Editorial cartoon (7/29/2017)

The New York Times on Aug. 3 reported that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has begun issuing subpoenas through an impaneled grand jury in Washington, D.C., for documents related to the Russia investigation — including, many speculate, financial documents related to Trump's real estate dealings.

Though this does not necessarily mean that indictments will follow, it is a strong indication that suspicions exist that some criminal activity has occurred.

Donald Trump and his communications team have declared that a "red line” has been drawn that forbids Mueller and his team from investigating Trump's financial dealings.

It appears Mueller has crossed that line.

Trump's absolute disdain for the law of the land was made readily apparent in an audio-recorded interview he gave with reporters from The New York Times.

Apparently, his tough-on-crime stance is only reserved for immigrants and those Americans with addictions — except, of course, for those addicted to power and money.

"Trump: ...So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, 'Thanks, Jeff, but I can't, you know, I'm not going to take you.' It's extremely unfair, and that's a mild word, to the president."

Trump has absolutely no knowledge of — or interest in — how the criminal justice system works. That he should lament the "disloyalty" of Attorney General Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe clearly demonstrates that. Sessions ethically, and legally, had no choice — but what are ethics and legalities between friends?

Or even no knowledge of how "friendship" works. Sessions was the first senator to endorse him, and was an ardent defender of Trump's many missteps (most notably the “Access Hollywood” scandal). Trump throwing Sessions under the bus is hardly a way to repay such steadfast friendship.

Sessions, however, should not be surprised — as a long list of employees, banks and contractors can attest, loyalty has always been a one-way street for Trump.

Trump has always had high-priced lawyers, to not only defend him in court but to aggressively counter-sue anyone who dares not to show the deference he believes is his due. Some of those sued were previously Trump's "friends."

Most likely, Session's term as attorney general will end soon, either due to forced resignation/firing by Trump, a “reassignment” to Homeland Security, or by choice (to go back to the welcoming arms of the Senate, where at least he gets some respect). Or as a result of the most recent revelations about his meeting with the Russian ambassador.

But Sessions may have the last laugh.

On July 19, The New York Times reported the following: 

“The Justice Department revived a widely criticized practice on Wednesday that allows state and local law enforcement officials to use federal law to seize the cash, cars or other personal property of people suspected of crimes but not charged.

"'This is not about taking assets from innocent people,' Mr. Rosenstein told reporters. 'It's about taking assets that are the proceeds of, or the tools of, criminal activity...'"

Though primarily used in drug enforcement cases, this "practice" has been used in non-drug related cases as well.

If it is true that special counsel Robert Mueller's probe has reportedly expanded to the Trump financial "empire" and its connections to Russia, immediate action could be taken.

Most, if not all, of Trump's most prized possessions are suspected of being financed, partnered, purchased, and sometimes used as the "scene of the crime" by Russian money-launderers and other Russia-linked criminal enterprises.

And the best way to get someone like Trump to take this seriously is to take away his "stuff."

Show him that he is, in fact, "equal" under the law, in a way he can understand.

Regardless of whether or not Trump can pardon himself or his cohort, his prized possessions would be gone. Presidential pardon authority does not extend to the various states, only to federal investigations and prosecutions.

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The special counsel could provide the case information substantiating their suspicions, and the state attorneys could pursue the seizures now, and any prosecutions later.

Remember: "suspected of crimes but not charged" is right there in the language of the newly revived Justice Department "practice."

Trump Tower (New York and Chicago), Mar-a-Lago — even those assets owned by the Kushner companies — and the rest could all be seized today.

Mueller should call upon the states where Trump properties are located to seize all properties that fall under such "suspicions," and to do so forthwith.

One side benefit: All the taxpayer money spent on Trump's almost-weekly getaways to his own resorts would go directly back into the federal coffers. Not to mention all of those foreign “emoluments.”...

Imagine, in addition to giant gold letters spelling out "TRUMP," some nice, friendly red placards spelling out "SEIZED."

The army of high-priced attorneys hired by Trump to discredit the Russiagate investigators might be given pause. There would be nothing left to cover their "billable hours."

Perhaps we should call this revived Justice Department "practice" by some catchy phrase.

Like: "Sessions' revenge."

Howard Waddell was a labor official in the Clinton administration under Robert Reich. He lives in Monticello, Wisconsin.

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