Foot, Meet Pistol

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Trump lashed out at Whitaker after explosive Cohen revelations, CNN has reported:

Trump was frustrated, the sources said, that prosecutors Matt Whitaker oversees filed charges that made Trump look bad. None of the sources suggested that the President directed Whitaker to stop the investigation, but rather lashed out at what he felt was an unfair situation.

The first known instance took place when Trump made his displeasure clear to acting attorney general Matt Whitaker after Cohen pleaded guilty November 29 to lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. Whitaker had only been on the job a few weeks following Trump’s firing of Jeff Sessions.

Over a week later, Trump again voiced his anger at Whitaker after prosecutors in Manhattan officially implicated the President in a hush-money scheme to buy the silence of women around the 2016 campaign — something Trump fiercely maintains isn’t an illegal campaign contribution. Pointing to articles he said supported his position, Trump pressed Whitaker on why more wasn’t being done to control prosecutors in New York who brought the charges in the first place, suggesting they were going rogue.

The previously unreported discussions between Trump and Whitaker described by multiple sources familiar with the matter underscore the extent to which the President firmly believes the attorney general of the United States should serve as his personal protector. The episodes also offer a glimpse into the unsettling dynamic of a sitting president talking to his attorney general about investigations he’s potentially implicated in.

Trump, Meet Obstruction

As if the situation needed explaining, Josh Campbell of CNN explains, Trump’s relationship with Whitaker imperils the rule of law.

Hypocrisy, Meet Shame

Mr. Campbell and others have compared these current developments to the episode where Bill Clinton had a tête-à-tête with his attorney general, Loretta Lynch, during the Hillary email investigation. Although the conversation allegedly focused only on grandchildren, Ms. Lynch felt it necessary to recuse herself from involvement in the investigation, so as to eschew the appearance of impropriety.

Republicans’ failure to demand that Mr. Whitaker do likewise is cited as an example of political hypocrisy. And so it is.

Foot, Meet Pistol

Other commentators have made the attempted obstruction point and the political hypocrisy point, but have not, at least to my knowledge, made this additional, important observation.

With Trump having tried his damnedest to obstruct justice through direct and indirect communications with Whitaker, if Whitaker now lifts a finger to help Trump out in any federal investigation, it will—in consequence of those Trump communications—be very difficult for Whitaker to argue that he was just exercising his own independent judgment, within the scope of his reasonable discretion.

If Whitaker now lifts a finger to help Trump, the risk has greatly increased that Whitaker will wind up occupying the jail cell adjacent to Trump’s. Or that, like Attorney General John Mitchell, he will go to the hoosegow while the President gets pardoned.

Mr. Whitaker is a person of breathtakingly modest professional attainments. But he did graduate from law school.

He is a grifter, an unsuccessful businessman, and a failed politician who opportunistically hitched his wagon to Trump’s star.

But you can be all of those things and still have a street urchin’s sense of self-preservation. You can be all of those things and still be unwilling to go to jail for Donald J. Trump.

And that is why, in attempting to obstruct justice, Donald Trump has shot himself in the foot.

Wagon, Meet Star

And that is why Matthew Whitaker has hitched his wagon to the wrong damned star.

The Bobblehead Makes a Fateful Career Move

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Today’s Michael Cohen guilty plea was a very big deal. Feels like the beginning of the end for the Trumpster. You will tell me that that it has seemed that way many times before, yet here we are. And you will be right to express that caveat.

The big picture of Trump’s wrongdoing is still being put together. I think I know what it will show, and so do you. But there would be little point in writing an essay based on gut feelings. The big picture will be what the big picture will be.

But I do think this merits mention. This afternoon WaPo reported,

Acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker was notified in advance that President Trump’s former personal attorney would plead guilty Thursday to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project that Trump and his company pursued while he was running for president, a person familiar with the matter said.

A few paragraphs later the story noted that the newspaper doesn’t know when Mr. Whitaker got the word on the Cohen plea, what if anything he said or did about it, and what he did or didn’t tell Trump about the development—or indeed about any other knowledge he had concerning the Mueller investigation, which he nominally supervises.

But we know enough reasonably to speculate that Whitaker—the nonentity whom Trump raised to high office for the express purpose of shitcanning the Mueller investigation—looked down into the abyss and decided he did not want to go to jail for Donald J. Trump.

Many others will soon face a like personal crisis. Which will it be? Loyalty until death to Dear Leader? Or a narrow escape from the long arm of the law?

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