Robert Mueller: The Last Man Standing

Don Blankenship was once the most baronial of the West Virginia coal barons. His greed and contempt for the law were legendary — John Grisham used him as the template for his villain in the 2008 best-selling novel The Appeal. Annoyed by lawsuits that were costing him money, Blankenship spent $3 million to elect a judge to the state supreme court, after which he stopped losing lawsuits. Even after 29 miners died in an explosion in one of his mines — an explosion that miners and regulators claimed was the result of Blankenship’s penny pinching and disdain for miner safety — he remained untouchable.

Except by Booth Goodwin. While state authorities stood by, U.S. Attorney Goodwin spent years meticulously putting together and trying cases against Blankenship’s underlings and ultimately Blankenship himself. Goodwin was the reason Blankenship spent last Christmas in a jail cell instead of cavorting on the French Riviera with his favorite State Supreme Court judge (named Spike — I am not making this stuff up, there are pictures).

Booth Goodwin ran for governor but came in second in the Democratic (!) primary to a billionaire coal baron noted for greed, contempt for the law and indifference to fines and debts. So US Attorney Goodwin is gone, his office held down by an acting US Attorney.

Sheldon Silver bestrode the politics of the state of New York like a colossus, especially after becoming Speaker of the General Assembly in 1994. His immense power, and his willingness to deploy it in return for sufficiently enormous payoffs, were legendary for decades. He was untouched, and apparently untouchable, until another legendary figure — US Attorney Preet Bharara —  indicted Silver on seven counts of public corruption. Silver was convicted on November 30, 2015 on all counts and sentenced to at least 10 years in prison.

Bharara was famous for his avid and often successful pursuit of wealthy and powerful criminals, prominently including Russian money launderers and organized crime in Manhattan, where Donald Trump’s residence and many of his businesses are located. On March 10, 2017, Bharara was fired (forced to resign) by the Trump organization, after having been asked personally by President Trump to stay on the job. So US Attorney Preet Bharara is gone, his office occupied by an acting US Attorney.

On July 13, 2017, four months after Bharara’s firing, Sheldon Silver’s convictions were overturned by an appeals court. All of them. Of the 45 other US Attorneys fired the same day as Bharara was forced out, all because they had been appointed by President Obama, none has yet been replaced.  

The fourth most powerful US Attorney in the United States is the one who presides over the Eastern District of Virginia. Dana Boente has held that post since he was appointed to it by President Obama in 2015. He is a career prosecutor, who briefly held the position of  acting Attorney General of the United States after the forced resignation of Sally Yates, who refused to enforce President Trump’s travel ban because she believed it to be unconstitutional. So she’s gone.

Boente resigned as requested in the spring of 2017, but President Trump declined to accept his resignation and he stayed on the job. There he worked closely and actively with Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump administration.  A grand jury convened in and by the Eastern District had already been considering charges against Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, and continued to do so in cooperation with Mueller.  

A few days before Mueller announced the first criminal charges filed as a result of his investigation, Boente was abruptly forced by the Trump administration to resign. No reason has been given. So he’s gone. His office is occupied by an acting US Attorney.

The rising tide of greed and corruption that has been threatening for so long to completely overwhelm our economy and our politics has been held back, in case after case after case, only by the integrity and the doggedness of our US  attorneys — a thin grey line of pinstripe-suited warriors, holding at bay the forces of chaos and destruction.

Of them all, Robert Mueller is certainly among the best and quite likely among the last. Soon he will be gone, and his office will be empty.


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8 Responses to Robert Mueller: The Last Man Standing

  1. Tom says:

    Yeah, the charade goes on, while most of us “little people” simply try to hang on. i’d wager that MOST governments are corrupt and that ours is so corrupt that it’s a wonder anything gets accomplished.

    Instead of “draining the swamp,” Trump has expanded the swamp to include most of the (previously and so-called) “watch-dog” agencies like the EPA, where science is now forbidden and Scott Pruitt is protecting the industries FROM regulation.

    It won’t be long until this all grinds to a halt.
    Stay tuned for the next episode of the on-going soap opera that is Washington, D.C.

  2. Tom says:

    [heh, I meant to tack this on]

    Citing climate change “death and destruction”, Philadelphia group sues U.S. government for knowingly endangering U.S. citizens through climate policy rollbacks

    An environmental group and two Pennsylvania children filed suit against the Trump administration Monday, accusing the federal government of using “junk science” to reverse federal climate policies and knowingly increasing the “damages, death and destruction” that result from climate change.

    The suit, filed by Philadelphia’s Clean Air Council and the two children, asks the U.S. District Court to stop any Trump administration action that would increase greenhouse gas emissions and  would make the effects of climate change worse. [more]

  3. Max4241 says:

    In this country, the ever expanding utter lawlessness at the top is nicely balanced by massive increases in the incarceration rate at the bottom.

    In 1980, 1.8% of adult US men were current or former prisoners. Today the figure stands at 5.8%. Believe it or not, that is an another (you got it!) exponential trend. If my doubling math is correct, by the year 2100, 99% of US men will be either in jail, on parole, or awaiting punitive sentencing.

    The remaining one percent, men who can never be jailed no matter how many high crimes -and routine felonies- they commit, will spend their time borrowing money at the Fed at negative 7% interest, essentially getting paid whatever huge amount they desire to go off and speculate on the future greatness of America.

    • SomeoneInAsia says:

      The law catches the little felon
      Who steals the goose from the common
      But lets the greater felon loose
      Who steals the common from the goose.

  4. Max4241 says:

    What is that, some Luddite crap!

    Giggle. Brilliant, SIA.

  5. Michael says:

    Greed in this country has always been there (basic human nature), but it seems to be on steroids now. This is not the America I grew up in and know. That there is no longer much integrity among our government and business leaders is a given. What I find really disconcerting, though, is that there is zero accountability. No matter the lack of ethics or the crime committed the guilty just brazenly look out at the public masses and ask, “What is your point?”. Everything from what is news and how policy is decided to what is the cultural norm is either under under attack, resulting in mass confusion, or so convoluted as to be completely unintelligible. The average person (and I count myself in that group)can make little sense of our state of affairs. We don’t know what to believe or make of it. It is beyond scary. Truly a world gone crazy and seemingly spinning out of control. There seem to be no real solutions to returning to any sense of normalcy. I’m a fairly old guy and will ride it out, but I fear for my children and grandchildren. When we look at what an environmental mess we are leaving them it is shocking. Add to that the cultural and political mess we are leaving and it’s overwhelming. The only saving grace to all of this is that it is simply fascinating to watch it unfold. (Morbid entertainment…) I may have to revise my thinking that, in general, I’m an optimistic guy. The glass is no longer half full, it’s half empty.

    As usual this was an excellent and thought provoking piece, albeit positively depressing.

    • Tom Lewis says:

      Someone wiser than me, I fear I have forgotten who, said this: when the world no longer makes sense, make sense of where you are. It’s all we can do.

  6. Michael F Kastre says:

    Wise words, Tom. Thank you.