Let’s try to keep this as simple as possible, to show Donald Trump’s consistent pattern of behavior as it goes to his motives. A pattern of behavior can be used to establish corrupt motive– if the person does the same suspicious looking thing every time he is challenged you can infer the motive from that behavior.
The current Ukraine drama/scandal is pretty easy to follow. Trump, feeling elated after Mueller’s live testimony didn’t move the needle a tick about the findings of the investigation, called the newly elected president of the Ukraine the very next day to ask him for a favor: dirt on one of his top political rivals for the 2020 presidency. The appearance of impropriety shocked several administration officials enough to make them hide the records of the call. A whistleblower report about the call, vetted, found credible and urgent and legally required to go to Congress within a week, was buried on orders of Mr. Trump’s top people. Since then Mr. T has vowed over and over to resist this new shameful, vicious, desperate, illegal and unconstitutional witch hunt against him. The question is: did Mr. Trump act with corrupt motive or merely, as Barr insisted in regard to his repeated efforts to shut down the Mueller investigation, as an innocent man understandably outraged by the vicious unfairness of his enemies?
I will take the high road today and resist starting the pattern prior to Mr. Trump’s presidency. It would seem dirty and gratuitous to mention, for example, Trump’s well-known infidelity to each of his three wives — his affair with Marla Maples while married to Ivanka, the affairs while married to Maples, the dalliances with the two women he paid off to dummy up about sexual trysts they had while third wife Melania was recuperating from childbirth. Bad, bad and bad– but NOT ILLEGAL. Don’t worry about legal/illegal, though, let’s just look at the pattern of behavior. Forget I mentioned this, or the large eve of 2016 election payouts to a Playboy model and a porn star (a quid pro quo— more than $100,000 each in exchange for non-disclosure agreements) that were at the center of what landed longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen in prison.
November 2016, Donald Trump is elected during an investigation of Russian meddling in the election. This meddling would be detailed in Mueller’s report and later confirmed in a bipartisan Senate report that also documented what Mueller called “sweeping and systematic” Russian attempts to influence the outcome of the election in favor of Mr. Trump.
Trump was adamant in his denials of knowing anything about Russian help and insisted he was clearly joking when he looked into the television cameras and said “Russia, if you’re listening…” and then asked for the Hillary Clinton emails that magically were produced, hacked by Russians, a few hours later. Plus — in fairness to DJT– lifelong Republican partisan witch hunter Mueller was unable to find sufficient evidence of a chargeable criminal conspiracy between Trump’s team and Russia, numerous incidental indictments and convictions notwithstanding.
Now, follow the events after Trump is elected president. National Security Adviser Flynn lied about speaking to the Russians about lifting sanctions during the transition period. He apparently lied to Mike Pence and then to the FBI. Trump immediately fired him. In Flynn’s defense, and as Sean Hannity makes clear, the FBI trapped Flynn, they never told him he needed a lawyer or that lying to the FBI was a federal crime. Total entrapment! I’ve excerpted a section from an AP analysis that puts a lot of flesh on the hideous bones .
So first big scandal of his new administration had this response from Trump: have somebody write an email denying the White House had anything to do with Flynn’s lying or his talks with Russia about lifting sanctions for election meddling. (see bottom of FN 1]
Flynn is out and, to Trump’s disbelief, the FBI simply won’t let it drop. Trump meets alone with FBI director James Comey, tells him Flynn’s a good guy, asks him to drop the investigation. Comey is taken aback, tap dances a bit, makes detailed notes of the troubling conversation on his ride home. Trump fires Comey to end the Russia witch hunt thing, as he later nonchalantly says on TV and claims as his prerogative. But not before having AG Sessions and Deputy AG Rosenstein (the man soon to be in charge of the Mueller investigation) write letters urging him to fire Comey for his unfair handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
The firing of Comey, while legally within the president’s sole discretion, raised flags when Trump met with Russians in a closed door oval office meeting the following day. When Sessions told Trump the DOJ had opened an investigation into the president’s possible obstruction of justice, Trump, after a moment of despair, lashed out. He ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, he later ordered McGahn to write a memo saying the president never ordered him to do it. He also drafted Corey Lewandowski for purposes of getting Sessions to “unrecuse” and shut down Mueller’s probe. Trump repeatedly tried to curtail the scope of Mueller’s investigation. POTUS prevented the disclosure of evidence and testimony, even refusing to answer the most pressing of the written questions his legal team was at a loss to answer without perjury.
He later, at AG Barr’s recommendation, argued blanket presidential immunity to resist all subpoenas for anyone he’d ever had contact with. Trump, before publicly humiliating Sessions and obtaining his forced resignation, repeatedly pressured him to “unrecuse” and put a lid on Mueller. Trump tried to dissuade Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, both facing slam dunk charges of lying to investigators, from cooperating with Mueller, dangling pardons if they remained loyal. He had encouraged Michael Cohen to lie about the Trump Tower Moscow project, which continued well into the presidential campaign.
Before the Mueller Report was finalized the president put a new Attorney General in, a man who’d auditioned for the job by pledging loyalty and protection to the Unitary Executive, to act as his unappealable spokesman and fixer. Barr, the most openly corrupt AG this country has ever had, lied about Mueller’s findings while throwing dirt on Mueller’s good name and vowing to investigate the investigation itself. Since then, muscular attempts by Trump dead-enders to resist all subpoenas for documents and testimony. The latest is eight pages of Trump’s temper tantrum over the impeachment inquiry, thinly disguised by a shameless White House lawyer as a legal argument for why Congress can’t compel Trump to do shit.
What is unclear about this pattern? How does it show anything but corrupt intent? How do AG Barr, and Mr. Hannity, explain it away today?
If you’d like a dramatic guided tour of just the obstruction outlined in the Mueller report, you’ll find it here. Here’s a nice quick guide to Trump’s lies about his perfect call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
 The story [that Flynn had lied to him about discussing the lifting of Obama’s sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak] shook Pence, who had been in the dark. A review of Justice Department documents sealed it. Flynn couldn’t have just forgotten. He had lied. McGahn and Priebus told Trump he had to fire Flynn.
That weekend, Flynn flew to Mar-A-Lago with the president. On the plane back to Washington on Feb. 12, Trump asked him whether he lied to Pence. Flynn said he may have forgotten some things but denied lying. “OK. That’s fine,” Trump responded. “I got it.”
The next day, Flynn was out.
Priebus delivered the news. In the Oval Office, Trump embraced Flynn and shook his hand. “We’ll give you a good recommendation. You’re a good guy. We’ll take care of you,” he said.
Flynn had spent just 25 days as national security adviser.
Trump had lunch with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie the next day, which was Valentine’s Day. “Now that we fired Flynn, the Russia thing is over,” Trump told him. Christie burst out laughing. No way, he said.
“What do you mean?” Trump responded. “Flynn met with the Russians. That was the problem. I fired Flynn. It’s over.”
Flynn is going to be like “gum on the bottom of your shoe,” Christie said.
In the Oval Office later that day, Flynn was still on Trump’s mind. The president was being briefed by his top national security team. That included FBI Director James Comey, who Trump was intent on making part of “his team.”
As the meeting wrapped up, Trump cleared the room and asked Comey to remain behind. “I want to talk about Mike Flynn,” Trump said, according to Comey. There was nothing wrong with Flynn’s calls with the Kislyak, he said, but he had to fire Flynn for lying to Pence.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump said, according to Comey. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Comey awkwardly sidestepped the issue. But over the next few weeks, Flynn remained on Trump’s mind.
Trump praised him publicly. Privately, he turned to McFarland, who had covered for Flynn before. On Feb. 22, 2017, McFarland, now the deputy national security adviser, was asked to resign. But Priebus and Bannon, who conveyed the message, suggested it came with a soft landing. The president could make her ambassador to Singapore.
The ask came a day later.
As reporters questioned whether he directed Flynn’s Russia contacts, Trump told Priebus to have McFarland draft an internal email saying that the president didn’t order Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak.