Is it time to bag impeachment? That may have been the subliminal signal that GOP counsel Steve Castor was trying to send when he showed up at the impeachment hearing with a Fresh Market reusable bag instead of a briefcase. ‘Live, eat, shop, reuse,’ was the message emblazoned upon his shopping bag. The North Carolina grocer has wholly embraced Castor, declaring that it is his ‘official briefcase maker.’
Castor may have wanted to live and let live, but it wasn’t a message that Democrats or Republicans were eager to embrace. Instead, the hearing ground on in the usual furrows, with Louie Gohmert calling the inquiry a ‘kangaroo court’ and threatening the impeachment of Joe Biden if he wins in 2020. Meanwhile, Democratic counsel Daniel S. Goldman deemed President Trump ‘a clear and present danger.’
The hearing itself featured lots of Sturm und Drang, but no more than that. The real action is taking place outside it. The vaunted Inspector General report that Attorney General William Barr and Trump had been counting on to expose the nefarious origins of its investigation Crossfire Hurricane into the Trump campaign showed nothing of the kind. Instead, Michael Horowitz concluded that the FBI possessed an ‘authorized purpose’ in invigilating the campaign. What’s more, it turns out that no less a figure than Ivanka Trump has been palsy-walsy with Christopher Steele, the former MI6 spy whose dossier about her father, including an alleged pee tape, generated so much controversy. Steele has become the poster boy among conservatives for everything that’s supposed to be untoward about the FBI’s Russia investigation, but perhaps he can now call upon Ivanka to vouch publicly for his bona fides or, to put it more crudely, to show that his detractors are actually pissing in the wind.
The release of the 434-page IG report has created something of a kerfuffle between the Justice Department and the FBI. Trump professed to be happy with the report, claiming it was ‘far worse’ than he had ever anticipated. At the same time, Barr, adhering to his self-interpreted mandate, immediately entered the lists for Trump, claiming that the report was too emollient in tone and substance. The investigation, we were told, was launched on the ‘thinnest of suspicions’. Horowitz, in other words, never found what he was supposed to find.
Even as Barr was snorting his disdain for the report, Christopher Wray, the head of the FBI, embraced it. He declared that it showed that suspicions of a deep state are bogus and that there was no ‘political bias’. He also noted, ‘We have no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election.’ Whether Wray will survive his comments is an open question.
One person who in Trump’s orbit who appears to be surviving, at least so far, is his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. In the Atlantic, for example, Franklin Foer asserts that Giuliani is in fine form. He observes, ‘To mock Giuliani is to overlook his success. There’s now a definitive narrative of how he orchestrated the removal of an American ambassador. Phone logs show that he had a level of access that legendary power brokers such as Clark Clifford and Robert Strauss would envy. He routinely spoke with the likes of the secretary of state and national security adviser. If you were to aggregate the Rolodexes of every lobbying shop in Washington into one mega-firm, it would never be able to blanket the administration like Giuliani has.’
Like Trump, Giuliani is carrying a lot of baggage, but there’s no sign he’s going away any time soon.