The dark, murky curtains of paranoia are fast closing in on the Trump administration, but the incompetence is beating them to it.
In a new ProPublica report Tuesday morning, President Trump’s bumbling, inept personal lawyer Mark Kasowitz of the misspelled and inaccurate press release after former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony, bragged that he got New York United States Attorney Preet Bharara fired, warning Trump, “This guy is going to get you.”
Kasowitz “boasted to friends and colleagues that he played a central role in the firing of Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, according to four people familiar with the conversations,” Jesse Eisinger and Justin Elliott of ProPublica reported.
A person familiar with Kasowitz’s account said Kasowitz told Trump, “This guy is going to get you.”
There’s a caveat that Kasowitz is “prone to exaggerating when regaling them with his exploits”, but “if true, his assertion adds to the mystery surrounding the motive and timing of Bharara’s firing.”
Bharara was fired March 11 and ProPublica notes, “… at the time of Bharara’s firing the Southern District was conducting an investigation into Trump’s secretary of the health and human services, Tom Price.”
Obama administration ethics czar and co-founder of CREW Norm Eisen wrote over this ProPublica report, “ETHICS SIREN: if all this is true, then @markkasowitz may be spec gov employee b/c giving personnel advice, legal advice 2WH staff, etc.starting 2smell like Icahn situation; if Kasowitz is/becomes SGE, must folo gov conflicts,disclosure&other rules.”
Eisen is referring to Trump’s special adviser on regulatory matters, Carl Icahn – a billionaire investor whom New York Magazine called a “blinding supernova” of conflicts of interest. Icahn raised ethics flags with his dual roles as an investor and Trump adviser. As an example of the sort of ethics issue Icahn raised, the New York Times wrote of Ecahn’s efforts to change an EPA rule impacting the way corn-based ethanol is mixed into gasoline:
“Mr. Icahn is a majority investor in CVR Energy, an oil refiner based in Sugar Land, Tex., that would have saved $205.9 million last year had the regulatory fix he is pushing been in place.”
Eisen likened the conflict to Icahn’s issue as a Special Government Employee, linking to a CNN article in which he and Fred Wertheimer explained the issue for Icahn:
But Icahn’s actual behavior in his role as special adviser suggests he may very well be a Special Government Employee, or “SGE.” If so, he should follow conflicts and disclosure laws governing the behavior of such employees.
“SGE” is a term the government uses to refer to part-time federal employees. An SGE is anyone who is “retained, designated, appointed, or employed to perform, with or without compensation,” temporary duties for a limited number of days per year “on a full-time or intermittent basis.” According to the Office of Government Ethics, the “SGE category was created by Congress as a way to apply an important, but limited, set of conflict of interest requirements to a group of individuals who provide important, but limited, services to the Government.”
Kasowitz can’t be advising the President on personal matters while also inserting himself into government matters to such a scope that he’s a SGE. This is yet another problem with Trump’s personal management style and his complete disregard for the basic concepts of being president.
Kasowitz already made things worse for Trump by threatening legal action against Comey based on Kasowitzs’ incorrect understanding of the facts. Kasowitz might be really good in the private sector at threatening and bullying with lawsuits, but he is out of his element in his role as Russia investigation lawyer for President Trump. It’s unclear if Kasowitz is even licensed in D.C.
Kasowitz might have been bragging when he told people he got Preet Bharara fired. But he should know better than to brag about things like this. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times put the button on this mushrooming scandal by noting, “And a Kasowitz partner is said to be a potential pick to replace Bharara. Whatta town!”
Bharara recounted two days ago that Comey wasn’t alone in feeling the President was trying to cultivate a relationship with him. Bharara said on This Week Sunday that he, too, received uncomfortable phone calls from Trump, though he was President-elect at the time, and that these calls crossed the boundary separating the executive branch and independent criminal investigators. He said he was fired after refusing to take a third call.
“The number of times that President Obama called me in seven and a half years was zero,” Bharara said on the Sunday show.
Firing people because it seems likely they’re going to get you is becoming a recurring theme under President Trump. It’s not just the ethics issues, but if this report is accurate, it also adds weight to Comey’s testimony as it shows that Trump uses firing as a way to stop investigations.