We learned last week that federal prosecutors aren’t just scrutinizing Ryan Zinke, Donald Trump’s former Interior secretary, they’ve also begun presenting evidence to a grand jury. Zinke is reportedly accused of lying to investigators about his handling of a rejected casino license.
Around the same time, we learned new details about Alex Acosta, Trump’s Labor secretary, who allegedly broke the law while shielding a politically connected sex trafficker. The White House is under increasing pressure to force Acosta from his post.
Is there anyone else from the president’s cabinet who’s also feeling the heat? Actually, yes. The Wall Street Journal reported overnight:
The House Judiciary Committee believes it has evidence that President Trump asked Matthew Whitaker, at the time the acting attorney general, whether Manhattan U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman could regain control of his office’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s former lawyer and his real-estate business, according to people familiar with the matter. […]
There is no sign Mr. Whitaker acted on any request from Mr. Trump, which the New York Times reported last week. But the House Judiciary Committee is investigating whether Mr. Whitaker may have perjured himself in his appearance before the panel earlier this month, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. […]
Any evidence that Mr. Trump sought to intervene in the federal prosecutors’ probe could propel further lines of inquiry by lawmakers into whether he has tried to obstruct the investigation into his business dealings.
This is very much in line with our previous understanding of the story, except now, it appears the House Judiciary Committee believes it has evidence that Whitaker, the former acting attorney general, lied under oath – a dynamic they’re now willing to acknowledge to the press.
Stepping back, however, a striking picture emerges: Trump’s cabinet has featured one ugly mess after another.
About a year ago, NBC News published a list of Trump administration figures accused of crossing ethical and/or legal lines, and the list wasn’t at all short. The president himself, of course, is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation and is accused of ignoring ethics rules, but the list also included familiar controversies involving former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, former HHS Secretary Tom Price, former regulatory adviser Carl Icahn, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, former CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.
That wasn’t an exhaustive list. As we discussed at the time, there have been related controversies surrounding Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former VA Secretary David Shulkin.
Remember in 2016 when voters were told a vote for Hillary Clinton would be a vote for years’ worth of exhausting investigations and scandals?