On Wednesday, the nomination of Jessie Liu for undersecretary of the Treasury was quietly withdrawn. On Thursday, Liu submitted her resignation from the placeholder position she was occupying at the Treasury Department while waiting for Senate review of her nomination for the new role.
In the past, this kind of event might have had to do with the discovery of something dark in Liu’s past. But she’s not covering up a crime. She didn’t even have an off-the-books babysitter. Jessie Liu was a member of Donald Trump’s transition team and one of his first appointments to the Justice Department, as attorney general for the District of Columbia. What ended her career isn’t that she committed a crime. It’s that she didn’t.
The role that Trump assigned to Liu meant that she ended up being in charge of the U.S. attorneys dealing with the numerous cases connected to members of his team who were found to have engaged in money laundering, illegal lobbying, witness intimidation, lying to the FBI, lying to Congress, and a whole assortment of bank frauds. Attorneys reporting to Liu handled the case of Trump’s deputy campaign chair, Rick Gates; his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn; and his campaign adviser, Roger Stone.
Liu also ended up overseeing some of the cases against those whom Trump regarded as political opponents, including an investigation into former acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe.
What got Liu in trouble with Trump wasn’t that she used her authority to interfere in these cases and generate political results. It’s that she didn’t. Gates was jailed on multiple counts. Flynn was forced to plead guilty after lying to investigators and made a deal to save himself from more serious charges. Stone was convicted on seven counts, including lying to Congress and intimidating a witness. And Andrew McCabe wasn’t charged with anything, because investigators failed to find any criminal wrongdoing.
Trump seemed to overlook this at first, giving Liu an upgrade to the undersecretary role at the Treasury Department when she resigned her position with the DOJ. But … psych! In the wake of Trump’s acquittal by the Republican Senate, he has stepped up his trampling on the justice system to a full-time job. And as Trump attacked prosecutors and judges and jurors, someone was kind enough to remind him that Jessie Liu had been in charge of some of these people … and had not stepped in to protect Trump’s buds.
Since Liu’s departure, Attorney General William Barr has taken a direct role in kicking the $@#$ out of justice wherever Trump has a personal interest. That includes pulling the sentencing recommendation for Flynn, despite a judge telling the former general that he was already getting off easy. It also includes ripping up the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, even though that recommendation was less than half of what Stone might have received, given the seriousness of his crimes, the repeated nature of his activities, and the lack of any evidence that he regretted one damned thing.
How did CNN report the news about Liu? “The problem wasn’t that she necessarily did anything wrong, one person familiar with the thinking said, but that she didn’t do more to get involved in those cases.”
Liu was a dyed-in-the-wool Trumpist, hand-selected for her role in the first days after his election and interviewed by Trump personally before she was handed the slot at Justice. Then, God help her, she tried to do her job.
But in this inverted system, crime is not a problem. Corruption is not a problem. Failing to be corrupt at the right time … that’s a problem.