Yesterday, I was exchanging some notes with my friend Michael Shoob, who is an accomplished filmmaker of such films as the drama Driven and the wonderful documentary Bush's Brain, based on the book about Karl Rove. We were discussing Roger Stone's ill-advise, egregious Instagram threat towards the judge overseeing his case, and Michael off-handedly mentioned that, as he put it, "My Dad was a pretty gentle, tolerant guy (and a Federal Judge for 37 years), I feel sure that he would have sent the Marshalls out there to pick him up and Stone would have been back in jail."
As low-key and modest about his pretty gentle and tolerant dad as Michael was, the larger story is that Marvin Shoob was the Atlanta judge who oversaw the infamous BNL bank scandal case in 1992 about the $5 billion unauthorized bank "loan" to Iraq laundered by the GHW Bush Administration -- and who, as a result of it all, publicly criticized the U.S. Attorney General for not pursuing the case with an independent counsel. That Attorney General? William Barr, just nominated by Trump and approved by the GOP Senate...
That's of note because, as Rachel Maddow devoted a long story on her show yesterday, Barr now oversees the Special Counsel and has been publicly critical of the investigation. So, it's uncertain and understandably concerning to people what the future holds for Robert Mueller and his team.
With that in mind, this article from (as whimsy has it) yesterday, as well -- it was a busy day yesterday, though this came first thing in the morning -- in Politico, written by Darren Samuelsohn, about major difficulties for Trump and his circle face regardless of what happens to the Special Counsel investigation. The story, "Trump can't run the Mueller playbook on New York feds" is a detailed look at how how Robert Mueller has passed off a good amount of his investigation to another division in the U.S. Justice Department, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. And the SDNY (also known sardonically as the "Sovereign Districst of New York) is renowned for its independence -- and has no parameters constricting what it investigates, unlike the mandate for the Special Counsel. Further, what it does investigate is large state-related, and most charges it can come up could be outside the purview of a presidential partner. Moreover, they are so independent they may not feel constrained by department policy and could therefore indict a sitting president if they felt it was justified.
(As John Sale, a former SDNY and Watergate prosecutor says in the article, “I’m thoroughly convinced the SDNY will make its own evaluation. They will not say that’s a department policy. They’re obviously looking at the president and I wouldn’t rule out that they could decide you can indict a sitting president.”)
Among the areas they are currently investigating are the Trump inaugural, Michael Cohen and the Trump Organization. And many of the people they have as cooperating witnesses are among those who have known and worked with Trump the longest, like Cohen, Trump organization chief financial officer Allen Weiselberg, and David Pecker, CEO of AMI, the owner of National Enquirer.
The article notes that Trump's difficulties with the SDNY are compounded because, unlike his personal attacks on Mueller, in an effort to discredit the Special Counsel in the eyes of his base, he will be challenged to do with same with the SDNY. Not only is there not a single personality to focus on, but their investigation is not centered on Trump's time in the White House but before, so there can be no claims of Executive Privilege nor charges of "witch hunts" against supposedly non-existent collusion with Russia. And their investigations can (and likely will) go on long past whenever Robert Mueller delivers his own report.
The article is terrific and interesting on its own merits, but for anyone kept up sleepless at night about whether Robert Mueller is fired and what will happen to his report, the piece is like an electrocharge jolt to a weak heart, giving it strength, joy and a new, long life
You can read it all here.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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