This past week has been particularly chaotic, disturbing, and surreal even by the standards of the current era. Donald Trump created international incidents on three continents. Nancy Pelosi called for Trump to go to prison. Fateful court hearings took place left and right. But there’s one crucial story, central to Trump’s inevitable downfall, that got drowned out amidst all the noise.
Donald Trump is notorious for hiring people who are A) criminals, B) incompetent at being criminals, and C) incompetent at their official job duties. It’s part of why he’s only accomplished a fraction of the things he’s tried to do. It’s also why it was such a big deal that Trump hired Emmet Flood, who is none of the above, and is instead one of the world’s foremost experts on invoking executive privilege. That’s why it’s an even bigger deal that Trump and Flood abruptly parted ways this week, just as Flood was supposed to be doing his most crucial work.
Despite some misconceptions, Flood wasn’t hired to help Trump through the Mueller investigation. Flood’s specialty is executive privilege, and that didn’t significantly play into the Mueller probe. Instead, the real executive privilege battles are gearing up now that Congress has taken control of the investigations into Trump’s criminal scandals. Trump is invoking executive privilege left and right to try to stop people like Don McGahn and Annie Donaldson from testifying before Congress and turning over Trump-related documents.
These battles are about to be fought in the courts – and this is the part where Emmet Flood was supposed to shine on Donald Trump’s behalf. Instead, he’s suddenly out the door, with nothing more than a polite and generic Trump tweet marking his departure, and no one suitable to replace him. We don’t know if Trump fired Flood in a tantrum, or if Flood decided he couldn’t stomach this crap anymore. But either way, Trump’s strategy for surviving these House investigations was based almost entirely on Flood winning executive privilege court battles for him. Now that’s gone. This is a far bigger story than its meager media coverage would suggest.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report