The craziest "obstruction" of all: Is Donald J. Trump a fully competent person? Or is it possible that our commander in chief is acting out a dangerous version of The Madness of King George?
The Madness of King George is a 1994 British biographical historical comedy-drama film directed by Nicholas Hytner and adapted by Alan Bennett from his own play, The Madness of George III. It tells the true story of George III of Great Britain's deteriorating mental health, and his equally declining relationship with his eldest son, the Prince of Wales, particularly focusing on the period around the Regency Crisis of 1788–89. Modern medicine has suggested that the King's symptoms were the result of acute intermittent porphyria, although this theory has more recently been vigorously challenged...Whatever! In our current circumstance, does Donald J. Trump suffer from some form of mental illness? Such questions come to mind when we see reliable cable stars like Barbara McQuade speak as she did to TV's Brian Williams last night.
McQuade agreed with a long line of others concerning Trump's most clear-cut cases of obstruction of justice. We'll highlight one of the episodes which many others have cited:
WILLIAMS (4/29/19): Hey, Barbara, I want you to listen to 16 seconds of Sally Yates, and on the other side I'm going to ask you if you agree.Brian thanked two of his favorite, and perhaps most reliable, reporters and friends.
YATES (videotape): I've been a prosecutor for nearly 30 years. And I can tell you I've personally prosecuted obstruction cases on far, far less evidence than this. And yes, I believe if he were not the president of the United States, he would likely be indicted on obstruction.
WILLIAMS: You're both former feds. Barbara, do you concur with your fellow former fed?
MCQUADE: I do. You know, the elements of obstruction are an obstructive act, some connection to an official proceeding, and a corrupt intent. And there are about ten episodes in that report of obstruction of justice. Some Robert Mueller finds substantial evidence for, some less so. But there's about three episodes in there with substantial evidence for each and every element of the offense.
The asking McGahn to fire Mueller, asking McGahn to lie about that, and asking Corey Lewandowski to get Jeff Sessions to narrow the scope of investigation to only future elections—for those three, I am confident that if anyone else were charged with that offense or had that evidence against them, they would be charged with obstruction of justice.
WILLIAMS: Our great thanks tonight to two of our favorites. Shannon Pettypiece, Barbara McQuade, thank you both so much for helping us with our conversation tonight.
A long list of former feds have agreed with what McQuade said. According to McQuade, Trump's instruction to Corey Lewandoski represents one of the most obvious matters in which he committed an obstruction of justice.
We're always surprised when we see people say this. To us, that ridiculous episode seems to be one of the most striking incidents which suggest 1) that Donald J. Trump is out of his mind, and 2) that everyone around him can see this.
(Not counting Stephen Miller.)
Think what happened here! As explained in the Mueller report, this is the way it started:
During a June 19, 2017 meeting with Lewandoski, Trump dictated the text of a crazy speech he wanted Attorney General Sessions to deliver. According to the Mueller report, the dictated speech would have gone like this:
I know that I recused myself from certain things having to do with specific areas. But our POTUS ... is being treated very unfairly. He shouldn’t have a Special Prosecutor/Counsel b/c he hasn’t done anything wrong. I was on the campaign w/ him for nine months, there were no Russians involved with him. I know it for a fact b/c I was there. He didn’t do anything wrong except he ran the greatest campaign in American history.According to the Mueller report, "The dictated message went on to state that Sessions would meet with the Special Counsel to limit his jurisdiction to future election interference."
It's hard to know how Sessions could investigate future acts of interference—acts of interference which hadn't yet occurred. At any rate, in the crazy speech whose text Trump dictated, Sessions would crazily explain his behavior like this:
Now a group of people want to subvert the Constitution of the United States. I am going to meet with the Special Prosecutor to explain this is very unfair and let the Special Prosecutor move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections so that nothing can happen in future elections.According to the Mueller report, "The President said that if Sessions delivered that statement he would be the most popular guy in the country. Lewandowski told the President he understood what the President wanted Sessions to do."
In fact, if Sessions had ever delivered that speech, he would have been widely regarded as the craziest person in the country. Apparently, Lewandoski understood this awkward fact. After making one attempt to speak with Sessions, an attempted hand-off occurred:
MUELLER REPORT (Volume 2, page 92): Following his June meeting with the President, Lewandowski contacted Rick Dearborn, then a senior White House official, and asked if Dearborn could pass a message to Sessions. Dearborn agreed without knowing what the message was, and Lewandowski later confirmed that Dearborn would meet with Sessions for dinner in late July and could deliver the message then. Lewandowski recalled thinking that the President had asked him to pass the message because the President knew Lewandowski could be trusted, but Lewandowski believed Dearborn would be a better messenger because he had a longstanding relationship with Sessions and because Dearborn was in the government while Lewandowski was not.Did you follow that chronology? Trump dictated the lunatic speech on June 19. Lewandoski arranged for Dearborn to deliver the as yet undescribed message to Sessions in late July—roughly six weeks later!
How determined was Trump to effect this action? According to the Mueller report, Trump raised the topic with Lewandoski again on July 19, exactly one full month after the initial directive. According to the Mueller report, "Lewandowski recalled that the President told him [on that occasion] that if Sessions did not meet with him, Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired."
Lewandoski held no government position. Except in the world of Crazy Dreams, there is no apparent way he could have fired Sessions.
We'll guess that Lewandoski was once again able to see the lunacy he'd been handed. That same day, he finally gave Dearborn a copy of the crackpot speech he was supposed to deliver to Sessions.
Presumably, Dearborn was also able to see that this proposal was nuts. According to the Mueller report, "he [Dearborn] recalled later telling Lewandowski that he had handled the situation, but he did not actually follow through with delivering the message to Sessions, and he did not keep a copy of the typewritten notes Lewandowski had given him."
Is this manifest lunacy really an obstruction of justice? Can this possibly be one of the most obvious obstructions Trump is supposed to have committed?
Forgive us, but out here in the actual world, that whole episode reads like the conduct of a madman. It seems fairly plain that Lewandoski and Dearborn each understood that fact.
Let's summarize what happened:
On June 19, Trump dictated the text of a crazy speech he wanted Sessions to give. Presumably for obvious reasons, Lewandoski and Dearborn each failed to pass the assignment on to Sessions.
A full month passed before King George asked Lewandoski what had happened. At that time, he crazily told Lewandoski that he, a private citizen, should "tell Sessions he was fired" if he refused to meet.
Presumably, Dearborn could see the assignment was crazy too. It sounds like he didn't even want to keep a copy of the dictated speech.
McQuade and many others agree. This is supposed to be one of the clearest cases of obstruction in Mueller the God's "binder full of obstructions."
In our world, that judgment seems rather odd. This entire episode strikes us as the work of a very powerful person who seems to be out of his mind. Brian, who's been canned for crazy behavior himself, didn't seem to parse it that way last night.
Can a crazy person commit an obstruction? This strikes us as an obvious question. Why won't corporate peacocks like Brian Williams ask?