The Case of the Golden Grifter

Dashiell Hammett would be proud. Anybody who ever watched a TV episode of Perry Mason, read Hammett’s books or watched “The Maltese Falcon,” was touched by him. The world was better place when hard-boiled Sam Spade, “The Thin Man’s” debonair Nick and Nora Charles, and comic strip character “Secret Agent X-9” brought colorful culprits to justice. Making right what was wrong was appreciated through emulation. Little kids wore G-Man badges. I had one. There were few things more satisfying than seeing the despicable bad guys get their just deserts.

“What comes around goes around” was a saying popular with thugs in the old days. Maybe they still say it. Some tough-talking bad guy across the interrogation table would make his implied threat just before going on a trip to the slammer. It was always a hollow, pathetic gesture. The perp knew it and so did the screws sending him up. Great stuff.

For all who missed those marvelous tales, here’s your chance to enjoy one live. Call it “The Case of the Golden Grifter.” It stars TV game show host, notorious lecher, and former U.S. President Donald J. Trump. The supporting cast is the congregation of loonies who gathered at Mar-A-Lago to trumpet outlandish claims like Deep State satellites that were changing voting machine results from outer space.

Now it’s Trump’s turn at the interrogation table. For going on seven tortuous years, person-of-interest Donald J. Trump has publicly and repeatedly rubbed elbows with tyrants, belittled democracy, dignified lying, encouraged vengeful abuse and preened in the spotlight of notoriety. Sometime very soon, probably in a nice office with a discrete camera and microphone, Department of Justice prosecutors will take Trump to task for keeping at least 30 boxes of U.S. secrets in his home. All his threats, alligator charm, schoolboy rhetoric and bad behavior won’t mean doodly. Like Sam Spade said, “I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.”

The good guys are the still nameless federal agents, prosecutors and judges who are charged by law and custom with dealing in truth. Chief among the truth seekers is U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. Before his nomination to the post by President Joe Biden, he was for seven years the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Before that, he sat on other important federal benches after a sterling career as a top DOJ prosecutor.

Republicans have always treated him badly. They claim he is prone to giving government the benefit of the doubt. During Obama’s last term, Democrats tried to make Garland a Supreme Court Justice to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), blocked Garland’s hearing for 293 days, effectively quashing his confirmation. What goes around comes around.

In our ersatz Hammett novel, Garland is the stentorian, all knowing guide. In real life, he is reportedly soft-spoken, precise and reserved. He went to Harvard Law School and has a reputation for being steadfast. Neal Katyal, a former acting U.S. solicitor general, said Garland is “is a man who has not rested for a day in his life.”

He is so good at prosecuting heinous crimes that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, a mere six years after he murdered 168 people, 19 of whom were children, and injured more than 680 others. His case was shepherded by Garland, every step of the way.

“The thing you get every single time is he’s not only brilliant, he puts in the sweat equity. … He’s just always trying to get it right,” said Katyal.

Somewhere in the Justice Department, and certainly in the FBI, there is a Sam Spade doppelgänger ramrodding the mysterious investigation of espionage currently eviscerating Trump’s insidious, insane plot to rule America like a potentate. If the fabled Spade is like the real agents I’ve met, he would be polite, situationally aware, and a dangerous foe when provoked. Standing in back of him is an apparatus that simply doesn’t rest until it gets its man.

Fortunately for Trump, FBI agents don’t knock people around like the tough-talking ex-president encouraged the cops to do. The DOJ will instead set him awash in evidence. Already, the Feds rented a Ryder box truck to carry it all away from Trump’s palatial Mar-A-Lago.

Just for fun, we are going to pretend that the scarcely explained espionage complaint against Trump is for selling nuclear secrets to Saudi Arabia. Lost in the mayhem of Trump’s administration are reports that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner already tried in 2019 to sell state-of-the-art nuclear technology to the Saudis. Reportedly, the plot would have enabled the regime of ruthless murderer Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to build nuclear weapons. It sounds so farfetched as to be grotesque. It was right up the Golden Grifter’s alley.

Democrats on the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform took the allegations seriously. The report was based in part on testimony from “multiple” whistleblowers. Congressional investigators focused on two high-profile figures, Kushner, who was Trump’s Middle East envoy, and Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s subsequently disgraced former national security adviser. Both lackeys remain deeply immersed in whatever mayhem Trump had in mind for America.

In February 2019, the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, then chairman of the committee, issued an interim staff report after multiple whistleblowers came forward “to warn of efforts inside the White House to transfer highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.”

The Cummings report stated:

“The whistleblowers who came forward have expressed significant concerns about the potential procedural and legal violations connected with rushing through a plan to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. They have warned of conflicts of interest among top White House advisers that could implicate federal criminal statutes. They have also warned about a working environment inside the White House marked by chaos, dysfunction, and backbiting. And they have warned about political appointees ignoring directives from top ethics advisors at the White House who repeatedly and unsuccessfully ordered senior Trump Administration officials to halt their efforts.”

Eerie, isn’t it?

In the next chapter of “The Case of the Golden Grifter” we will again return to Mar-A-Lago, where Trump lives in the opulence of a lavish Victorian bawdy house. There, we’ll see how our steely-eyed sleuths are doing.

Already, the Golden Grifter is melting down. What will be next? Perhaps it was the butler in the library with a candelabra. Trump hasn’t blamed him yet, but it’s probably just a matter of time. Join us again soon and find out.


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