Last night, State Department officials decided to abide by a judge’s order to turn over Ukraine scandal documents by midnight. This wasn’t necessarily surprising, as failing to do so would have likely resulted in the judge immediately throwing those officials in jail for contempt of court. But here’s the thing: Mike Pompeo sure did make it an easier decision for them.
Imagine you’re a State Department official and you’re trying to decide whether to defy the court order and risk immediately going to jail for it, or to abide by the court order and risk retaliation from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Then, a couple days before the deadline, Pompeo leaks to the media that he’s going to resign, so he can go chase some pipe dream about running for U.S. Senate in Kansas before his inevitable post-Trump arrest. Now you know that Pompeo is about to be gone anyway, so you’re obviously going to comply with the court order, because what’s Pompeo going to do to you?
This is the problem with a rapidly unraveling criminal conspiracy. In theory, the best move might be for everyone to stick together. But in reality, individual players start making whatever panic moves they think might be best for themselves, even if it means making moves that cause the overall conspiracy to unravel more quickly. And because panic moves usually backfire, the individual players usually end up making things worse for themselves and everyone else.
Mike Pompeo knew this deadline was coming, and if he’d been thinking clearly, he’d have kept his mouth shut a few more days about his impending resignation. This was incredibly stupid of him. Just as it was stupid for Mick Mulvaney to take the podium and confess to the quid pro quo. Donald Trump’s people aren’t helping him – and they’re not helping themselves either.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report