The Long Game

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

With Robert Mueller’s main lieutenant, Andrew Weissmann, stepping down from his team, it’s obvious that the Special Counsel is wrapping up his investigation and will soon submit his final report to the Attorney General.  In spite of the fact that there is overwhelming proof, in plain sight, of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, as Jonathan Chait laid out in last week’s New York Magazine, it is quite possible that Mueller will not hold the president directly responsible, although he might yet surprise the pundits.  A reason for a cautious report can be that a sitting president cannot be indicted, per a contentious Department of Justice policy, and that therefore information about his possible crimes cannot be aired.  But it would be too early for Trump to crow victory, because it is likely that Mueller is playing a game that won’t be finished until long after he has ended his probe.  His mandate was limited to begin with, namely to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and it’s clear that he has branched out findings of criminal behavior beyond that scope to other jurisdictions, primarily in New York.

Prime examples are the hush money payments by Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.  On the federal level they represent campaign finance law violations, but since Cohen was initially partly reimbursed by the Trump Organization a 1099 Form should have been filed but was not, Cohen’s activities were fraudulently recorded as ‘legal services,’ and the payments were most likely deducted from the organization’s taxes as a business expense.  Those are already three felonies that can be prosecuted in New York for which the president, who never formally divested himself from the Trump Organization, as well as his eldest son, who signed some of the checks, can be indicted by the State Attorney General or the Manhattan District Attorney.  With State regulators looking into insurance fraud and a subpoena from the State AG for Deutsche Bank, both to establish if fraud was committed by deliberately misrepresenting the value of properties, many more indictments could follow.  Under a local statute that was specifically designed to charge the heads of local mafia families for their crimes Trump can be prosecuted for every crime committed by his own organization.

Just like Mueller Nancy Pelosi is playing a long game.  She declared that Congress should not pursue impeachment unless in a bi-partisan fashion, because ‘Trump isn’t worth it.’  What the Speaker really means is that Trump would only benefit from an impeachment procedure at this point in time, because he can then rally his base against Congress and create a distraction during the election season.  Pelosi expects more from a slow erosion of Trump’s presidential power by timely revelations out of multiple investigations.

In the Watergate case, the gradual loss of support from Republican politicians led to Nixon’s resignation, and something similar could happen to Trump.  This week the House voted unanimously that Mueller’s findings should be made public, and twelve GOP senators voted for a resolution to block Trump’s national emergency.  As investigations by House committees yield results there will be more defections from the Trump camp.

A week that started with the news that Cindy Yang, who sold sex in her Florida business, also sold access to the Trumps at Mar-a-Lago, and with the president pronouncing that ‘Democrats hate Jews,’ went farther downhill from there, as unimaginable as that may seem.  Trump may not be winning, but he keeps setting records of moral depravity.

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