Making the Bad Guys Pay (with Katherine Mulhern of Restitution)
In the Year of the Tiger, will the DOJ finally pounce?
Most of the frustration directed at Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice derives from the fact that the bad guys are getting away with it. At least, that’s how it appears. And in a narrative war, optics matter.
Thanks to Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, Matthew Whitaker, and especially Bill Barr, who was basically the Former Guy’s personal attorney, Donald John Trump and his cronies, criminals all, got away with pretty much everything for four years. We expected, not unreasonably, that with Joe Biden as President, and a Democrat as AG, things would be different. And maybe they are. Maybe there are secret federal investigations happening as I type this, clandestine grand juries hearing charges against various Trump lackeys and underlings right now. Maybe Garland will come back in the New Year with a gleam in his eye and a stack of indictments taller than Trump Tower, all of them meticulous and ironclad. Maybe the traitors will finally be sent to the hoosegow.
But the fact is, a year after the insurrection, two years after the emergence of covid-19 and the White House’s sabotaged response, two and a half years after both the attempt to extort the president of Ukraine and the release of the Mueller Report, three years after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and 35 years after he began laundering money for the Russian mob—over the course of which he raped or sexually assaulted some four dozen women—Trump has yet to be charged with a single crime.
His felonious friends and family members have been almost as fortuitous.
I laid out the many crimes of Jared Kushner three fucking years ago—to the day. Nothing was done, of course, so Boy Plunder went on to green-light the Blue State Genocide during the early stages of the pandemic, condemning hundreds of thousands of Americans to an early grave. To the surprise of no one, he is now hitting up his old chums in the Middle East for investment capital for his new fund, Affinity Partners.
Adam Davidson wrote a piece in the New Yorker exposing all the dirty shit Ivanka Trump was up to in Baku, Azerbaijan, where she appeared to be laundering money for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. He reported this in March of 2017. Crickets from the DOJ. He’s also been shouting from the rooftops about Trump’s shady golf course operation in Scotland. Again, no interest from Justice that we know of.
Mueller declined to indict Donald Trump, Jr. because he didn’t think he could show that Junior was smart enough to understand how campaign finance law works.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s sleazebag consigliere, who was involved with both the Ukraine op and the “stop the steal” op, is somehow not under indictment. Neither is Erik Prince (as far as we know). Bill Barr hasn’t been heard from since he took that job and shoved it, likely after learning about the insurrection plans. Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, and Fourth of July traitors Ron Johnson and John Neely Kennedy continue to shamelessly spew Russian talking points. Mike Pence, who was in charge of a sabotaged White House Pandemic Response Team that resulted in 750,000 preventable deaths, seems to think he’s a viable candidate for president in 2024. Devin Nunes is leaving Congress to [checks notes] head a Trump-owned media company. Heck, Louis DeJoy hasn’t even been fired yet. Where are the consequences?
True, not all of Trump’s cronies avoided legal trouble. Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, and not-so-useful idiot George Papadopoulos did time. Roger Stone and Mike Flynn were convicted. Steve Bannon was indicted. But all of that went poof with a few strokes of the Presidential Sharpie. Trump pardoned all but Cohen—whose disloyalty he punished—leaving Stone, Flynn, and Bannon free to wax seditious in the days leading up to January 6.
The only Trump associate indicted by the Garland DOJ is Tom Barrack—important for sure, but hardly the Face of the Franchise we want to see in an orange jumpsuit.
We need arrests! We need perp walks! We need indictments! We need prison sentences longer than a few weeks! These fuckers tried to overthrow the government, ffs! They literally murdered three quarters of a million Americans by fucking up the pandemic response! Why are we slow-walking this?
Happily, there is some cause for optimism as we head into 2022. First, the January 6 Committee is not playing. While a House committee does not have the teeth that, say, a Special Counsel would, it is a critical tool in the narrative war. These don’t sound like the words of someone eager to let the Former Guy skate:
Those tweets are a shot across the bow. Liz Cheney aims to board the hijacked ship that is the GOP, walk the traitors off the plank, and commandeer the vessel. Godspeed!
Second, Tish James, the New York State Attorney General, decided not to run for governor, but to stay where she is to “finish the job.” That could be a purely political decision—she was badly trailing Governor Kathy Hochul at the polls—but it may also mean that she wants to finish slaying the Trump dragon.
And finally, the British High Court ruled that Wikileaks founder and Russian intelligence cutout Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States. The world’s most famous squatter is fighting this—not because he’s a prosecuted journalist, but because he knows he’s guilty of espionage and will spend considerable time in a U.S. penitentiary.
An Assange trial would be devastating for the Former Guy. As Frank Figliuzzi, the former assistant director for counterintelligence for the FBI, writes,
for his sake, Trump better hope that the notorious hacker and leaker never sets foot on U.S. soil. Because If the Department of Justice plays its cards right, it can make the case precisely about those Russian government hacks and WikiLeaks’ dissemination of the content of those hacks by offering a deal to Assange in return for what he knows. . . .
Assange may be able to close the gap between collusion and criminal conspiracy. Assange got the Democratic National Committee data dump from an entity long suspected to be a front for the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service. In fact, WikiLeaks actively sought them out. Why? The Mueller team indicted 12 GRU officers for that hack. But what did candidate Trump know about the WikiLeaks–Russia connection, and when did he know it?
That Assange is a bad actor has been obvious for quite some time. Any U.S. citizen who made the pilgrimage to the Ecuadorian embassy in London to call on the head of what even Mike Pompeo, when he was CIA Director, called a “hostile intelligence service” has a lot of explaining to do. Why did Sean Hannity do a 180 on Assange, and lobby the Russian asset to guest-host his radio show? What did Roger Stone hope to gain by “dropping off a card” at the embassy? Did Dana Rohrabacher and Chuck Johnson really offer a presidential pardon in exchange for Assange’s help in showing the Russians were not behind Trump’s election, as was reported? And if not, why were they at the embassy? What exactly was the nature of the relationship between Assange and Donald Trump. Jr.? These and other mysteries may be revealed, if and when the rodent-faced Aussie is ferried across the pond.
Maybe the old saw about the wheels of justice grinding slow is true. Certainly Katherine Mulhern, today’s guest on the PREVAIL podcast, knows these things take time. Her outfit, Restitution, specializes in recovering assets stolen from sovereign governments by dictators, crooked ministers, and the like. It takes many months to track down the missing loot, freeze the bank accounts, and arrange for restitution of the boosted assets. But it does happen. Her organization has recovered between $2-3 billion of pillaged coin, she told me. They literally make the bad guys pay. But it doesn’t happen overnight.
Yes, this is taking forever, but I wonder: Could 2021 have merely set the stage for an action-packed 2022—like the penultimate and antipenultimate episodes of Succession set up that glorious season finale? We’re still in the Year of the Ox, after all—a clumsy beast of burden. But next year is the Year of the Tiger. Cats, too, take their sweet time before they strike. Maybe in the New Year, Merrick Garland will finally show us his claws, and the DOJ will, at long last, pounce.
LISTEN TO THE EPISODE
Greg Olear’s guest is Katherine Mulhern, the founder and CEO of Restitution, an organization dedicated to assisting democratic, anti-corruption-focused governments in their fight against corruption by providing funding and support for civil enforcement and asset recovery. Plus: a new MAGA app.
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Photo credit: Choo Yut Shing. “Year of the Tiger.” This figurine is at the entrance of the River Hongbao 2010 from Marina Promenade.