The Week That The Russia Scandal River Overflowed Its Banks & Became A Flood
Several things are glaringly obvious as the river of Russia scandal developments overflows its banks and becomes a flood of historic proportions: Donald Trump is a seriously evil person who happens to be president because of Vladimir Putin and James Comey. He has surrounded himself with an extraordinary rogue’s gallery of bottom feeders. His increasingly delusional rages against Comey, Robert Mueller, the Justice Department and FBI reveal not just that he believes the Rule of Law does not apply to him, but a shocking number of powerful people in important places agree with him.
This leads us to the biggest development in a week chockablock with them.
No, not Comey’s memos about Trump being made public and backfiring on the Republicans who demanded their release.
No, not Michael Cohen’s increasing legal peril after FBI raids and talk that his loyalty to Trump will end at the jailhouse door.
No, not a revelation by Trump political adviser Roger Stone that Trump has long treated Cohen “like dirt.”
No, not Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s threat to resign if Trump fired Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein over the Cohen raids.
No, not that Cohen has withdrawn a lawsuit over being cited in the Steele dossier as a key player in the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Kremlin.
No, not a Democratic lawsuit asserting that Russia, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks conspired to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
And no, not Trump’s continuing obeisance to Putin as he retreated from imposing new Russia sanctions.
We’re talking about the lawyerly knight in tarnished armor who is riding to Trump’s rescue after the creme de la creme of the white-collar criminal defense bar spurned entreaties to help save him from the twin pincers of Mueller’s Russia investigation and an investigation into Cohen’s labors as Trump’s fixer, including his role in helping to arrange payments during the 2016 campaign to silence women with whom Trump had affairs.
In one respect, Giuliani’s appointment to Trump’s anorexic legal team is no surprise. He’ll spend a lot more time barking on Fox News than actually prepping Trump for his long-anticipated sitdown with Mueller, a onetime Giuliani pal whom he thinks he can sweet talk into going easy on the poor, beleaguered president.
Politics always has been populated by sleazebags, but every generation or so one comes along who is so vile that he stands out from the pack. So it is with Giuliani.
The stories of Giuliani’s sleaziness are legion, and that is quite an accomplishment since he came into most of our lives on the highest of notes — as “America’s Mayor” who took charge after the 9/11 disaster.
But from there it has been all downhill.
Giuliani liked to brag that as mayor of New York City, he spent more time at Ground Zero than rescue and clean-up workers, which was a lie. Actually, his administration had failed to address the gaping flaws in the response to the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, which came back in spades on 9/11, and he knowingly sent workers into the toxic hell of the collapsed Twin Towers.
Then there are Giuliani’s ample personal shortcomings, including being a serial adulterer like Trump who broke the news to his wife that he was getting a divorce during a televised press conference, and his embrace of a succession of creepy characters from televangelist Pat Robertson to Bernard Kerik to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, about whom more later.
Had Giuliani been nominated by the Republican Party and then elected president in 2008, Kerik would have missed his inauguration.
This is because the former NYC corrections chief, promoted to police commissioner by Giuliani, was doing prison time for just one of his multiple legal entanglements, which included glomming onto $165,000 in free renovations to his Bronx apartment by a construction company with mob ties, shacking up with his mistress in a Manhattan condo reserved for cops with post-9/11 traumas, and that timeless toe stubber, failing to pay taxes on an illegal immigrant nanny whom he was boinking on the side.
None of this prevented Giuliani from drawing on his vast reservoir of good judgment and recommending that Kerik become Dubya’s first homeland security czar. Dubya wisely demurred.
Giuliani is a gold medalist in flip-flopping. He was for gay rights before he was against them. He was for gun control before he hearted the National Rifle Association. He was for forgiving illegal immigrants eking out honest livings in the Big Apple until he wanted to deport them. He was once a hawk on Iran, but . . . more about that later, too.
With Trump’s poll numbers plunging, Giuliani bragged on October 26, 2016 on the Lars Larson radio show that he was in contact with FBI agents and had “a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next few days.” Two days later, Comey reopened the Clinton email investigation, prompting credible but unproven allegations that Giuliani played a sub rosa role in an event 11 days before the election that sent the Clinton campaign into a tailspin from which it never recovered.
Giuliani ended up on the A-list to become the president-elect’s secretary of state while helpfully bragging that he had advised the newbie president about how to impose his patently illegal Muslim ban “legally.” But it turned out his conflicts of interest were too enormous and the top job at State went to Rex Tillerson, whose tenure was short circuited when he actually advocated getting tough on Putin.
Giuliani has assuaged his grief over not serving his country in an official capacity by becoming filthy rich representing misunderstood oligarchs. One of his latest clients was Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman.
Zarrab has struggled through life getting his hands dirty counting money. The multi-billionaire owns 20 houses, seven yachts and a private jet, is married to one of Turkey’s biggest pop tarts, and counts among his friends that Erdogan fella, who is Turkey’s now stronger than ever strongman thanks to the kind of magical thinking by Turkish voters that made Trump emcee of the reality show known as the US of A. And of course has now become one of Trump’s new best friends because, you know, it takes an authoritarian to know one.
The U.S. government busted Zarrab in Miami in 2016 at the request of the Obama administration (remember those folks?) while he was en route to Disney World with the pop tart and their daughter. He was held on charges that he masterminded a huge operation to help the Iranian government evade economic sanctions put in place to hinder its efforts to build nuclear weapons. This is how it worked: Gold would be shipped to Iran from Turkey in exchange for Iranian oil and natural gas, and the feds say that at the peak of the operation Zarrab was buying a metric ton of gold and packing it off to Iran every day.
Zarrab had been moldering in the federal lockup in Manhattan despite the unsuccessful efforts of Giuliani and Michael Mukasey (the last of Dubya’s three non pareil attorneys general) to spring him, which besides causing long faces in Istanbul screwed up a plot involving Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and son Michael Jr. to kidnap Fetullah Gulen, an imam and former Erdogan ally who is living in exile in the Pennsylvania Poconos, in exchange for up to $15 million.
In November, Zarrab agreed to testify against a co-defendant. In December, Flynn agreed to cooperate with Mueller in the special prosecutor’s deep-state plot to engineer a bloodless coup against Trump, or so Giuliani would have you believe from some of his vitriolic teevee appearances.
Before we get back to those powerful people in important places like Giuliani who don’t believe that the Rule of Law applies to Trump, it should be noted that in the flood of developments a fundamental fact keeps getting lost. Even the most zealous Trump defenders know what the rest of us know: That Trump (and Cohen) have committed not just crimes, but very freaking serious crimes.
This crowd also has had quite a week.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared in no uncertain terms that he has no intention of letting any bill to protect Mueller be brought up for a full Senate vote. Eleven House Republicans called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute Comey, more than a half-dozen current or former Justice Department officials and of course Clinton, because the FBI’s investigations into Clinton’s and Trump’s campaigns were marked by “dissimilar degrees of zealousness.”
It is an indication of low Trump’s sycophancy will go that they are now trying to tar Mueller as being complicit in one of the worst scandals in the F.B.I.’s history — the decades-long wrongful imprisonment of four men for a murder they didn’t commit.
Alan Dershowitz, civil libertarian turned Trump toady, as well as Sean Hannity, Fox News anchor and Cohen client, and the reliably vile Rush Limbaugh, are claiming that Mueller was central to protecting the cover of Boston crime boss and FBI informant Whitey Bulger at the expense of the four men, who eventually were awarded $101.8 million for their suffering.
Only one problem with that: The assertion is false, according to the federal judge who wrote the 105-page opinion awarding the four men the money. She says Mueller had no involvement in the case and never even was mentioned in conjunction with it.
For good measure, Trump claimed that he didn’t fire Comey “because of the phony Russia investigation” and railed that he is being victimized by Mueller, with whom he claims he has had “a cordial working relationship” if you don’t count all the times he’s threatened to fire him, as well.
Enter Rudy Giuliani, whom we can be sure will sort things out. Just you wait and see.
and related developments.