This is how a drug deal works:
Let's say you want to buy some crack. You drive up to the block where you are will make your purchase and you pass a member of the team that is running the sale. This member is known as the lookout. Let's call him up Mick. He never touches either the drugs or the money and he carries no weapon. Mick's sole task would be to watch for police and send an indication if the cops show up.
You stop your car outside the designated house together with your window rolled down along with a foot soldier approaches you and accepts your money. Let's call him up Rudy. He then withdraws and takes the money to a secure location, normally the house where the team leader-let's call this gentleman Donald-is supervising the activity while other a couple of other members of the team-just for fun, let's call them Lev and Igor-package the merchandise.
A third foot soldier then approaches your vehicle and hands you the drugs. Let's call him up Gordon. You drive off. Gordon goes away. Most people are happy.
This is a carefully choreographed sequence in which Mick the lookout never touches the money, or the drugs, or a weapon. Donald, the team leader, may have a weapon, but never touches either the cash or the drugs. The two foot soldiers who handle each side of the exchange-Rudy and Gordon-are siloed so that the guy who handles the money never touches the drugs, and the other way around. Neither of them carries a weapon. And also the amount of drugs being held by any individual at any one time is carefully restricted to be below various legal thresholds concerning mere possession, possession with intent to distribute, and the higher charges of trafficking, as the disposition of guns is designed to avoid needless exposure to weapons charges.
A drug deal happens by doing this not because it is the fastest, most efficient process, but because the gangsters that do this for a living have developed a system to try to avoid prosecution within the rare cases when they are caught in the act.
Imagine that you are sitting on a jury hearing a drug-trafficking case being made from this crew. Prosecutors produce witnesses who saw Mick standing on the corner with a phone that had Donald's number in it. They saw Rudy entering the house with the money in the car. They saw Gordon leaving the house and approaching the car with the drugs. They saw Donald in the home, watching the whole thing.
And now imagine the defense team's argument is that, since no one saw Donald holding the money and the drugs at the same time, he can not be guilty of dealing drugs.
Would you find that credible? Or can you believe that this was simply the superficial arrangement created by Donald, with forethought, in an attempt to thwart eventual prosecution through the law?
I mention all of this because everything we have learned about Trump's Ukraine gambit is perfectly using the portrait that emerged from the second volume of the Mueller report, which suggested our president behaves like a gangster.
When Michael Flynn was under investigation, Trump dispatched Chris Christie to butter up Jim Comey so that he'd go easy on Flynn:
Towards no more the lunch, the President brought up Comey and asked if Christie was still friendly with him. Christie said he was. The President told Christie to call Comey and simply tell him that the President \”really like[s] him. Simply tell him he's part of the team.\”
When Trump wanted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself in the Russia investigation, he called on Corey Lewandowski-who wasn't a government employee-and dictated a note for Lewandowski to deliver to Sessions, manually.
The President told Lewandowski that Sessions was weak. . . . The President then asked Lewandowski to deliver a note to Sessions and said \”write this down.\”
Trump's message was he wanted Sessions to give an address in which he un-recuses himself and then:
The dictated message went on to convey that Sessions would talk with the Special Counsel to limit his jurisdiction to future election interference.
Here is the president of the United States claiming that he has never met a lawyer who takes notes, that is something perfectly normal that people not involved in criminal enterprises say all the time:
The President also asked McGahn in the meeting why he had told Special Counsel's Office investigators the President had told him to achieve the Special Counsel removed. McGahn responded that he had to and that his conversations using the President were not protected by attorney-client privilege. Obama then asked, \”What about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don't take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes.\” McGahn responded he keeps notes because he is a \”real lawyer\” and explained that notes produce a record and are not a bad thing.
And here was Trump attempting to insulate himself from information to ensure that he'd have deniability about a potential problem:
According to Hicks, Kushner asserted he wanted to fill the President in on something that have been discovered in the documents he ended up being to provide to the congressional committees involving a conference with him, Manafort, and Trump Jr. Kushner brought a folder of documents to the meeting and tried to demonstrate to them to the President, but the President stopped Kushner and said he didn't want to know about it, shutting the conversation down.
There's more, a lot more. Here are some other random items from the Mueller report, which may illuminate your view of how Trump conducts his business:
The President then brought up former Attorneys General Robert Kennedy and Eric Holder and said that they had protected their presidents. The President also pushed back around the DOJ contacts policy, and said words towards the effect of, \”You're telling me that Bobby and Jack didn't talk about investigations? Or Obama didn't tell Eric Holder who to investigate?\” Bannon recalled that the President was as mad as Bannon had seen him and that he screamed at McGahn about how exactly weak Sessions was.
* * *
In January 2021, Manafort told Gates he had talked to the President's personal counsel and they were \”going to take care of us.\” Manafort told Gates it was stupid to plead, stating that he had been in touch with the President's personal counsel and repeating that they should \”sit tight\” and \”we'll be taken proper care of.\”
* * *
[T]he President sent public and private messages to Flynn encouraging him to stay strong and conveying that the President still cared about him before he began to cooperate with the government.
As of right now we know that someone within the administration withheld congressionally authorized military aid to Ukraine.
And we know that people outside the administration informed the Ukrainians that they would not get the money unless they publicly committed to investigating the family of the president's chief political rival, Joe Biden.
These are facts.
Under pressure, the Ukrainian president was getting ready to give Donald Trump what he wanted by appearing on Fareed Zakaria's CNN show.
As this enterprise was unfolding, someone inside the government filed a whistleblower report. After which the scheme was exposed, the aid was suddenly released, and also the Ukrainian president cancelled his booked appearance on Zakaria's show.
Which is more or less what it looks like when the cops roll up in front of the house in the middle of an offer.
The current Republican defense of President Trump is the fact that no one with first-hand knowledge has testified to hearing him say these exact words:
\”I know that this is highly illegal, but do not release congressionally-authorized military aid to Ukraine until their president publicly commits to investigating the Bidens so that I may profit politically in the 2021 election.\”
And even when someone, somewhere, did hear Trump say those words-and testified to that effect, with multiple corroborating sources-it would not matter, the president's defenders say, because eventually the aid went through and the Ukrainians never started an investigation.
There are two levels of legalism involved here. The first is the proposition that since the crime had not reached its full conclusion, there wasn't any crime at all. To return to our drug-buying analogy, it's as though the cops showed up before Gordon handed from the drugs to the buyer and also the defense attorneys are contending that, because the sale was not fully complete, this means Donald wasn't leading a team trafficking in narcotics.
This is preposterous.
The second level is the suggestion that the president himself had no idea what was going on inside and outside of his administration.
Perhaps this is correct.
Or perhaps Trump was using people both inside and outside the administration because he understands that so long as the cops don't find both drugs and the money in both hands at the same time, you can always try to pretend that you are innocent.
It has become fashionable to say that no one can know what Trump's true frame of mind is. And again, maybe that's true.
But evidence compiled in the Mueller report shows that Trump's approach to the justice system is not that of a normal politician looking to find wiggle room, or to cut some corners, in order to carve out for himself some plausible deniability.
Donald Trump is running the U.S. government nothing like a corrupt politician or a bumbling fool. He is running the U.S. government just like a gangster.
This is not normal.
But if the president is not held accountable, it will be.