When Every Day Is Stormy

T-Bone Walker wrote the song but B. B. King sang it best:

They call it Stormy Monday but Tuesday’s just as bad
They call it Stormy Monday but Tuesday’s just as bad
Wednesday’s worse, Lord and Thursday’s all so sad

The eagle flies on Friday and Saturday I go out to play
Yeah, the eagle flies on Friday and Saturday I go out to play
Sunday I go to church and I kneel down and pray

And this is what I say, baby, “Lord have mercy
Lord have mercy on me…”

That could be America’s new national anthem in these Trump years – every damned day is stormy, worse than the day before – then there’s Friday night and Saturday – good times – but come Sunday, pray for mercy. These are hard times – but this is not Donald Trump’s song. He keeps playing the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at his rallies – in spite of the many cease and desist orders from Mick Jagger – because he likes the message – sure, you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes, if you try real hard, you get what you need. Many Americans may loathe him, but everyone must realize that he’s what America needs, and then there’s this:

In January, the President and First Lady walked out to “Heart of Stone” at the inaugural concert – even though back in May the band blatantly declared that the presidential candidate did not have permission to use the music.

Donald Trump is driving Mick Jagger crazy – but that song actuality does make sense these days – and it was another stormy Monday:

The federal government’s annual budget deficit is set to widen significantly in the next few years, and is expected to top $1 trillion in 2020 despite healthy economic growth, according to new projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released Monday.

The national debt, which has exceeded $21 trillion, will soar to more than $33 trillion in 2028, according to the budget office. By then, debt held by the public will almost match the size of the nation’s economy, reaching 96 percent of gross domestic product, a higher level than any point since just after World War II and well past the level that economists say could court a crisis.

The fear among some economists is that rising deficits will drive up interest rates, raise borrowing costs for the private sector, tank stock prices and slow the economy, which would only drive the deficit higher.

This is where, on cue, Paul Ryan and the congressional Republicans, recognizing a crisis, will call for massive cuts to Social Security payments, and massive cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and an end to food stamps and unemployment insurance – the stuff we now cannot afford in a massive debt crisis. There’s talk of a new balanced-budget amendment to the constitution. The United States stops selling treasury bonds – the United States simply stops borrowing money. The United States pays down its current debt and then pays for what it now does from actual current tax revenue. If there aren’t sufficient incoming funds for this and that, it simply doesn’t get done. The United States will no longer “invest” in the future, or in any wars for that matter. It will be pay-as-you-go.

It’s also nonsense. The House will vote Thursday on a constitutional amendment to require balanced budgets. Constitutional amendments require two-thirds of the House and Senate to agree, which is beyond unlikely in this case, and nothing of the sort would be ratified by the states, or ever get to the states. Paul Ryan and the congressional Republicans screwed up:

The tax overhaul, which includes permanent tax cuts for corporations and temporary ones for individuals, will increase the size of the economy by an average of 0.7 percent from 2018 to 2028, according to the budget office. But that added economic growth does not come close to paying for the tax overhaul, which the budget office said would add more than $1.8 trillion to deficits over that period, from lost tax revenue and higher interest payments.

They know better now:

For their part, Republicans were remarkably quiet: “Without question, we have challenging work ahead,” said Representative Steve Womack of Arkansas, the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Republicans were remarkably quiet because they know they cannot blame this one on Obama, or on the tax-and-spend Democrats. They did this. They created this perfect storm, and Donald Trump created this one:

President Trump on Monday acknowledged that U.S. farmers could take a hit from trade disputes with China but said they will ultimately “understand” why the confrontation is necessary.

“But if we do a deal with China, if, during the course of a negotiation they want to hit the farmers because they think that hits me, I wouldn’t say that’s nice. But I tell you, our farmers are great patriots,” Trump said.

“These are great patriots. They understand that they’re doing this for the country,” Trump said. “And we’ll make it up to them. And in the end, they’re going to be much stronger than they are right now.”

Was Trump saying that if they lose their farms that he will set them up in even better businesses? Or was he saying that he’d have the government reimburse them for all of their losses, and hand them cash? That would break just about every World Trade Organization rule – so maybe Trump meant that. He doesn’t like rules – but he certainly was saying that great patriots, like these farmers who all voted for him, are willing to lose everything, so he doesn’t lose face. They’d rather have him never back down than keep their farms. Or maybe not:

Many farmers have expressed fear that their livelihoods could be impacted in the escalating trade war, given that China is a major market for agricultural exports, particularly soybean and sorghum. The Farm Bureau said in a statement to The Hill that it has been unambiguous in its opposition to tariffs and support for free trade.

“It’s our hope and expectation that both sides will eventually arrive at an agreement that does not include tariffs,” a spokesperson for the Bureau said. “Whatever happens, you can be certain our policy will support the interests of farmers nationwide.”

The interests of farmers nationwide are not Trump’s interests, no matter what he says, but there was this:

Earlier this month, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told a town hall in Ohio that the president had told him that farmers would not be hurt by the ongoing trade dispute with China.

The president hadn’t thought this through back then. Now he has. Now he hopes that by calling them great patriots, and hinting that he doesn’t have that heart of stone and he’ll find some way to help them out, even under the table, they’ll stick by him even as the trade war with China escalates. No one’s talking yet. It’s just escalating tariff threats, back and forth.

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s new chief economic advisor, spent the same day explaining to everyone in sight that escalating tariff threats were not actual tariffs. There were no tariffs. There would be talks, really, one day, maybe soon, and that was enough, until it wasn’t:

Stocks closed well off their session highs on Monday as shares of Amazon and Boeing rolled over. Traders said a report that FBI officers had raided the office of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer also fueled the late-day decline. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 46.34 points to 23,979.10… At its session high, the Dow rose as much as 440.42 points.

And then it was all gone. It was a stormy Monday. The New York Times broke the story:

The FBI raided the Rockefeller Center office and Park Avenue hotel room of President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, on Monday morning, seizing business records, emails and documents related to several topics, including a payment to a pornographic film actress.

Mr. Trump, in an extraordinarily angry response, lashed out hours later at what a person briefed on the matter said was an investigation into possible bank fraud by Mr. Cohen. Mr. Trump accused his own Justice Department of perpetrating a “witch hunt” and asserted that the FBI “broke in to” Mr. Cohen’s office.

The president, who spoke at the White House before meeting with senior military commanders about a potential missile strike on Syria, called the FBI raid a “disgraceful situation” and an “attack on our country in a true sense.”

That’s a bit much, but Trump was angry:

In his tirade against the FBI, Mr. Trump mused about the possibility that he might soon fire Mr. Mueller. Last June, the president vented internally about wanting to fire Mr. Mueller, but was talked out of it.

“We’ll see what may happen,” Mr. Trump said Monday. “Many people have said you should fire him.”

He may fire Mueller now, no matter what the Nixonian consequences, but there’s more:

The president once again railed against Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, for recusing himself in the Russia inquiry, and blasted the FBI for failing to investigate Hillary Clinton, “where there are crimes.” He criticized Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who is overseeing the Russia investigation, and called Mr. Mueller’s team “the most biased group of people,” who he said were mostly Democrats and some Republicans who had worked for President Barack Obama.

“That is really now on a whole new level of unfairness,” Mr. Trump said.

He was whining, but fairness isn’t an issue here:

Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, confirmed the raids. “Today, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients,” Mr. Ryan said. “I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the office of special counsel, Robert Mueller.”

Mr. Sessions appointed the United States attorney for the Southern District, Geoffrey S. Berman, only in January. Mr. Berman is a former law partner of Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former New York mayor and a supporter of Mr. Trump.

His own folks are after him, for good reason:

The payment to the pornographic film actress, Stephanie Clifford, who is known as Stormy Daniels, is only one of many topics being investigated, according to a person briefed on the search. The FBI also seized emails, tax documents and business records… Agents raided space Mr. Cohen uses in the Rockefeller Center office of the law firm Squire Patton Boggs, as well as a room Mr. Cohen is staying in at the Loews Regency Hotel on Park Avenue while his apartment is under renovation, the person said.

To obtain a search warrant, prosecutors must convince a federal judge that agents are likely to discover evidence of criminal activity.

And this is serious:

The searches are a significant intrusion by prosecutors into the dealings of one of Mr. Trump’s closest confidants, and they pose a dilemma for Mr. Trump. He has dismissed Mr. Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt,” but these warrants were obtained by an unrelated group of prosecutors. The searches required prior consultation with senior members of Mr. Trump’s own Justice Department.

This was the perfect storm:

The searches open a new front for the Justice Department in its scrutiny of Mr. Trump and his associates: His longtime lawyer is being investigated in Manhattan; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is facing scrutiny by prosecutors in Brooklyn; his former campaign chairman is under indictment; his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying; and a pair of former campaign aides are cooperating with Mr. Mueller. Mr. Mueller, meanwhile, wants to interview Mr. Trump about possible obstruction of justice.

Even so, Mueller is careful:

It is not clear what Mr. Mueller saw that made him refer the matter to other prosecutors. But the searches show that Mr. Mueller does not believe that he has the authority to investigate all manner of allegations against everyone in Mr. Trump’s orbit. That is significant because lawyers for Paul Manafort, a campaign chairman for Mr. Trump who was indicted on money laundering, tax and foreign lobbying charges, have challenged Mr. Mueller’s mandate as overly broad.

This, however, might not be overly broad:

Mr. Cohen is a longtime lawyer and fixer who, in a decade at Mr. Trump’s side, has served as a reliable attack dog against real or perceived threats to him. His activities have been scrutinized as part of Mr. Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election…

A Long Island native, Mr. Cohen began his career as a personal injury lawyer and taxi fleet manager. He joined the Trump Organization in 2006. He attracted attention in the Russia investigation after emails showed that a business associate of Mr. Trump, Felix Sater, pitched Mr. Cohen on a lucrative real estate deal in Russia.

The deal was supposed to be a Trump Tower in Moscow, and Mr. Sater boasted to Mr. Cohen that the tower would get Mr. Trump elected president. “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Mr. Sater wrote. “I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

That’s worth looking into, and not this:

It is not clear how significantly prosecutors view the payment to Ms. Clifford. Mr. Trump has denied knowing about it. And Mr. Cohen has said he paid Ms. Clifford out of his own money. Asked last week why Mr. Cohen made the payment, Mr. Trump replied: “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney, and you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.”

Trump shouldn’t have said that, and Tierney Sneed has more:

To raid any law office would require investigators to jump through a whole special series of hoops and added review. That one of the lawyer’s longtime clients is the sitting President of the United States adds another layer of extreme sensitivity and caution.

“The spotlight on this is so bright and the measure is so extraordinary that they would have to be a little crazy to do this without pretty ironclad evidence of some kind of wrongdoing,” said Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who studies technology, privacy, and civil liberties.

“You pull a move like this and it was all a big understanding, that’s hugely embarrassing,” he said.

Mueller, however, is careful:

The Justice Department has extensive rules about seizing records of lawyers that could typically fall under attorney-client privilege. Prosecutors are required to consult with the Criminal Division at Main Justice, and to get the sign-off of the U.S. attorney overseeing the investigation or the relevant assistant attorney general. It’s also recommended that a special team of attorneys who are walled off from the prosecutors overseeing the inquiry be set up to review the potentially privileged documents.

“It’s procedurally cumbersome, it’s sensitive, it raises the hackles of the bar,” Sam Buell, a former prosecutor who worked on the Enron investigation. “It’s not done on a fishing expedition. It’s only done when you’re reasonably confident that you’re going to find evidence of criminality and you need to do it with a search warrant.”

And there’s more:

Investigators willingness to go the route of a high-profile raid, instead of a less intrusive subpoena or even a voluntary request for documents, suggested to outside experts that there’s at least some concern that Cohen could be withholding evidence.

“It tells you that, one, they had some pretty compelling reason to think that Cohen was not or would not produce the records they were trying to get in response to a subpoena” Sanchez said, adding that he’d, “infer that they have some evidence he has already withheld something that he claimed to have turned over.”

Secondly, Sanchez said, the move suggests that the prosecutors would have reason to believe that the records that they are seeking would be exempt from attorney-client privilege. The most obvious exception, Sanchez said, is the crime-fraud exemption which applies to communications made in the furtherance of a crime.

“If you’re talking to your attorney about a crime you’ve already committed, that’s privileged,” Sanchez said. “If you’re talking to your attorney to get them to help you to commit crime, that’s the part that’s not privileged.”

And there’s more:

Former prosecutors also said that move to hand off the inquiry to federal prosecutors in New York once Mueller flagged the information shows that the special counsel is playing it by the book, even as President Trump and his allies suggest that he’s on a witch hunt.

“That’s pretty standard,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who investigated organized crime for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York. “It would be news if Mueller didn’t refer it out.”

This was quite a storm, and the Washington Post team of Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa take their readers inside the storm:

Cohen is Trump’s virtual vault – the keeper of his secrets, from his business deals to his personal affairs – and the executor of his wishes.

“This search warrant is like dropping a bomb on Trump’s front porch,” said Joyce White Vance, a former U.S. attorney in Alabama.

Mark S. Zaid, a Washington lawyer, said the seizure of Cohen’s records “should be the most concerning for the president.”

“You can’t get much worse than this, other than arresting someone’s wife or putting pressure on a family member,” he said. “This strikes at the inner sanctum: your lawyer, your CPA, your barber, your therapist, your bartender – all the people who would know the worst about you.”

Trump must know this:

The president spent much of Monday afternoon glued to the television. Aides said Trump watched cable news coverage of surprise raids on Cohen’s Manhattan office, home and hotel room by FBI agents, who took the lawyer’s computer, phone and personal financial records after a referral from Mueller. As the sun began to fall in Washington, Trump offered reporters his initial reaction: “It’s a disgraceful situation.”

He went on his rant, but behind the scenes it was this:

Shortly after the raids began Monday morning, Trump received a heads-up at the White House. He huddled in the Oval Office with Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who oversees its handling of the Mueller probe, as well as with White House counsel Donald McGahn and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, officials said.

Other aides said they did not understand what was happening and struggled to pinpoint the significance of the seizures. Many officials sought to keep their distance from the developments, deferring comment until a strategy was determined.

But there never was a strategy:

Aides said they viewed Trump’s late-afternoon comments to reporters as a necessary venting session. He had been grousing privately about Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a Trump appointee who oversees the Mueller investigation because of Sessions’ recusal.

He complained about Rosenstein again Monday in private, a White House adviser said, and stewed all afternoon about the warrant to seize Cohen’s records, at times raising his voice. Trump said that Rosenstein approved the warrant, and that he wished Rosenstein was not in the job and there was no one making the prosecutors follow the rules, the adviser said. Trump complained sharply about Sessions and Mueller and asked detailed questions about who was behind the move – and said that people would be more critical of such a warrant if it wasn’t intended to damage the president.

And then he made his private somewhat paranoid thoughts as public as possible, which was the only strategy here:

Trump “won’t like that Cohen is in the crosshairs, but you have to remember: He’d prefer the heat be on Cohen than on him,” said one of the president’s advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share a candid assessment. “His goal will be to figure out how much vulnerability he has.”

And he will do that alone:

This was Trump’s first crisis without Hope Hicks, the recently departed White House communications director who knew her way around the broader Trump orbit, getting to the bottom of what was happening, counseling the president and intuiting how he would want the situation handled.

Trump also navigated Monday’s turn without a full slate of legal advisers. He has yet to replace John Dowd, who resigned last month as his personal attorney in the Russia matter. Reached briefly Monday afternoon, one White House official sighed when asked about Trump’s strategy, pointing to the “evident” limitations of the current legal team, as well as the absence so far of a public-relations plan to counter the hotly anticipated release next week of former FBI director James B. Comey’s memoir, “A Higher Loyalty.”

There’s no small irony there, with that book title, but Trump does have his sources of comfort:

Without a lead attorney in Dowd’s absence, Trump has absorbed some advice from a number of legal commentators on cable news, including Alan Dershowitz, a retired Harvard Law School professor who has made supportive comments about the president.

“This may mark the end of the kind of cooperation that Trump’s lawyers have been involved with,” Dershowitz said Monday in an interview. “Cooperation doesn’t seem to have much payback. Maybe it’s better to go into a defensive fight mode.”

Dershowitz advised Trump to use “every legal tactic available to him” to fight Mueller and the FBI. He said the president could “assert” his rights as Cohen’s client and “go into court and seek to demand returned every bit of information that is arguably lawyer-client privilege before anybody has a chance to read anything.”

That would make Trump look as guilty as sin, but that may be likely:

Tim O’Brien, author of the Trump biography “Trump Nation,” said the seizure of records from his private attorney probably would “smell of a mortal threat” by Trump. And, O’Brien added, “He is historically prone not to sit back and let the chips fall where they may. He is historically prone to come out with guns blazing.”

Cohen has long been a fixer for Trump, as well as his family and business, and associates said he was disappointed when he was not brought officially on board the campaign, and again when he was passed over for a coveted White House job.

“He’s done the dirty work that the president hasn’t wanted to do himself, and he’s been doing it for a decade,” O’Brien said.

The two of them should stick together, but there’s this:

In the early weeks of the administration, Cohen was spotted unshaven, roaming the lobby of the Trump International Hotel in Washington. He has stayed in touch with the president through late-night phone calls.

But now, Cohen is back, squarely in Trump’s orbit – though perhaps not in the way he had hoped to be. Cohen himself has become the kind of distraction that he was usually tasked with handling for his boss.

If so, perhaps Trump should give this guy one of those coveted White House jobs:

“When it comes to Michael Cohen, anything is possible,” said Louise Sunshine, a former Trump Organization executive who knows Cohen. “Anything and everything is possible.”

Of course her name is Louise Sunshine. What else would it be? But they call it stormy Monday, and Tuesday will be just the same, and so on, like in that classic blues song. In these Trump years every damned day is stormy, worse than the day before. Next, we bomb Syria.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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