If politics is mostly about leverage, then multi-tiered criminal political scandals are entirely about leverage. Everything about the Trump-Russia scandal changed in general when the Democrats took control of the House. Everything about Matt Whitaker’s involvement has changed in particular now that House Democrats have him rung up on two different perjury charges.
Matt Whitaker stands accused of everything from conspiring with Donald Trump to obstruct justice, to running a scam toilet company. We don’t know if there’s enough evidence of these alleged crimes to convict him. And if Whitaker thinks he can beat all the charges at any potential trial, he has little motivation to cut a plea deal and flip on Trump. But perjury charges are a different matter.
Just as the House Judiciary Committee was publicly informing Matt Whitaker that it had him nailed for lying under oath about his conversations with Donald Trump, we saw Trump offer Whitaker a cushy new DOJ job, presumably to try to keep Whitaker from flipping on him. Then last week a Freedom of Information Act request nailed Whitaker on a second instance of perjury, this time about the investigation that Trump ordered into Hillary Clinton. In what is likely not a coincidence, just before that FIOA request was granted, Whitaker abruptly resigned his new DOJ job.
The bar for proving perjury is that it has to have been intentional and malicious. If you testify that someone was wearing a blue shirt when they were wearing a purple shirt, that could just be a faulty memory; it’s not perjury unless it can be proven that you purposely got it wrong to try to protect the guy in the purple shirt.
But now House Democrats can show that Whitaker engaged in a pattern of false statements that conveniently worked to his benefit and Donald Trump’s benefit, meaning they can indeed nail Whitaker on perjury charges if it were to go to trial. Of course the goal isn’t to put Whitaker in prison, even if he is a fraudster. The goal is to force a relative peon like Whitaker to flip on Trump. The Democrats now have that leverage over Whitaker, who appears to be panicking. This is going to be a sight to see.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report