Former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was involved in conversations about the scope of New York federal prosecutors’ investigation into Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, and about whether to fire one or more U.S. attorneys, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters after a closed-door meeting with Mr. Whitaker, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.) said Mr. Whitaker didn’t deny—as he had in a public committee hearing last month—that Mr. Trump had called him to discuss the Cohen investigation, in which prosecutors in December implicated the president in two federal campaign-finance violations.
Mr. Nadler said that Mr. Whitaker, while serving as acting attorney general, had been “directly involved” in conversations about whether to fire U.S. attorneys, though the congressman didn’t specify which ones.
Mr. Nadler also said Mr. Whitaker had been involved in discussions about the “scope of the Southern District [of New York] attorney and his recusal” from the Cohen investigation, and whether New York prosecutors “went too far” in pursuing their campaign-finance investigation.
Mr. Nadler didn’t specify with whom Mr. Whitaker had those conversations. The House Judiciary Committee believes it has evidence that Mr. Trump asked Mr. Whitaker whether Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman could regain control of his office’s investigation into Mr. Cohen, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.
Mr. Berman is a former law partner of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and in 2016 donated to the Trump campaign. The president personally interviewed him for the U.S. attorney job, and last year he recused himself from involvement in the Cohen investigation.
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the committee, disputed parts of Mr. Nadler’s account on Wednesday, saying Mr. Whitaker didn’t confirm that he had spoken with the president about the Cohen investigation. He also said Mr. Whitaker’s conversations about firing U.S. attorneys were “normal personnel issues.”
The revelation that Mr. Whitaker was involved in conversations about the possibility of curtailing New York prosecutors’ investigation into the president’s former lawyer could propel ongoing investigations by Congress and by special counsel Robert Mueller into whether Mr. Trump sought to obstruct justice. Mr. Trump has denied doing so.
Sorry, investors, but there is no sanity clause.
Two years ago, after the shock of Donald Trump’s election, financial markets briefly freaked out, then quickly recovered. In effect, they decided that while Trump was manifestly unqualified for the job, temperamentally and intellectually, it wouldn’t matter. He might talk the populist talk, but he’d walk the plutocratic walk. He might be erratic and uninformed, but wiser heads would keep him from doing anything too stupid.
In other words, investors convinced themselves that they had a deal: Trump might sound off, but he wouldn’t really get to make policy. And, hey, taxes on corporations and the wealthy would go down.
But now, just in time for Christmas, people are realizing that there was no such deal — or at any rate, that there wasn’t a sanity clause. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) Put an unstable, ignorant, belligerent man in the Oval Office, and he will eventually do crazy things.
To be clear, voters have been aware for some time that government by a bad man is bad government. That’s why Democrats won a historically spectacular majority of the popular vote in the midterms. Even the wealthy, who have been the prime beneficiaries of Trump policies, are unhappy: A CNBC survey finds that millionaires, even Republican millionaires, have turned sharply against the tweeter in chief.
.. The reality that presidential unfitness matters for investors seems to have started setting in only about three weeks (and around 4,000 points on the Dow) ago.
- First came the realization that Trump’s much-hyped deal with China existed only in his imagination. Then came
- his televised meltdown in a meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer,
- his abrupt pullout from Syria,
- his firing of Jim Mattis and
- his shutdown of the government because Congress won’t cater to his edifice complex and build a pointless wall. And now there’s
- buzz that he wants to fire Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Oh, and along the way we learned that Trump has been engaging in raw obstruction of justice, pressuring his acting attorney general (who is himself a piece of work) over the Mueller investigation as the tally of convictions, confessions and forced resignations mounts.
.. And even trade war might not do that much harm, as long as it’s focused mainly on China, which is only one piece of U.S. trade. The really big economic risk was that Trump might break up Nafta, the North American trade agreement: U.S. manufacturing is so deeply integrated with production in Canada and Mexico that this would have been highly disruptive. But he settled for changing the agreement’s name while leaving its structure basically intact, and the remaining risks don’t seem that large.
.. Now imagine how this administration team might cope with a real economic setback, whatever its source. Would Trump look for solutions or refuse to accept responsibility and focus mainly on blaming other people? Would his Treasury secretary and chief economic advisers coolly analyze the problem and formulate a course of action, or would they respond with a combination of sycophancy to the boss and denials that anything was wrong? What do you think?