"That the Wall Street titans who blew up the financial system suffered little more than slight reductions in their bonuses only reinforced the perception that the “system” is 'rigged'—with the consequences we know only too well. Many people simply want to live in a world that is fair. As Eisinger shows, this one isn’t."—James Kwak, The New York Times Book Review
"Any book that can definitively answer the question of why no executives have gone to jail for the Financial Crisis deserves our attention. And in this case a Pulitzer Prize. The Chickens--t Club is a fast moving, fly on the wall, disheartening look at the deterioration of the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, written sympathetically, thoroughly, but mostly - engagingly. It is a book of superheroes.
There are 94 US Attorney offices around the country. They operate on their own, independent of the Justice Department, their dotted line overseers. They fight over cases, work (and fight) with the FBI and the SEC, or work around them, and seem to take their cues from the news. From the 60s to the 90s, they developed into the good guys, fighting the good fight and taking great pride in their accomplishments. They turned up clues, did forensic accounting, and turned (“flipped”) lower level criminals to get the executives. They were saving the country from itself. But the days of young aggressive lawyers nailing an Ivan Boesky or a Michael Milken are gone." Reviewer on Amazon
Bill Maher was nearly apoplectic on Real Time last night about how no crimes - including collusion and obstruction of justice - were definitively identified by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Barely containing his rage, he bellowed at the panel:
"You know I'm right. You know these are illegal things. 'We have dirt from Russia, I love it, let's meet'. Eight Russians show up. Or: 'Hi, I've got polling data. You close to Putin? We give you the polling data' . What the fuck? Are you kidding me?"
Former SDNY prosecutor Preet Bharara did correct him on the first, noting that the statute is for conspiracy, not collusion. But Maher dug in, he wasn't budging that whatever the name for the deeds committed they ought to be named crimes, not flouting norms. Others also have puzzled as to why Mueller could consume 22 months using 500 search warrants, 19 lawyers and generate over 400 pages in his report, but basically come up with nothing definitive on Trump.
But blogger Larry Beinhart, for my money, remains the one with the best hypothesis to explain Mueller's punt. He called it a theory - 'The Chickenshit theory'- taken from the title of the book 'The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives,' by Jesse Eisinger. As Beinhart writes in a recent blog post on smirkingchimp.com:
"White collar cases are the toughest to make and there are multiple reasons for this. They tend to take place in linguistic fogs. Instead of money taken at the point of a gun, it's taken by promises and claims that can be made to appear as merely over-ambitious, misunderstandings of complex rules, just careless, or actually made by underlings."
As related by Eisinger, it's all about manipulating the language so that - by the end of the judicial process- there is no clear proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" by which to rest a case. In other words, like the agnotologists who muddied the waters on the causes of climate change - delaying action by sowing doubts for decades- it's nearly impossible to prove a crime attributed to a white collar crook. Especially one with tons of cash to toss around, i.e. to buy the best lawyers, meaning the best at manipulating the language for their client's own ends.
Reading a WSJ piece from today (p. A3, Parents Talk Plea In College Case') it occurred to me the 33 white collar, elite parents charged with "honest services fraud" will also get off any prison time thanks to high paid lawyers (like Brian Kelly ) who will make their defense by parsing the language of the allegations to such an extent the jury will be too bleary brained to know which way to turn. Hence, to find for a reduced transgression - or even a slap on the wrist. As noted in the piece:
"Mr. William McGashlan's attorney Jack Pirozzolo said he 'wanted to make crystal clear that the defense contests 'the way the government characterized and explained the allegations.""
Of course he will, because that's how so many white collar criminals and executives have gotten off! The language manipulation succeeds because it questions whether the prosecutors "really" had firm evidence of the "intentions" of the accused. How could they know, after all, what was actually going on inside their craniums? Might they not merely have had the interests of their offspring and their future service to the nation at heart?
Colorado Springs Independent columnist Mike Littwin has dug even more deeply into the parsing of language for the elites, in order for them to be 'teflon-protected' against any and all accusations. As he writes (COS Indy, March 25-29, p. 4):
"As for collusion it is fair to ask, as Washington Post anti-Trumper Max Boot does: If Mueller determined that Trump had not 'conspired' or 'coordinated' with the Russians isn't it obvious, from Trump's own statements, that he welcomed Russian interference?"
Just to remind readers, the most outrageous statement to that effect was (July 27, 2016):
"I will tell you this, Russia if you're listening, I hope that you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. You will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let's see if that happens."
But again, Trump's lawyers could parse that event and the words a hundred different ways, just like the lawyers for the bankers who got off in the wake of the 2008 derivatives fiasco that led to the credit crisis. For example, they might have told Mueller: "That was just his typical braggadocio - nothing serious with malicious intent. He says stuff like that all the time. Look at his campaign rallies!"
Don't forget also, as Beinhart notes, Mueller already telegraphed he'd capitulated to the chickenshit idiom before the report was released, e.g.:
"Special Counsel Robert Mueller sent out clear - though silent - signals before the release of the report that he had joined the chickensh** club. He didn't indict Donald Trump, Jr and Jared Kushner for possible offences they may have committed, like lying to Congress and failing to disclose foreign contacts, and then interview them, if they were to be charged. That would have set up an interview with the president himself."
Then what could Mueller have done, if he couldn't get inside Trump's head, and never forced him to answer questions in real life, in real time, one on one?
How much would Mueller have needed to get to a crime? Littwin avers:
"Trump's Fifth Avenue shooting hypothesis still holds."
Meaning he'd virtually have to plug some one on one of New York's busiest streets to be found guilty. A true "smoking gun". Anything less, as Littwin and Eisinger explain, can be dissolved with enough fuzzy lingo or semantics.
Littwin' conclusion - like that of Beinhart - is that "the impeach and replace movement was never going to happen."
That does not mean, of course, that the Dems just roll over for Barr and Trump. No, they need to get the entire Mueller report released to see what was actually found, not what Barr claims was found in his brief (4 page) memo-summary.
That means keeping the April 2nd deadline ironclad, given the more time allowed for Barr to delay the more Trump's specious "vindication" road show can do damage. If need be, the Dems need to haul Barr (and Mueller) before open hearings, as well as subpoena any redacted versions of the report that emerge. This is not a game, but the future of a constitutional democracy at stake. And you can be damned sure if the shoe was on the other foot, and an Obama (or Hillary-appointed) AG had just done the summary dump that Barr did, the Repukes would be like rabid rats demanding everything. Oh, and holding hearings that would put their Benghazi side show to shame.
No way now or ever would they follow the advice they've given House Democrats, to "just move on."
by Laura Flanders | March 30, 2019 - 6:31am | permalink