If I had any remaining faith whatsoever in the reach of the “justice” system as it pertains to the rich and powerful, I’d be halfway convinced Donald Trump and his pals are in impressively deep shit. In the immortal words of Ted “Theodore” Logan, “Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.”
In February, it was revealed that Donald Trump, while in office, was in the habit destroying official documentsOnce he was done looking at them (or not, as was often the case), he would put them away. These papers, which were most likely to be sent to the National Archives at one point, ended up in pieces on the floor. Staffers tried to tape them together. Sometimes the papers fell apart in the bathroom, and I don’t think any tape salvage was attempted. Omarosa Newman, a former White House aide, tells the story of Trump actually eating sensitive documentsMichael Cohen met with his lawyer.
These revelations were greeted with a collective, “Oh, OK” from the people. You can’t go wrong, just try harder. Hit me where it hurts. After so many years filled with so many stories of Trump’s gross behavior, a report on him wrecking paperwork barely moves the needle. At this point, I’d be more impressed with a headline like, “Confirmed: Trump Is Mammal — Drinks Water, Breathes Air.” Yeah, right. Fake news.
Then, here’s a little fact. It seems Trump was not the only member of the administration who made a practice of wrecking the documentary record: “Then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows burned papers in his office after meeting with a House Republican who was working to challenge the 2020 election,” reports Politico, “according to testimony the Jan. 6 select committee has heard from one of his former aides.”
The report continues:
Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked under Meadows when he was former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, told the panel investigating the Capitol attack that she saw Meadows incinerate documents after a meeting in his office with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.). An anonymous source described the testimony under duress. The Meadows–Perry meeting occurred in the weeks immediately following Election Day 2020. Trump’s allies were trying to reverse the results.
It’s unclear whether Hutchinson told the committee which specific papers were burnt, and if federal records laws required the materials’ preservation. Meadows’ destruction of papers is a key focus for the select committee, and the person familiar with the testimony said investigators pressed Hutchinson for details about the issue for more than 90 minutes during a recent deposition.
Not to speak too broadly, but a general rule of thumb I adhere to is, “People in an innocent frame of mind don’t destroy evidence.” Oliver North may be one of the most arrogant skinbags ever to curse the Earth, but even he spent some quality time with Fawn Hall and the shredders when the Iran-Contra roof was about to cave in. You could amend the end of that sentence above to suit the circumstances — “people in an innocent frame of mind don’t light things on fire in the White House” — but it’s all the same laundry in the end.
What did Perry and Meadows discuss that inspired such pyrotechnics at the White House chief staff? Did the aide know this? Did she witness the same?
If this is the kind of stuff the January 6 committee has been dredging up in their investigation, the hearings slated for June are going to need a “Warning: Explosives” sign on the door. Meadows was so worried about the investigation into January 6’s activities that he burned the papers before the committee could get started. Between him and Trump, I’m frankly amazed the committee actually got any documents at all. Ten bags of ashes with a middle finger would fit more into the ethos of this administration.
Another Trump satellite currently enduring The Fear is Rep. Jim “Gym” Jordan of Ohio, who has been slapped with a subpoena to appear before his colleagues and explain his role in the attempted overthrow of the government. Jordan, although not in open defiance of summons, has created a list with demands that must be met before he appears. It looks like a bank robber who took himself hostage by mistake.
Among his requirements is a demand to see the evidence against him: “Jordan requested that the committee provide him with ‘all documents, videos, or other material … that you potentially anticipate using, introducing, or relying on during questioning,’” reports The Washington Post. “OnlyThen could he ‘adequately further respond to [the] subpoena,’ Jordan wrote.”
Cute, that. It’s always nice to see the answers before the test.
The funkiest of the funk, however, comes to us courtesy of a four-judge panel in New York’s appellate division, which upheld Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron’s ruling that Trump and the Trumplings must provide sworn deposition testimony to New York Attorney General Letitia James. Trump’s legal team, in its seemingly eternal quest to bend the notion of incompetence into bold new shapes, took a novel approach toward trying to weasel their clients out of sitting down on the record.
“His lawyers argued that ordering the Trumps to testify violated their constitutional rights because their answers could be used in a parallel criminal investigation,” reports the Associated Press. Ha, ho! Um, what now? This is the most guilty-inducing argument in the history jurisprudence has ever seen. It must be in the top five. Your Honor, if your client testifies about money laundering they might ask him questions about the murders.
The appellate court chewed the cud and spit it out with extreme prejudice. “The existence of a criminal investigation does not preclude civil discovery of related facts, at which a party may exercise the privilege against self-incrimination,” they replied. In other words Donny, sit your arse down and practice saying, “On the advice of counsel, I decline to answer,” over and over and over again. The Trumplings are the same. That’s going to play real well on the news.
If this timeline continues to unspool as it has, one of these days we’re going to see a headline that reads, “Trump Tried to Eat Declaration of Independence in Front of Horrified National Archive Tourists; Aides Intervened With Big Mac”… and nobody will blink. We have spent so much time since 2016 repeating the incantation, “This is not normal, this is not normal” to try and stave off the normalization of brazen criminal behavior. We have failed. Trump is eating the paperwork, even though he isn’t flushing it down the toilets. His chief of staff is burning notes from meetings with insurrectionists. Jordan wants the answers. JeopardyBefore the show. Our tolerance for mendacity is now too high. Mission accomplished