In the last 48 hours, Donald Trump has canned Jeff Sessions and installed a crony Attorney General to interfere with if not end the Mueller probe, declared an effective end to asylum cases for anyone crossing the US border illegally, banned a CNN reporter by using a doctored Infowars video as propaganda to justify attacking the press, intimated that Democrats are stealing elections, and took off for Paris to meet his boss, Vladimir Putin. He did all this because Republicans lost the House and he knows winter is coming.
Now we know Trump used his media connections to kill stories hostile to him in 2015 and 2016.
As a presidential candidate in August 2015, Donald Trump huddled with a longtime friend, media executive David Pecker, in his cluttered 26th floor Trump Tower office and made a request.
What can you do to help my campaign? he asked, according to people familiar with the meeting.
Mr. Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., offered to use his National Enquirer tabloid to buy the silence of women if they tried to publicize alleged sexual encounters with Mr. Trump.
Less than a year later, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Pecker to quash the story of a former Playboy model who said they’d had an affair. Mr. Pecker’s company soon paid $150,000 to the model, Karen McDougal, to keep her from speaking publicly about it. Mr. Trump later thanked Mr. Pecker for the assistance.
The Trump Tower meeting and its aftermath are among several previously unreported instances in which Mr. Trump intervened directly to suppress stories about his alleged sexual encounters with women, according to interviews with three dozen people who have direct knowledge of the events or who have been briefed on them, as well as court papers, corporate records and other documents.
Taken together, the accounts refute a two-year pattern of denials by Mr. Trump, his legal team and his advisers that he was involved in payoffs to Ms. McDougal and a former adult-film star. They also raise the possibility that the president of the United States violated federal campaign-finance laws.
The Wall Street Journal found that Mr. Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements. He directed deals in phone calls and meetings with his self-described fixer, Michael Cohen, and others. The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan has gathered evidence of Mr. Trump’s participation in the transactions.
On Thursday, the White House referred questions about Mr. Trump’s involvement in the hush deals to the president’s outside counsel Jay Sekulow, who declined to comment.
That's just the start, of course. All this information is now with federal and state investigators. Shutting down Mueller won't save Trump. The full winter storm is now about to hit.
To abide by Justice Department rules, Mueller went silent for almost two months before the midterms, to avoid any appearance of election interference, but the Special Counsel’s office is now renewing the public side of their investigation. Team Mueller is reported to be working on the final draft of their report on the president and his Russian ties in 2016. Whatever that report says, it’s not likely to be flattering to Team Trump.
Worse for the White House, Mueller’s prosecutors are widely believed to be closing in on two people close to the president, Roger Stone and Donald Trump, Jr. Stone, the self-proclaimed Republican “ratf*cker,” has spoken openly of his fears of impending indictment over his links to WikiLeaks in 2016. Don Jr. is reported to be concerned as well, since he appears to have lied to Federal investigators about the fateful June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian intelligence officials.
Indictments of Stone, a friend of the president since the 1970s, or worse Trump’s son and namesake, seem certain to push the White House into greater paroxysms of rage. What might happen then is anybody’s guess. Trump’s desperation to shut down the Mueller inquiry before it cuts very close to home is therefore understandable.
It’s also a fool’s errand. In truth, it’s far too late to shut the Special Counsel down altogether. Mueller and his staff, veterans of Beltway wars, were not surprised by this week’s events. They were prepared. Any efforts by Acting AG Whitaker to block indictments will go public quickly and throw Washington into deep crisis. For Trump, there are no exits or off-ramps left.
When Mueller informs the public of more indictments is an open question. That they are coming, however, is not. And there are lots of them. The Special Counsel has been at work for almost 18 months now. An Intelligence Community official who assisted the Special Counsel’s investigation told me this week that Team Mueller is holding “dozens of sealed indictments” of people associated with the president, his 2015-16 campaign, and his administration. “Nobody who’s close to the Russians is getting out of this,” said the IC official. When will those indictments start being unsealed? Watch this space.
Maybe Schindler is full of garbage. On this, I expect he's closer to the truth. Mueller has the third act of this penned and ready to go. There are too many wheels in motion, too much evidence, too many players for Trump to stop the avalanche.
It's Mueller Time.