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April 06, 2023
Positively Dreadful
Arrested Developer

In This Episode

Donald Trump got arrested and the world didn’t end. The fear of backlash that seemingly paralyzed so many of our institutions of accountability now seems mostly like a figment of the imaginations of the people who run those institutions. What took so long? Some of that is attributable to corruption, to former Attorney General Bill Barr and other Trump loyalists who ran interference for him while he was president. But some of it looks more like cowardice. People were anxious about doing something hard, and talked themselves into reasons why they didn’t have to. So with the Band-Aid ripped off, what could decision makers have done differently? Former FBI counterterrorism investigator Peter Strzok joins host Brian Beutler again to discuss how we can improve our accountability systems so that threats like Donald Trump aren’t left beyond the reach of the law until it’s too late.

 

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Brian Beutler: Hello and welcome to Positively Dreadful. With me your host, Brian Beutler. Donald Trump got arrested and the world didn’t end. The sky didn’t fall, the streets didn’t run red with blood. If a vast furious MAGA horde secretly thought this was a call to arms, they also, for some reason or other, couldn’t be bothered to show up. And to me, that’s probably the most important fact surrounding the I guess we can call it the post indictment era. A Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Trump last week, both before that vote and since Trump has tried to whip up public outrage and directed threats and vitriol at the district attorney. Alvin Bragg and the judge in the case, Juan Merchan. And it’s not like his supporters aren’t listening to him. Bragg has been inundated with death threats. Trump’s oldest son posted a picture of Merchan’s daughter on social media, but nobody seems to want to flood the streets for him, at least not anymore. The fear of backlash that has seemingly paralyzed so many of our institutions of accountability. It sort of seems like all of that was mostly a figment of the imaginations of the people who run those institutions. So the charges themselves are pretty straightforward. 34 felony counts, all of which pertain to business records that Trump and others falsified in order to disguise hush money payments he arranged for former mistresses to buy their silence until after the 2016 election. Under New York law, falsifying a business record becomes a felony when it’s done in service of covering up other crimes or attempted crimes. And in this case, Bragg explained that those include as yet uncharged conspiracies to violate election law and also New York state tax law. So what Bragg has uncovered isn’t some Enron like scandal that’s going to rock the business world. His statement of facts makes clear that the public interest in this case is more about Trump’s role as a political figure than a businessman. But as he noted in his post arraignment press conference, it’s not some strained reading of New York criminal law, either. Except insofar as the people who violate this statute aren’t usually candidates for president or they aren’t falsifying their records to protect their campaigns. When other New York businessmen get caught violating this law, they get charged for it. And so Donald Trump did as well. It’s all very nice and tidy. It’s also a really big deal, and not just in the way that some breathless cable news hosts repeat these platitudes about the historic, unprecedented fact of the indictment of a former president. It’s a big deal for that reason, too, and we’ll talk about that on this week’s episode. But it’s also important because of what he’s being held accountable for as well as for what the delay in justice says about our country’s ability to protect itself from internal threats. So Trump didn’t have to break the law to buy Stormy Daniels’ silence or anyone else’s silence. But he chose to do it in an illegal way, and the method that he chose succeeded. The stories didn’t come out until after the election. If they’d come out beforehand, they would have landed amid an uproar about what Trump said on the infamous Access Hollywood tape. And because that election was so extremely close, it’s not a stretch to wonder if if absent this illegal scheme, he would have lost. So the scheme was very, very consequential. It entailed crimes that aren’t commonplace in politics. This isn’t a coloring outside the lines kind of campaign finance violation, which candidates can often make right simply by correcting their paperwork or paying a fine. We’re all living in a world shaped by those violations today. So that’s one reason this particular indictment is momentous. Even if Trump happens to be guilty of many even more serious infractions. There’s also the question of why it’s taken so long. And some of that is attributable to plain old corruption. To former Attorney General Bill Barr and some other Trump loyalists who ran interference for Trump while he was president. But some of it at least looks like something else, something more like cowardice or neurosis. People who are anxious about doing something hard and then talking themselves into reasons why they don’t have to do it. And that helps explain why we’re here now at this slightly awkward moment when Trump’s finally been indicted for something. But he may not actually be through his prosecution and potential appeals before the 2024 election and the crimes that make him a unique danger to democracy. All of those remain uncharged. So with the Band-Aid now ripped off, let’s look back. What could decision makers have done differently and how should the rest of us hope to improve our political system and our accountability systems in the future so that threats to those very system aren’t left beyond the reach of the law? A few months back after the Mar-a-Lago raid, we spoke to Peter Strzok. He’s the former FBI counterterrorism investigator whom you probably remember from the Russia investigation and the Clinton email investigation. We agreed to sync up again if and when Trump got indicted. This probably wasn’t the indictment that either of us had in mind. But all the same, a deal’s a deal. And he was true to his word. So, Peter Strzok, welcome back to the pod. 

 

Peter Strzok: Hey, Brian, great to be with you here on April of [laughs] 2023. I don’t know how many—

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. 

 

Peter Strzok: —months after our agreement it is, but anyways. [laughter]

 

Brian Beutler: I started to get like sweaty and nervous every night about when when any indictment was coming. So just for starters, how are you feeling about all this? 

 

Peter Strzok: I’m feeling, I think, good. You know, a lot of people are wringing their hands. And as I look at who it is that are doing that, it strikes me that it’s largely folks who are focused on the political impact, whatever side of the issue they are with Trump. They’re looking at it from, you know, does this hurt him, help him politically? Was this a wise thing to do? Was it appropriate to do it first or not? But, you know, coming at it from a sort of a law enforcement investigative prosecutor perspective, it strikes me as. An appropriate result affirming that our justice system can be applied largely equally, that, you know, we don’t have a king, that no person’s above the law. And, you know, whatever I think of the sequencing of this, as opposed to the other cases that are out there, the reality is that, you know, that New York is not timing with Georgia is not timing with Jack Smith and Maine Justice. So these things are all independent. I mean, they’re all interlinked, but they’re not centrally coordinated. So the the temporal lay down of how they get to charging or not. It strikes me, as you know, a lot of the discussion of people saying, well, I wish this wasn’t the first case. Well, that’s so what? That’s not a variable that can be affected, really. So my broad takeaway is I see this. In a in a broad sense as affirming the notion of equal application of justice. You know, we’ll see. I mean, the reality is Trump is going to be able to delay and bring resources to the table in a way that most defendants can’t. Right. I mean, the the not so dirty secret about our you know, everybody is equal under the law. The reality is if you’re a well-funded and politically connected, you are going to have both the law applied to you in a different way and have the resources to go about and maneuver in that system in a very different way than than you would be if you’re, you know, a lower income defendant. And that’s just the reality. But it’s a difficult to get away from reality of our system. 

 

Brian Beutler: I figured this when I was prepping for the show, that you weren’t one of these neurotic [laughter] commentators bemoaning the fact that the first Trump indictment is for one of his lesser crimes. But can you I mean, can you imagine the furor if, like if Alvin Bragg left his cell phone at a Starbucks and somebody picked it up and opened it up and there was a WhatsApp conversation between him and Fani Willis and Jack Smith about when to stage the indictment. [laughter] So for maximum optical benefit, like, it would be a huge scandal. And I don’t I get why people would feel more comfortable about things if Trump got hit with an insurrection related indictment first. But I don’t understand how they thought that prosecutors investigating lesser crimes were supposed to comport themselves, just wait forever and to to move ahead with their cases. I mean, it’s it’s both ludicrous. And it’s also it seems like it’s asking much too much of any one of them that they need to not only nail down their cases, but they need to sort of choreograph their decision making to account for how they think Donald Trump and his supporters are going to react. 

 

Peter Strzok: Yeah, I think that’s right. I mean, the reality is these are very different. It’s not the sort of thing where you have a linked federal financial investigation where DOJ and the FBI are investigating a criminal matter. At the same time, city, SCC is investigating a civil the same civil matter and you might have some sequencing there. This is completely unlike that and some any sort of expectation that any of these cases are, you know, trying to say, okay, well, you know, we’re going to use you as a stalking horse to develop information that might be, you know, might have a reasonable advantage to us in our investigation. I don’t think that’s happening at all. So, you know, the other than Trump has made his life of of just kind of, you know, becoming this, you know, criminal who’s too big to, you know, like a bank who’s too big to fail, you know, a criminal who’s too big to charge. And there’s reporting that, you know, at least SDNY and it sounds like at the federal level, we’re looking at potential criminal charges. But they were very minimal in nature. I forget specifically what they were looking at, but some discussion about, well, are we really going to charge that? I mean, yeah, it’s against the law. But this to have that minor charge against somebody who’s the president, the former president, we can’t do that. And so it just that sort of people start thinking too hard. What nobody is debating here. Nobody not not on Fox News, not in Breitbart, not nobody is debating that Trump didn’t do this. Everybody everybody’s saying, oh, yeah, you know, he he you know, despite his protestations, there’s no real argument that he paid off Stormy Daniels, despite, you know, his intent. Nobody is denying that. He made that call to Raffensperger saying, hey, find me these votes. Nobody is denying the fact that he had all this classified information down in Mar-a-Lago. No, the facts aren’t really in dispute. At some point, you need to stop giving people passes because of who they are. And it’s aggravating to hear people. You know, the argument like, well, now that Bragg is moved forward, that really makes it it takes the pressure off other people to charge them because they won’t be the ones sort of piercing that precedent. And at some point, that becomes so frustrating to me because he has made a life of daring people to sort of hold him to account and just pushing and pushing and pushing the boundary. And so, you know, we’ll see. I don’t know. You know, I would have thought I expected something out of Georgia sooner than now. You know, whether that means they’re being just very diligent, but it means they’re looking at new information, whether it means they have concerns about the case and they’re going to bring charges, I don’t know. But between that and the various aspects of what Jack Smith is doing, I think it’s reasonable to believe. I think it’s more likely than not additional criminal charges are coming in one or more of these venues. But just I don’t know, in. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah my intuitions about that, what it means for other investigations, actually almost the opposite. I want to get to it. I also want to say, just for the benefit of listeners that, you know, on top of that sort of meta political analysis about what case would ideally come first and all that. And whether it’s a mistake to charge someone like Trump with a relatively small crime, there were, I think, credible legal analysts anticipating the indictment who were worried because the baseline crime that nobody disputes, as you were suggesting, is the falsification of the business records to to pay the hush money. That would be a misdemeanor if it wasn’t in service of covering up some other crime. These are all felony counts because Alvin Bragg alleges that that’s why the records were falsified. And the critics or the maybe the overcautious legal experts who I do think are credible. What they were worried about before the indictment is that Bragg was going to have to strain to connect the falsified business records to a different crime, and that if he tried, it would be a federal campaign finance charge or something. That would be too much of a stretch and it would endanger the whole prosecution. But then Bragg gets asked about this at his press conference after the arraignment, and he rattles off a list of potential crimes that he could, you know, make the case to the jury that Trump was also trying to advance with these falsified documents, including New York state tax law violations. So there’s your nexus right there. I mean, I think those critics were were so worried about this that they kind of glossed over. The specific claims Bragg made. And they those put my mind at ease. It actually seems like a pretty tidy if yes kind of small matter that he’s now prosecuting. 

 

Peter Strzok: Yeah, I think that’s right. I was really surprised that I mean the reality is there’s a lot that we still don’t know. I mean, you know one. For people accustom and I am one of these people too working and analyzing federal crimes and federal prosecutions. It’s a whole different there are a whole different set of considerations when you’re doing it at the state level. And every state is different. And so within New York State, I think when you read both a statement of facts as well as the indictment itself, there’s a lot that is not revealed yet. And there are many tactical reasons from prosecutorial perspective that Bragg is keeping some cards close to his chest. I mean, there are what you would expect to see in a federal indictment is much more of a sort of robust description of the theory of the case. And Bragg does not do that. And I think, again, from decent legal commentators who are familiar with New York state law that I’ve seen, say, look, there are a lot of good reasons for this. One, you know, there won’t be a lot of the interlocutory appeal process, meaning appeals within the course of a prosecution. You know, typically at the federal level, you may have some appeal in the middle, but typically you run through the case and then appeals occur in whatever way, shape or form after the fact. And the ability to appeal in the middle is different at the state level and that Bragg may have made a tactical decision to leave out some of that detail. He may have it. He certainly has a theory of the case, but not necessarily putting it in there to help what they’re trying to do from a prosecution perspective. So, you know, I agree. I think when you those things that he laid out, I was surprised, frankly. I mean, I was you know, MSNBC, as I expected, thought, you know, this is brilliant. It ties everything together, he is clearly a crook. And thank God, you know, we’ve got somebody charging these crimes. But CNN was really down on it. And I, you know, listen to some of their coverage in the, you know, across the board from their sort of left leaning commentators to the right leaning commentators to the straight and sort of news people in the middle. Everybody last night was kind of like, oh, this is, you know, not what I expected, not what we expected. He didn’t make a strong case. I was hoping to see more information. And I don’t I didn’t have that same level of pessimism. And I don’t know where that pessimism is coming from other than a sort of innate, you know, American desire to have like instant gratification [laughter] and all the information right now. But I think, you know, it’s yeah, the thing the critical thing is proving intent to defraud. And he can go about and some of it is like, well, was this a you know, clearly these were fraudulent business records. Was that done as a campaign finance violation? There are a lot of challenges there. Was it done simply as a tax evasion measure, which seems cleaner? Was it done for all these things? Was it done for additional reason? There are a number of things that I think could be applied as that sort of second in furtherance of crime that turns it into a felony. And I think, again, Bragg in New York. I mean, he’s not a dummy, right? Whether or not he’s political, whether or not he campaigned on this, he’s not a poor lawyer. He is not an incompetent prosecutor. This is not something coming from, you know, some crazy Florida panhandle, local elected official who’s got a crazy idea of the law. This is a reputable district attorney in a reputable district attorney’s office with a bunch of really competent attorneys. So I don’t think for something this momentous, they’re going to roll the dice and go in there, kind of a 50/50 chance of success. 

 

Brian Beutler: So I’m glad you said all that, because I think we’re most of us almost all of us are flying a bit blind here. I’m like even people who worked as prosecutors in other jurisdictions. And and so we have to fall back on heuristics. And my heuristics are, first, credible commentators with experience enforcing New York state law, like people who used to work for Cy Vance or whoever else, are not out there throwing cold water on this indictment. They that subset of experts seem to seem to think it’s pretty solid. And the second, you know, I’m not an expert on any kind of law, but I think I know a fair amount about like the liberal elites and how it has gone about checking Donald Trump and the idea that the liberal elite is chock full of people who are all like, ready, aim, fire about Donald Trump is is ludicrous, right? Like the last five years show basically the opposite. And the idea that after taking a pass on charging Trump with more significant business fraud, Alvin Bragg decided, you know what, fuck it, I am just going to get him on whatever is also ludicrous. And I think if you apply those two heuristics to and then add to them the facts of the case. Like there’s no reason for liberals or anyone who wants Donald Trump to be held accountable to feel anxious about this, you know, and that’s on top of just a little bit of patience. And the cases that you’re more excited about seeing him charged in might be right around the corner. 

 

Peter Strzok: Yeah, I completely agree. And if anything, my dissatisfaction where I think I see some evidence of politicization is on the opposite side. You know, I think there is a reticence within certainly at the federal level with the Department of Justice earlier on to pursue Trump in a way that they would have pursued another defendant just because he was well, he’s the other party, and we have to make sure we’re extra objective and, you know, bend over backwards to give every benefit of the doubt. And, you know, analogy I heard that I really love it’s like you’re the coach of your Little League team and your son or daughter happens to be the star best pitcher, best hitter. But because you’re the coach, you’re like, well, I don’t want to show favoritism, so I’m not going to place my daughter or son as the pitcher’s as the leadoff hitter. I’m going to move them back because I don’t want anybody to think I’m showing favoritism. You know, the fact of the matter is they’re objective issues here. And that I think certainly, again, this isn’t so much a commentary on New York or Georgia, as it, as it is DOJ. There is such this overwhelming desire to be seen as nonpartisan, that that. Bending over backward becomes a political act. And I think we’re moved past it now. But I think that certainly played a role in sort of the what I perceived to be the sort of slow beginning. You know, I would have liked to have seen a quicker acceleration in what DOJ and the FBI were doing that, you know, they’re getting there now. But, you know, we lost a few months, in my opinion. 

 

Brian Beutler: Right. 

 

Peter Strzok: You know, none of us know we’re not on the inside, but things. Having done it from the inside and seeing the ripples, they go out publicly, not seeing those ripples in the course of all the January 6th and other investigations really lead me to believe that DOJ was slow off the block when it came to looking at Trump and the people around him. 

 

Brian Beutler: Right, Right. So, I mean, to the extent that there are people who, if you want I call them neurotic because, I’m mean [laughter] but whatever you want to say about why they feel that way, to the extent that they have a a valid insight about what would have been the best staging of these indictments like that or the like, which optics would have been best, you know, if he’d been charged first for insurrection, crimes of stealing and concealing classified documents. Is it fair to lay that at the feet of Merrick Garland, say, look, if you’re unhappy about which indictment came first, that’s not Alvin Bragg’s fault. That’s that’s up to DOJ. 

 

Peter Strzok: Yeah, I don’t think I mean, I think if you ask DOJ, they wouldn’t. I don’t think they have an opinion about what’s going on in New York or Georgia. I think, you know, does it make. Is it going to impact in most cases, I would expect the cases that they’re looking at with Trump are going to be brought to a D.C. jury. And is that the kind of thing that’s going on that they have some I don’t even think the. Could you make an argument, can we make an argument sitting here now that, you know, if if Bragg fails horribly, what is the impact on that failure on sort of the American consciousness and on a potential juror who gets called a jury duty in D.C. in six months time? And as they’re sitting there hearing the case and deliberating, they have somewhere in the back of their mind, oh, you know, Trump, they went after him unfairly in New York in the past. Is that theoretically possible? Yes. Is that something that I think anybody spends any amount of their work day at DOJ worrying about? No, I don’t think that’s that’s something that really because on the one hand, you can’t impact it. There’s nothing you’re going to do about it. You don’t you know, it’s you got to let go. Those things you can’t control. And on the other hand, I think it’s so these sort of mental contortions to try and figure out how that does it doesn’t impact your case. Just aren’t worth the time to sort of worry about it, because at the end of the day, you can’t do anything about it. So I don’t. I am interested to see because, you know, Trump, at least this morning, you know, launched off into, you know, truthing about defunding DOJ and the FBI. And he brought it up in a speech at Mar-a-Lago. He was talking all about Jack Smith and the communist bastards in the federal government. So he yes, he touched on New York, but he spent a lot of time worrying about the federal investigations. And so I think that’s where his if you look at what, you know, wakes him up at 2 a.m. in search of a hamburger. It’s what Jack Smith is doing, not what is going on in New York or Georgia. [music plays]

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Brian Beutler: My grand unified theory of the whole wobbly Trump accountability enterprise. And I think what maybe explains the sort of slow rolling at DOJ is a lot of people who are empowered to take that obligation seriously, start gaming out worst case scenarios in their own heads. Right? Like, what if it backfires politically? What if I get hauled before Congress? What if there are riots? And what you know, what about faith in my institution? And then those become sort of unstated reasons for choosing an action or for for choosing to move slower than a shot clock. And I just feel like that’s what we witnessed and like that that is the explanation for why Bragg is just like, well, okay, my case is done. Sorry. Like, I can’t I can’t just hold on to it until you guys find the courage to finish yours. 

 

Peter Strzok: Yeah. And I think you have a bunch of different factors. I think that’s absolutely right. I think you have a bunch of factors which all combine together to create the same result. I mean, and so let’s look at DOJ. I mean, I think you have an attorney general who yes, he was a prosecutor and a good prosecutor. But in the [laughs] in the interim between that time and being the attorney general, spent a ton of time as a distinguished judge, including at the you know, at the circuit level, where it’s a very sort of deliberate, cerebral sort of process that not saying, you know, he can’t be an aggressive leader, not saying he can’t think like a prosecutor. But I think his perspective is certainly influenced by being a an appellate judge. I think you have other senior leadership within DOJ that, you know, very much are interested in the reputation of DOJ and seeing it being seen as a nonpartisan body. And Garland has said, you know, I want to get back to the traditions. And I think, you know, certainly people under Garland have ambitions, right? They want to be able to whatever their next government job, they want to be able to enjoy a bipartisan confirmation vote. So they’re not you know, they’re not going to be these sort of firebrands going out and calling a spade a spade and the politics be damned. There are a lot of things that both institutionally and personally go into is sort of a more moderate, slower approach. And then when you look at the FBI, I think those things are still in play. But you don’t have you don’t have people with the same political ambition, but you have people with both a dissimilar desire to protect the institution of the FBI, much like DOJ does. And then you have personal risk and some of that. All of that, well, not all, but the majority of that, I think, comes from Trump’s behavior towards people in DOJ and the FBI when he was in office. So, you know, not only does Chris Wray and the deputy director and all these other folks at the FBI, want to protect the FBI, but they’re also terrified about what happens to them if Trump goes after them. And you see, you know, and you mentioned at the beginning and hopefully we can talk more about this now, how to correct the problems and issues that were created in the past, both holding people accountable for that behavior and analyzing and saying, okay, where do the protections break down or where did the protections that were needed? They didn’t exist and how do we create them? But I was just torn up by this. The Washington Post. But then also The New York Times had reporting talking about this debate between the FBI and DOJ about seeking a search warrant down at Mar-a-Lago after it was clear that Trump was playing games and they had reason to believe he still had classified documents he had been negotiating for been there for over a year. He’d been subpoenaed. They had reason to believe that he hadn’t returned them all. And this debate about, okay, is it time to get a search warrant or do we keep this stupid dance going on and keep asking? Pretty please. And the breakdown became as at least as the Times and the Post are reporting it between field agents. It looks like at the FBI’s Washington field office on the one hand, and then DOJ and FBI headquarters on the other. And the sticking point and it was reversed. Right. It was not the investigators who are typically the aggressive ones saying, give me a search warrant. I want to go in now. We want to go and main justice and particularly saying, whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down. We need negotiate. It was the other way around. Main Justice in particular was saying, no, we need to give a search warrant now and Washington field office is like, no, no, slow down. Let’s keep negotiating. And Corker and we, you know, used to be a prosecutor. We can trust them. And at the end of the day, the reason given was that at least in the perception of some of the field investigators, was we saw what happened to all the people who investigated Trump in the past. And we want some protection like nothing happened to anybody at DOJ, we want some protection so that if and when this goes bad, we’re not the ones left holding the bag. Well, you know, it’s the right diagnosis, you know? Yeah, Trump’s actions did create that fear, but it’s the wrong answer. The answer to that is not therefore, oh, he created this fear. Therefore we’re not going to do anything because we’re scared. There is, I think, to this day, a continuing reticence within the FBI to aggressively go after anything related to Trump because they have seen time and time again Trump going after the organizations, going after people. You know, full disclosure, I’m one of those people—

 

Brian Beutler: You. [laughs]

 

Peter Strzok: —going after him by going after him by name, firing people, you know, just dragging them through the mud, bringing the entire weight of like every asshole in Congress and every right wing media outlet to bear on personal attacks. I mean, it’s awful. And that’s why he did it. I mean, some of it was designed just to lash out, but some of it was I’m going to make an example by God and you do it next. Same thing is happening to you. And guess what? It worked. 

 

Brian Beutler: This is how— 

 

Peter Strzok: So how do we fix it? 

 

Brian Beutler: Right. Right. So, you know, this is the thing I find most disturbing. Like I when Biden announced that he would nominate Merrick Garland, you know, I was like, oh, great. Somebody from the appellate bar whose job is to, like, be friendly with, you know, both sides of the ideological spectrum is not who we maybe need at this moment. And then, you know, I, I feel like that has maybe that may be like has some explanatory power about why this those investigations have been going more slowly. But like, if the issue is that Trump’s. Efforts to intimidate not just like witnesses, but law enforcement officials and and prosecutors and judges is working or has worked. I mean, how do we even account for that, let alone make it so that to insulate the institutions and the people who lead them so that the next time some somebody with lots of power and just willingness to to try to scare people out of investigating him like so that the next guy doesn’t succeed. I don’t know how you do that. 

 

Peter Strzok: I think there are a couple of mechanisms in place and I don’t see them doing anything. Some of it is, you know. The internal mechanisms within DOJ are first and foremost the inspector general and on the Office of Professional Responsibility. The sad fact is the IG does not have authority statutorily to look at anybody in DOJ who is a lawyer acting as a lawyer. That’s reserved and it’s crazy. That’s reserved to DOJ OPR, who historically is far less aggressive and independent and public in what they’re seeing. 

 

Brian Beutler: Hey, everyone, it’s Brian. I’m breaking in briefly here to define some of these terms. Pete’s observing that the Department of Justice, that’s DOJ, theoretically has the power to hold corrupt officials accountable and even to protect local officials from harassment and intimidation. But in practice, the tools they have are a poor fit. The DOJ Inspector General’s office, or IG, is kind of like Internal Affairs. It has a lot of influence, but it’s prohibited from investigating the department’s lawyers in the course of their jobs. If it wasn’t, the IG could, for instance, hold former Justice Department officials accountable for pressuring prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, that’s SDNY, to drop cases involving Trump and his allies. By contrast, the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility can scrutinize the lawyers, but it tends to be too weak and too deferential to discourage or punish serious wrongdoing. Separately, the DOJ and the FBI are law enforcement organizations, but because they enforce federal law and serve federal interests, they’re a bit ill equipped to be the first line of defense for, for instance, local prosecutors who face intimidation. 

 

Peter Strzok: So there is both an IG investigation looking at, you know, it’s it’s from a criminal perspective, the you know, the Jeffrey Rosen and other people within DOJ who might have been engaged in criminal activity that’s within the IG’s mandate. But when it comes to like the review, like they did tarring everybody, you know, the practical, logical exams they gave everybody involved with the Hillary Clinton server investigation that went on for 18 months, that sort of look, they can’t do within DOJ. So if you’re trying to figure out, okay, what did Bill Barr and all the people around him do with regard to walking back Stone’s sentencing, walking back Flynn’s prosecution going up to SDNY and telling Berman and others to pull back on various cases, you know, was there any undue political influence there? DOJ IG can’t look at that. Allegedly. I’ve heard DOJ OPR is doing something long rumored for. I mean, it’s not quite as long as John Durham’s never ending saga, but it’s close. But that would, you know, some report there, some sort of, you know, documentation of what occurred would be a necessary step to say, okay, one of these things occurred, therefore, what were the problems and what are the fixes? And then outside of the bureau, you’ve got Congress, right? I mean, House Judiciary isn’t going to do a damn thing under the control of Republicans. But where the hell’s Dick Durbin? What is the Senate Judiciary Committee doing? What have they been doing? I mean, he said, I saw something, you know, last year, I think there was weaponization that occurred, but it wasn’t anything. You’re hearing from Jim Jordan. It was actually what Bill Barr did and yes, that’s true. It’s absolutely true— 

 

Brian Beutler: And so. Right. What are you gonna do about it?

 

Peter Strzok: And so we’re we’re we’re April. Right. But what are we do? I mean it just beyond and I’ve got to give, you know, a tip of the cap to they they have moved in terms of judicial confirmations in a in a speed and volume that, you know, in my opinion, are much better than what we saw under Obama’s administration. But I don’t know what the hell else they’re doing there. And so those are your two logical and those are your two logical bodies because the media can report, but they can’t subpoena documents. Dick Durbin could subpoena Bill Barr, Dick Durbin could subpoena Ed O’Callaghan, Dick Durbin could subpoena Rob Hur. He could subpoena all these people. And, you know, and Jesse Liu and say, well, you know, were you pressured to bring a case against Andy McCabe? Why were you told you had to take a— I mean, all these things could be done. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yep. 

 

Peter Strzok: But I don’t know what the hell else their other party is there. I have no idea.

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah, and it’s not I feel like it’s not just that they’re not, you know, trying to match Jim Jordan’s subpoena for subpoena. Witness for witness. Although I think they should. It’s it’s like Alvin Bragg put himself out there. Republicans, even like Mitt Romney, are all on like one page talking points. This is a bad case. This is, you know, like, you know, you show me the man, I’ll find you the crime or whatever. Like, that’s a line that they keep repeating. But like and I’m not saying that Dick Durbin or Chuck Schumer or Hakeem Jeffries or whoever else should be doing the opposite and saying, oh, this is a clear cut case. Like we might as well not even have a trial. He’s guilty. But they could be like saying, I have confidence in Alvin Bragg. Like Chuck Schumer is from New York, he could express confidence in an elected official from New York, like they could all endorse the notion that powerful people shouldn’t assume that they’re above the law and that it’s good to see that put into practice. And they can assert that witnesses and law enforcement officials won’t be intimidated or that intimidation won’t be tolerated by them. And it’s just silence. There’s like nothing coming out of the side of the people who could be like a bulwark for Alvin Bragg or for, you know, if Fani Willis is watching, her. Right. Like the you know, I hope DOJ and its OPR do something about all of this. But, you know, I, I don’t know what’s going to happen in in Georgia, but, you know, Fani Willis went to extraordinary lengths to investigate this case and create, you know, that back any kind of impression that there was any, like improper politics at play. She did the special grand jury process, and it took so long that now Republicans in Georgia have voted themselves the power to fire her. And I don’t know if we’ll ever learn whether her decisions were affected by intimidation, by the fact that she was worried about what would happen if she pursued Trump like she would pursue any other suspected criminal. And so I feel like the answer to, you know, what do you do about it? Like has to account for not just the federal investigators, but the local ones, too. 

 

Peter Strzok: Yeah, And I don’t I mean, some of that I don’t know to what extent. Federal law or federal entities can impact shenanigans on the state level. And certainly sort of everything we’re seeing coming out of the Supreme Court is very much towards decreasing the ability of the federal government to intercede anywhere, whether it’s gerrymandering or anything else. So I don’t know at a federal level what you do to fix that. I think it’s certainly a real possibility that Fani Willis was and remains, you know, sort of impacted by the potential of being fired or removed. There was some question about whether there is a delay in any sort of announcement, because I think the Georgia legislature might be out of session. And whether or not she was waiting until everybody had gone back to their districts to announce charges. You know, I don’t know. And we may never know to what extent all these things are in her and her senior staff’s minds. But I think there has to be there are two issues here. One is like how to prosecute investigations and prosecutions that are going on as a means of holding Trump accountable. But I’m equally and in many ways, those are sort of, you know, you kind of got to put it, wind it up and put it down and let it go wherever it’s going to go. The other thing that I’m worried about is the, you know, going back to sort of what SJC could do or what these oversight bodies could do, we know we’ve seen the manifestations of abuse by Trump in in literally in weaponizing the justice system in the government. We have seen demonstrated behavior with regard to Stone and Flynn and, you know, all these pardons that he gave out to protect his friends. And we’ve also seen the use of DOJ to target folks and the appointment of John Durham, first and foremost, you know, the kind of misfit attempted prosecution of Andy McCabe and others. And if you I think there’s every expectation, if Trump is reelected, that that sort of vengeful behavior is going to be back on steroids. And so the question is, how do you take. You need some fact finder to sit there and say, you know, independent of what the media says and what the public knows, here are all the things that happened, whether that’s a report out of IG or OPR, whether that’s in hearings and testimony through Congress, get the facts on the record and say, all right, what are the you know, do we need to pass laws? Do we need new regulations? Do we need something to make subtle, just like we, you know, made tweaks to the Electoral Count Act to, like eliminate a lot of the bullshit that happened on, you know, in the run up to January 6th? Do we need small things like that somewhere in the functioning of DOJ? And, you know, DOJ could do it themselves. But my sense is when Merrick Garland and Lisa Monaco and everybody else walked in the door, they were like Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon. We’re going to pardon everything in the past. We don’t want to think about it. We’ve got enough on our plate right now for January 6th. We’re going to close that chapter. And nobody looked at all this manifest abuse. And that’s to the long term detriment of DOJ, because, you know, is Merrick Garland or any of his folks going to abuse it? No, they’re not. But is Trump going to the minute he comes back? Of course he is. 

 

Brian Beutler: I think the reporting suggests that that they came in and literally this case, the hush money case, the thing that Mich— Michael Cohen went to prison for, they made a decision to let it lie. And because there were, you know, more important Trump things to investigate. But yeah—

 

Peter Strzok: And how crazy is that, right? I mean, it’s like, you know, it’s all illegal, but well, you know, this is the little illegal stuff. It only puts you in jail for 1 to 4 years, not 10 to 20. It just so we’re not so we’re going to ignore it. [laughter] I just don’t or, you know, and it’s not even a question of prioritization. It’s a de facto. You know, we only have X amount of resources and that’s the other thing, you know, they only have X amount of resources. And half of that’s going after Trump and all the January 6th defendants and everything else, even if they say, well, we’ll look at it if we have enough time, you’re not going to have enough time. And so why is it, you know, from day ten after they assessed everything, I don’t know why there hasn’t been a more vocal presence in the media and on the Hill saying we need more resources, we need more, they absolutely need more resources. 

 

Brian Beutler: So there are all these reasons, incentives and fears that institutional actors might have that might explain why the investigations have proceeded so slowly. I don’t want to ask you to break confidences while I do ask you to break confidences. [laughter] But but can you talk about what that looks like from the inside, like generically or in an anonymized way where like something that you witnessed when you were on the job was affected by those kinds of considerations? 

 

Peter Strzok: I think it is not. I never experienced something where there was a a directive. Right. You know, this is going you know, there’s an election on such and such and let’s take. The 2016 election. And we we’re investigating, as it turned out, both candidates prior to the election. Although Hillary Clinton was first, there was never a time where. Certainly within the FBI, from from Director Comey on down, that there was any sort of direction that, you know, you have to have this done by certain amount of time or, you know, the general election. You know, the primaries are here, the conventions here, you need to be wrapped up. There was never anything like that. But at the same time, it was absolutely present. Like everybody knew what the timetable was. Everybody knew that the longer it took, the closer to the election it got, the more and more politically charged it became. Did that change what we did? No. Did it serve as a reinforcing sort of motivator? Sure. But that didn’t you know, it was always and I give you know, but if you think of Director Comey a lot of credit and saying, look, you know, do do it as fast as you can, but it’s more important than you do it well, so don’t cut corners, get it done right and be complete. No [laughter] as fast as you can do that, that’s great. But if something has to give, the timetable gives because it’s more important to be right. I don’t. DOJ was a little different. I mean, they were at the senior level. Loretta Lynch and in Sally Yates were absent. In a way that for similar high profile cases, in my experience, the attorney general and deputy attorney general were more involved. I think some of that was, you know, in my opinion, absolutely politically driven. I think it was. In some ways perhaps appropriate, because the best view of that, they were political appointees and they did not want to involve themselves in something that might be viewed as politically pressuring something one way or the other. So, you know, there’s an argument that was appropriate. But I think, you know, that’s sort of in a in a small version. I think the way as an investigator on things like this. You’re aware of that. I do think what changed was this when it came to Trump, the installation of fear. And that’s an insidious. You that impacts you in ways that I think you can’t even that you don’t consciously understand. And it starts creating behaviors that unless you very actively sort of soul searching on a routine basis, you know, am I being impacted by this? What would I do if it was anybody else? You know how does this differ that that that kind of creeps in and when it’s doing it across an entire organization and when it’s really hitting hard, those people at the top, who are the people that either have to do that have to defend you, it’s I think, a much more sort of pernicious degradation of an investigator’s ability or desire to do their job. 

 

Brian Beutler: With that professional background in mind, do you think it’s feasible that rather than like taking the heat off of Garland or Smith or Fani Willis, that Bragg’s decision will help reduce some of that institutional inertia? Like like Willis or Garland can now look outside and see that indicting Trump didn’t trigger Armageddon. Right? And so maybe this isn’t such a fraught decision after all. 

 

Peter Strzok: I think it has that impact. I don’t it’s really hard to gauge, you know, if it comes down to the point where Jack Smith has got kind of all the things in mind that he thinks he can prove up or he can’t. And he’s sitting down with Lisa Monaco and Garland and saying, here’s you know, here’s what we’ve come up with. I want to charge on this here the strengths and weaknesses. If they’re doing that in the context of a background where Trump has already been charged in New York, where Trump has already been charged in Georgia, does that create a different reality? Consciously or subconsciously? Sure. I think they and even I you know, if I were in that place and I was, you know, one of the senior FBI people sitting at the table discussing that, would it? I hope it would not make a difference. In other words, if whatever facts and evidence that Smith comes up with when he sits down to get that final. Okay. Like, I want to move ahead with this that that decision. Given the same inputs, you come up with the same output and decision regardless of whether and what Bragg, Willis, Smith, Jones. You know whoever around the U.S., whatever they’ve done. So it’s not a very it’s a very wishy washy answer. [laughter] You cannot you if you exist in the. You exist in the moment of time that is there. And so however much you might want to say, you know, we do this independently. You can’t ever take yourself out of the reality of the moment in time that you exist. Hopefully it’s, you know, the at a federal level of something of this significance. It doesn’t you know, it’s it’s a consideration, but it’s not a significant consideration. But yeah, that would. And now if you had Merrick Garland on next week, I’m certain he’d tell you it won’t matter. Doesn’t matter one bit. Whatever the facts are, we’re going to decide exactly the same whether he’s been indicted 40 times before us, whether he’s never been indicted, it’s going to be the same process. I don’t know that that’s entirely right. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah, you law enforcement people are really good at saying that. [laughter] So I’m not going to pretend to believe that this Trump crime is principally or even like minorly a national security issue. But since you’re here, I’m curious how you think about what it means or implies to have a president who’s willing to engage in in these kinds of sort of illicit secret schemes. Like if the U.S. government learned that some key foreign leader had done this kind of thing and was willing to work in that way to get what he wanted, like what would we do with that information? 

 

Peter Strzok: Oh would exploit the hell out of it. Look, if we had [laughter] if we had the foreign hustle version of Mar-a-Lago, you know, say you say Vladimir Putin had you know, he’s got this little place on the down on the Black Sea, I think some huge mansion. But say Vladimir Putin had Trump’s personality had a publicly accessible version, Russian version Mar-a-Lago. I would be sending scores, upon, scores of scantily dressed, attractive women in to try and get next to him and, you know, exploit every last little place that we could down there. Whether that meant, you know [laughs] rifling through whatever we could get our hands on in the basement, ingratiating him. And hopefully he shows off some documents that he has, maybe, you know, putting in listening devices and, you know, areas that we could manage to get into. There are any number of when you look at Trump just right now and all the stuff like look at, you know, the Saudis and all the money they’ve given him for the LIV golf tournament, look at all the money they’ve funneled to Jared for his silly little like the sovereign wealth management folks in Saudi Arabia apparently were telling, don’t stay away from this. It’s horrible. It’s a bad bet, don’t invest and they gave him billions anyway. I mean, there are so many if I look at Trump’s behavior from the standpoint of, all right, say a foreign leader was doing that, say I was in, you know, the CIA or somewhere else in the US intelligence community. It’s, he’s an easy mark. And there’s so many vulnerabilities between ego between, you know, desire to like take selfies with, you know, the bimbo of the day down in Mar-a-Lago between the desire for money, between they’re just it’s typically when you’re assessing somebody and you say, okay, you know, I want to recruit Brian and I want him you know, I want him to tell me everything, all the deepest, darkest secrets, at Crooked Media. Now, what’s the best way to do that? Usually you people have a vulnerability or two, and maybe it’s not even a vulnerability. It’s a way that you can try and get them to do that, with Trump. But they’re just they’re all these different, like, blaring. Avenues to approach somebody, to coerce, to cajole, to otherwise get them to do something that they shouldn’t. And that’s what, you know, from a counterintelligence perspective. That’s, you know, Trump’s unlike any president we’ve had in the context of the foreign intelligence vulnerabilities that he displayed and continues to display. So, you know, look, and when it comes to national security thing, look, I am willing to bet I’ll bet you a beer, I’ll bet your entire staff a beer the US government doesn’t have back all the classified information Trump took. They don’t. And I think that’s part of what’s motivating the investigation. I think that’s part of what’s motivating the sort of very rapid. You know, there have been these briefing schedules about, you know, getting people for the grand jury and like the court saying, okay, you know, plaintiff, I want you to, you know, brief this by midnight DOJ, I want a responding brief by 6 a.m.. And they’re offering, you know, judgments the following day. There is, I think, a continuing, separate and distinct from whether or not Trump broke the law. My opinion there’s a continuing ongoing threat to national security because he still has classified information that he hasn’t returned to the government and he may not even know where it is. I mean, the guy at the end of the day strikes me as a kind of a weird hoarder, you know, some stuff he wants. But like a lot of it, I think there’s stuff floating around that even Trump doesn’t know where it is. [music plays]

 

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Brian Beutler: That’s another question that I’ve had is like, Why? I mean, I realized that raiding Mar-A-Lago was a like a decision that took months when it could have taken weeks. So clearly some level of excess deliberation was at play there. But like, they didn’t get all the documents back and there was no further raids. Like it seems like the crime remains in progress. And for some reason there’s been no further extraordinary effort to get them back. And I don’t know if we ever learn whether that’s because they’re spooked or they thought that the Mar-A-Lago raid, you know, blew back on them in some way and they don’t want to relive that. I don’t know. 

 

Peter Strzok: I think. Well, two things. One, I think it’s clear from both the Post and Times reporting, which I think combined, it’s reasonable to believe that at least some elements of that were true. That may not have the whole story. But I do think there was there Trump’s behavior during his administration had a chilling impact on the FBI’s willingness and aggressiveness to go out and investigate. But I also think, you know, when it comes to like you need if you’re going to go to the part of getting a search warrant, you’ve got to have probable cause to get that, which means that there is, you know, again, probable cause to believe that there is evidence of a crime existing at a specific spot at that moment. Not, you know, we think it was there five years ago, which you’ve got to be able to articulate to a judge. Your Honor, I think there is classified information at this place right now which represents evidence of a crime. And here’s why I think that, you know, we have CCTV that shows us this. We have two people, you know, who told us that we saw it on this date. And so you can lay it out and a judge says all right. Yeah. That that meets the probable cause standard. I think it is a reasonable belief that everybody can look in, you know, see all these videos of, you know, all these aides hauling around boxes up to Trump Tower in Bedminster and everywhere else and say stands to reason there are other classified documents elsewhere. But if you don’t have that suspicion, which I think is an accurate suspicion, if you don’t have the factual basis to back that up and say the same thing. Look, you know, we’ve got a source who was at Trump Tower who yesterday who said he was talking to Trump at his desk and you saw three classified documents. Unless you have something like that that’s very specific, you’re not going to be able to hit that probable cause standard to get a warrant. And so I I think that, you know, both of those things, to your point, are true. One, that there is some organizational reluctance and timidness to do anything. But two, setting that aside, you’ve got to have sort of current tangible information that something is there. And I don’t think you know, I don’t think that probably exists for the other properties. 

 

Brian Beutler: Okay. So here’s the other big question I have for for any institutions out there. But for now, for you, the the crimes Bragg charged are about business records, but his statement of facts make clear that the public import of the violations is that they perverted the 2016 election. It can’t really be a free and fair election when one candidate breaks the law in service of his campaign. And this was a big part of the reason why people cared about the Russia investigation, too, right? Like there was the national security concerns that it dredged up. And then there was the question of whether the president can have real legitimacy if he’s cheating to win. And I think Bragg is sort of saying there’s an asterisk here on on what happened in 2016 and then the subsequent presidency. And yet the world we we all live in now is just heavily shaped by the fruit of that crime or that alleged crime. And so I guess my question is, what’s the institutionalist remedy for that? Is it to say bygones or does robust institutionalism sort of require the leaders who inherit the aftermath of all that to try to set right or reset things as much as they can? 

 

Peter Strzok: No, I think you have to I think you have to do a combination of things. You can’t just set it aside and let it be. I think you have to to the extent laws were broken, you have to pursue that. And I think Bragg is doing that. I think it’s unquestionable that, you know, had these had his affair with Stormy Daniels, with Karen McDougal become public, certainly on the heels of the grab em by the pussy tape with the Access Hollywood tape, that that quite likely would have had an impact on the election. What’s amazing is like, you know, the Hunter Biden laptop, the entire outrage about that, it was suppressed on Twitter for a day because of this concern about whether or not it was disinformation. Yet if that was of such importance to the 2020 elections, you mean and if you believe that, how on earth can you not believe that in 2016, Trump having a series of one night stands with porn stars will not also have an impact. 

 

Brian Beutler: That’s a good point. 

 

Peter Strzok: So it just again, it’s it doesn’t make sense. It’s never going to make sense. It’s obviously a bullshit partisan argument, but on the one hand, yeah, you need to do it. And then the other thing is we need to look at the question of whether or not there’s a reason. It was a good thing that Jimmy Carter sold his farm. Right, because it eliminated the, even the appearance of impropriety. And the other hand, you have Trump who dragged in. I mean you know, he bought and caused to, you know, the Trump Hotel down in Washington, D.C., where every foreign dignitary would come in every time they’re in town and get 20 rooms just to line the pockets of Trump. He had all of these business interests that he kept with him that opened him up to undue influence. There are things to look at and say, if we were going to have somebody as the president, do we need more bus— More robust regulations about what they have to do to either divest, sell, put in a blind trust, whatever, if they have a financial enterprise in the way that Trump did. You have to engage in certain behaviors to insulate yourself from undue influence, certainly foreign influence. And, you know, nobody I think [?] threw up their hands when they were looking at sort of all, you know, with the emoluments, the whole issue of like were payments into either the Trump Hotel or other properties. Were there any violations of the Emoluments Clause? People just threw up their hands and said it was too hard. But that’s the sort of thing, you know, okay, if if it’s too hard, well, then maybe we need to beef up like get better statutory interpretation of what the Emoluments Clause requires or doesn’t require. But there are things that the twofold one, we need structural improvements and regulation improvements. But at the end of the day, if they’re criminal violations, I don’t care if they’re small, I don’t care if they’re, you know, misdemeanors and being bumped up to felonies, if they broke the law, then prosecute them. And so at the end of the day, I’m glad Braggs done what he did. 

 

Brian Beutler: There’s a very political aspect to the question. I understand this, but like the way I think about it and not just as an ideological guy or partisan guy, but just as like a person who has like some basic understanding of what is fair play is that Bragg is confirming my suspicions that the 2016 election did not conclude on the level. And then Trump had one term in power. And because of that one term in power, people who are my age and younger are going to have to live for the majority of their lives with a judiciary that is the Trump judiciary or is like a heavily Trump inflected judiciary. And this is just to take one example. And, you know, that strikes me as unfair. It also, you know, I, I think about somebody like Mitch McConnell who I think genuinely does not like Donald Trump as a person and does not like the reputational damage Donald Trump has done to the Republican Party. But he looks at the spoils from what Trump was able to accomplish as a result of the crimes he committed around Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal and the, you know, whatever sort of implicit collusion he did with Russia and saying, you know what, it’s all worth it. We got the court for 40 years and the only remedy for that and the only way to disincentivize it, I think, is to take all the spoils away. And, you know, that brings us, I guess, back to the Dick Durbin problem. [laughs] But but, you know, but then the the the question is and you end up having to press institutionalist on this is is should the other party get a little bit more radical, at least procedurally about about what they do now that like the truth is becoming clear and it’s like, oh like well, we really deserve those four years back. 

 

Peter Strzok: Yeah. Two thoughts to that one, I think it’s what you’re saying about Bragg trying to put an asterisk next to 2016. I think there is a narrative arc here when it comes to Trump and illegal campaign behavior. You can there’s a line between hush money payments to, you know, as Trump would call it, impeachment number one, where he’s trying to quid pro quo Zelenskyy into  we’ll give you aid but you got to open the investigation into my political opponent Biden to the call to Raffensperger trying to scratch up votes. These are all illegal acts in my opinion in pursuit of. A campaign winning an election. And so it’s a consistent behavior just with different it’s like, you know, some Rashomon, like we’re going to look at illegal campaign behavior this way and then we’re going to look at it this way and then we’re going to look at it, you know, from a local level to a foreign, you know, friend to a, you know, intimidating a state rep. So it’s all the same behavior, just different chapters of it. And then to your point about, you know, how we get back, like whether or not to be aggressive or not, I think you could do that. But I think at some point you start to see real backlash. And I mean, you know, considering that the courts and let’s, you know, look at in particular, you know. Dobbs, which I think was horribly, wrongfully decided, but then look at what happened in Wisconsin last night where Dan Kelly got his ass handed to him. And I think in no small measure because of the turnout, particularly among younger voters who traditionally don’t turn out but are so motivated by some of these outrageous judicial decisions, which in my opinion, don’t represent the majority of the or the beliefs of the majority of the population. So, you know, that’s a pretty heavy price to pay to start getting [laughs] you know, different electoral results. I mean, great. You know, Dan Kelly was defeated, but too bad because Ron DeSantis is about to sign some six week abortion ban in Florida, which are going to put hundreds and thousands of women’s health at risk. It’s I don’t you know, that may be, you know, too too high a price to suggest that’s the route, best route to go. But I think we are seeing, you know, some I don’t think politically. Well, let me say it this way. I think Democrats are coming around to understanding some of the impact of the Dobbs decision in a way that that. Can advance and help the political prospects of the party. 

 

Brian Beutler: I think what you’re saying and I think this is a good note to end on, is that it would be wiser or more prudent for Democrats to let the backlash to Trump and his cheating and the court he got to appoint as a result of it, let backlash to that do the work of cleaning up the mess Democrats inherited and don’t create new backlash by resting the world as it existed in 2016 back by brute procedural force. 

 

Peter Strzok: Yeah, because I don’t know how you do that. I don’t know how you undo the appointments that were made. I mean, some of those, you know, and again, this at a time, it’s way out of the scope of this. [laughter] I mean, some idea about like what do you do to expand the Supreme Court? 

 

Brian Beutler: Yes. 

 

Peter Strzok: I mean, I just don’t think those are reasonable, in my opinion, reasonable solutions. 

 

Brian Beutler: Ah. 

 

Peter Strzok: Now, you may disagree on a lot of—[laughs]

 

Brian Beutler: I do. 

 

Peter Strzok: —there’s a lot of reasonable disagreement about that. [laughter]

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. 

 

Peter Strzok: But we can we can talk about after after Jack Smith brings charges, we can we can talk about that— 

 

Brian Beutler: Right. Right. So when they find more classified documents, I’ll take you up on that beer. And then when you’re back [laughter] for episode three, we can talk about expanding the Supreme Court—

 

Peter Strzok: No, no, no, no. When they don’t no, no. I get yeah, I get I get the beer. When they find the [laughs] when they find the classified documents. 

 

Brian Beutler: Right exactly, I owe it to you. 

 

Peter Strzok: Right. [laughs]

 

Brian Beutler: Pete Strzok, thank you for spending so much of your time with us. 

 

Peter Strzok: Yeah, of course. Thank you. 

 

Brian Beutler: [music plays] I hadn’t considered before. We recorded this episode that other prosecutors might see the first Trump indictment and think it took the heat off of them to act. Fortunately, I don’t think that’s very likely. I keep circling back to my initial observation. Donald Trump got arrested for breaking the law and the world didn’t end. If anything, that should make us anticipate more accountability, not less. But the world not ending doesn’t mean life didn’t get much harder for Alvin Bragg or Judge Merchan. And that’s why I think it’s important for institutionalists, liberals and elected Democrats alike to bring their influence and power to bear. Right now, Democrats don’t need to weigh in on Trump’s guilt or innocence to defend Bragg from death threats or vouch for his integrity and professionalism. It’s really the least they could do. And it would be a baby step toward addressing the more pressing institutional dilemma, which is whether it’s possible to move forward in a just way after four years of illegitimate rule without first looking backwards and setting things right. [music plays] Positively Dreadful is a Crooked Media production. Our executive producer is Michael Martinez, our producer, is Olivia Martinez and our associate producer is Emma Illick-Frank. Evan Sutton mixes and edits the show each week. Our theme music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos. 

 

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