Friday, February 22, 2019

Give Me Little Sign

Here's something curious from David F. Brooks ("The Lawyers Who Did Not Break"):
The S.D.N.Y. investigation seems to be zeroing in on the $107 million Trump inauguration extravaganza. From the hints dropped by the subpoenas, one gets the impression that the inauguration was a shambolic grabfest in which people with money tried to turn it into power and people who suddenly had power tried to turn it into money.
Some legal experts believe the inauguration is being aggressively probed as a racketeering operation — a continuing criminal enterprise, complete with mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and the rest.
So why aren’t the legal authorities wilting? One explanation: institutions and character. The legal institutions instill codes of excellence that are strong enough to take the heat.
I guess the obvious Big Thing here is the acknowledgment of a nexus of criminality in Trumplandia that really deserves investigation, like there's something bad about that. Last May ("Donald Trump's Lizard Wisdom"), Brooks was asking  us to consider the bright side of Trump's mob connections:

I can’t help but wonder if that kind of background has provided a decent education for dealing with the sort of hopped-up mobsters running parts of the world today. There is growing reason to believe that Donald Trump understands the thug mind a whole lot better than the people who attended our prestigious Foreign Service academies.
The first piece of evidence is North Korea. When Trump was trading crude, back-alley swipes with “Little Rocket Man,” Kim Jong-un, about whose nuclear button was bigger, it sounded as if we were heading for a nuclear holocaust led by a pair of overgrown prepubescents.
In fact, Trump’s bellicosity seems to have worked [Heh, that didn't age well].... The world is a lot more like the Atlantic City real estate market than the G.R.E.s.
Now he seems to think government by thugs is some kind of problem, so that seems momentous.

Though you can see his slightly panicky sense that he may be drifting into dangerous waters, by the way he quickly drops anchor, with a characteristically Brooksian theme—you'll be a good person in difficult times if you belong to the right club, with the right traditions and rituals—in a kind of peculiar variant in which it's the lawyers' club, of all places.

That's what the column is ostensibly about, how well lawyers, particularly some Republican lawyers, are behaving during the current crisis, focusing on assistant US attorney Robert Khuzami of the Southern District of New York (the column's URL is, who ran the prosecution of Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, with two other young assistant US attorneys, Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel (appointed by Deputy Attorney General James Comey at the end of 2003) who many readers will remember from years of hoping that he was going to bust Dick Cheney in the Valerie Plame affair ("It's Fitzmas!") or otherwise demonstrate the criminal corruption of the W Bush administration; and Andrew C. McCarthy, who is the "legal expert" of the National Review, and who I'm betting is all of the "legal experts" Brooks spoke to in the preparation of this piece.

McCarthy has, in fact, been pushing his own prediction that nothing will come of the Russia investigation but something big may arise from the Southern District's look at the inauguration, in which Khuzami plays a central role, as he did in the Michael Cohen indictments:
the SDNY says the investigation involves several possible fraud and money-laundering offenses related to the collection and reporting of contributions. These include donations from foreign nationals and “straw donors” (a nominee substituted for the actual contributor of funds), as well as the evasion of reporting requirements (by such tricks as having donors pay vendors directly, rather than as part of the inauguration committee’s business). The list of potential crimes is topped by “conspiracy against the United States.” 
That's what McCarthy has assigned Brooks to do today: dutifully spread this news among the faithful. It looks to me like another little sign of the impending Trump collapse, that the movement conservatives are readying the movement for it.

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