“Robert Mueller put 13 of the angriest Democrats in the history of our country on the commission,” Donald Trump told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) crowd this past weekend, lying once again. “Now, how do you do that? These are angry, angry people. You take a look at them. One of them was involved with the Hillary Clinton Foundation, running it. Another one has perhaps the worst reputation of any human being I’ve ever seen. All killers.”
Leaving aside the fact that nobody knows what “the commission” is, these sound like the words of a profoundly nervous man. “All killers?” More like 13 career prosecutors and investigators, all well-trained dogs with a fat bone to chew. Trump was on about Robert Mueller at CPAC, but Mueller represents only a fraction of Trump’s swelling legal dilemma.
If Ronald Reagan managed to claw his way out of Hell and reduced Robert Mueller and his whole team to windblown ashes with a trillion-dollar Star Wars Anti-Commie Death Ray from 1987, Trump would still have to deal with Committee Chairman Nadler, Committee Chairwoman Waters, Committee Chairman Schiff, Committee Chairman Engel, Committee Chairman Cummings, Committee Chairwoman Lowey, Committee Chairman Neal, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the New York Attorney General, the state of Maryland, the District of Columbia and the New York Department of Financial Services. That’s just today’s list.
Nervous? You betcha, as a former vice-presidential candidate from Wasilla was once heard to say. The New York State Department of Financial Services (NYSDFS) in particular is about to take Trump for a long walk on a short pier thanks to the testimony of former attorney/bagman/fixer Michael Cohen. When Cohen explained to the Oversight and Reform Committee how Trump would regularly exaggerate his personal wealth to insurance companies, the good folks at NYSDFS were taking copious notes.
Of interest: Cohen was back at the Capitol on Wednesday to finish his closed-door chat with the House Intelligence Committee where, according to reports, he provided evidence showing how Trump’s attorneys edited his written testimony to Congress in 2017. “I believe,” said Cohen after the conclusion of the hearing, “that all of the members were satisfied with the statements and the responses that I gave to them.”
These myriad official inquiries will be looking into Trump’s insurance claims and wealth assessments, the process by which members of his family were given security clearances despite howls of dissent from security officials, his tax returns, his hush-money payments, the multiple ways he may have obstructed justice, his clear violations of the emoluments clause, financial abuses by the Trump Organization and the Trump Foundation, as well as his alleged dalliance with Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler, in particular, is pursuing his chosen line of inquiry like a man possessed. His office has issued 81 document demands to witnesses across the full spectrum of Donald Trump’s business and political affairs, with specific emphasis on possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power by the White House. The chairman, according to The New York Times, “was no longer content to await the findings of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and would delve into many of the same issues, but with a different standard of evidence not wedded to a criminal indictment.”
That right there is one spicy meatball.
To the surprise of no living being within the confines of the known universe, all these investigations will have quite a lot to work with if the investigators can get their hands on the documents. The stuff that is already in the public domain regarding the hush-money payments he gave to Cohen is damning, as another New York Times article reveals:
On a busy day at the White House, President Trump hosted senators to talk about tax cuts, accused a Democratic congresswoman of distorting his condolence call to a soldier’s widow and suffered another court defeat for his travel ban targeting Muslim countries. And at some point on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, Mr. Trump took the time to sign a $35,000 check to his lawyer, who had made hush payments to prevent alleged sexual misconduct from being exposed before the 2016 presidential election. It was one of 11 occasions that Mr. Trump or his trust cut such checks, six of which were provided this week to The New York Times.
The president hosted a foreign leader in the Oval Office, then wrote a check. He haggled over legislation, then wrote a check. He traveled abroad, then wrote a check. On the same day he reportedly pressured the F.B.I. director to drop an investigation into a former aide, the president’s trust issued a check to Mr. Cohen in furtherance of what federal prosecutors have called a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws at the direction of Mr. Trump.”
Getting their hands on the paperwork, and the witnesses, is where the real fight comes in. The White House, along with various Trump allies and employees (read: potential sworn witnesses), are vigorously stonewalling the process. “Already,” reports Politico, “the administration has failed to turn over requested documents covering a wide range of issues, ranging from security clearances to Trump’s communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin to his policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the southern U.S. border.”
The subpoenas have not yet begun to fly, but they will, almost certainly into and beyond the 2020 election season. Those subpoenas, once issued, will be challenged in court. Given the astonishing number of right-wing judges McConnell has rammed onto the federal bench for Trump over the last two years, not to mention the conservative executive-leaning tendencies of a majority of the Supreme Court, the process will be a protracted brawl fraught with uncertain and wildly politicized outcomes.
The truth, I believe, will out sooner or later, but probably only after a long arterial bleed that will weaken the Trump administration to the point of immobility. There are simply too many investigative bodies training their sights on the White House and Trump’s flimsy, fraud-riddled empire, and Washington D.C. is a town that loves a good document leak. Politically speaking, these latest investigative/agency onslaughts are pure poison to the Republican brand and Trump’s re-election prospects.
If you think people are exhausted by Trump’s bombastic scandal factory now, just wait until two more years’ worth of damning revelations pile up minute by hour by day by week by month, right through the next two Novembers at a highly accelerated rate. The upcoming election may wind up being a singularly brutal affair for the Grand Old Party. They haven’t cut bait on Trump yet, but doing so will become a question of survival for many Republican officeholders before much more time goes by. At that point, we start counting noses for impeachment, and hats over the windmill.
All that, and Robert Mueller hasn’t even come down the mountain yet. I’d be nervous, too.