Quick Takes: The President’s ‘Fixer’ is Under Criminal Investigation

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

* It’s official.

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, is “under criminal investigation,” the Justice Department said Friday.

In response to Cohen’s motion to restrain the evidence collected in Monday’s raids of his home and office, the US attorney in New York asserted the raids were authorized by a federal judge to seek evidence of conduct “for which Cohen is under criminal investigation.” The filing redacts what Cohen is under investigation for.

* Today we learned about more hush money arranged by Cohen.

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer negotiated a deal in late 2017 to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who said she was impregnated by a top Republican fundraiser, according to people familiar with the matter.

Michael Cohen, whose office, home and hotel room were raided by federal agents this week, arranged the payments to the woman on behalf of Elliott Broidy, a deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee with ties to Mr. Trump, the people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Broidy, a Los Angeles-based venture capitalist, works on the Republican committee with Mr. Cohen, who is also a national deputy finance chairman.

* Josh Marshall points out that it’s all connected.

If that name rings a bell, it should. Broidy is at the center of the part of the Russia probe involving the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and international fixer and convicted pedophile George Nader.

Nader, in turn, is the guy who set up those meetings in the Seychelles which brought together Erik Prince and that Russian banker. Both Nader and Broidy have been frequent visitors to the White House during Trump’s presidency and involved in ways that are still not totally clear in the mix of money negotiations, geopolitics and Russia back channels with a series of Gulf emirates.

* As of this writing, Trump hasn’t fired anyone today. But here’s a reminder of what the Wall Street Journal reported today.

Two people who spoke to Mr. Trump during the week said they came away thinking both Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mr. Mueller, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions would soon be gone, potentially sparking a political and constitutional crisis.

“It’s a matter of when, not if,” said one person who has discussed the matter with Mr. Trump.

“Eventually, it will happen,” a second person said…

* Benjamin Wittes captures what it would mean if Trump fires Rosenstein.

Rosenstein’s forcible removal at this stage would be another step in the president’s open attempts to dismantle the apparatus of independent law enforcement. It would be a bold statement of presidential control over the substance of law-enforcement investigations—a statement that the purpose of the FBI and the Justice Department is nothing more elevated than an expression of raw political power. The notion of independent law enforcement is an attempt to prevent the coercive powers of the state from being deployed as the playthings of those in power—to advantage and protect friends (and themselves) and to punish enemies. If the president can, with impunity, remove the deputy attorney general because he refuses to go after Clinton on the basis of the manufactured nonsense that litters Fox News and because he insists on allowing serious investigators to do serious work on serious criminal matters involving the president and his coterie, the very notion that law enforcement has a higher function than serving power becomes a lie.

* According to many of the reports about James Comey’s book, the president was pretty obsessed with the allegation in the Steele dossier about a so-called “pee tape.” Jonathan Chait gives us five reasons why he now believes that the “golden showers” incident actually happened.

1. Christopher Steele is credible.
2. Trump is unhealthily obsessed with Obama.
3. Trump has mixed his denials of the pee tape with obvious lies.
4. Trump’s alibi is at least partly false.
5. Trump is comfortable with gross sexual behavior and can be blackmailed.

* The language that is being used about Trump being open to rejoining TPP is both misleading and inaccurate, as are tweets like this:

We have to start with the facts. TPP no longer exists. It died immediately when Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement. Since then, the remaining 11 countries have renegotiated a deal among themselves called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP-11.

Michael Grunwald summt up what happened.

Even if the U.S. wanted to join this new agreement, the other 11 countries aren’t so sure they want us.

Officials in Japan, Australia and New Zealand reacted coolly on Friday to Mr. Trump’s remarks that he would be interested in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership after rejecting it so publicly just a year ago. While the United States would significantly bolster the pact if it signed up, its entry would require intense negotiations — and current members will expect significant concessions from the American side…

We’ve got a deal” already, said Steven Ciobo, Australia’s trade minister, who added, “I can’t see that all being thrown open to appease the United States.”

Sanders and Ellison are fighting a battle that ended over a year ago. I’m aware of the fact that in some circles, simply mentioning trade deals fires people up. But to do so now is disingenuous at best.

* Michael Cohen (the journalist, not the fixer) has an interesting take on the Parkland shooting.

Unlike previous mass shootings, the Parkland massacre sparked a long overdue and much-needed national debate about guns. It also led to a wave of gun control activism. Marches in Washington and across the country, organized, in part, by the survivors of the shooting, were attended by hundreds of thousands of Americans demanding stronger gun laws.

But one thing has strangely been missing from the post-Parkland debate: that the shooting had all the makings of an anti-Semitic hate crime.

* Finally, it is almost mid-April and the forecast calls for a winter storm up here in the tundra that could bring a foot of snow over the next couple of days. I’ve already been pining for real spring (not just the one that arrives on the calendar) for a while now. So this pretty much captures how I feel heading into the weekend.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.