Thursday, February 14, 2019

Word to the Wise Guys

From Ralph Bakshi's 1972 Fritz the Cat.

The most incoherent bit in The Atlantic's excerpt from Andrew McCabe's book, when he's describing his weird interactions with Trump and McGahn just after the firing of James Comey, when McCabe was the FBI's acting director, and Trump had this idea that he wanted to pay a formal visit to the Bureau, where he was convinced he was deeply loved, and McCabe wished he wouldn't, but was afraid to say so. Trump somehow doesn't believe his assurances:
I knew what a disaster it could turn out to be if he came to the Hoover Building in the near future. He pressed further, asking specifically, Do you think it would be a good idea for me to come down now? I said, Sure.
He looked at Don McGahn. The president said, Don, what do you think? Do you think I should go down to the FBI and speak to the people?
McGahn was sitting in one of the wooden chairs to my right. Making eye contact with Trump, he said, in a very pat and very prepared way, If the acting director of the FBI is telling you he thinks it is a good idea for you to come visit the FBI, then you should do it.
Then McGahn turned and looked at me. And Trump looked at me and asked, Is that what you’re telling me? Do you think it is a good idea?
It was a bizarre performance. I said it would be fine. I had no real choice. This was not worth the ultimate sacrifice.
What on earth is this about? Why would they be pressing him like this, to say something he's already said? Is it that they see his reluctance in his eyes? Or are we reading this—is McCabe reading this—completely backwards? Is McGahn actually begging McCabe to tell Trump no? Aware that it's a terrible idea, as anti-Trump emotions in the FBI rise to fever pitch, but afraid to tell the wicked old tyrant himself and looking for backup, which McCabe, equally frightened or just clueless or both, fails to provide? It's very odd. And then,

In this moment, I felt the way I’d felt in 1998, in a case involving the Russian Mafia, when I sent a man I’ll call Big Felix in to meet with a Mafia boss named Dimitri Gufield. The same kind of thing was happening here, in the Oval Office. Dimitri had wanted Felix to endorse his protection scheme. This is a dangerous business, and its a bad neighborhood, and you know, if you want, I can protect you from that. If you want my protection. I can protect you. Do you want my protection? The president and his men were trying to work me the way a criminal brigade would operate.
Why is McCabe telling us this particular story? Why, if Trump and McGahn are working him like a "criminal brigade", does he feel the way he felt at that moment in 1998? Why wouldn't he feel the way Big Felix felt? It was Big Felix who was getting shaken down in 1998, wasn't it?

I wasn't the only one bothered:

But we were also confused by exactly what it was we were bothered by, and it looks as if the admirable Kendzior is more confused than me, an unusual situation.

One thing I did find out was who Dimitri Gufield (what a stupid-looking name, by the way, presumably a misspelling of Gutfeld that's careened out of intelligibility): a Brooklyn thug who ran his own Brighton Beach brigade and was busted in October 1998:
The brigade, headed by two defendants, Dimitri Gufield, 35, and Alexander Kutsenko, 37, is accused of engaging in kidnapping, robbery, Medicaid fraud and extortion through death threats, assaults and arson in Brighton Beach and elsewhere between last fall and last spring. They were also charged with importing women and forcing them into prostitution. The other suspects were identified as Igor Kotov, 37, Alexander Kroytor, 22, and Andrey Yakubov, 22. A seventh suspect, Anya Rits, 19, was charged with helping the brigade carry out a holdup.
In fact he was busted by the FBI (evidently under the direction of McCabe himself), and it was the first time they'd managed to use the RICO statute on the Russian mob, in October 1998, a couple of months before Felix Sater was busted for some much fancier crimes (a $40-million penny stock fraud he'd been operating since 1993, in association with the Genovese family) and turned FBI informant himself, so we can be pretty sure he was not the Big Felix in McCabe's story. But I'll bet he knows the story himself, because that's a big moment in the history of the Mafiya in the US, and Sater is the Mafiya's child (literally: his father, Mikhail Sheferovsky, was an underboss for Semyon Mogilevich).

The passage is obviously less than a narrative, but more than a joke too, and I'm wondering if it isn't as it were a word to the wise guys, Felix Sater and all of them right up to the White House, letting them known just how much the FBI has on them. The way Andrew McCabe felt about Dimitri Gufield in 1998, after the latter's encounter with "Big Felix", was anticipatory pleasure, of the kind the cat feels when the mouse makes a first appearance. If that's the way he felt about Trump in the spring of 2017, that could be a very good sign.

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