Trump’s Staff Goes AWOL for Sunday Shows
Bill Palmer at the Palmer Report:
“If you think Donald Trump’s shock firing of FBI Director James Comey has only sent Sean Spicer into panic mode, think again. Sure, Trump’s White House Press Secretary was seen hiding among the bushes to try to avoid reporters after the firing. But according to reports, the panic mode appears to have spread to the entire senior staff – to the point that they have no idea how they’re going to handle today’s Sunday morning talk shows.”
“None of Trump’s usual top five surrogates are making themselves available for today’s talk show circuit, according to Brian Stelter, one of CNN’s more reliable reporters (link). This is understandable, because anyone on Trump’s staff who goes out and answers questions about the Comey firing right now is A) likely to make the scandal even worse by addressing it, B) likely to make themselves look bad, and C) facing at least some chance of getting sucked into the obstruction of justice that Trump is committing.”
I think C is the key. It’s like the Miranda warning: anything you can and will be used against you in a court of law.
Veterans of past White House scandals from Watergate to Plamegate have an important message for Team Trump: It’s time to think about lawyering up.”
This is a good point. Nixon never went to jail, but 48 people who worked for him did.
“In the past week, a Senate committee began issuing subpoenas in its investigation into Russian contacts with President Donald Trump’s staff and other associates during the 2016 election campaign and transition, while the FBI continues its own criminal investigation. Trump himself fired FBI director James Comey, and then said in the aftermath of that decision that the Russia probe was “made up” and appeared to threaten Comey on Twitter.”
“There’s obviously a risk here,” said Washington white-collar defense attorney Robert Luskin. “And that’s not any kind of judgment on [Trump’s] personal integrity or absence of it, but the apparent fact he doesn’t seem to be very sensitive about norms and about risks.”
“It’s an axiom of Washington scandals that the cover-up tends to be worse than the crime—and it’s lower- or mid-level people who wind up getting caught in the worst legal trouble, usually for tangential offenses like perjury or obstruction of justice.”
“The ancillary stuff, like a forgotten meeting or a discarded document, can cause the most serious problems for staffers navigating the unfamiliar, expensive and high-stakes world of grand juries, subpoenas and congressional hearings, where the prospects of perjury or obstruction of justice charges can be filed for both unintended slip-ups or intentional attempts to cover up for a superior.”
“The hazard of working for a corrupt boss. Just ask Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni who are both now going to prison while Chris Christie-isn’t.”
Here’s what the judge said to Baroni as he was sentenced:
“In lowering the boom on former Port Authority exec Bill Baroni and tearful ex-Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly, the judge also got in some none-too-veiled shots at the New Jersey governor, whose presidential ambitions were scuttled largely due to the scandal.”
“Mr. Baroni, I do believe you lost your focus,” Newark federal Judge Susan Wigenton told him before sentencing him to two years in the slammer.
“You allowed the vision of others you perceived as more powerful than you to cloud your judgment.”
Wigenton later slapped Kelly with 18 months, saying she “got caught up in a culture and an environment that lost its way,” and adding that “the environment in Trenton created a culture of: you are either with us or you are against us.”
“Undoubtedly, others may be side-stepping their role in this scandal,” the judge added.
This is the rub. When you cover for your corrupt boss, you’re much more likely to go to jail than he is. Which makes Spicer hiding in the bushes a little more understandable.
“Christie has claimed not to have known anything about the lane-closure plan. On Wednesday, he was at the White House, where President Trump tapped him to lead an anti-drug abuse commission.”
Ok, he’s never going to be POTUS but he’s doing a lot better than Baroni and Kelly hanging out at the WH to lead a commission.
Back to Politico:
“John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel who went to prison for four months because of his role in Watergate, said he didn’t expect Trump’s staffers at this early stage of the investigative process to have already started hiring attorneys. But he said that can change quickly.”
“It’s something that happens in every White House when the contagion has started spreading,” he said. He predicted the lower-level employees, including otherwise innocent secretaries and other aides who have gotten up-close interactions with the president and his senior aides, may not see the need to call for an attorney until they’ve been identified as potential witnesses. “They’re primarily driven by fear, fear of the unknown and not wanting to make a mistake,” he said.
“But Dean added that some people delay retaining counsel because they think it makes them look bad. “If my history watching Watergate and what happened is any indication, the guiltier they are, the later they get lawyers,” Dean said. “They don’t want to either admit it in their own mind or they think they can tough it out. They think hiring a lawyer is an admission of guilt. And that’s foolish.”
That was especially true of John Erlichman. But I’d be worried just to be a Trump PR flack today-a la Spicer or Sara Huckabee Sanders. Again-maybe why Spicer was in the bushes.
Back to the Palmer Report:
“But this is collectively a major strategic error for Trump’s senior staff, because if the Sunday morning talk shows can’t book any of Trump’s people to talk about the Comey firing, they’re likely to just book a series of eager Congressional Democrats instead. And so the door has been flung wide open for the Democrats to use the Sunday morning platform to hammer home how inappropriate the firing was, and how guilty it makes Trump look.”
True. But here’s the choice: what matters more to you-protecting the Trump WH politically or protecting yourself from legal trouble or even going to jail?
Because as always, while many are likely to go to jail before this is all done, Trump will be the last one to go.
UPDATE: Chuck Schumer made this same point on Jake Tapper this morning. People who work for Trump should avoid saying things they know to be false even though they work for Trump.
He also said the magic words: country over party. That ought to be a big Dem slogan going into 2018.
P.S. As we saw in my poll out last week, the long awaited poll results are in, and right now I’m just 11 points down vs. Peter King (GOP-NY-District 2). And the voters don’t even know who I am yet.
There is nothing more important in getting answers to Trump-Russia collusion than a Democratic House in 2019. Please donate to help me in my part of the effort to fight for a Dem House.
Thank you. We must have a Dem House. And so, we will.