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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

 

Extremely rare

by Tom Sullivan

The sitting president of the United States famously likes his steaks well done. Receiving one extremely rare would likely provoke a tirade like the one he launched yesterday in response to the FBI searching his attorney's office.

Agents from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York yesterday raided the office of Michael Cohen, the president's personal lawyer. And his home. And his hotel room. They seized records pertaining to possible bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations in connection with the Stormy Daniels payout reports the Washington Post:

“A search warrant for a law office is extremely rare,” said Stephen Gillers, a professor at the New York University School of Law. “Lawyers are given the courtesy of producing documents in response to a subpoena or a request unless the government believes a lawyer will destroy or conceal the objects of the search.”

To serve a search warrant on a practicing attorney, federal prosecutors are required to obtain approval from top Justice Department officials. That means the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey S. Berman, who was appointed to his role by Sessions in January, as well as Justice Department officials in Washington, probably signed off.
The search came, the New York Times reports, after a referral from special counsel Robert S. Mueller. The referral stemmed from information turned up in the Russia investigation, but not connected to Muller's mandate. In comments last week on Air Force One, Trump denied knowing anything about the $130,000 hush-money payment by Cohen to Daniels. Trump's own comments may actually have precipitated the raid on his lawyer.

Also extremely rare was the president's 15 minute response delivered in what was supposed to be a press event to discuss a U.S. response to another poison gas attack in Syria.

Calling the FBI raids "an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for," a Trump tantrum of this magnitude and duration was so rare that both the New York Times and Washington Post felt the need to annotate it.

For example (New York Times):
TRUMP: This is the most biased group of people, these people have the biggest conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen. Democrats, all — or just about all — either Democrats, or a couple of Republicans that worked for President Obama — they’re not looking at the other side. They’re not looking at the Hillary Clinton, horrible things that she did and all of the crimes that were committed. They’re not looking at all of the things that happened that everybody is very angry about, I can tell you, from the Republican side, and I think even the independent side.
Analysis
Mr. Trump immediately focused on Mr. Mueller and his team, but in fact, Monday’s raids were authorized by a United States attorney who was appointed by Mr. Sessions and is a former law partner of Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Trump supporter. They were not authorized by Mr. Mueller.
True or not, Trump will continue to repeat this version. Billy Bush recounted to Bill Mahr a conversation with Trump after he'd been lying to the press about "The Apprentice" having No. 1 ratings: "Billy, look, you just tell them and they believe it. That's it: you just tell them and they believe. They just do."

Trump focused his ire on Hillary Clinton and blamed the stock market decline on the FBI:
The stock market dropped a lot today as soon as they heard the noise of, you know, this nonsense that’s going on. It dropped a lot. It was up — way up — and then it dropped quite a bit at the end, a lot. But that we have to go through that, we’ve had that hanging over us now from the very, very beginning and yet the other side, they don’t even bother looking. And the other side is where there are crimes, and those crimes are obvious: Lies under oath, all over the place, emails that are knocked out, that are acid-washed and deleted, nobody’s ever seen — 33,000 emails are deleted after getting a subpoena for Congress, and nobody bothers looking at that.
Analysis
After repeatedly hailing stock market increases during his first year in office, Mr. Trump has all but ignored the market’s steep declines in the wake of his protectionist trade policies. So it was ironic that the president would blame what he called “this nonsense” for a drop in the stock market. The Dow Jones industrial average actually ended the day up slightly after at one point rising nearly 400 points.
TRUMP: And many, many other things, so I just think it’s a disgrace that a thing like this can happen.
One of the many other things somebody (Mueller) is bothering to look at is a $150,000 donation in 2015 to Trump's foundation by a Ukrainian steel magnate Victor Pinchuk. Michael Cohen arranged the donation made in exchange for a 20-minute appearance by Trump via video link at a conference in Kiev. Trump's "bizarre appearance" drew laughter from the audience as he struggled with the delay and translation.

The Times reports:
The payment from Mr. Pinchuk “is curious because it comes during a campaign and is from a foreigner and looks like an effort to buy influence,” said Marcus S. Owens, a former head of the Internal Revenue Service division that oversees tax-exempt organizations. He called the donation “an unusual amount of money for such a short speech.”
Slate's Elliot Hannon observes Trump's foundation appeared during the campaign to be "little more than a piggy bank for Trump to collect other people’s money in the name of charity and distribute it in his own name." No wonder Trump is so riled about the raid of Cohen's documents.

Describing it as he often does, Trump again called the Mueller investigation a witch hunt. "I’ve been saying it for a long time. I’ve wanted to keep it down," Trump said in what might have been a televised admission of intent to obstruct justice.

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