Messrs. Trump, Mueller, and “The Godfather”

Lawyers like to play out scenarios; a few premises followed by a reference to the operational wisdom of the fictional Don Vito Corleone.

If I were Mr. Mueller, and I was trying to obtain evidence of wrong doing against President Trump, I think I’d have reached the following conclusions:

  1. Even assuming that a President can be indicted or tried, any case against the President would certainly involve a credibility contest between the President and the prosecution’s witnesses. Any one person’s word against the President’s would be insufficient to warrant bringing a case against him; there would be no realistic expectation of obtaining a verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  This would certainly be true of any case brought on the uncorroborated testimony of Michael Flynn, who’s already pled guilty to lying to the FBI.

 

  1. Rick Gates has also now pled guilty to lying to the FBI; he may or may not have been sufficiently part of the Trump inner circle to provide corroborating evidence against the President, but he was certainly close enough to implicate Paul Manafort. Testimony by Mr. Manafort, corroborating Mr. Flynn’s, would be a nice arrow in the quiver … but I’d still consider it too chancy.

 

  1. Despite Steve Bannon’s dismissive assessment that Donald Trump, Jr., can be “cracked like an egg,” I would not primarily focus my efforts on Mr. Trump, Jr. in seeking corroboration for any evidence against the President. I’d assume that Mr. Trump, Jr. will never turn on his father since — I think any observer would agree — such disloyalty would cause the President to entirely disinherit him and his children.

 

  1. Instead, I’d focus on Jared Kushner. Unlike Mr. Trump, Jr., Mr. Kushner doesn’t need the President’s money.  If the Mueller Team assembled sufficient evidence against Mr. Kushner to credibly threaten him with conviction of crimes that could result in his spending decades in prison, and I believed that Mr. Kushner could provide corroborating evidence against the President, I’d propose to Mr. Kushner that in return such evidence, Mr. Kushner himself might only have to plead guilty to crimes involving months in a minimum security prison — enabling him to thereafter return to his family and his New York billionaire life.  Mr. Kushner’s marriage to the President’s daughter would create a complication, but Ms. Trump might be persuaded to support her husband’s decision to testify if she understood that it was likely that her children might otherwise not see their father, apart from prison visits, until he was eligible for Medicare.

As aptly noted in the movie, You’ve Got Mail, The Godfather is … the I Ching; the sum of all wisdom; the answer to any question.

Not specifically called out in the film, Mario Puzo wrote in the novel:

“[The fictional Don Corleone] … put layers of insulation between himself and any operational act.  When he gave an order it was to [the Consigliore] or to one of the caporegimes alone.  Rarely did he have a witness to any order he gave any particular one of them …

Between the head of the family, Don Corleone, who dictated policy, and the operating level of men who actually carried out the orders of the Don, there were three layers, or buffers … each link of the chain would have to turn traitor for the Don to be involved …”

If Mr. Mueller and his team are seeking high-level corroboration of evidence against the President, whether they secure it may come down to whether Mr. Trump read The Godfather, or merely saw the movie …

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