Frankly, in the “Age of Trump”, it’s getting harder and harder to keep up. Where we began to settle in with a crisis a week, we are now into multiples. What follows is a recap of what went down yesterday. (1)
Item: Michael Avenatti, attorney for porn star, Stormy Daniels, has filed a law suit against Trump, alleging that the president defamed his client, casting her as a liar. (2) This legal action arose out of a Tweet by 45, accusing Daniels of perpetrating a “con job”, referring to her attempt to identify a man who threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot.
That Trump, who is already in legal jeopardy viz a viz Daniels, would Tweet as he did, is likely a product of his obsessive devotion to zero-sum-game playing; i.e. in an adversarial relationship, he must win every point, or at the last, deny his opponent one.
Now, being a fighter can be an admirable trait. But, at times, it has to be leavened with a recognition that some tiffs are either not worth having, or may produce unintended consequences as in the present case. Any 71 year old with a level of maturity that matches his age and some “street smarts” has learned that lesson. Which brings us to our next…
Item: Around 3 PM EST, NBC News broke the story that multiple White House staffers had gone on the record as claiming that Chief of Staff, Gen. John Kelly (US Marine Corps, retired), had repeatedly referred to the president as “an idiot”, and to himself as the person who was “saving the US from disaster”. (3)
Certainly, a man of Kelly’s education could have found more polite terms to refer to 45’s intellect; e.g. “incurious…under-worked…lacking depth”. But, perhaps seeking to practice an economy of language, Kelley may have decided that “idiot” was not only sufficient, but covered the needed “territory”.
The Chief of Staff has denied the NBC report referring to it as “BS”. But, the reporters who are responsible for the story are standing by it, and have a solid track record when it comes to getting things right, especially in their coverage of all things Trump.
What all this foretells of Kelley’s future as 45’s major domo points to his being sent packing. The president cannot abide disloyalty and he has recently been said to chafe under Kelley’s discipline. There had already been talk of the Chief being moved laterally into the Head of the VA so as to create a “soft landing” for him. Now, the “idiot” sobriquet makes even that sort of gracious exit unlikely.
Item: The evening’s political talk shows had to scramble to cover a late-breaking story posted by the New York Times. This article laid out a series of 49 questions that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller intends to pose to 45. (4) Each query was surely generated by evidence and testimony that Mueller already has in his possession but that Trump can only guess at. (5) What is more, every question is broad enough to allow for a range of follow-up probing. Taken altogether, these questions, which seem focused on obstruction of justice, are a veritable Pandora’s Box and it is not surprising that one of 45’s previous lawyers, John Dowd, warned him to avoid testifying if at all possible. Of course, in reality, it isn’t! If the Special Prosecutor chooses to, he can subpoena Trump and put him under oath. If that were to actually happen, the president would be faced with the options of repeatedly pleading his 5th Amendment rights, or claiming profound memory loss. Both choices are tantamount to committing political suicide. The only other option would be to respond fully and truthfully to every inquiry. Were that choice to be made and acted upon, it would fly in the face of Trump’s long history of serial lying, dissembling and word salad production.
End Notes: Mueller’s four-plus dozen questions are essentially a road map to follow in what is sure to emerge as an obstruction of justice case. Is that then the be all and end all of the investigation? The bet here is that matters won’t end there. The SP has yet to conclude his probing of money laundering, bank fraud, income tax evasion and conspiracy with Russian entities to corrupt the 2016 election.
What follows on the heels of the 49 queries may prove to be an inflection point that signals our proximity to the end of this now year-long investigation. But, you better stay tuned because the chances are very good that there is a lot more – a whole lot more – to come.
- The items have not been presented in their real chronological order. In actuality, the “idiot” item was followed by the defamation item, and then the item involving the 49 questions.
- CNN; “Stormy Daniels files defamation lawsuit against Trump”. April 30, 2018. By Sara Sidner, MJ Lee, Javier De Diego and Maeve Reston.
- NBC News; “Kelly thinks he’s saving U.S. from disaster, calls Trump ‘idiot’ ” April 30, 2018. By Carol E. Lee, Courtney Kube, Kristen Welker, and Stephanie Ruhle.
- New York Times; “Mueller Has Dozens of Inquiries for Trump in Broad Questions on Russia Ties and Obstruction”. April 30, 2018; Michael Schmidt.
- When interrogating a witness, lawyers learn to never ask a question for which you don’t already know the answer.