How serious is the White House about defending itself from allegations of impropriety in the election and in any contact with the Russian government? “Someone familiar with internal White House thinking” reached out to me. Sadly, I cannot describe this carbon-based life-form in the Washington, D.C., area more specifically than that. Longtime readers know I’ve had days where I’ve defended President Trump and I’ve had days where I have criticized him intensely, but apparently, the White House and its allies are no longer talking only to media that is willing to march in lockstep in defending Trump.
This person said that the news from earlier this week about Mueller’s investigation now turning to obstruction of justice is not necessary terrible news. The Washington Post reported that “Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week.”
This source says that the fact that the investigation is leaking is bad, but it also shows Mueller is moving quickly. In public hearings, Coats and Rogers said that while they didn’t particularly like talking to the president when he complained and asked about Comey’s inquiry, they didn’t feel pressured to stop any investigation.
“Don’t think Mueller is happy about the leaks,” this source said. “Hopeful he will shut them down.”
This is a more positive perspective on Mueller than you’ve seen from some other Trump surrogates, and one that seems to make more sense. If everyone says Mueller’s a straight arrow, then it probably means that in addition to not willing to avert his eyes from crimes, he also won’t want to put the country through the extraordinarily divisive process of an attempted removal of power of a newly elected president over a gray area or a ticky-tack foul. Based on what we know, it’s easy to picture him issuing some statement like, “The president’s comments and inquiries about the Flynn investigation were inappropriate, and such comments must be avoided in the future, but they do not rise to the level of obstruction of justice.” In a great irony, that would echo the standard James Comey applied to Hillary Clinton’s classified information: This was a bad thing to do, but we can’t find proof of any malicious intent.
The Washington Lawyer Who, Like a Bad Penny, Always Turns Up
Jamie Gorelick is now Jared Kushner’s personal lawyer, and her friends and neighbors are apparently cattily bashing her off-the-record to Washington Post reporters while insisting publicly they have no quarrel with her.
Matthew Continetti scoffs: “These are, after all, the same well schooled, affluent, smooth-talking men and women who erupt in outrage at the slightest suggestion that a lawyer might decline to represent an unsavory client. What does it say about them that Javanka’s attorney is held to a different standard than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s?”
Instead of worrying if Gorelick’s reputation will be sullied by associated with Kushner, I wonder if Kushner should fear his reputation will be sullied by associating with Gorelick. She’s like the Forrest Gump of American misfortune in the past three decades; she keeps showing up right before or right after things go terribly, terribly wrong.
Start at the Department of Justice in the mid 1990s. In 1993, Mary Lawton, counsel for intelligence policy and head of the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, passed away, leaving a large gap in the decision-making at DOJ; Lawton and her staff set the standards for sharing information between the intelligence community and law enforcement. Janet Reno put Gorelick in charge of settling the ensuring dispute and putting together new rules.
Gorelick’s memo suggested written regulations, which were formally adopted in the 1995 Procedures. According to Gorelick, her procedures “exceeded the requirements of FISA and then-existing federal case law” in regulating information sharing.
The 1995 Procedures turned the “primary purpose” standard into written Justice Department policy and ultimately had the effect of limiting the coordination between intelligence and criminal officials who wanted to avoid the appearance that a foreign intelligence investigation was becoming a criminal investigation. By their own terms, the 1995 Procedures did not totally ban the sharing of information between criminal and intelligence officials; they simply heavily regulated that communication. However, the procedures for passing information “over the wall” — the slang phrase for transferring information between intelligence and criminal officials — were often so burdensome or complicated that officials simply chose not to share information.
You may recall Gorelick serving on the 9/11 Commission, and a particularly dramatic moment as then-attorney general John Ashcroft tore into the “snarled web of requirements, restrictions and regulations… prevented decisive action by our men and women in the field.” Referring to the 1995 document that firmly established the scope of the metaphorical wall, Ashcroft testified, “full disclosure compels me to inform you that the author of this memorandum is a member of the commission.”
Gorelick and her allies contended that was scapegoating, but she eventually chose to recuse herself from the panel’s discussion of her own decisions. She did contend publicly that “the wall” had existed before her memo. But if it’s unfair to say she created the wall, she enhanced the foundation and height and it’s indisputable that she set the standard that was in place in the years leading up to 9/11.
From DOJ, Gorelick went on to become vice chairman of Fannie Mae, and stayed there six years. She was paid $26 million, but there were some significant problems during those years.
Fannie Mae employees falsified signatures on accounting transactions that helped the company meet earnings targets for 1998, a “manipulation” that triggered multimillion-dollar bonuses for top executives, a federal regulator said yesterday… In 1998, Gorelick was paid a $779,625 bonus.
By 2006, federal regulators concluded “financial results at Fannie Mae, the nation’s largest buyer of mortgages, were ‘illusions deliberately and systematically’ created by its top executives in an $11 billion accounting scandal.”
By 2000, she announced that Fannie Mae would be expanding into the exciting new lending and investment realm of Community Reinvestment Act loans, declaring, “We want your CRA loans because they help us meet our housing goals.”
From 2001–2007, Fannie and Freddie bought roughly half of all CRA home loans, most carrying subprime features. The taxpayer bailout for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac added up to $187 billion.
Some would give Gorelick grief for representing Duke University in the infamous lacrosse player case or BP oil company after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but this is pretty much what a super-lawyer does. Controversial, publicly-vilified institutions with deep pockets are the clients who need the services of a lawyer like her the most.
No, what’s more ironic and potentially bothersome is that Gorelick is pretty much the living embodiment of everything that Donald Trump went to Washington to oppose, remove, and fix. And now… she’s on the team, metaphorically.
Are Left-Wing Militias on the Way?
Chris Hamilton, an expert on American extremist movements at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, says anti-authoritarian sentiment may be blurring what once seemed to be clear ideological lines. “If you think about it, leftists never joined the National Rifle Association — unless they were radicals, they never thought about stockpiling weapons,” he said. “Ok. Well, maybe we’re entering a period where leftists will start thinking about things in that way, like the eco-radicals did in the ’70s.”
Hamilton says that as he browses far-left websites and listens to left-wing talk radio, he hears some of the same sentiments he’s been hearing for years on the right. “These days, that kind of sentiment is popping up in the middle and on the left; it’s not just in the sovereign citizen movement,” he said. “I’m really worried about rising civil strife in the U.S.”
Glad someone’s noticing. Right-wing militias lost any claim to moral authority among any sensible conservatives after Oklahoma City. Will we see the same dynamic on the Left?
ADDENDA: There’s a new edition of the pop-culture podcast coming today! After a long unplanned hiatus prompted by scheduling issues, Mickey, Dave Perkins, and I lament that the NBA and NHL seasons ended with whimpers instead of bangs; my less-than-fully-pleased assessment of Twin Peaks after six episodes; what Wonder Woman gets right, whether the producers of The Bachelor were playing with fire all these years and the latest insane products from the twisted mind of Gwenyth Paltrow’s “Goop.”