In the wake of the Robert Mueller report’s delivery to Attorney General William Barr, The New York Times revealed another sign that the effort to reverse the 2016 election continues to wind down: Robert S. Khuzami, the deputy U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is departing for personal reasons.
“Trump’s Gravest Threat Yet Rose From Manhattan,” we were told by Bloomberg’s Chris Strohm, referring to the Southern (“Sovereign”) District of New York. It’s precisely the same location, ironically, the Showtime series “Billions” depicts (reveals?), in which an out-of-control U.S. attorney uses his position to create a bogus investigation into a target’s finances for the sole purpose of tempting some response that can later be prosecuted as “obstruction of justice.”
“We know,” the semi-fictitious SDNY U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades boasted to his co-conspirator, “that our witness isn’t strong enough to win ‘Case A.’ We’re not trying to win Case A. No. We’re going to get [our target] on trying to stop it.”
If you believe in the quaint notion of representative democracy, you might imagine a line of control passing from the ballot box to every corner of government where public officials wield power. It might stretch through layers upon intervening layers, but that golden thread must remain unbroken as the only method by which our Constitution guarantees the ultimate supremacy of the governed over the guys with the guns and badges.
This is why the president, the person through whom that golden thread passes, exercises control over the mighty federal prosecutor. Don’t like what the president does? He stands for an election and you can vote him out. Don’t like what a prosecutor does? You have to write to your president. But what happens when an un-elected second-tier bureaucrat by the name of Rod Rosenstein snips that thread?
Donald Trump did not appoint Khuzami. There was no golden thread tying Khuzami to the ballot box. That thread passed from Trump to Geoffrey Berman, who ascended after President Trump fired Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney. Rather than surrender to the constitutional consequences of the election, Bharara has used his perch outside of his office to publicly trash the president.
To subvert Trump’s (and thus the voters’) control over the Southern District of New York, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein employed the go-to weapon of the deep state: The situational recusal. When the official is a Trump ally, there’s a recusal. When the official can be counted-upon to join the “resistance,” no recusal. It’s as simple as that.
Then came the raid on the president’s former lawyer’s office and a subsequent leak of confidential communication between the president and his attorney. We don’t know that the audio recording was obtained in the raid. But it sure seems plausible.
Both Rosenstein and Khuzami signed off on the raid. It remains the most shocking and lawless act in the Russia hoax, and it was clearly designed to do exactly what Rhoades wanted: To provoke a reaction from the real target, a Case B, that could be used to take him down.
As noted by The New York Times, “The investigation into the Trump inaugural committee partly grew out of a recording that F.B.I. agents seized when they raided Mr. Cohen’s home and office. On the recording, Mr. Cohen is heard discussing potential irregularities with one of the main contractors for the inauguration. The Southern District is investigating, among other things, whether the committee made false filings with the Federal Election Commission and received illegal donations from foreign nationals, a subpoena from the investigation shows.”
The raid on Cohen should have worked, as media described Trump’s “rage” in reaction to his attorney’s office being raided. But like the target in the third season of “Billions,” Trump smelled a trap and withheld the reaction his opponents so desperately sought.
The obstruction trap didn’t work, and it’s apparently time to admit as much. Khuzami joins many other “get Trump” figures who have one by one slipped away before the final reckoning (here, here, here, here, and here, for example). Maybe now the Southern District of New York can move on to something other than acting as a base of operations for the resistance.