“I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” – George Bernard Shaw
Stepping away for a minute from Trump’s abandonment of our Allies in Syria and Afghanistan, James Mattis’ resignation, Trump’s wall and related government shutdown, let’s take a look at some other things that happened last week.
On Thursday, it was reported that acting attorney General Matthew Whitaker had been told by Justice Department officials that he would not need to recuse himself from oversight of Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election — despite having been an outspoken critic of the Mueller and the investigation. Imagine the surprise of the Department of Justice ethics officials who had, in fact, told Mr. Whitaker that yes, he should definitely recuse himself!
Matthew Whitaker, acting Attorney General
As the story unfolded, it turns out that Whitaker had some of his own personal advisors at the Justice Department say that it wasn’t necessary for him to recuse himself, and at the same time, they falsely claimed that it was unheard of for an Attorney General to recuse himself based on a conflict of interest.
Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, William Barr, has also been a highly outspoken critic of Robert Mueller and the Russian investigation. He will likely be questioned during confirmation hearings about his intent toward the investigation and whether he will recuse himself. It would seem that Trump will pull out all the stops to throw a wrench into the search for truth. The investigation has already racked up over 100 criminal charges against dozens of people, including guilty pleas from Trump’s former national security adviser, former campaign chair, former attorney, and multiple former advisers since it started in May 2017. Can anybody honestly believe that Trump, his family, and most of his senior campaign staff were not involved in helping Russia rig the 2016 election? No. But Trump is pulling out all the stops to try to halt the investigation before Robert Mueller issues his final report.
Beyond the concern that Trump will direct his Attorney General to terminate the Russian investigation is the concern that Mueller’s report, once issued, will never make it to Congress, let alone to We The People. By law, the Special Counsel’s report and conclusions must be presented to the Attorney General. But … the Attorney General then decides what portion of the report, if any, will be issued to Congress and ultimately the public. Would Whitaker or Barr choose to suppress the report? Hmmm … take a wild guess. Watergate is beginning to look like a Sunday picnic in the park.
I know better than to judge a book by its cover or a person by their looks, but that said, Steven Mnuchin has always looked a little … seedy, sleazy, not-too-honest … to me. Turns out he’s just plain not-too-bright, I suspect. Throughout the past two years, a number of safety nets have been cut loose and sent to the dumpster, some rolling back the post-financial-crisis regulations that had been put in place to prevent another financial crisis similar to the one in 2007-2008. As a result, our money, our investments, are a bit less secure now as the potential for a recession grows more likely.
So, Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, is apparently getting a bit nervous now that the regulations have been rolled back. On Friday, he apparently called six of the largest banks to make sure they had plenty of money! Yes, you heard me right. What a way to run a government, eh? Financial analysts, bankers and economists were all left scratching their heads on this one.
The best guess is that, in light of the stock markets tumbling last week, and then Trump threatening to fire Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, Mnuchin was doing damage control, attempting to stroke the ruffled feathers of investors and assure the public that … nothing to see here, folks – business as usual. Well guess what … it isn’t working, as we can see by the continued slide today. Analysts said it was almost certain to have the opposite effect and throw up some red flags.Trump blames Powell for the stock market plunge, whereas in reality, it is more attributable to his own erratic moves over the past few weeks, tariffs, and the chaos that reigns in Washington at the moment. In other words, Trump, who has taken credit for a decent economy that he largely inherited, now also owns the economy that is on the brink of recession.
But back to Mnuchin. He called the CEOs of Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo to “confirm that they have ample liquidity available”, according to Treasury officials. He then issued a statement:
“We continue to see strong economic growth in the U.S. economy with robust activity from consumers and business. With the government shutdown, Treasury will have critical employees to maintain its core operations at Fiscal Services, IRS, and other critical functions within the department.”
One financial analyst, Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, said …
“Panic feeds panic, and this looks like panic in the administration. Suggesting you might know something that no one else is worried about creates more unease.”
Folks … let’s call a spade a spade. This administration has rapidly devolved into complete chaos with a “leader” who is either the biggest fool on earth, else in the throes of severe mental illness. Between the government shutdown, the threat of pulling our troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, the resignation of General Mattis, the border wall dispute, the issue of our treatment of immigrants, Trump’s horrid choices for Attorney General, his threats and bullying … there is no sanity in our federal government and we are not all fools. I wouldn’t invest in the market right now under almost any circumstances. Mnuchin can issue as many statements, tweet as many tweets as he likes, but he is not calming the fears of the public. The fears are very real and nothing he can say will allay them. Steve Mnuchin is, perhaps, as much a fool as his boss.