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The Senate and the House are net fishing. The special counsel is spearfishing. They know what they are aiming at and are deadly accurate. ~ Former Trump campaign aide MICHAEL CAPUTO
It was the week of the Forty-Nine Questions. And then some as Donald Trump shed one criminal defense lawyer and hired another versed in the ways of impeachment, Rocket Man played him for the fool he is, we learned Trump's bodyguard had stolen his medical records for him, Rudy Giuliani made Sean Hannity pee all over his Pradas, the president further undercut his own Justice Department, and we learned just how sharp Robert Mueller's spear really is.
All of this would be uproariously funny, and aspects were undeniably clownish. Like when we learned that one of Trump's lawyers actually told Mueller that a man who has spent one out of four days of his presidency playing golf was "too busy running the country" to submit to an interview. But we (or me, anyway) are brought up short when we realize that this isn't a season of "Saturday Night Live" skits. They are far from comic episodes crammed into a mere week of our once proud nation's history starring a thug who happens to occupy the Oval Office and a benighted Republican congressional sycophancy doing a pretty good imitation of Hitler's brownshirts to further undermine a democracy already on the ropes as they subvert or destroy everything we value.
Giuliani recently joined Trump's depleted legal team because of the bombast he would bring to appearances on Fox News, where he could reassure Trump's base that together they would repel Mueller's insidious deep-state plot to undermine the Make American Great Again presidency in revenge for Hillary Clinton losing the 2016 election.
But when Giuliani went way off script in a Wednesday night appearance with Fox prime-time host Hannity in a bumbling attempt to curry favor with the boss but instead tripped up Trump and his spokesmouths while highlighting their contradictory statements about porn star Stormy Daniels, an astonished Hannity tried and failed to get America's Mayor to put a cork in it.
Undeterred and seemingly unaware, Giuliani prattled on that the very $130,000 hush payment made to Daniels courtesy of Trump fixer Michael Cohen that the president swore he knew nothing about when queried by reporters on April 5 on Air Force One not only existed and Trump not only knew about it, but he had paid back Cohen, which is more than you can say for a lot of other people to whom Trump has owed money over the years, including legions of lawyers.
"I want to clarify something," said Hannity, now a bilious shade of green, in offering Giuliani a do-over.
But instead of taking a mulligan, as Trump has been know to do out on the links at Mar a Lago and Bedminster, Giuliani repeated the assertion, possibly prompting a new scandal atop an existing one. And allowed that this would clear the president of assertions the hush payment was a campaign finance law violation.
"That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I'm giving you a fact now that you don't know," Giuliani continued. "It's not campaign money. No campaign finance violation. They funneled [italics mine] through a law firm, and the president repaid it."
True, but this is akin to a surgeon amputating a leg instead of an arm, and Rudy ain't no surgeon.
This is because Giuliani's admission that Trump had paid back Cohen (actually some $460,000 or $470,000 in all, which also included money for "incidental expenses" that he had incurred on Trump’s behalf) is another serious campaign finance law violation since candidate Trump -- who by law could make unlimited contributions to his own campaign -- didn’t violate any laws so long as he reported the payment, which he of course failed to do. Giuliani's use of the word funneled is a red flag for criminal activity and suggests the true source of the money is being hidden, or possibly its use by Cohen as a slush fund to pay off people like Stormy.
And lost in all the backing and filling is one overriding fact: The payment, no matter the fine print, was made to influence the election and prevent a potential scandal by shutting Stormy's pie hole.
Not content to leave it at that, Giuliani stumbled on and said there will be public hell to pay if Ivanka Trump is indicted by Mueller, which she very well may be. Her husband Jared Kushner, not to much outrage, although he is even more likely to be speared by Mueller.
"Jared is a fine man, you know that," Giuliani told Hannity in a comment that was intended to be chivalrous but came out chauvinistic. "But men are, you know, disposable. A fine woman like Ivanka, come on!"
Trump, by the way, continues to deny that he and Stormy had what she describes as a nearly year-long affair (during which time The Big White Hat was back at the shack with Baby Barron). And in a tweet storm on Thursday morning that gave a boost to Stormy's defamation lawsuit against the president, he further muddied the swamp waters by explaining that he is a "celebrity" and part of the "people of wealth" who are constantly entangled in rarefied legal complications that we lowly folks cannot understand. Like having to funnel money to our lawyers to pay off porn stars with whom we did not have affairs.
Then on Friday morning, Trump contradicted himself and undercut Giuliani, telling reporters his attorney "will get his facts straight" regarding the hush payment.
Everything "has been said incorrectly. It's actually very simple," the president said without elaboration. Then, in a statement issued a few hours later, Giuliani said the $130,000 payment would have occurred regardless of whether Trump was on the presidential ballot and was made "to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the president's family."
Meanwhile, not having already done enough damage, Giuliani had gone on Fox & Friends on Thursday morning and, pushing the deep-state plot meme, declared that Mueller is seeking to "trap" the president into committing perjury with his perfectly appropriate request for an extended interview with a critical witness whose testimony could affect potential charges against himself and his pals, others, including Cohen and Paul Manafort.
"What they're really trying to do is trap him into perjury, and we're not suckers," Giuliani said, blithely ignoring that Trump's lie aboard Air Force One is but one of hundreds he has uttered. Oh, and four of the five people that Mueller has indicted pleaded guilty to a perjury charge. And are cooperating with the special counsel.
"This silly deposition is about a case in which he supposedly colluded with the Russians but there's no evidence," Giuliani added.
|© NANCY OHANIAN / USED WITH PERMISSION|
This brings us to the week's "really big news," as Ed Sullivan used to say when Trump was sitting at father Fred's knee as a youth and was learning the fine art ripping off people.
The Forty-Nine Questions.
Like everything else involving Trump, this is a convoluted tale liberally (pardon the word) seasoned with lies and misrepresentations. Just this week, the president surpassed a head spinning 3,000 false or misleading claims since taking office, according to The Washington Post, an average of 6.5 per day.
The tale begins in early March when John Dowd, by default Trump's lead defense attorney at the time, met with Mueller to negotiate the terms of an interview with Trump. After saying that Trump was too busy running the country to sit for an interview, Mueller replied that he had to question Trump to determine whether he had criminal intent when he took actions like firing FBI Director James Comey and raised the icky possibility of subpoenaing Trump to appear before a grand jury.
Mueller's team agreed to provide the president's lawyers with more specific information about the subjects that prosecutors want to discuss with the president, and Dowd sidekick Jay Sekulow then compiled a list of 49 questions that the president's lawyers believe he would be asked.
The list was discussed at a second meeting a few days later. After reviewing the list, according to later published reports, Dowd suffered an attack of apoplexy and become even more convinced that allowing the president to be interviewed would be a disaster.
When The New York Times published Sekulow's questions on Monday night, unquestionably leaked by someone in the White House, Trump flew into one of his patented Twitter rages, tweeting on Tuesday morning that it was "disgraceful" that Mueller's questions -- which actually were his own lawyer's questions -- had been publicly disclosed, noted that there were no questions about collusion and said for the umpteenth time that collusion was a "phony" crime.
While no one would accuse Trump of having an eye for detail, several of the 49 questions indeed did pertain to collusion.
Meanwhile, Dowd had thrown in the towel on March 22, and his cohort Ty Cobb helpfully resigned later on Tuesday, undoubtedly to spend more time with his family, leaving Sekulow to fend for himself. Which he will not have to do for too long because Emmet Flood is in the hood.
Flood served as special counsel in the George W. Bush administration, where he helped fend off congressional investigations into the political firing of federal prosecutors who did not bow down to Dubya, and represented President Clinton during House proceedings to impeach him.
But the really big news about the really big news is that The Forty-Nine Questions further reveal that Trump is in seriously big trouble because . . . well, Mueller's spear is very sharp. And Flood knows that.
This is because the questions get to the heart of not just what Trump knew about Russia's cybersabotage of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, but what his motivations were in firing Comey and National Security Director Michael Flynn, cowing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and enlisting the congressional brownshirts to help him try to obstruct Mueller's investigation.
A common thread in the questions is obstruction of justice. What Trump knew and when he knew it is secondary. Several of the questions reveal that Mueller's pursuit of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia is very much alive, notably what he knew of the activities of campaign manager Manafort in seeking possible assistance from Moscow.
Even if many of Trump's supporters already assumed that he was lying about Stormy, Mueller will not be so understanding when -- and a very big if -- he sits for an interview and lies.
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.