There Will Be Much To Clean Up

Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post has some ideas about cleaning up the mess after Biden becomes president (in addition to reinstating regulations and international agreements that didn’t survive this administration’s assault):

From July:

Former vice president Joe Biden has said that if elected, he would not pardon President Txxxx for any alleged crimes. As a political matter, that makes perfect sense; as a legal matter, it smartly leaves options open.

As much as I would love to see the federal government prosecute Txxxx for potential crimes in office, I fear that criminally prosecuting a predecessor would be so destructive and fraught with peril that it would outweigh any added benefits. (If Txxxx committed financial crimes unrelated to his official acts in office, that is another matter.)

That still leaves open what Biden, if he becomes president, should do regarding Txxxx. I would suggest two main goals.

The first goal should be a complete historical accounting of the reams of scandals and abuses of power in the Txxxx era. We usually leave it “to history” to review a presidency, but here we need a swift and definitive legal accounting on issues such as any secret understandings with Russian President Vladimir Putin; the use of federal forces against peaceful demonstrators; the limitations imposed on the FBI in investigating Brett M. Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing; the firings of inspectors general and more. (I would not recommend redoing the Russia and Ukraine investigations, although coming to a conclusion where then-special counsel Robert S. Mueller III would not — on whether Txxxx committed crimes — may be required.)

The second goal should be to investigate crimes by others so as to prosecute them and set an example for future administrations. My suggestion would be for Biden’s attorney general to announce on his or her first day in office that everyone in the Justice Department has two weeks to deliver any evidence of crimes or ethical violations by anyone in the department, up to and including the attorney general. Anyone who does not may themselves be the subject of investigation and prosecution. We need a full fumigation of the Justice Department in particular; only when we know who did what can we go about repairing its reputation.

The model for accomplishing this must not allow the administration to be preoccupied with Txxxx. The ideal setup could be a body similar to the 9/11 Commission that could oversee the entire undertaking with subpoena power and an appropriate budget. As was the case with the 9/11 Commission, this one should be co-chaired by one respected Democrat and one respected Republican (or one Republican-appointed judge and a Democratic counterpart). Given the number of areas of concern, there would need to be investigative teams devoted to separate, agreed-upon topics (e.g., one looking at the Txxxx-Putin relationship, one at misuse of law enforcement, one at illegal directives to department heads on immigration). Set a deadline (a year or two?), and let them do their work.

No one in the administration thereafter should answer any questions or make any comments about the entire undertaking; instead, the new administration must go about the business of governing the country. At the end of the investigative process, a report should be published that includes the findings of each team. If Txxxx has not yet been prosecuted at the state level, the door remains open for Biden to authorize prosecution, but the main task of determining what occurred and who did what will be settled. (Biden should also ask for a recommendation on whether to change Justice Department guidelines that prevent prosecution of a sitting president.)

Biden’s team would do well to think through this now so a decision can be announced after November, if he wins. The transition after the election should not get sidetracked from the normal task of setting up an administration. In any case, a truth commission may be key to preventing a Txxxx-type presidency from occurring again.

From August:

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has plans for the economy, green energy, fighting the coronavirus pandemic and much more if he wins in November. But while pursuing all that once in office, he would also need to clear the decks from the Txxxx administration. We have discussed the issue of prosecuting President Txxxx — let the New York district attorney work his will and set up a truth commission to explore wrongdoing among Txxxx administration officials — but the issue goes beyond the president’s personal misdeeds.

First, every agency and department should release all documents the Txxxx administration previously withheld from congressional subpoenas. Find them and post them online. Every page. That should set the scene for a transparency initiative from the new administration. Freedom of Information Act requests should be answered promptly. Claims of executive privilege should be asserted only in the most limited circumstances, such as national security. White House logs of who comes and goes should be posted online, as well.

Second, the new administration should vigorously pursue each and every credible charge of perjury committed by administration witnesses over the past four years. Perjury is difficult to prove, but incomplete or misleading testimony to Congress can also be actionable. This should set an example of zero tolerance for lying to Congress.

Third, the Justice Department needs a thorough review of its filings under the Txxxx administration. Did the department lie to any court? Did it improperly withhold documents from any court? There is an ethical obligation to inform courts of any such conduct. The perpetrators, if still at the Justice Department, should be fired and their alleged wrongdoing referred to state bar authorities for professional sanction. (Beyond examining evidence of falsehoods, the department will need an inspector general to review any other cases of professional misconduct, whether in facilitating or ignoring illegal conduct or in allowing political motives to taint investigations or cases.)

Fourth, scientific and other outside boards disbanded by the Txxxx administration and information scrubbed from websites should be restored. Each agency or department should withdraw and/or correct previous publications, studies and reports that did not adhere to the highest standards of scholarship.

These are concrete items a new administration can initiate — and what better time than when one party controls the House, the White House and possibly the Senate? But there is also the power of example. The White House and the president personally set the tone. If the White House press secretary misstates something, he or she should correct the record promptly. All press secretaries are there to emphasize the positive and downplay the negative, but whoever holds that job has a solemn obligation not to intentionally misstate facts. When the press secretary does not know something, say so.

And the president himself should take fact-checking seriously. If he got something wrong, do not repeat the assertion — or at least modify it. When the president gets something wrong, he, too, should correct the record, thereby setting a standard for the entire administration.

No administration is 100 percent candid or factual, but the acceptance of lying as a matter of course, the encouragement to say easily disprovable things, must end. We deserve a president and administration that at least tries to stick to the truth.

Txxxx’s Success Makes Perfect Sense, Part 2 (the Mob Perspective)

From the foreword to Disloyal, the new book by Txxxx’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen:

. . . Let me say it the way Dxxxx Txxxx would: He wouldn’t mind if I was dead. That was how Txxxx talked. Like a mob boss, using language carefully calibrated to convey his desires and demands, while at the same time employing deliberate indirection to insulate himself and avoid actually ordering a hit on his former personal attorney, confidant, consigliere, and, at least in my heart, adopted son.

Driving south from New York City to Washington, DC on I-95 on the cold, gray winter morning of February 24th, 2019, en route to testify against President Txxxx before both Houses of Congress, I knew he wanted me gone before I could tell the nation what I know about him. . . .

Heading south, I wondered if my prospects for survival were also going in that direction. I was acutely aware of the magnitude of Txxxx’s fury aimed directly at my alleged betrayal. . . . Txxxx’s theory of life, business and politics revolved around threats and the prospect of destruction—financial, electoral, personal, physical—as a weapon. I knew how he worked because I had frequently been the one screaming threats on his behalf as Txxxx’s fixer and designated thug. . . .

For more than a decade, I was Txxxx’s first call every morning and his last call every night. I was in and out of Txxxx’s office on the 26th floor of the Txxxx Tower as many as fifty times a day, tending to his every demand. Our cell phones had the same address books, our contacts so entwined, overlapping and intimate that part of my job was to deal with the endless queries and requests, however large or small, from Txxxx’s countless rich and famous acquaintances. I called any and all of the people he spoke to, most often on his behalf as his attorney and emissary, and everyone knew that when I spoke to them, it was as good as if they were talking directly to Txxxx.

Apart from his wife and children, I knew Txxxx better than anyone else did. In some ways, I knew him better than even his family did because I bore witness to the real man, in strip clubs, shady business meetings, and in the unguarded moments when he revealed who he really was: a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man.

There are reasons why there has never been an intimate portrait of Dxxxx Txxxx, the man. In part, it’s because he has a million acquaintances, pals and hangers on, but no real friends. He has no one he trusts to keep his secrets. For ten years, he certainly had me, and I was always there for him, and look what happened to me. I urge you to really consider that fact: Txxxx has no true friends. He has lived his entire life avoiding and evading taking responsibility for his actions. He crushed or cheated all who stood in his way, but I know where the skeletons are buried because I was the one who buried them. . . .

As you read my story, you will no doubt ask yourself if you like me, or if you would act as I did, and the answer will frequently be no to both of those questions. But permit me to make a point: If you only read stories written by people you like, you will never be able to understand Dxxxx Txxxx or the current state of the American soul. More than that, it’s only by actually understanding my decisions and actions that you can get inside Txxxx’s mind and understand his worldview. As anyone in law enforcement will tell you, it’s only gangsters who can reveal the secrets of organized crime. If you want to know how the mob really works, you’ve got to talk to the bad guys. I was one of Txxxx’s bad guys. In his world, I was one hundred percent a made man. . . .

In the pitiful sight of Republicans throwing aside their dignity and duty in an effort to grovel at Txxxx’s feet, I saw myself and understood their motives. My insatiable desire to please Txxxx to gain power for myself, the fatal flaw that led to my ruination, was a Faustian bargain: I would do anything to accumulate, wield, maintain, exert, exploit power. In this way, Dxxxx Txxxx and I were the most alike; in this naked lust for power, the President and I were soul mates. I was so vulnerable to his magnetic force because he offered an intoxicating cocktail of power, strength, celebrity, and a complete disregard for the rules and realities that govern our lives. To Txxxx, life was a game and all that mattered was winning. In these dangerous days, I see the Republican Party and Txxxx’s followers threatening the constitution—which is in far greater peril than is commonly understood—and following one of the worst impulses of humankind: the desire for power at all costs. . . .

Now, sitting alone in an upstate New York prison, wearing my green government-issued uniform, I’ve begun writing this story longhand on a yellow legal pad. I often wrote before dawn so not to be disturbed in my thoughts when my fellow inmates awoke. I had to report to the sewage treatment plant where some of us worked for a wage of $8 a month. As the months passed by and I thought about the man I knew so well, I became even more convinced that Txxxx will never leave office peacefully. The types of scandals that have surfaced in recent months will only continue to emerge with greater and greater levels of treachery and deceit. If Txxxx wins another four years, these scandals will prove to only be the tip of the iceberg. I’m certain that Txxxx knows he will face prison time if he leaves office, the inevitable cold Karma to the notorious chants of “Lock Her Up!” But that is the Txxxx I know in a nutshell. He projects his own sins and crimes onto others, partly to distract and confuse but mostly because he thinks everyone is as corrupt and shameless and ruthless as he is; a poisonous mindset I know all too well. . . .

Watching Txxxx on the evening news in the prison rec room, I almost feel sorry for him. I know him so well and I know his facial tics and tells; I see the cornered look in his eyes as he flails and rants and raves, searching for a protector and advocate, someone willing to fight dirty and destroy his enemies. I see the men who have replaced me and continue to forfeit their reputations by doing the President’s bidding, no matter how dishonest or sleazy or unlawful. Rudy Guiliani, William Barr, Jared Kushner and Mike Pompeo are Txxxx’s new wannabe fixers, sycophants willing to distort the truth and break the law in the service of the Boss. All this will be to no avail. Txxxx doesn’t want to hear this, and he will certainly deny it, but he’s lost without his original bulldog lawyer Roy Cohn, or his other former pitbull and personal attorney, Michael Cohen . . .

Otisville Federal Prison, Otisville, New York, March 11, 2020


Like I said recently in a post about Casino, the true crime book about Las Vegas, mobsters are used to lying and exaggeration. But I think Cohen is telling the truth about the mob boss millions of Americans (and an antiquated election process) put in the White House.

“Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas” by Nicholas Pileggi

A more accurate subtitle would have been “Crime and Dysfunction in Las Vegas”.

Martin Scorsese’s 1995 movie Casino starred Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci. It wasn’t as good as some of his others. This is the book the movie was based on. It tells the true story of Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, a successful gambler and handicapper, who ran a handful of Las Vegas casinos in the 1970s (he was played very crisply by De Niro). Rosenthal was given his job in Las Vegas by the Mafia, otherwise known as the Outfit, the Organization or the Mob. He married a former showgirl and prostitute named Geri, who had a lot of problems (she was played by Sharon Stone), and had a childhood friend, Tony, who grew up to be a vicious mobster (Joe Pesci, of course).

In 1982, somebody planted a bomb in Rosenthal’s car. He survived and soon after left town, living quietly in California and Florida for another 30 years. His wife (by then his ex-wife) and his childhood friend weren’t that lucky. Geri was only 46 when she died of an overdose on a street in Hollywood. Rosenthal’s friend Tony was beaten to death and buried in a cornfield by some of his colleagues, possibly because he had an affair with Geri and was suspected of putting the bomb in his friend’s car. The crime bosses in Chicago and Kansas City didn’t like the fact that Tony had made trouble in Las Vegas. They preferred things to be quiet so they could continue stealing millions of dollars from the place (with Lefty Rosenthal’s help).

I kept reading the book even though it was tiresome at times. A lot of it is direct quotation from the people involved. They are what you might call “colorful”. I suppose that’s why stories about mobsters, factual or fictional, are popular. Although they’re very bad people who lie a lot and exaggerate their exploits, their lives are made to seem dangerous and exciting. And they can be funny guys, like the character Joe Pesci played in one of Scorsese’s better movies (“I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to . . . amuse you?”).