New York is the city that never sleeps. Make it there and you can make it anywhere. There’s a famous song about that – about going there, to never sleep. Those little-town blues will melt away. Wheel and deal – push the little people aside – brag and bluster and sneer – eliminate your enemies one way or another. Brash wins, and then you’ll find you’re top of the list, king of the hill, a-number one and all that stuff. It happens. It happened to Donald Trump. He came from the Bronx – not exactly a little town but these things are relative – and turned his multimillionaire father’s real estate fortune onto real money, in the big city, and then he became president. Swagger. Brash – as opposed to quiet self-confidence – does win.
It happened to Rudy Giuliani too – the skinny Italian-American kid from East Flatbush in Brooklyn. He made it in the big city. He was New York’s mayor from 1994 to 2001 – after he had been United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York during the eighties, sending Mafia guys to prison. Giuliani was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2001 and given an honorary knighthood in 2002 by Queen Elizabeth II – for his leadership in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 – but then his life stalled. There were questions about September 11 – about why he had insisted that the city’s emergency communications center had to be in the World Trade Center – the first thing to go – and all sorts of other dumb moves. He had been inspirational. He had also been incompetent. His new broken windows theory of policing – disorders and violations create a permissive atmosphere that leads to more serious crimes that can threaten the safety of a city – so lock up the litterers and everyone else – did reduce crime. That also led to massive racial profiling and lots of law suits, and lots of ill will even now, even if that whole thing was abandoned. There were many marriages and affairs too.
And there was this:
After campaigning on Bush’s behalf in the U.S. presidential election of 2004, Giuliani was reportedly the top choice for Secretary of Homeland Security after Tom Ridge’s resignation. When suggestions were made that Giuliani’s confirmation hearings would be marred by details of his past affairs and scandals, he turned down the offer and instead recommended his friend and former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. After the formal announcement of Kerik’s nomination, information about Kerik’s past – most notably, that he had ties to organized crime, failed to properly report gifts he had received, had been sued for sexual harassment and had employed an undocumented alien as a domestic servant – became known, and Kerik withdrew his nomination
Bernard Kerik had been his personal driver. Giuliani made him police commissioner. Kerik eventually ended up in prison – for felony tax fraud and all sorts of stuff. That was a bit embarrassing, and when Giuliani ran for president in 2008, he bombed. In the Republican primaries he accumulated one delegate, from Florida. Time magazine had called him “America’s Mayor” once. Now he was just a brash and hyper-aggressive oddball. New York City is full of those. Only one of them became president.
That’s okay. Brash and hyper-aggressive oddballs stick together. On January 12, 2017, President-elect Donald Trump named Giuliani his informal cybersecurity adviser, which was odd, because Giuliani knows nothing of such things. Nothing came of that, because nothing could, but on April 19, 2018, Giuliani announced that he would join Trump’s legal team. Trump had found a place for him. Giuliani said he would talk to Robert Mueller – one amazing legal mind to another – and talk him into ending this Russia investigation thing in two or three weeks, tops. Mueller would listen to reason, or bend to Giuliani’s will. Any smart and brash New York City guy could pull that off. That was the idea. That seems to have been Trump’s idea.
Trump picked the wrong guy:
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) said Wednesday that President Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey because Comey wouldn’t tell Trump that he wasn’t a target of the FBI investigation into Russia’s election interference.
“He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation,” Giuliani, who recently joined Trump’s legal team, told Fox News’s Sean Hannity.
“He’s entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that and he couldn’t get that,” Giuliani said. “So he fired him and he said, ‘I’m free of this guy.'”
Giuliani’s statement contradicts Trump’s recent claim that he didn’t fire Comey over the Russia probe. Trump did cite the Russia investigation as part of his reasoning to fire Comey shortly after he did so last year…
Trump also stated in his letter informing Comey of his dismissal that the former FBI director had told him he wasn’t under investigation.
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to lead the bureau,” Trump wrote in the letter to Comey.
Giuliani was being big-city brash and hyper-aggressive, which always works, which didn’t work at all this time, but there was more:
President Trump reimbursed Michael D. Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer, for a $130,000 payment that Mr. Cohen has said he made to keep a pornographic film actress from going public before the 2016 election with her story about an affair with Mr. Trump, according to Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s lawyers.
That statement, which Mr. Giuliani made Wednesday night on Fox News, contradicted the president, who has said he had no knowledge about any payment to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, to keep quiet before the election.
Trump did say that:
Asked specifically last month by reporters aboard Air Force One about whether he knew about the payment, Mr. Trump said, “No,” and referred questions to Mr. Cohen. He was then asked, “Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?”
“No,” Mr. Trump responded. “I don’t know.”
And there was this:
Mr. Giuliani’s comments are also in direct contrast to what Mr. Cohen has been saying for months – that he used his own money to pay Ms. Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels. Mr. Cohen is under investigation by the FBI, which raided his home and office last month and seized documents that included information about the payment to Ms. Clifford.
Something odd was going on:
In an interview with the New York Times shortly after his Fox News appearance, Mr. Giuliani said that he had documentation showing that Mr. Trump had personally made the payment, and he indicated that the goal was to conclusively demonstrate that there was no campaign finance violation involved.
“That removes the campaign finance violation, and we have all the documentary proof for it,” Mr. Giuliani said.
No, it doesn’t do that:
The comments on Fox sent a jolt through Washington and New York, including the legal teams working on behalf of the president, Mr. Cohen and Ms. Clifford, who has sued Mr. Cohen in an attempt to be released from the nondisclosure agreement that accompanied the $130,000 payment in October 2016.
Michael Avenatti, Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, said Wednesday night on Twitter that Mr. Giuliani’s comments amounted to an admission that the president had lied to the American people about whether he was aware of the hush payment.
“Mr. Trump stood on Air Force One and blatantly lied,” Mr. Avenatti wrote. “This followed the lies told by others close to him, including Mr. Cohen. This should never be acceptable in our America. We will not rest until justice is served.”
Avenatti is also brash and hyper-aggressive, even if he is from laid-back Los Angeles, not New York, but he is on firmer ground:
Such a payment from the candidate – even if it was made through a lawyer – would have to be disclosed to the Federal Election Commission as an in-kind contribution to the campaign and as an expenditure by the campaign, if it was for the purpose of influencing the election. Mr. Trump’s campaign did not disclose the reimbursement to Mr. Cohen on its commission reports.
The crucial question in determining whether the reimbursement to Mr. Cohen violated campaign finance laws might be whether the payment was specifically intended to help Mr. Trump’s campaign.
Paul S. Ryan, an official at the government watchdog group Common Cause, argued that “all the facts indicate that the payment was to influence the election.”
Giuliani is screwing up everything, but Donald Trump has chosen to follow his big-city brash and hyper-aggressive instincts:
President Trump hired on Wednesday a Washington lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment, a sign that the White House sees no immediate end to its legal problems and is girding for a combative relationship with a new Congress after the midterm elections.
The new lawyer, Emmet T. Flood, will replace Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who persuaded Mr. Trump to cooperate with the special counsel for the first year of its investigation. Mr. Cobb assured the president that doing so would bring the investigation to a swift end.
That has not happened…
So it was time to stop being nice about things, for good reason:
Mr. Trump’s advisers see a new peril on the horizon: If Democrats win control of the House they would have the authority to issue subpoenas or even convene impeachment hearings.
Mr. Flood’s résumé is well suited for such fights. He jousted with Congress and an independent counsel during the Clinton administration. As a White House lawyer during George W. Bush’s second term, he helped fend off congressional investigations into the firing of federal prosecutors. And in private practice, he represented former Vice President Dick Cheney.
“Emmet Flood will be joining the White House staff to represent the president and the administration against the Russia witch hunt,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement, adopting the president’s derisive label for the special counsel investigation.
So now it’s time for the New York big-city thing, time to wheel and deal and push the little people aside and brag and bluster and sneer and eliminate your enemies one way or another:
Mr. Flood is expected to take a more adversarial approach than Mr. Cobb, who voluntarily turned over White House documents to Mr. Mueller. He has credited that cooperation with preventing a protracted – and losing – subpoena fight that would have hobbled the administration. But the strategy frustrated the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, and some in the West Wing who said Mr. Cobb was too willing to accede to Mr. Mueller’s requests.
That’s what the exiled fire-breathing dragon said too:
“Cobb’s radical theory of the case, to waive executive privilege from the very beginning, was not simply wrong. It was reckless,” said Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House strategist. He said that Mr. Cobb had been fired, rather than left, after repeatedly predicting the end of an investigation that never came. “Unfortunately, you cannot undo the serious damage he has caused the president and the presidency.”
Mr. Cobb responded: “I don’t pay attention to Steve Bannon. I’ve seen all his documents.”
This will get nasty, and Betsy Woodruff adds a bit more:
A longtime Washington lawyer who’s known Flood for quite some time and who spoke anonymously because of client sensitivities said there’s no chance Flood will let the president sit for an interview with Mueller.
“Mueller finally has somebody who’s his match,” that person said. “You’ve got a fair fight now.”
And it is all about the fight:
The person also said White House counsel Don McGahn played a significant role in bringing Flood onto the president’s legal team – pushing for him to be offered Ty Cobb’s job and working to convince him to take the position. McGahn and Cobb reportedly had frequent clashes about how to handle the president’s legal woes, and Cobb was overheard complaining about McGahn at the BLT Steak restaurant a few blocks from the White House. With Flood, the president’s lawyers are likely to be more unified in an aggressive posture toward Mueller.
That’s more than likely. This unified aggressive posture is a brash New York City thing – Trump’s thing. Even if Rudy Giuliani was never all that good at it, and has now lost his touch completely, Trump can still be that New York guy who fights to win by any means possible:
President Trump plunged into an angry dispute on Wednesday between conservative House Republicans and the deputy attorney general, siding with hardline lawmakers over his own Justice Department as they pressed for access to sensitive documents related to the special counsel’s investigation and other politically charged cases.
In a Twitter post, Mr. Trump called the legal system “rigged” and amplified the lawmakers’ complaints that the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, was not moving fast enough to turn over the documents they want. The president stepped in just as Mr. Rosenstein appeared to mollify three key committee chairmen who were also demanding internal documents.
“They don’t want to turn over Documents to Congress. What are they afraid of? Why so much redacting? Why such unequal ‘justice?'” Mr. Trump wrote. “At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!”
Which presidential powers Mr. Trump was referring to was not immediately clear.
That’s the whole point. No one’s supposed to know what Trump might do. He probably closed many real estate deals the same way, getting what he wanted by saying mess with him and bad things will happen to you that he won’t name. It’s a New York thug thing. Don’t specify anything. Let the other guy use his imagination. Play on his fear. He’ll cave in.
Or maybe not:
Distrust between Mr. Rosenstein and Congress has been building over months. In recent weeks, he has made significant gestures to release documents demanded by prominent congressmen, only to be threatened with impeachment by lawmakers from the far-right.
Mr. Rosenstein responded on Tuesday to that threat by declaring that the Justice Department would not be “extorted.”
They won’t play Trump’s game:
Officials at the department believe that the conservatives have now gone too far with document requests related to continuing investigations that the lawmakers clearly do not support, including the inquiry led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russia’s election interference. A former federal law enforcement official familiar with the department’s views said that Mr. Rosenstein and top FBI officials have come to suspect that some lawmakers were using their oversight authority to gain intelligence about that investigation so that it could be shared with the White House.
Mr. Trump’s threat on Wednesday to intervene bolstered those voices and could undermine the Justice Department’s ability to protect some of its most closely held secrets. Lawmakers conducting oversight are usually given summaries of the information, but not the intelligence collected directly from wiretaps and sensitive sources.
And that’s all they’ll get now, but that too is a problem:
Democrats fear that the Republican requests – many of which call on the department to ignore longstanding policy about what it shares with Congress – are meant as a trap. Either Mr. Rosenstein can turn over information that could be used to undermine the special counsel’s inquiry, or he could refuse, giving Mr. Trump cover, or even cause, to fire the deputy attorney general.
Either way, Trump wins, and Jack Shafer sees the pattern here:
This week, angered by Sen. Jon Tester, who blocked his nominee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, the president threatened to release information about the Montana Democrat that would prevent the senator’s reelection. Last month, Trump once again flung his fury at former FBI director James Comey, adding him to the growing list of people he wants jailed, and he fumed over special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, draws regular threats and denunciations from the president, and this is only the beginning of Trump’s tantrums and threatened retaliations. Since becoming president, Trump has menaced individuals, institutions, business and countries, including the media, the NFL, NATO member countries, North Korea, South Korea, Mexico, Iran, European cars, China, NAFTA, Steve Bannon and business leaders with ugly and strong language. He’s even promised Joe Biden a physical beat-down for challenging him.
Chief of staff John Kelly has caught the Trump lash, as has the White House staff. Trump treats Attorney General Jeff Sessions like a scullery maid and during the campaign famously chewed out his chairman Paul Manafort, saying, “I’ll go on TV any time I goddamn fucking want and you won’t say another fucking word about me!”
Shafer, however, isn’t impressed:
I won’t deny that all this hissing and seething makes Trump sound bonkers. Nor will I deny that I’ve never daydreamed about invoking the 25th Amendment that would put Trump in a straitjacket and handing his presidency over to Mike Pence. But if you finger-walk your way through the pages of the first 15 months of Trump presidency, you realize that most of his lunacy is for show. Like a blowfish, he inflates himself and makes aggressive movements in hopes of intimidating his adversaries. But then when nobody is looking, he passes his gas, shrinks to normal size and devotes his political capital not to crazy things but to conventional policy changes.
Shafer sees nothing new here:
Now, you might oppose the signature policy changes of the early Trump administration – the immigrant ban, border enforcement, tax overhaul, approval of the Keystone pipeline, regulatory rollbacks, appointing conservative judges, pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate accord, and the repeal of net neutrality. But none of these policy shifts can be categorized as crazy, just Republican. Indeed, the craziest Trump proposal from the campaign – the building of a wall that could cost $40 billion – appears to have been abandoned. The only certifiably nutty thing Trump has done in his presidency is firing Comey, something even he probably regrets because it energized the Russia investigation.
Shafer is not impressed:
Trump tweeted that he might have to “use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved” in the dispute between House conservatives and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein over the Justice Department documents the conservatives want to see. This threat to “get involved” is a joke. Who is this threat directed at? Rosenstein? Given that the president has every right to fire the deputy AG and replace him with somebody more pliant to House demands, why doesn’t he do that, rather than rattle his Twitter saber? Even Hamlet took more action than this.
Still, Trump is the ultimate brash and hyper-active rich and nasty intimidating New York City winner at everything, and he has proved that if you can make it there you can make in anywhere, even to the White House. But other people live in that city, the everyday folks, and they’ve seen it all. They’re heard it all. They know what to say. You want to do what? Fuhgeddaboudit.