Bob Schwartz

Tag: Trump

Trump Couldn’t Get Hired to Manage a McDonald’s (Though He’d Love It)

For so many reasons, starting but not ending with incompetence, and including his reputation as a sex offender, Trump could not get hired to manage any public or private enterprise of any size. This includes managing a McDonald’s, which is in many ways his dream job (he doesn’t realize that managers don’t get free food).

And yet he is nominally Chief Executive Officer of the United States, the biggest enterprise in the world.

Leaders everywhere, the “beautiful” dictators who should be our enemies and the less “beautiful” allies who should be our friends, all know this. Aliens from other planets, if they are watching, know this. More than half of all Americans know this.

Years from now, in the unsettled and uncertain future, Trump’s “management” of America will be the stuff of hundreds of business school case studies. Even at Wharton, which he claims without proof as his alma mater, MBA students will have to read the story and be asked by their management professors, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

The right answer is: everything.

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More than 540 former federal prosecutors so far have signed a letter contending that Trump would have been charged with obstruction if he weren’t president.

More than 400 540 former federal prosecutors from Republican and Democratic administrations have signed a letter contending that President Donald Trump would have been charged with obstruction of justice based on the findings of the Mueller report if he weren’t president. And the list of signers is growing.


STATEMENT BY FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTORS
May 6, 2019

We are former federal prosecutors. We served under both Republican and Democratic administrations at different levels of the federal system: as line attorneys, supervisors, special prosecutors, United States Attorneys, and senior officials at the Department of Justice. The offices in which we served were small, medium, and large; urban, suburban, and rural; and located in all parts of our country.

Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.

The Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming. These include:

  • The President’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort;
  • The President’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; and
  • The President’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign.

Attempts to fire Mueller and then create false evidence

Despite being advised by then-White House Counsel Don McGahn that he could face legal jeopardy for doing so, Trump directed McGahn on multiple occasions to fire Mueller or to gin up false conflicts of interest as a pretext for getting rid of the Special Counsel. When these acts began to come into public view, Trump made “repeated efforts to have McGahn deny the story” — going so far as to tell McGahn to write a letter “for our files” falsely denying that Trump had directed Mueller’s termination.

Firing Mueller would have seriously impeded the investigation of the President and his associates — obstruction in its most literal sense. Directing the creation of false government records in order to prevent or discredit truthful testimony is similarly unlawful. The Special Counsel’s report states: “Substantial evidence indicates that in repeatedly urging McGahn to dispute that he was ordered to have the Special Counsel terminated, the President acted for the purpose of influencing McGahn’s account in order to deflect or prevent scrutiny of the President’s conduct toward the investigation.”

Attempts to limit the Mueller investigation

The report describes multiple efforts by the president to curtail the scope of the Special Counsel’s investigation.

First, the President repeatedly pressured then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his legally-mandated decision to recuse himself from the investigation. The President’s stated reason was that he wanted an attorney general who would “protect” him, including from the Special Counsel investigation. He also directed then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to fire Sessions and Priebus refused.

Second, after McGahn told the President that he could not contact Sessions himself to discuss the investigation, Trump went outside the White House, instructing his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to carry a demand to Sessions to direct Mueller to confine his investigation to future elections. Lewandowski tried and failed to contact Sessions in private. After a second meeting with Trump, Lewandowski passed Trump’s message to senior White House official Rick Dearborn, who Lewandowski thought would be a better messenger because of his prior relationship with Sessions. Dearborn did not pass along Trump’s message.

As the report explains, “[s]ubstantial evidence indicates that the President’s effort to have Sessions limit the scope of the Special Counsel’s investigation to future election interference was intended to prevent further investigative scrutiny of the President’s and his campaign’s conduct” — in other words, the President employed a private citizen to try to get the Attorney General to limit the scope of an ongoing investigation into the President and his associates.

All of this conduct — trying to control and impede the investigation against the President by leveraging his authority over others — is similar to conduct we have seen charged against other public officials and people in powerful positions.

Witness tampering and intimidation

The Special Counsel’s report establishes that the President tried to influence the decisions of both Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort with regard to cooperating with investigators. Some of this tampering and intimidation, including the dangling of pardons, was done in plain sight via tweets and public statements; other such behavior was done via private messages through private attorneys, such as Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani’s message to Cohen’s lawyer that Cohen should “[s]leep well tonight[], you have friends in high places.”

Of course, these aren’t the only acts of potential obstruction detailed by the Special Counsel. It would be well within the purview of normal prosecutorial judgment also to charge other acts detailed in the report.

We emphasize that these are not matters of close professional judgment. Of course, there are potential defenses or arguments that could be raised in response to an indictment of the nature we describe here. In our system, every accused person is presumed innocent and it is always the government’s burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. But, to look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not probably sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice — the standard set out in Principles of Federal Prosecution — runs counter to logic and our experience.

As former federal prosecutors, we recognize that prosecuting obstruction of justice cases is critical because unchecked obstruction — which allows intentional interference with criminal investigations to go unpunished — puts our whole system of justice at risk. We believe strongly that, but for the OLC memo, the overwhelming weight of professional judgment would come down in favor of prosecution for the conduct outlined in the Mueller Report.

Sarah Sanders Knows God’s Will and Says God Wants Trump

Berry Chapel, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas, alma mater of Sarah Sanders

“I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president. And that’s why he’s there.”
Sarah Sanders, White House Press Secretary, interviewed by Christian Broadcasting Network

[long pause]

[another long pause]

Some people believe that that they know the will of God and that God intervenes in worldly affairs according to that will, in any and all matters. In this view, God exercises preference for particular outcomes—from presidential elections to football games to epidemic diseases. God wants Trump to be president. God wants the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl. God wants to punish homosexuals with AIDS. And so on.

Others believe in a non-interventionist God, who has set the scene, given humans a treasure of tools, and expects those humans to make or break whatever they will. Sometimes those humans use those tools for great good, sometimes they act the fools, and sometimes they are monstrously destructive. It’s up to them. It’s up to us.

If, like Sarah Sanders, you claim to know God’s will and know that he wants Trump, consider this. If you sum up all that Trump has done and said so far, in his life and his presidency, does God by his “choosing” Trump endorse all of that? That is, under the Sanders theology, if we know Trump, we know his benefactor God.

Leaving us with this disturbing question: Just what kind of God does Sanders believe in?

Miniature Rakes: New Symbol of the Resistance and Resurgence…and So Zen

Our story so far: Visiting the site of the California fires, Trump—graduate of the Wharton School of Finance and Forest Management—told officials that the disaster could have been prevented if they “raked the forest floor.” He said he heard this from the Prime Minister of Finland, who replied that he had never told Trump any such thing.

This led to global reaction, including the clever hashtag #RakeAmericaGreatAgain, along with lots of creative images of people with rakes.

Rakes are more than a tool to clean up lawns, or if you are Trump, to prevent forest fires. They are used in Zen gardens to mindfully tend to a blank slate of sand.

Many of us have or have had rakes as items in our landscape tool shed. But displaying a full-size rake inside your home or on your desk is awkward—as is giving a rake as a gift or sending a rake to sympathetic or unsympathetic public servants.

That is where miniature rakes come in. These tiny rakes are not just available as a children’s toy. They are also available to help those who maintain tabletop Zen sand gardens. Best of all, they are inexpensive, as little as $2 apiece.

So buy and display a miniature rake. Put it on your table or desk. Send it as a gift. Rakes may not prevent forest fires, but they are symbols of cleaning up and bringing creative order and design to chaos. All in your hands.

“Will Pittsburgh Shooting Be A Wakeup Call For Jews Who Enable Trump?”

The Forward today includes an opinion piece, Will Pittsburgh Shooting Be A Wakeup Call For Jews Who Enable Trump by Ben Faulding, that ends like this:

Now that Jewish blood has been spilled, will the leaders recognize the threat they’ve been ignoring for so long?

Trump’s behaviors and policies continually contravert practically every core principle of Judaism. But even when white nationalists in Charlottesville directly expressed their anti-Semitism with chants like “Jews will not replace us,” important Jewish supporters and White House staff didn’t object to Trump’s equivocation of “good people on both sides.” We have a transactional president in transactional times, so if ignoring even anti-Semitism is the price you pay for support of Israel, tax benefits, etc., well, that’s the art of the deal.

The answer to whether this horror will be a wakeup call is mostly No. Jews who have cast their lot with Trump, from billionaires like Sheldon Adelson on down, either don’t know what Jewish principles actually are or have rationalized their support in relation to those principles. They aren’t asleep so they can’t wake up. They are just not very good Jews, if Jews at all.

The Hopeful But Limited Relief of Having the New Kavanaugh Investigation

It is good news that there will be a new FBI investigation in the Brett Kavanaugh matter. Any movement towards a return to free, open and lawful democracy is welcome.

But before we pop champagne and release balloons, a reality check. Here are some ways the investigation could have little effect on the outcome—in fact, will be designed to have little effect, besides providing cover for vulnerable and/or spineless Republicans.

1. It is a limited investigation. We don’t know the scope, which is being directed by Trump. It could be as narrow as the single incident alleged by Christine Blasey Ford, the incident that was the subject of Thursday’s hearing. This could mean simply talking to her, to Brett Kavanaugh, and to the few people who were there—only one of whom, Mark Judge, is an eyewitness.

Judge has already said that as an effect of his chronic alcoholic blackouts, going back to high school, he has no memory, one way or the other, of the incident. There is no reason he won’t say the same thing to the FBI.

The investigation could be broader. It could include other allegations that have been made. It could include everything that Ford and Kavanaugh testified to during the hearing. It could thus involve Kavanaugh’s claims about his benign behavior, claims that have been refuted by a number of people who knew him in high school and college. It could include all this, but almost certainly will not.

2. Trump controls the report of the investigation. Trump ordered the investigation. His order presumably included a specific scope of investigation for the FBI to follow. Just as importantly, the report of the investigation will go directly to Trump, who can decide how much of the investigation report can be shared and who it can be shared with.

The worst case, which would not be surprising, is that no copies of the report will be distributed. Instead, senators will be allowed to review the report in the White House. They may be allowed to take notes.

All of this—any presidential redaction and any restricted distribution—are part of the desire by some for this investigation to be “confidential”…

3. The investigation is, in some unspecified way, supposed to be “confidential”. Judge has said he wants whatever he says to be confidential. Kavanaugh has indicated he expects it to be confidential. It is unclear what this means functionally. But it is easy to see the case that would be made:

The only reason we are doing this investigation is to further inform the senators responsible for deciding on confirmation. Others, whether other members of Congress or citizens in general, may be curious, but they have no compelling reason to see the detailed report, given that it contains sensitive information.

If that reasoning sounds extreme, that is, extremely suspect, it is. But if you need a basis for it, just look at the “investigation” that went into Kavanaugh in the first place, and look at the history of the Trump administration. No twisted attempt at hiding the truth is too absurd.

The Trump/Cosby/Weinstein Analysis Becomes the Kavanaugh Analysis: Individual Incidents or Pattern of Behavior or Bad Character. Or All of the Above.

We’ve been learning the hard way how it works when people of power, prestige or celebrity are accused of bad things. Individual and isolated incidents are denied or covered up. Even if there is a smattering of proof, this keeps the focus away from the more important issues of patterns of behavior or bad character. In fact, when you bolster with endorsements of “good character”, the impact of the individual incidents is softened, and a pattern of behavior becomes unthinkable.

We have reached the point in the Brett Kavanaugh consideration where individual incidents are being set aside or shot down, just as evidence of a pattern of behavior or bad character is creeping in. That evidence isn’t even new. His high school drinking and debauchery buddy Mark Judge has written in his memoir about drunken exploits with his thinly disguised pal “Bart O’Kavanagh”. Judge will not be questioned, and merely says that he was given to frequent alcoholic blackouts (in high school and for years to come), and so he has no memory of the particular incident. Which begs the question of whether he and Kavanaugh engaged in a pattern of drunken and drugged exploitation of young women—something Judge no doubt remembers, even in an alcoholic haze.

It took years—decades—for the sordid past to catch up with Cosby, Weinstein, and others. Astonishingly, the sordid past still hasn’t caught up with Trump. If you ask Republicans, we have literally days to decide whether Kavanaugh has the character to serve on the Supreme Court. There is evidence that he does not, and it is something that can be determined only by a true due diligence review of the individual incidents, of a pattern of behavior and of character. There is no need to rush to judgment, and every reason to pause.

“That’s Pride F***in’ Wit Ya”: Rod Rosenstein Could Never Figure Out Whether to Follow Self-Interest, Duty or Conscience

All public servants in the Trump era—from Senators and cabinet members on down—have three possible paths to follow:

Follow your self-interest
Follow your duty, to job and to country
Follow your conscience

Many of the highest level people in the government have taken the easy path of least resistance and most gain, and have chosen self-interest, even as they try to disguise it as duty or conscience. But a number of people, many of whom finally left the government—voluntarily or not—have had to wrestle with these choices.

Whatever is happening to Rod Rosenstein, a good public servant, he never seemed to be able to figure out exactly how to be a good public servant in such strange times. He knew he owed a duty to his office and to his country, which meant a duty to his president, but that came in conflict with his conscience.

I have previously cited the movie Pulp Fiction on the question of expedience, and I repeat it here.

At this point in the movie bad boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) is convincing aging boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) to take a dive:

I think you’re gonna find ­ when all this shit is over and done ­ I think you’re gonna find yourself one smilin’ motherfucker. Thing is Butch, right now you got ability. But painful as it may be, ability don’t last. Now that’s a hard motherfuckin’ fact of life, but it’s a fact of life your ass is gonna hafta git realistic about. This business is filled to the brim with unrealistic motherfuckers who thought their ass aged like wine. Besides, even if you went all the way, what would you be? Feather-weight champion of the world. Who gives a shit? I doubt you can even get a credit card based on that.

Now the night of the fight, you may fell a slight sting, that’s pride fuckin’ wit ya. Fuck pride! Pride only hurts, it never helps. Fight through that shit. ‘Cause a year from now, when you’re kickin’ it in the Caribbean you’re gonna say, “Marsellus Wallace was right.”

Note: For those who haven’t seen Pulp Fiction (why not?), in the end Marsellus Wallace gets his, in the spirit of Quentin Tarantino’s sense of rough and uncertain justice.

Ray of Light: Trump’s Pardoning May Be Like a Slot Machine

The likelihood of any individual being pardoned by Trump will be affected by Trump’s craziness, unreliability and lack of loyalty. It will be like a slot machine. And that may be a good thing for justice and the rule of law.

Even though I have long accepted that Trump would try to pardon almost everyone who is charged or convicted in the course of the investigation, Paul Manafort’s plea agreement to cooperate raises an encouraging insight:

If you were one of the dozens of people who are getting caught in this net, facing possible years in prison, and Trump told you to your face—not just through an intermediary, not just through hints on Twitter—that you could expect a pardon, would you believe him and depend on him to keep his word?

Of course you wouldn’t believe him and depend on him to keep his word. Which means, just like Manafort, you have to hedge your bets. It is possible that if you agree to cooperate, Trump might still pardon you. On the other hand, if you agree to cooperate, Trump might go crazy and refuse to pardon you. And in the worst case, you might stonewall and take your punishment, but because of some crazy voices in Trump’s head, he might still refuse to pardon you. Who knows? With Trump it’s a roll of the dice, a spin of the slots. As a defendant, are you willing to bet ten or twenty years of your life on a Looney Tunes character? I bet not.

 

Ben Franklin: My University of Pennsylvania Should Revoke Trump’s Diploma

“By the way this idiot Woodward who wrote this book which is all fiction said that I said something like that, but he put it in a crude manner…The concept is true, but the way it was said was very…hey, I went, like, to the best college.”
Trump at a North Dakota rally

Trump self-importantly crows about his degree from Wharton (like all the time), the business school of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Trump’s point is that he must be, like, a genius with that Penn degree. Penn, is, like, a very good school that continues to provide its students with an excellent education. Though in some small number of high-profile cases, it appears to be casting pearls before swine.

The bigger point is Ben Franklin, credited as founder of the university. Above is a photo of the Ben Franklin statue at the center of campus, in front of College Hall.

Penn has tried to walk a fine line in its relationship with Trump, and with other members of his family who have attended Penn. Just as the sins of the father should not be visited on children, the sins of the alumnus should not be visited on a college. Penn did the best it could, given what it had to work with.

Ben Franklin is having none of it. Among our American founders, he is the most famous for not suffering fools. That’s why he is asking the University of Pennsylvania—his University of Pennsylvania—to revoke Trump’s diploma. That won’t stop Trump from continuing to say he went, like, to the best college, but it will give the best college a way to say: thanks for the compliment and PR, but no thanks. And it will give Ben Franklin a way to stop spinning in his grave, just a few blocks from Independence Hall. Because this is not what he envisioned for the first-ever Penn grad in the White House. Not, like, at all.