Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Looking Under Trump's Rock At The Judiciary Committee's 'Undesirables List'

"We gave the supreme prize and ultimate compliment — leadership of the most powerful nation on earth — to a man who wouldn’t know the truth if it raced toward him with sirens blaring, ran over him, then backed up and did it again," writes Frank Bruni in The New York Times in one of the better op-ed eviscerations of Donald Trump in the days since the House Democratic leadership went on the offensive.    
"A man whose loyalties stand as firm as a strand of overcooked linguine," continues Bruni.  "Whose vanity makes Narcissus look like a mere pretender; and who will sacrifice whatever and whomever he must on the altar of his own spurious magnificence.  What he lacks in moral fiber he makes up for in gilt.  It sufficed to bring him his treasure and, for 72 years and counting, spare him his reckoning."   
The big question of course -- far and away the biggest since a comparatively rank amateur by the name of Richard Nixon faced his own reckoning over a third-rate burglary gone bad -- is whether it is indeed Trump's time in the barrel, to borrow Roger Stone's freighted phrase.  
The big answer is yes. 
That, unfortunately, does not translate into Trump purchasing a one-way ticket back to his Fifth Avenue penthouse in the sky anytime soon.  But it  -- and in particular the House Judiciary Committee's Undesirables List -- does take us closer to that moment when those Democrats commence impeachment proceedings. 
Remember when you were a kid and looked under a rock to see all the creepy crawlies running from the sunlight?   
That's the Undesirables List, a compendium of 81 individuals, entities and agencies who were served this week with requests for documents relevant to the committee's investigation into obstruction of justice, public corruption and other abuses of power by Trump, his associates and members of his administration. 
The list is a mind blower. 
Although there were a mere handful of names with which this Russia scandal hand was unfamiliar -- and I'm a guy who has been well aware longer than most people of the vastness of the crap and corruption arrayed around Trump like the icy asteroids in the Kuiper Belt  -- seeing them laid out still was mind blowing.  
Marcy Wheeler slices and dices the list over at emptywheel, and while her categorizations include a fair amount of overlap, that vastness thing grabs you by the throat. 
Here are the 12 categories and number of document requests:
Contacts With Russians (18) 
Trump-Putin Meetings (16) 
June 9, 2016 Meeting (7) 
Trump Tower Moscow (10) 
Sanctions Relief (14) 
Cambridge Analytica-Polling (12) 
Peter Smith Effort (4) 
Hush Payment/Catch-and-Kill (11) 
Corrupt Business Interests (22) 
Obstruction of Justice (14) 
Presidential Pardons (4) 
WikiLeaks Contacts (8) 
There are so many creepy crawlies running from the sunlight. 
Not surprisingly, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner appears in seven of the 12 categories, while Michael Cohen appears in five, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Erik Prince in four each, and Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions in three each.  Ivanka Trump did not make the list.    
(Peter Smith, not exactly a household name, was a wealthy right-wing Republican opposition researcher who, 10 days before his apparent suicide, told the Wall Street Journal that he was working to find the mythic "missing" Hillary Clinton emails for Flynn, whom he said was working with Russian hackers.) 
Most intriguing of all the document requests, to me anyway, is Cambridge Analytica. 
These requests suggest that investigators are trying to connect the disgraced and defunct British company, which micro-targeted voters with data mined from social media, to Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager and a key intermediary between Trump Tower and the Kremlin.   
Cambridge used the data to build its so-called psychographic modeling techniques, which former CEO Alexander Nix called "our secret sauce" and underpinned its work for the campaign.  More intriguing still, the document requests sent to former Cambridge employees are limited to contacts with WikiLeaks. 
It is easy to read too much into the list no matter how you parse it.  For example, the appearance of longtime Trump executive assistant Rhona Graff doesn't necessarily mean she was a conspirator while the absence of Ivanka Trump certainly does not mean she isn't a conspirator. 
The danger is not reading enough into it.  And to forget that the House Intelligence Committee under Republican control concluded, after refusing to allow Democratic input, that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, a temporary if pyrrhic victory for Trump even as the truth raced toward him with sirens blaring. 
The president's vow on Monday "to publicly cooperate" with the Judiciary Committee's document requests meant exactly the opposite, and less than 24 hours later he had walked that back after rebuffing another House committee seeking information on how the White House grants security clearances in the wake of reports that Trump demanded that Kushner receive a top-secret clearance over the objections of his intelligence chiefs and New York state regulators subpoenaed his insurance broker following testimony from Cohen that Trump had exaggerated his income.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Trump or his trust signed 11 separate checks to lawyer-fixer Cohen, most of them for $35,000, who had made hush payments to prevent his sexual misconduct from being exposed before the 2016 presidential election.  Six were signed by Trump himself after he became president.  
While many of the Judiciary Committee document requests went to individuals and organizations who are indicating that they will cooperate and not the White House and government agencies, those requests will be fought tooth and nail, triggering months of subpoenas, hearings and court challenges. 
This is because the Undesirables List is nothing less than a roadmap to what's under that rock -- Trump's heart of darkness. 

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


Dan Leo said...

Keep 'em comin', Shaun...

Unknown said...

Thanks for a great analysis of where all the
threads and wires are leading.

Greg said...

Great piece.

Bscharlott said...

A new Quinnipiac poll shows most Americans believe Trump committed crimes before entering office, and a plurality thinks he has done so since. His numbers are going to keep going down as the Congressional investigations heat up -- and don't forget the SDNY and other criminal investigations. There's a real chance he could serve time.

Shaun Mullen said...


The "serving time" thing takes on an outsized importance. Trump must not be allowed to resign in return for criminal charges disappearing, as easy as that "solution" may be.