Robert Mueller has operated for 19 months as a law unto himself, reminding us of the awesome and destructive powers of special counsels. About the only possible check on Mr. Mueller is a judge who is wise to the tricks of prosecutors and investigators. Good news: That’s what we got this week.
.. The agents (including the infamous Peter Strzok) showed up within two hours. They had already decided not to inform Mr. Flynn that they had transcripts of his conversations or give him the standard warning against lying to the FBI. They wanted him “relaxed” and “unguarded.” Former Director James Comey this weekend bragged on MSNBC that he would never have “gotten away” with such a move in a more “organized” administration... The investigator’s report found prosecutors had engaged in deliberate and repeated ethical violations, withholding key evidence from the defense. It also excoriated the FBI for failing to write up 302s and for omitting key facts from those it did write. The head of the FBI was Mr. Mueller... Judge Sullivan has since made it his practice to begin every case with a Brady order, which reminds prosecutors of their constitutional obligation to provide the defense with any exculpatory evidence. On Dec. 12, 2017, days after being assigned the Flynn case, Judge Sullivan issued such an order, instructing Mr. Mueller’s team to turn over “any evidence in its possession that is favorable to defendant and material either to defendant’s guilt or punishment.” Had any other judge drawn the case, we likely would never have seen these details of the FBI’s behavior.
It’s clear that something has concerned the judge—who likely sees obvious parallels to the Stevens case. The media was predicting a quick ruling in the Flynn case. Instead, Judge Sullivan issued new orders Wednesday, demanding to see for himself the McCabe memo and the Flynn 302. He also ordered the special counsel to hand over by Friday any other documents relevant to the Flynn-FBI meeting.
.. Given his history with the FBI, the judge may also have some questions about the curious date on the Flynn 302—Aug. 22, 2017, seven months after the interview. Texts from Mr. Strzok and testimony from Mr. Comey both suggest the 302 was written long before then. Was the 302 edited in the interim? If so, by whom, and at whose direction? FBI officials initially testified to Congress that the agents did not think Mr. Flynn had lied.
Over the past year, this tactic has become pervasive: defending [President] Trump by arguing that it’s actually the president who is the victim of a conspiracy and whipping up whatever evidence is at hand to bolster that claim.
.. It is not just buffoonish efforts, such as when Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) made-up an “unmasking” scandal or teased a release of his own memo. No, actual grown-ups are at it now, too. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a former business executive, sees no problem fanning the flames
.. “Even though Trump has attempted to distance himself from Sater, his former business partner will likely continue to emerge in the context of compromising past deals and tarnish Trump’s reputation.”
.. There is also an additional financial connection between Donald Trump and the Kazakh officials. The New Yorker reported that in March 2012, a month after Ablyazov fled from the U.K. to avoid a 22-month prison sentence, Trump traveled to Georgia to announce a licensing deal for a development in the Black Sea town of Batumi. The Silk Road Group, a Kazakh real estate developer financed by BTA, paid Trump $1 million dollars to attend a press tour promoting the partnership.
.. the FBI — which remember arguably made the difference in Trump’s favor with release of a letter concerning Hillary Clinton’s emails 11 days before the 2016 election
One day it’s all sun and sycophantic fun on one of the president’s fancy golf courses, where you’re telling yourself that to marvel at his putts and swoon over his swing are small prices for influence and will pay off in the end.
.. That’s the story of Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Its moral couldn’t be clearer. There’s no honor or wisdom in cozying up to Donald Trump — just a heap of manure.
.. Maybe more than any other figure on Capitol Hill, Graham personifies his party’s spastic, incoherent, humiliating response to Trump across time and its fatally misguided surrender.
He denounced Trump before he befriended and defended him. He graduated from the unpleasant experience of being Trump’s punching bag to the unprincipled one of being his enabler. Like the majority of his Republican colleagues in Congress, he reckoned that he could somehow get more than he was giving up, which included his dignity. He reckoned wrong.
.. It was Graham who recently joined Senator Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican, in undercutting the credibility of federal inquiries into Trump’s ties with Russia by recommending that the Justice Department investigate Christopher Steele
.. Did Graham tell himself then that he was craftily staying in Trump’s good graces so that he could coax the president toward saner, better immigration policy?
.. when Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, and David Perdue, a Georgia Republican, strenuously disputed the initial accounts that Trump said “shithole” in the Oval Office, it was not because his talk was actually statesmanlike. No, they heard him fume about immigrants from “shithouse countries” rather than “shithole countries,” and in that scintilla of semantic difference they found a rationale for muddying the waters and rallying around the president.
.. During the campaign, Graham blasted Trump as the “world’s biggest jackass,” said that the way to make America great again was to “tell Donald Trump to go to hell” and described the choice of Trump versus Ted Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination as a decision whether to be “shot or poisoned.”
.. A fervent champion of national security, he gave Trump a pass for making light of Russian interference in an American election.
.. He sternly reprimanded the media for calling the president “some kind of kook.” Oops! He had hung that same label on Trump,
.. But it’s reckless folly, because it doesn’t take Trump’s creeping authoritarianism, his instability, his degradation of the presidency and, yes, his racism into full account. To flatter him is to sanitize and encourage all of that.
The scandal of Michael Wolff’s new book isn’t its salacious details—it’s that everyone in Washington has known its key themes, and refused to act
But “it was an open secret” now properly seems a broadened indictment, of all those who quietly let him get away with it, rather than an excuse.
The details in Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury make it unforgettable, and potentially historic. We’ll see how many of them fully stand up, and in what particulars, but even at a heavy discount, it’s a remarkable tale.
.. His functional vocabulary is markedly smaller than it was 20 years ago; the oldest person ever to begin service in the White House, he is increasingly prone to repeat anecdotes and phrases. He is aswirl in foreign and financial complications. He has ignored countless norms of modern governance, from the expectation of financial disclosure to the importance of remaining separate from law-enforcement activities. He relies on immediate family members to an unusual degree; he has an exceptionally thin roster of experienced advisers and assistants
.. He views all events through the prism of whether they make him look strong and famous, and thus he is laughably susceptible to flattering treatment from the likes of Putin and Xi Jinping abroad or courtiers at home.
.. nearly 11 million more Americans voted against Trump last year than for him, including the three million more who voted for Hillary Clinton. (The rest were for Gary Johnson, who got nearly 4.5 million; Jill Stein, with nearly 1.5 million; Evan McMullin, with about 700,000; and a million-plus write-ins.)
.. They understand—or most of them do—the damage he can do to a system of governance that relies to a surprising degree on norms rather than rules
.. The failure of responsibility starts with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, but it doesn’t end with them. Every member of a bloc-voting majority shares responsibility for not acting on their version of the open secret. “Independent” Republicans like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski share it. “Thoughtful” ones, like Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake.
.. When they vote as a majority against strong investigations, against subpoenas, against requirements for financial disclosure, and most of all against protecting Robert Mueller and his investigation, they share complicity in the open secret.
.. We are watching the political equivalent of the Weinstein board paying off the objects of his abuse. We are watching Fox pay out its tens of millions to O’Reilly’s victims. But we’re watching it in real time, with the secret shared worldwide, and the stakes immeasurably higher.