He would not say no.
That’s what House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler said on Wednesday, in the course of documenting what went on behind closed doors when Matt Whitaker returned to Capitol Hill for a private chat with lawmakers, some of whom were curious to get clarification on whether the former Acting Attorney General spoke to Donald Trump about the investigation into Michael Cohen.
Whitaker’s Wednesday meeting with the House panel was a followup to his public testimony last month. That spectacle descended into farce as Whitaker steadfastly refused to answer “yes or no” questions and generally came across as someone who has something (and likely several somethings) to hide.
Long story short, it’s likely that Whitaker perjured himself on live television in February and the only saving grace was that everyone (including Democrats) expected he would do just that. So while the outcry was shrill, Matt’s well-documented history of being sycophantic vis-à-vis Trump took a bit of the edge off in the same way you have a hard time getting mad at your dog when you come home to discover it ripped apart a roll of paper towels you damn well knew you shouldn’t have left on the coffee table.
A little over a week after his testimony, The New York Times reported that Trump once called Whitaker and tried to convince Matt to put an ally in charge of the Cohen investigation.
According to Nadler, Whitaker wasn’t quite as adamant about denying contact with the White House when pressed behind close doors on Wednesday as he was when the cameras were rolling last month. Republicans’ version of what went on differed, but for his part, Nadler said this:
Unlike in the hearing room, Mr. Whitaker did not deny that the president called him to discuss the Michael Cohen case and personnel decisions in the Southern District.
Right. So, again, Whitaker perjured himself last month. We all know Trump talked to Matt about the Cohen case. You might very well think this whole thing is in fact a “witch hunt” (or a “witch hoax” as Trump called it last week), but I’d wager there aren’t too many people out there (fans of the president or otherwise) who would be willing to bet everything they own on the notion that Trump didn’t make some kind of effort to see if Whitaker could intervene in the Cohen investigation.
Ok, so since that’s so obvious, why bring it up on Thursday? Well, because while chatting with the House Ways and Means Committee, Steve Mnuchin claimed the White House hasn’t instructed him to rebuke congressional demands to produce Trump’s tax returns. More ominously, he contended that he hasn’t even discussed this with anyone at 1600 Penn.
Mnuchin got visibly flustered with lawmakers when pressed on the issue. Here’s the highlight from the proceedings:
Poor Steve. I mean, not really. Steve is filthy rich. But this is just another person who is quite clearly digging themselves a (deep) hole in the interest of protecting someone (Trump) who they very well know is probably guilty of something – if not “collusion” or obstruction, then almost certainly tax evasion, money laundering or some manner of fraud.
Mnuchin’s Thursday stammering “came as Democrats prepare to try to use an arcane law to seize Trump’s returns, which Trump has repeatedly declined to make public despite a decades-old tradition of presidents releasing their tax information”, Politico writes, recapping things and adding that while such filings “are normally confidential, a nearly 100-year-old law allows the heads of Congress’ tax committees to examine anyone’s returns [and] experts say lawmakers can vote to make those filings public.”
As for whether a request is coming Steve’s way, Rep. Bill Pascrell said this:
It’s happening, and it’s coming — so be prepared.
As you can see from that unfortunate clip, Mnuchin is anything but “prepared.”
As obvious as it is that Trump talked to Whitaker about trying to influence an investigation, it is equally obvious that Trump has at some point or another, discussed his tax returns with Mnuchin. To think otherwise is tantamount to suggesting that Trump is concerned about norms and decorum when it comes to the most sensitive of sensitive issues – his tax returns, which are second only to the alleged “pee tape” when it comes to being the Holy Grail of Trump dirt.
So, strap in Steve. It’s going to be a rough ride.