Vise Grip: An Interview with "Uncle Blazer"
Q&A with Twitter's pseudonymous (and mustachioed) legal expert.
|Greg Olear||Nov 19, 2019|| 48||1|
We chat with fellow Pelosi fan Uncle Blazer (@blakesmustache), whose Twitter threads explain so elegantly the byzantine workings of the court system with regard to Trump.
GO: Your avatar is a ridiculous-looking character played by Blake Anderson (who I just now had to Google), and yet you give cogent, easy-to-follow legal analysis on Twitter. This makes you the opposite of the lawyers in the White House Counsel’s office, who look like proper attorneys but are clowns.
Uncle Blazer: Guilty as charged. For the record though, that wasn’t actually a question. :)
GO: Is “Uncle Blazer” a Blake Anderson reference, too?
UB: Yes, that’s Blake’s Twitter handle.
GO: What was your impetus for starting the Twitter account?
UB: Twitter was my first foray into social media back in 2014. I didn’t understand the point of Twitter at the time, and a friend mentioned that it was a good way to follow the news. I just wanted to use the account for that purpose and not for any social purposes, so I set it up anonymously to avoid having friends try to follow me. I was really into Workaholics at the time and still believe that the first several seasons of Workaholics are completely hilarious. So Blake and the boys were front of mind when I set up the account.
When Trump became POTUS, I started using the account to respond to his tweets by calling him “Putin’s blackmail slave.” I subsequently deleted all of those posts, by the way.
GO: Why delete them? He is Putin’s blackmail slave.
UB: I try to delete all my tweets that aren’t really useful anymore. That way I and others can find the useful things in my feed more easily. I also delete old tweets if they draw a lot of troll and bot comments that flood my mentions. I try to respond to legit questions, so I want to keep bots and trolls out. I know a lot of people object to deleting old tweets, but I feel no such constraint.
GO: I don’t object. I’m just too lazy to bother.
Your account came to my attention relatively recently, in the last year or so. Is that when you started tweeting more?
UG: Yes. Once the House Dems took control of the House in 2019, I started following their lawsuits closely. It drove me crazy that everyone on Twitter ignored the House Dem legal strategy and constantly complained that Pelosi was “doing nothing” when in reality she was aggressively pursuing Trump in court.
GO: The “Pelosi’s doing nothing, Trump will get away with it, he always does” narrative was easy for the FSB to co-opt, because, while some was driven by bots, a lot was just real people who were frustrated. Heck, I’ve been frustrated at the deliberate pace of the thing, even though I know better. That’s why your Twitter feed is so valuable. Because the legal stuff can be hard to wrap one’s head around, for us non-lawyers.
UB: Yeah, that’s what prompted me to try to educate people on the legal strategy, but that’s hard to do with zero followers. So I started responding to tweets by prominent Twitter accounts explaining the House legal strategy. I even tried that with some of your threads!
UB: I did that for a few months and then a couple of my threads went viral in late August 2019, and I woke up one morning to find I had about 10k followers. The rest is history.
GO: In my view, Pelosi has played this perfectly. She has owned Trump every step of the way. But she had to do it slow, or else the GOP talking heads would accuse her of having a vendetta—or, worse, fomenting a “coup” to put herself in power. What do you think of her performance so far?
UB: The House Dem legal strategy has been truly masterful. Even with the benefit of hindsight, they really haven’t made even a single glaring mistake. As you note, politically they needed to keep their powder dry, so they chose not to declare a formal impeachment inquiry right away and instead issued subpoenas to Trump’s accountants (Mazars) and his bankers (Deutsche Bank), knowing they could win those cases without being in a formal inquiry. But they couldn’t win court cases (1) to get the Mueller grand jury materials or (2) to shred the “absolute immunity” defense and compel witness testimony from people like McGahn, without declaring a formal inquiry—so they declared in July and filed those cases.
GO: They were setting up the dominoes just so, but, you know, quietly. Or getting their ducks in a row, if you prefer hunting metaphors. And now, as the inquiry begins, the boring front-end stuff is done.
UB: Let’s not kid ourselves. The House legal team is extraordinary. House General Counsel Douglas Letter is a legend, and we are now seeing how good people like Daniel Goldman are in the impeachment hearing. Note that Goldman has been sitting in court during the Mazars and Deutsche Bank cases. He hasn’t been twiddling his thumbs.
GO: You did a thread last week about what you call the “Vice Grip Strategy,” which is how you explain what Pelosi, Schiff, Nadler, and the House leadership are doing now. We will link, but can you please summarize?
UB: First, I misspelled “vise,” so that was kind of embarrassing. Never been great at spelling.
GO: So did I. I guess I associate gripping with Dick Cheney?
UB: As for the strategy itself, I start from the proposition that everything the House legal team does is done for a reason. They have been pursuing the Mazars and Deutsche Bank documents relentlessly since April, so I have to believe they know what they are going to find, and they have every intention of using it. I don’t see any way the House refers the case to the Senate without including financial crimes in the Articles of Impeachment. So, basically, the strategy must be to get the Ukraine stuff aired in public, and then slow things down just enough to win the court cases and get the evidence of financial crimes before voting on the Articles of Impeachment and sending the case to the Senate. All the while, Trump is in a vise (spelled it right that time!) and eventually gets crushed.
GO: Back in the summer, I’d heard that the plan was to start off the inquiry in September and have it hit fever pitch before Thanksgiving, so people could go hang out with their families and talk about what a crooked asshole Trump is. But that was when the taxes were the, ahem, trump card. Ukraine seems to have fast-tracked the process.
UB: One way to view Ukraine is as a “black swan” event that came out of nowhere, but I think that doesn’t give the House Dems enough credit. Remember that Pelosi talked for months of allowing Trump to impeach himself. Her point was that, while the House pursued Trump in court, Trump was highly likely to hang himself. And then it happened. So, Pelosi may not have been expecting this specific black swan to appear, but she did expect one.
GO: The Trump team is a flock of black swans. Stupid, crooked black swans.
UB: Ukraine has accelerated things, but I think the House Dems have a plan for slowing them down enough to get the evidence they need on the financial crimes. Trump knows his goose is cooked as soon as the House gets his taxes.
GO: We say “the taxes,” but we mean the tax documents from Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars. Trump obviously does not want us to see those tax returns. He gave us a quote-unquote transcript of the Zelensky call, in which he extorts the president of Ukraine, but not the taxes. You and I agree that it will show money laundering, but how will we know?
UB: Mazars is Trump’s personal accounting firm, so they don’t just have copies of the tax returns, they have all the supporting documentation as well. The subpoena the House sent to Mazars back in April covers the waterfront, including Trump’s bank records, business records from his companies, etc., and Mazars has to have all that stuff in its files in order to have prepared the tax returns. So the House isn’t just going to have his tax returns, they are going to see just about all of his business dealings.
GO: “Business,” in scare quotes, and pronounced in the Soviet way: BIZ-ee-ness.
UB: We know Trump is a money launderer and that he engages in a lot of corporate fraud and tax evasion. Daniel Goldman and Daniel Noble stand ready to blow this thing wide open as soon as they get what they need from Mazars.
GO: As we watch the traitors scoff at the Congressional subpoenas, there’s been a lot of talk of inherent contempt. The House actually voted to hold Bill Barr in contempt, although nothing has come of that yet (I’m hoping it’s another domino ready to fall if necessary). I think they will ultimately have to arrest one of the scofflaws—Giuliani, is my pick, although I’d also be cool with Mnuchin or Barr—and then the rest of the crew will trip over themselves racing to testify. How would such a thing work, logistically, and do you think the Dems will use it?
UB: I see winning the McGahn case as the key to using inherent contempt. Trump blocked McGahn from testifying on the same grounds as he’s blocked the other witnesses from testifying, by asserting “absolute immunity” by all POTUS aides from the need to provide any Congressional testimony. We are weeks or maybe even days from a decision in the McGahn case, and if witnesses still refuse to testify in the face of both Congressional subpoenas and a court order validating those subpoenas, we are in a true Constitutional crisis and the House will have to get medieval. They can ask the court to appoint a special master to enforce the court order, or they can ask the Capitol Police to round up those defying subpoenas. A lot of people seem to think this is a good thing, but it’s not. I see it getting ugly, fast. I just hope Barr opts to recognize the court order, and we don’t have to go into a full blown crisis.
GO: As much as I’d love the sight of Capitol Police cuffing Giuliani and dragging him away, I think you’re right. Our institutions have held, but we don’t want to put them through that much of a test.
Last question: Of all the head-scratching legal maneuvers performed by Trump’s attorneys in the last three years, which one do you think was the biggest whopper? (I vote for Ty Cobb blabbing about the case in a restaurant while seated next to a New York Times reporter).
UB: Given that the Trump legal team’s strategy was to thwart and obstruct Mueller at every turn, the biggest mistake they made was allowing McGahn to talk to Mueller. I still don’t quite understand why they allowed that rather than asserting executive privilege. I guess it was either an intentional act of sabotage by Ty Cobb or else Trump and Co. actually believed McGahn wouldn’t give Mueller anything. Huge mistake.
For the record, I excluded Giuliani from consideration in answering this question because he’s Trump’s fixer and not really acting as a lawyer.
GO: For a fixer, Rudy’s sure adept at breaking things.
UB: When I think of fixers, I think of Ray Donovan and Winston Wolfe. Instead, Trump got Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani. I guess it’s not as easy to find a good fixer as it seems to be on TV and in the movies.
GO: I don’t know. Cohen was pretty good at it until Trump became president and froze him out.
UB: I think part of Trump’s problem is that he’s trying to operate like a mob boss and, despite his deep and long-standing ties to both the Italian and Russian mobs, Trump himself isn’t actually a “made guy.”
GO: Exactly right, and an important point. He’s a money launderer—a guy the mob exploits. He’s not Tony Soprano, he’s Davey Scatino, owner of Ramsey Outdoor.
UB: Trump doesn’t really know how to be an international crime boss. It would actually be kind of funny to watch him try if it weren’t for the fact that he’s literally destroying the world order and pushing the doomsday clock to midnight in the process.
GO: That wouldn’t stop Mark Burnett from making it into reality show.