Of all of the hand-wringing questions left over after Sunday’s disappointing and partisan “summary” of the Mueller report by Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General William Barr, perhaps the most pressing issue is that of what becomes of all the crimes that were committed in public.
Certainly, Barr could be interpreting obstruction of justice, as he did in his memo last June, as only something that could result in the completion of a criminal conspiracy, i.e. it’s only a crime if you get away with the lie. But the fact remains that we know a court doesn’t require success as a factor in judging whether something was a crime or not. So Trump telling Lester Holt live on NBC that he fired James Comey over “the Russia thing” is very definitely obstruction — but because Barr doesn’t believe there was a reason to be investigating Russia in the first place, he considers Trump’s dismissal of Comey to be a personnel matter, regardless of his declared reasoning.
The same goes for Don Jr.’s collusion with Natalia Veselnitskaya during the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016: Barr perhaps believes that the “dirt” obtained on Hillary Clinton didn’t materially affect the outcome of the election, so Junior’s trade with her for sanctions relief doesn’t fit his definition of a crime, either. But again, no success is required for it to be proven that Junior wanted to commit an act that was illegal, and did.
That’s why it’s important to remember that Robert Mueller handed off much of the Trump Family-centric materials uncovered in his investigation to other US Attorneys. And at least one agency, the Southern District of New York, has a storied history of going after just exactly the types of crimes that the Trumps are known to have committed or have been accused of committing.
In fact, the mafia and financial crimes cases tried through the SDNY seem to have all been leading up to something like this, where democracy itself is at stake.
Mimi Rocah, a former assistant attorney in the Manhattan agency, told MSNBC that:
Southern District has this deep bench of experience in so many areas, so we think ‘we know how to do this better than anybody, so we don’t need that type of [Justice Department] oversight.'”
That, says a number of even fans of the President, is why he should be far more worried about SDNY than he ever was about Robert Mueller. Chris Christie, who was a US Attorney in New Jersey, and Alan Dershowitz, whose legal interpretations Trump has been effusive about, have both said in interviews that the Southern District poses far more of a threat than any special counsel or even Congress might.
And that, like Christie says it would him, should “send a chill” up Trump’s spine.
Featured image is a screen capture.