I was booked solid from six to six today, with only a half hour for lunch at my desk, but Gretchen’s patient attempts at explaining that to the persistent caller who identified himself as “David Barron from the White House staff” did no good.
“You haven’t had a single consultation from anyone at the White House since Obama left,” Gretchen remarked as she notified me about Mr. Barron’s fifth call since nine-thirty. “How come they waited nearly two and a half years?”
An intriguing point, to be sure – Caller ID confirmed the call originated from the White House, though, so I told Gretchen to let Mr. Barron know I would take his call during lunch. If he was so adamant to speak with me, I figured, he wasn’t going to mind if I occasionally had to reply to his entreaties while chewing on a mouthful of sushi nigiri. Which was what I was doing when she put him through to my desk.
Barron: Hello? Tom Collins?
Tom: This is he.
Barron: This is David Barron from the White House staff.
Tom: So I was told. How can I help the White House this afternoon, sir?
Barron: Okay, first of all, I’ve been told you’re the smartest person in Washington.
Tom: Which is a lot like being the tallest building in Baltimore.
Barron: Baltimore? [Expletive] [expletive]-hole full of black-[expletive] [expletive] Democrats! All the elections there are totally rigged! Totally!
Tom: With that, I would say, Mr. Barron, you have definitely removed all doubt in my mind that you might not be representing the Trump White House.
Barron: But I’m not him! There’s no impersonation! Absolutely no impersonation! No impersonation! None!
Tom: Of course not, sir. I am thoroughly convinced that you are who you say you are.
Barron: Good. Second thing, I hear you take calls for free.
Tom: My initial consultations are without charge, whether in person, on the telephone or otherwise.
Barron: What do you mean, “otherwise?”
Tom: Skype, for instance – or Facetime.
Tom: Skype and Facetime are applications that allow personal conversations, with pictures of the interlocutors, if desired, over the Internet.
Barron: I don’t do Internet.
Tom: Oh, really? Twitter uses the Internet, you know.
Barron: It does?
Barron: Well, uh… I don’t use Twitter, either.
Tom: I believe that, too. Is there anything else you’d like me to say I believe before we get started?
Barron: Um… no, I guess… not now, anyway. Maybe later.
Tom: Sure. Is there anything else you’d like to know, then?
Barron: Yeah – this is all completely confidential, right?
Tom: I can assure you, Mr. Barron, of the same level of confidentiality I extend to all my clients who avail themselves of my free consultations.
Barron: Oh, okay, good. And what’s an interlocutor?
Tom: A person taking part in a conversation.
Barron: So these people on the Internet using those things you were talking about – they can see each other, like one of those future telephones in a science-fiction movie or something?
Barron: But you can’t see me now, can you?
Tom: No, I can’t, because you called me on a conventional telephone land line, which is a prudent thing to do.
Barron: Hey, wait a minute; you calling me a prude?
Tom: No, no, of course not, sir. I meant that it’s a good idea to call using a land line rather than a cell phone, that’s all.
Barron: And why’s that?
Tom: Because cell phones use radio signals, and those can be intercepted by a third party who might wish to eavesdrop on our conversation.
Barron: They can?
Tom: Certainly. And I’m sure neither of us would want that.
Barron: You can sure as [expletive] say that again.
Tom: Perhaps, but I shall refrain from doing so. Now – how may I help you?
Barron: Uh, yeah, well… the president, see, he’s been saying a lot of stuff about the Mueller report, you know, that it totally exonerates him and proves there was no collusion and no obstruction or any other illegal [expletive] going on, and that’s totally true, naturally, because the president wouldn’t do anything illegal, ever, or tell lies or do anything dishonest. You know that, right?
Tom: Yes, I entirely believe that President Trump would never, ever do anything illegal or tell lies or do anything dishonest.
Barron: Good. So you’re a Republican, right?
Tom: I’m an independent.
Barron: Oh. But you voted for Trump, right?
Tom: Where I come from, it’s considered impolite to ask people how they vote, sir.
Barron: And where’s that?
Tom: New York City, originally.
Barron: Where in New York City?
Tom: Little Italy – the neighborhood bordered by Mott, Canal, Lafayette and Broome.
Barron: And you think New Yorkers think it’s rude to ask them how they voted?
Tom: I wouldn’t suggest trying it, sir. As I said, how may I help you? We only have thirty minutes here.
Barron: Hmph! Well, just so I’m not getting advice from a [expletive] Democrat, I guess. Anyway, the president’s lawyers have been giving him lots of… useful… things to say about the Mueller report.
Tom: Such as what?
Barron: Um, that it’s totally biased and un-factual and that it completely exonerates President Trump.
Tom: And nobody at the White House has a problem with, on the one hand, denouncing the Mueller Report as totally biased and, as you put it, “un-factual,” and on the other hand proclaiming that it “totally exonerates” the president?
Barron: No, of course not. Why should they?
Tom: Because some people might observe that an investigative report doing both of those things at once doesn’t make any sense.
Barron: Well [expletive] them! If the president of the United States does something, then it makes sense. That’s all there is to it. End of story.
Tom: Understood. Please continue.
Barron: Okay, so, it’s like this, see, you’d think that’s the end of it, right? The report is a bunch of [expletive] and anyway, it totally exonerates the president anyhow. So okay. But when he asks them, flat out, in private, naturally, is there really anything there to be worried about, they get all lawyer-like, you know, hemming and hawing and mealy-mouthing and talking about Article One Section 3 of the Constitution this, and Article Two Section 4 of the Constitution that, and Department of Justice policy this, and United States Code Title 18 Chapter 73 that…
Tom: Even Giuliani?
Barron: Well, no, not Giuliani. I’m talking about his real lawyers, here, not that [expletive] jerk-off. The president only put him out there to create confusion and keep everybody guessing, okay?
Tom: I see.
Barron: Yeah. So forget that [expletive] clown. No, what I’m saying is, the president is kinda, you know… concerned… about what his real lawyers say when he asks them whether there’s really anything he should be worried about or not. And so, the President is kinda, you know, wondering about this Mueller Report [expletive], even if maybe he shouldn’t be wondering about that [expletive].
Tom: Understandable, given the circumstances.
Barron: [Expletive]-A! That’s what I say! And how can he tell about that [expletive], you know, with his own lawyers not being willing to stake their careers on backing him up, and tell him the [expletive] he expects to hear, like people who work for him are supposed to?
Tom: I see. You do realize that I am not a lawyer, correct?
Barron: Yeah, exactly – that’s one of the reasons I’m calling you – because you ‘re not one, and that means you aren’t going to blow a bunch of [expletive] smoke up my [expletive] if I ask you, do I… I mean… does President Trump… have anything to worry about with this [expletive] Mueller Report [expletive] or not?
Tom: I can’t speak with authority to the legal aspects of what he should be worried about or not worried about, of course, because I’m not a lawyer; I can only give an informed layman’s opinion. But I can, and would, say that politically, President Trump has quite a bit to be worried about.
Barron: He… he does?
Tom: Yes, quite a bit. Because the Mueller Report, especially the parts relating to obstruction of justice…
Barron: But there was no collusion with the Russians! How can there be obstruction if there was no collusion?
Tom: Actually, “collusion” is not a crime.
Barron: It’s not?
Tom: Absolutely not. There’s no federal crime of collusion, and you don’t have to be a lawyer to know that, either. Consequently, the president has just been making a complete fool of himself, uttering non sequiturs, over and and over, for the last two years, saying that there was “no collusion” with the Russians. You are aware of that, correct?
Barron: Well, then, what the [expletive] was I… I mean, he… supposed to be saying?
Tom: The president was supposed to be saying, there was no evidence of “conspiracy,” presuming of course, that he meant to be publicly declaring his innocence, rather than publicly proclaiming his ignorance.
Barron: [Expletive]! Why didn’t anybody tell me… I mean… him?
Tom: Because he consistently surrounds himself with [expletive]-kissers who are afraid to say he’s made a mistake – any kind of mistake.
Barron: Oh. So I guess you’re saying now I should be the one to tell him he’s been wrong all this time?
Tom: No, I’m not suggesting that – it’s too late anyway. Everybody who’s got half a functioning brain has long ago figured out he’s a complete jackass ignoramus and proud of it.
Barron: Too late?
Tom: Way too late. He might as well keep saying “collusion.” Correcting it to “conspiracy” at this point won’t do any good.
Barron: All right, then I won’t bother telling him. But anyway, how can President Trump have obstructed justice if there was no crime – collusion, conspiracy, whatever the [expletive] you want to call it? If Mueller admits he didn’t have enough evidence to indict the president for a crime, then how could there be a case for obstructing justice investigating it? I mean, [expletive], come the [expletive] on! How the [expletive] could the president obstruct justice in a case where the investigation can’t produce enough [expletive] evidence for a crime in the first place? That’s totally [expletive] up, right? Explain to me how that’s not totally [expletive] up!
Tom: Well, if somebody tries to buy heroin, but ends up with baking soda because the person they tried to buy it from was an undercover narcotics officer; or, if someone tries to build a bomb to blow up the New Years Eve celebration in Times Square, but they’re an incompetent bomb maker and it doesn’t go off, under federal law, they’re still guilty of narcotics trafficking and terrorism. It’s same thing with obstruction of justice – if you try to do it and fail, you’re just as guilty of it as if you did it and succeeded. And you’re guilty whether you’re successful in committing the underlying crime or not. And moreover, you’re guilty whether or not the prosecutor could find enough evidence to prove you guilty of the underlying crime beyond a reasonable doubt. And again, nobody has to be a lawyer to figure that out.
Barron: Duh… they don’t? Because that all sounds pretty [expletive] hard to understand.
Tom: Well, unless the president is prepared to argue that he’s too stupid to understand it, that’s what the law says, and ignorance of the law is no excuse. And stupidity? At best, it might be a mitigating factor in sentencing. You see, Mr. Barron, we, as citizens of the United States, are expected to know what’s illegal and what isn’t, whether we are lawyers or not.
Barron: We are?
Tom: Sure we are. And when Robert Mueller follows Justice Department policy and refrains from indicting Donald John Trump for obstruction of justice, it’s because Trump is president of the United States and concern for preservation of the constitutional office of the president, as embodied in that DOJ policy, overrides what would otherwise be clear cut grounds for the indictment of any US citizen except the president. It’s certainly not because Trump is necessarily innocent of criminal conspiracy or obstruction of justice; there’s absolutely nothing in the Mueller Report about that, because it’s not a federal prosecutor’s job to exonerate people, whether they’re a president of the United States who attempted to intimidate witnesses in a federal investigation and asked the Russians to break into the State Department’s email servers, or a tweaking moron who crossed state lines with a pound of homemade methamphetamine. So take my word for it, there are plenty of things in the Mueller Report which Trump has to worry about, indictment or no indictment, and they are going to be political poison for him and the Republican Party no matter what.
Barron: Political poison?
Tom: No doubt about it. And what should be really disturbing for any remaining Republicans who haven’t drunk the MAGA Kool-aid and gone completely around the bend by now, is that the only significant Republican leader who has the stones to stand up and say anything in public about it is Mitt Romney, for Christ’s sake. Now that’s what I call pathetic, Mr. Barron; which is to say, if you look up “pathetic” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Mitt Romney pointing out that Emperor Trump is wearing no clothes.
Barron: What the [expletive] are you talking about? I… uh, I mean… he always wears the best tailored suits and sportswear money can buy!
Tom: I was speaking metaphorically, Mr. Barron.
Barron: Oh. About obstruction of justice?
Tom: No, I was speaking metaphorically about Donald Trump’s moral nakedness. It could very well be the harbinger of the Republican Party’s final demise.
Barron: [Expletive] the Republican Party. Let’s keep our focus on President Trump if you don’t mind.
Barron: So what about… the I-word?
Tom: Integrity? President Trump doesn’t have any. What’s to discuss?
Barron: No, no! I meant, you know…
Barron: Yeah, yeah… that.
Tom: It’s not going to happen.
Barron: What makes you so sure? They tell me that the Democrats say it’s definitely on the table.
Tom: And that’s where it’s going to stay, because the Democrats know that the Republicans will control the Senate until after the 2020 election, and the Republican senators are a bunch of simpering, sniveling, spineless lickspittle cowards who wouldn’t convict President Trump, even if the House of Representatives impeached him, with a mountain of evidence, for being a traitor, a Russian agent and the secret bondage sex slave of Vladimir Putin.
Barron: [Expletive]! Who told… uh, no, I mean… that’s great! Uh, no, I mean… how come?
Tom: They are afraid that if they vote to convict Trump on anything the House impeaches him for, no matter what it is, they will lose their next Republican primary because of it. They are politicians who put their own miserable self-interest ahead of the principles that founded this nation, and consequently, they are the lowest form of humanity imaginable.
Barron: Thank God for that.
Tom: Somebody say amen, I guess. If, however, the Democrats could prove that Trump has committed some sort of impeachable offense – even just garden variety obstruction of justice, for example, it’s dead certain they will make plenty of political hay out of it for that upcoming election in 2020, and that means big trouble for the president’s re-election bid. And the Mueller Report gives them plenty of ammunition, and thus plenty of reasons for the president to lay awake nights worrying. But another big thing he should be worrying about from at least a political, if not legal standpoint is the fourteen criminal referrals that the Special Counsel has made which proceeded from the Mueller investigation.
Barron: Why? The Report’s finished and the witch hunt is done, right? And like you said – no indictment and no impeachment. So maybe Trump committed obstruction by wanting to commit obstruction or something like you said. Whatever! It doesn’t matter because he’s president – so, game over, right?
Tom: Nope. Take your pick Mr. Barron: whether it’s a nasty, dirty guttersnipe witch hunt or a high-minded crusade for fundamental justice, this process is, if I may use the president’s favorite adjective, very, very, very far from over.
Barron: Very, very, very far?
Tom: Very, very, very, very, very, very far from over. Because you see, Mr. Barron, while it’s okay for President Trump to forget what happened concerning something or another when he’s answering a written question sent to him by Special Counsel Mueller, it’s an extremely serious crime for someone who works for him – like you, for example – to lie to federal agents during sworn testimony about that same thing, and if they did, and the federal prosecutors can prove it, that could result in a rather unpleasant situation for President Trump after he leaves office.
Barron: After… he… leaves?
Tom: Sure. Despite the fact the Justice Department’s policy holds it to be the law that a sitting president cannot be indicted, once he’s plain old Donald John Trump again, it’s perfectly possible that he could be indicted for one or more federal felonies.
Barron: Federal… felonies?
Tom: Yeah, that’s right – good old fashioned locked-up-in-an-orange-jumpsuit federal felonies. And then there’s the issue of his tax returns. Only he, the IRS and God Almighty know what’s in them, of course, but…
Barron: But what?
Tom: But if whatever is in those tax returns gets cross-referenced against what’s in all of the related indictments, guilty pleas, criminal referrals and the Mueller Report itself, Citizen Donald John Trump might very well find himself in quite a pickle.
Barron: A… pickle?
Tom: At least, if not some seriously hot water.
Barron: Hot… water?
Tom: If there are any major income tax related… discrepancies, such as, say, evidence of money laundering via New York real estate transactions, well, we know what happened to Alphonse Capone, don’t we?
Barron: But Al Capone was in the Mafia!
Tom: Yes, but if I may be perfectly frank, Mr. Barron, as far as many people are concerned, Donald John Trump is simply the head of just one more New York crime family – and not a particularly clever one at that.
Barron: But not as far as you are concerned… right?
Tom: As far as I’m concerned, I’m not a lawyer.
Tom: And I don’t work for the federal government. So my opinion on that issue, one way or the other, is largely irrelevant.
Barron: But… what is your opinion?
Tom: My opinion is that it’s my job not to have one.
Tom: Concerning whether the Trump Organization will eventually be prosecuted for money laundering under the RICO statutes? No, it’s definitely not my job to have an opinion on that; not at this time, at least.
Barron: Um… I see. So, uh… how many indictments is it so far?
Tom: Thirty-four. Plus, as I said, fourteen criminal referrals.
Barron: Okay, well, then, uh… speaking of statutes and [expletive] like that, what about the [expletive] statute of limitations?
Tom: According to 17 U.S.C. 3282, the general time limit for filing of federal charges is five years. So obviously, winning a second term would help – four years is four years, after all. On the other hand, however, 18 U.S.C. 3293(2), for instance, provides for a ten-year statute of limitations for a violation of, or a conspiracy to violate, the mail or wire fraud statutes, if the offense affects a financial institution – a circumstance which could readily occur in the process of say, selling a multi-million dollar luxury Manhattan high-rise residence to a Russian oligarch seeking to conceal, via international bank wire transfer payments, various ill-gotten gains obtained through theft, extortion and murder, as Russian oligarchs often do. And there are plenty of other federal laws with ten-year statutes of limitation, so remaining in office for eight years could not guarantee invulnerability from prosecution. But that’s not really a consideration is it, because I’m sure president Trump never, ever committed any violations of federal law, now did he?
Barron: No, no, never, ever, ever. None – and you can take that to the bank.
Tom: Just not via a Russian wire transfer, right?
Barron: Heh-heh. Right. So it’s all political, you think?
Tom: I think that even if it’s all purely political, what has developed so far will be more than sufficient to destroy Donald John Trump and, if they don’t do something about this mess pretty damn soon, the Republican Party as well.
Barron: Holy [expletive] [expletive]! You can’t expect me to go back and tell the president that, can you? Don’t you have some, I donno… constructive advice or something?
Tom: Tell president Trump that if you notice you’ve dug yourself into a hole that’s ten feet deep, the first thing to do is stop digging.
Barron: Stop… digging?
Tom: Correct. I doubt he’ll be able to, though.
Barron: What makes you say that?
Tom: Because first, his psychology is excessively pathological on too many dimensions for him to exert the necessary self control; second, he surrounds himself by fawning sycophants and scheming charlatans who encourage and enable his self-destructive tendencies; and, third, his overweening egotism effectively prevents reasoned evaluation of any sensible advice which might by accident come his way.
Barron: That’s an awful lot of big words.
Tom: Describing a man who is, in so many ways, so very, very, very small.
Barron: Hey! What are you talking about? What’s small about Donald Trump?
Tom: Oh, let’s see – his mental ability, his imagination, his capacity for empathy, his erudition, his hands, of course, and Stormy Daniels says his…
Barron: Okay, that does it. I think it’s time to end this conversation.
Tom: Might as well, your thirty minutes is up. Give my best wishes to President Trump.
Barron: Yeah, sure, and [expletive] you, too, Tom Collins.