team’ because you don’t want to taint the prosecutors who are actually involved in investigating by seeking potentially privileged information that they have no right to see. So you bring in a whole separate team of agents and assistant U.S. attorneys.”
Yes, that Chris Christie.  Trump is rapidly using up his GOP supporters, which is another problem for him in this scenario.  But that brings us to the evidence DOJ had sufficient to convince several lawyers and a judge that a search warrant should be issued under these circumstances, again because a warrant to seize attorney files is not lightly granted, especially when that attorney's sole client is the sitting POTUS:

 “You heard President Trump [say] that Sessions made a mistake and then he referred back to not recusing himself,” [CNN legal analyst Page] Pate said. “I think in this situation, given the fact that Main Justice probably know about these search warrants before they were executed, that Sessions had an opportunity to step in and stop this—just like the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York—and no one did.”

“So what does that tell you that’s in this affidavit?” Pate continued. “What evidence is it that they have pinpointed that Michael Cohen has access to that will prove evidence of some crime? I cannot wait to see what’s in the affidavit because I think it’s going to shock us all.”
Yes, it probably should:

“A raid on a lawyer’s office is an extraordinary event, for a prosecutor, as I was, to contemplate is just a remarkable act of audacity when the lawyer is the sitting president’s lawyer,” Blumenthal said. “He has the keys to the kingdom, he knows all the secrets about Donald Trump — and if he were to cooperate it would be indeed a transformative event, so the raid is seismic.”

He said the warrant required a higher standard than probable cause to be granted by a court.

“The FBI and the U.S. Attorney has to convince the Department of Justice that they are going to come away with significant evidence of a crime,” Blumenthal said.
Where does this go, even without public release of that evidence yet?  Axios says Trump is completely unhinged by this, probably because he understands what is at stake.  Can he fire Mueller?  No.  Will he try?  If he does, all those GOP ads about how a Democratic flip of Congress would lead to Trump's impeachment will suddenly become moot.  A clearer example of obstruction of justice is not to be imagined, especially if Trump starts a Saturday Night Massacre of epic proportions just trying to get rid of Mueller (which won't end the investigations, especially in the U.S. Attorney's office in New York).  He would be handing his Presidency to the Democrats on a platter, all but daring Pelosi and Schumer to stop being afraid of the "I" word.

A Constitutional crisis?  No.  The Constitutional crisis would be if this weren't happening; if DOJ were so corrupt it was shielding Trump, as he thinks it should, rather than doing it's duty under the law.  Trump is the Constituitonal crisis.  Dealing with him is how the system is supposed to work.  The basic Constitutional argument is, after all, that is sets limits on what any part of the government can do.  Imposing those limits is not a Constitutional test; ignoring them would be the crisis.


Blogger ntodd said...

Apropos of nothing, I went to college with Sam Buell's wife. I don't know him personally, but he is wicked smart.

2:32 PM  
Blogger The Thought Criminal said...

I am left believing that even the Chris Christies and Geoffrey Bermans' take on this indicates no one wants to be the last one off the sinking scow. I wonder if Robert Mueller has been sharing evidence with appropriate state Attorneys General or other Trump proof prosecutors. I wonder if that's possible.

I think Trump will try to do a Nixon move to end the investigation and I have every confidence that the Republicans in the Congress and maybe even on the courts will let him do it this time. Though I'd love to find I'm wrong.

I wonder what will happen when Comey's book comes out.

4:39 PM  

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