Today, it starts getting serious. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler is sending out letters to around 60 people in the Trump administration and the presidents general orbit (Don Jr., Allen Weisselberg) seeking documents and other information to begin investigations to present the case to the American people about obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power, as he put it on ABCs This Week.
Ive known Nadler since 1987, back in my cub reporter days. He was in the New York State Assembly then, and it didnt take long for me to figure out he was one of the smartest politicians Id encountered. He knew history, ideas, and the law. I wont bore you with the details, in part because Im not sure I remember them all, but there was a little controversy in Greenwich Village politics in those days involving the competition between the two Village Democratic clubs, one pretty left-leaning (and opposed to then-Mayor Ed Koch), the other a pro-Koch club.
Nadler was himself anti-Koch, but he spoke up in defense of the pro-Koch club, which wasnt sitting very well with me at first, but I remember when I interviewed him about it I put down the phone admitting to myself that his legal reasoning was precise and unassailable. I was impressed with his insistence on due process even when it didnt lead to the end point that would have been more politically popular with his constituents.
Thats exactly the kind of person who ought to be chairing the House Judiciary Committee. As I write these words on Sunday, we dont yet know who the 60 people are or exactly what the letters say. But I think we can make some pretty safe educated guesses about both.
Aside from the two aforementioned and former Trump aides John Kelly and Don McGahn, whom Nadler named on TV, it would seem likely that letters would go to Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and some campaign aides. Theres also a fair chance theyd go to Ivanka and other current and former members of the Trump Organization.
As for what hell be looking into, lets start with obstruction of justice. Something weird has been happening over the last few weeks. As we prepare for the Mueller report, this odd bit of conventional wisdom seems to have settled in that if Robert Mueller finds no smoking gun on collusion, and has just obstruction, it wont be a big deal.
Um, excuse me. Obstruction of justice is a crime. Its serious. It was enough to chase Richard Nixon from office. We never knew (and still dont know!) whether Nixon had advance knowledge of the Watergate break-in, but Congress did establish that he attempted to obstruct justice, and boom, he was out.
To the Republican Party of 1974, that was crime enough for a man not to deserve to occupy the presidency. That somehow obstruction of justice isnt a big deal today is the 568th manifestation of the ways in which Donald Trump and the Republican Party that so fulsomely supports him have debased our political culture.
Its partly because our imaginations naturally move toward the most salacious possible outcome, in which context mere obstruction would be a disappointment; and its partly because any sentient, honest person already knows Trump obstructed justice. He does it on television and Twitter on a weekly basis. But the fact that he does it in plain sight doesnt make it any less serious.
Since Nadlers jurisdiction is the Constitution, Id expect hell also be digging into violations of the emoluments clause. Trump has done nothing to separate himself from his business. This is another one of these in broad daylight things that should have been a huge scandal from the day Trump took office. But as long as the Republicans were running Congress, it all went unpursued.
Well, that changes, starting today. And what a change! Last week wasnt just a bad week for Trump, as many commentators noted. It was a humiliating week for the United States of America.
The president went over to Vietnam with no preparation, no knowledge, no anything except his puffy ego and his conviction that he could cut a deal because he was offering Kim something new. If he ever read anything, hed have known that he wasnt offering anything new at all.
Lifting sanctions for full de-nuclearization has been U.S. policy for ages, under presidents of both parties. The mans an idiot. And on top of that we had to endure the spectacle of Trump lavishing that sickening praise on the head of the worlds most oppressive regime, a man who kills his own people (from a 2014 UN report: Kims regime caused the death of at least hundreds of thousands of people and inflicted permanent physical and psychological injuries on those who survived). And the president of the United States says, Why shouldnt I like him?
Just imagine the reaction if Barack Obama had ever said those words. And, of course, we also had Michael Cohens testimony. I kept stopping and saying to myself: This man is talking about the president. He sounds like hes talking about Vito Corleone.
And lets not forget that was all topped off by that lunatic speech at CPAC. Were way past being shocked anymore, but yes, its disgraceful for a president to use the word bullshit in public (a point on which Republicans would howlingly agree if Obama had ever done it).
But that was then. This week, finally, the defense of the Constitution begins.