By William K. Black
September 23, 2019 Kansas City, MO
Since the Trump administration began, I have been making a series of predictions that any white-collar criminologist would find obvious. I discuss three of those points in this article. First, Trump is leading the most corrupt administration in our nation’s history. Second, over time, only the sleaziest, most cowardly, and least competent mid and senior level officials would remain in power. Third, Trump exemplifies the “Dark Triad” – the toxic mix of psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism. People beset by the Dark Triad personality characteristics are serial liars. Each of the three predictions has proven true, but any competent, honest white-collar criminologist would have made the same predictions, so I take no pride in their proven accuracy.
The three predictions have special resonance now because of the whistleblower’s complaint about Trump. At the time I write, the whistleblower’s identity and the substance of his or her complaint are unknown. The Wall Street Journal story has just broken minutes ago on the substance of Trump’s July 25, 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That story’s key revelation was:
President Trump in a July phone call repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son, urging Volodymyr Zelensky about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, on a probe, according to people familiar with the matter.
“He told him that he should work with [Mr. Giuliani] on Biden….”
Eight times! Trump is not subtle. Trump’s use of Giuliani is of great importance, and was a terrible strategic blunder that would take down any normal president in a state of nature in which the Republican Party had any adherence to the rule of law.
My focus here, however, is on Trump’s question in response to the revelations of his latest scandal. At a minimum, we know the whistleblower blew the whistle on Trump’s effort to extort a foreign government to launch an investigation designed to harm Trump’s most likely opponent in the 2020 election by seeking to embarrass a surviving child. Reuters reports: “the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson … deemed the [whistleblower’s] complaint credible and ‘urgent’.”
Again, in any other administration, the elected members of the President’s party would force him to resign in disgrace. No one expects this group of spineless sycophants to honor their oaths of office. (Even more sadly, no one expects the House Democrats to take any effective action against Trump’s serial high crimes and misdemeanors.) My focus is on the non-elected officials who read the transcript of Trump’s July phone call – and failed to blow the whistle. Ironically, Trump, not the media asked this vital question. Politico reported Trump’s question – most major newspapers did not even report it.
“They think I may have had a ‘dicey’ conversation with a certain foreign leader based on a ‘highly partisan’ whistleblowers statement,” Trump continued. “Strange that with so many other people hearing or knowing of the perfectly fine and respectful conversation, that they would not have also come forward.”
The president concluded: “Do you know the reason why they did not? Because there was nothing said wrong, it was pitch perfect!”
Why was there only one whistleblower? The transcript of presidential phone calls with other nations’ leaders have a limited distribution, but that probably meant 15-30 individuals. (There are also fears that Trump has forbidden true recordings and transcripts and substituted “notes” by sycophants.) The leaks about the whistleblower suggest that he or she is not a Trump appointee, but rather an intelligence officer ‘detailed’ to the White House. If that leak is correct, Trump has succeeded in creating a White House ‘Team Sleaze’ so loathsome that no Trump appointee blew the whistle on a presidential action that was likely criminal and surely corrupt and shameful.
Trump’s ‘pitch’ to the Ukrainian President to intervene in U.S. elections on Trump’s behalf was ‘perfect[ly]’ sleazy. It was all ‘wrong’ – but people with Dark Triad personalities have no sense of right and wrong, honor, or duty, and no sense of empathy. Dark Triad personalities also react. When they are able to commit crimes with impunity, they develop a growing sense of invulnerability, and escalate their misconduct. Trump made explicit that belief in his infamous statement that he could murder a random American in public without any sanction.
The Justice Department, and as a former DOJ attorney I write this with horror, has now filed with a court the claim that a President cannot be investigated for any crime. Trump’s new claim is that he can murder a person with impunity – and announce that he will murder a dozen tomorrow, and a thousand next week with impunity. What would it take for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to cease her role as enabler-in-chief and actually fulfill her oath of office to protect our nation from Trump? That raises the question – why is there no House Democratic leader willing to blow the whistle on Pelosi going AWOL during Trump’s epic assault on our Constitution and best traditions?