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?
Bill, I’ve seen remarks elsewhere that Pelosi’s public intransigence towards impeachment was a foil primarily for the benefit of her opponents. This argument is based on the behind-the-scenes assembly of experts in financial crimes (Doug Letter, Hse General Counsel; Daniel Goldman, former SDNY deputy chief, organized crime; Daniel Noble, former co-chief, SDNY complex frauds and cybercrime unit), and suggests that her real game is to mount an all-out impeachment assault with evidence of tax evasion, money laundering, and related financial misdeeds in a few months, timed to peak with 2020 campaign. This strategy is supposedly designed to win over Democratic foot-draggers who are currently opposed or lukewarm towards impeachment. I don’t know that I really buy this argument, given her public announcements on impeachment (“it’s divisive”). I also am increasingly worried that Trump will have done too much damage by then, to the office, the government, the nation, the economy for this strategy to work. But I would very much like to know if you lend the above rumors any credence. Many thanks for all the insight you’ve provided.
I’m thinking that Pelosi wants to impeach Trump (and will make it happen) but for now acknowledges that it might be wise to stall for a bit so that it will be too late in the election cycle for the sycophants to accept that they need to circle the wagons and come up with a viable alternative 2020 candidate.
Why aren’t the Democrats doing something? Possibly because they don’t want Joe Biden’s misuse of his office to help his son Hunter’s business to become widely known.
So do you believe Biden and his son have committed no crimes in Ukraine?
Is there anything wrong with an investigation into Biden even if politically driven, as most investigations are?
This post doesn’t seem to have the clear ethical foundations of previous Bill Black posts.
Oh, come on Bill. This is exactly what Biden did to get the Ukraine to drop a corruption investigation of the company that was paying his son $50,000 a month to sit on its board of directors. Biden used Vice-Presidential pressure to get the Ukraine government to bend to his will. Where do you think the $50,00 a month position came from for his sone who had no experience in the company’s line of work.
This video gives a nice summary of Biden’s corruption. You think Trump’s behavior is worse than Biden’s?
Thank you Bill for your all the work you’ve done to shine a light on corruption. Steven Greenberg, I tried to connect to your link & it was a messy site & couldn’t find the piece your were speaking to. But if you are referring to Biden’s PUBLIC comment on Ukraine’s prosecutor & monies would be withheld, then you’ve got a nothing burger. That removal of that prosecutor was supported by all involved & the reason was he was NOT pursuing criminal/corruption behavior. It was investigated & there’s nothing there. To compare Biden’s behavior to Trump’s shows your true colors. The idea that sanctioning (& holding back money) to a country until they come to our terms is business as usual, however, holding back monies unless a country investigates a political rival is pure corruption.
Since there was clear collusion between the Ukrainian government & the Clinton campaign in 2016, it seems that Trump may have an excuse for pressuring Ukraine to investigate. A Ukrainian court ruled that their actions in handing over documents about Manafort amounted to “interference” in US elections.
Always a fan of your words, Bill.
I have no gripe with your painting Mr. Trump as a Dark Triad, indeed it’s a rather “pitch perfect” descriptor. Here’s another element to consider; Mr. Trump has to leave office before the end of his term, and he knows that. This doesn’t mean that he has to concede his reelection bid, it just means he has to leave office before the end of his term; even if it’s only by one day – so that Mike Pence can pardon him for all of his federal crimes, whether prosecuted or not. Of course, the SDNY is another matter, but he can kick that can down the road for now.
Trump is taking a page from Vladimir Vladimirovich’s play book, to wit; push the envelope as far as you can, then push it a little further, and each time the goal post moves further off the field and the doctrine of fouls become less-and-less “well-settled”.
I could not agree more that eviscerating our constitution begins the slide down the other side of our nation’s bell-curve of greatness. It certainly does feel that in Mr. Trump, we have crossed the peek and are picking up speed as we ski uncontrollably downhill; but I don’t fault Ms. Pelosi for aiding and abetting his reign of destruction. Sometimes, when there is a wildfire burning, the fire chief needs to let some of the forest burn out, while conserving precious resources to save the village – miles away. If Ms. Pelosi is taking the long view, and I certainly hope she is, looking at 2020 and trying to get the timing right, then I applaud her wisdom, patience, and toughness to make strategic sacrifices, no matter how painful in the short run.
As I see it, she never said, “no impeachment”, rather she’s has been resolute on waiting until she see’s the whites of his eyes through those squinty little slits in his evil head. Not revealing her total strategy, is just good gamesmanship. Now, here we are a-few days after your blog post, and she has caved in her restraint. Will we be better off? Was Trump the democrat’s best hope to win the elections? Now with enough time for a challenger to rise from the Republican party, will the alternatives be so black & white?
Discounting Mike Pence, how would a John Kasich, fair? Or Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, Ted (God help us) Cruz, Evan McMullin, Bill Weld, or Joe Walsh, it wouldn’t even be surprising to see Lindsey Graham begin to jostle again along with Mitt. Not that any of these would be as bad as Trump (well maybe Ted and Lindsey would be pretty scary) but it’s the Republican senators that could ride their coattails to finish conservatizing the Supreme Court, and thrusting our planet headlong into the sun that is so frightening.
As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for.
You just had to play the video that was playing at the top of the page that my link went to. Here is a similar link, but the video playing at the top of the page goes directly to the issue I wanted to highlight.
Saagar Enjeti: Ignore media, investigate Bidens
I am not talking about Biden’s comment. I am talking about a pattern of corruption of Biden and his son. There is the Ukraine instance, there is the China instance where Hunter’s hedge fund got a $1 billion investment from China, and the employment of Biden’s son by a credit card purveyor when the father was introducing legislation to make it harder to file for bankruptcy to get out from under credit card debt. A single instance may be dismissed. Three instances start to look like a pattern.
If you think these comments expose my true colors, I would love to hear what you think my true colors are. This is a test of how perceptive you are.
Look at my blog to see how it matches your perception of my true colors.
This may have some relevance to the subject: https://www.scribd.com/document/427618359/Shokin-Statement#download