An Enron-Inspired Law May Be a Sharper Legal Threat to Trump Than Espionage Act

My living room bookshelves have a lot of treasures. My union lapel pin, my daughter’s first dance shoes (so bitty!), a snapshot of my mother with baby me smiling up from her lap … and in the corner of the top shelf, in front of How the Irish Saved Civilization, is a dimpled white Titleist golf ball with a multi-colored “E” graphic on one rounded side. “E” for Enron, for evil, for everything we always knew about George W. Bush but let him get away with anyway.

Yes, they also had their own balls. It was given to me in 2002 by a friend of mine who was in oil biz and had golfed with Enron boys. I have kept it ever since and plan to throw it at Bush when I get the chance. The shoes were coolA golf ball will leave a mark. If my aim is true, maybe that colorful “E” will stick to his forehead, not that it hasn’t been there all this time already. You just need the right eyes to see it.

Although twenty years is a long period, you may recall the glory days of Enron, the giant energy company, and its position in the Texas power brokers. They were the lords over all they surveyed and made horrendous recordings of themselves bragging about scamming grandmothersGeorge W. Bush was elected out of their last dollars their man for all seasons … until the roof caved in. Enron was charged with an extraordinary raft of fraud. Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm, was deeply complicit and both companies were left in ruins by the summer 2002.

“July was a catastrophically bad month for the Bush administration,” I wroteThat was the year. “Every time George spoke on camera, the Dow Jones would melt through the floorboards. His old company Harken’s illegal and shady dealings were a frequent topic on news talk shows. His Vice President had gone into hiding to avoid subpoenas that would compel him to spill the beans about another criminal enterprise, Halliburton, as well as the ways and means of the back-room corporate dealings which led to the Bush administration’s energy plan. Hovering over it all like the raven was Enron, and all the winding financial roads that led from Ken Lay to the Oval Office.”

Everything had changed by September 2002. The first anniversary of 9/11 was marked as the 20-year war on Afghanistan entered its ninth month. The invasion of Iraq was only six months away. The 2002 midterm elections were at the forefront of political discourse, and Bush adviser Karl Rove was instructing fellow Republicans to “run on the war.” Which one? It didn’t matter. The press dutifully accepted the bait, Bush ran through the raindrops to a post-presidential campaign as a terrible artist, and that golf club has been collecting dust on my shelf ever after, just waiting for the main opportunity.

It was therefore no surprise that I was greeted again by the specter Enron after all these years. This was all thanks to Donald Trump’s ongoing legal troubles. As The New York Times reports, Trump’s tussle with the Justice Department over his hoard of top-secret documents has put the disgraced energy juggernaut back into the center of the conversation:

Since the release of the search warrant, which listed three criminal laws as the foundation of the investigation, one — the Espionage Act — has received the most attention. The F.B.I. has been the focus of much of the discussion. finding documents marked as highly classified and Mr. Trump’s questionable claims that he had declassified everything held at his residence.

By some measures, however, the crime of obstruction poses a grave threat to Mr. Trump, and his close associates. The Section 1519 version used by investigators is part the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. It is a broad set if reforms that were enacted after financial scandals at companies like Enron and Arthur Andersen.

Section 1519 U.S. Code makes no bones about its intentions: “Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”

Trump’s legal plight is becoming grimmer by the day, and growing numberSome of his political allies openly begin to wonder if he really is. worth the bother. Even cowards like Mitch McConnell, who wouldn’t say shit about Trump even if he had a mouthful of it, may be preparing to hang a BLAME THIS GUY sign around Trump’s neck if the former president’s gravity-bending presence in all places at once leads the GOP to a disappointing midterm elections outcome.

What does this all mean? I’ll get back to you when I have any idea. Without George W. Bush’s leadership, Donald Trump would not be able to exist in politics. Bush killed or displaced more Iraqis than one million times during his lifetime, while Trump was responsible for more than a million Americans’ deaths through his deliberately bungled response to COVID. They both gave little thought to the Constitution and it was evident in their shared dislike for pesky things like congressional Subpoenas. Bush was able to walk away with a nimbus full of high crimes around him. Trump may well do the exact same thing.

Or, you may be able to guess the other.