White House Feud With Mika And Joe Might Be Criminal (VIDEO/TWEETS)

There is little doubt among anyone–or at least, most people not working in the White House–that Donald Trump’s Twitter attack on “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski was one of the most disgraceful and shameful things to date in Trump’s short and unsweet political career.

But Brzezinski and her co-host/fiancé, Joe Scarborough, claim that the White House may have done something far worse. How do you get more outrageous than Trump suggesting that he didn’t let Brzezinski stay at Mar-a-Lago due to botched plastic surgery? Quite easily, as it turns out. The “Morning Joe” couple claim that the White House tried to force them to grovel before Trump if they wanted to keep a hit piece about them out of the National Enquirer. According to a number of legal experts, Scarborough and Brzezinski are accusing the White House of behavior that might be grossly illegal.

In case you missed it, Scarborough and Brzezinski penned an op-ed in Friday’s edition of The Washington Post in which they openly questioned whether a man who frequently exhibited “unmoored behavior” was fit to be president. In the second paragraph, they detonated a bombshell.

“This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.”

Scarborough and Brzezinski went further on Friday’s edition of “Morning Joe.” Watch here.

Scarborough said that he’d gotten a heads-up that the Enquirer was about to run a “negative story” about them. He claimed that someone in the White House called to remind him that David Pecker, the chairman and CEO of Enquirer parent company American Media, was a close friend of Trump. According to Scarborough, these staffers told him that if Scarborough and Brzezinski called Trump and apologized for their recent attacks on him, Trump would “pick up the phone and basically spike this story.”

Scarborough refused to go along, despite numerous calls from “three people at the very top of the administration.” Brzezinski added that Enquirer reporters had been calling her teenage daughters and close friends to dig up dirt on her–a claim that the Enquirer denies. According to Brzezinski, the calls had actually been going on for some time before the White House staffers called Scarborough. After talking with their families, Scarborough and Brzezinski said, “Screw it, let them run it.”

If New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman is to be believed, Scarborough wasn’t kidding when he said that this was coming from the very top of the White House. Sherman reported that around the time “Morning Joe” started ramping up its criticism of Trump, Scarborough and Brzezinski got word that the Enquirer was about to run a story claiming that they’d left their spouses to start a new life together. Reportedly, First-Son-in-Law Jared Kushner texted Scarborough to tell him that the story would go away if Scarborough apologized to Trump.

A White House official subsequently told The Daily Beast that Scarborough did indeed talk to Kushner about his “relationship with the president,” but didn’t elaborate.

Minutes after Scarborough and Brzezinski revealed their side of the story, the Troll-in-Chief took to Twitter to claim that Scarborough had indeed groveled before him on the phone–to no avail.

Scarborough replied that he had texts that not only proved White House aides tried to twist his arm–but that he never gave in to the pressure to come before Trump on bended knee.

The Enquirer denies that it crossed any lines in its reportingIt wouldn’t be the first time that the Enquirer has turned its five-inch guns on those who have crossed Trump. During the campaign, the Enquirer frequently attacked Trump’s Republican primary rivals while doing everything of bowing and scraping before the Donald. Even before Trump got into politics, the Enquirer was known to slime people on his bad side. For instance, Salma Hayek claims that after she spurned Trump early in her career, the Enquirer ran a story that claimed Trump turned her down because she was “too short” for his liking.

But the potential involvement of White House staffers takes it to another level–possibly a criminal one. Harvard Law professor and longtime Trump critic Laurence Tribe believes that if Scarborough and Brzezinski’s account is accurate, the White House staffers may be guilty of extortion, or at the very least abuse of power.

Norm Eisen, an ethics counsel under President Obama who later served as ambassador to the Czech Republic, thinks that even if the staffers’ alleged bullying isn’t a federal offense, it could potentially amount to coercion under New York state law–an important consideration, since the calls and texts went from the White House to Scarborough’s phone in New York City.

Specifically, the White House aides threatened to expose information that would put Scarborough at risk of “hatred, contempt or ridicule” unless he did something that he had “a legal right” to refuse to do.

A lawyer in Washington, D. C. anonymously told ThinkProgress’ Judd Legum that the White House officials may have violated the District statute against blackmail, though he cautioned that law is rarely enforced.

Even in the event that this wasn’t illegal, there is no doubt that this is outrageous and despicable behavior. And even if Trump was not directly involved, it simply defies belief that these staffers would have even tried it unless Trump created an environment in which intimidating reporters and journalists is considered even remotely acceptable.

Hopefully someone with subpoena power–either a federal prosecutor or a local prosecutor in New York or the District–grows a set and investigates this, if only because of the sheer egregiousness of it. When the best-case scenario is that White House staffers–and possibly Kushner–engaged in behavior that would be a firing offense in a normal administration, that isn’t a good sign. But if it did cross the line into criminal behavior, every person who was in on this or knew about it and failed to stop this needs to be before a judge.

(featured image courtesy State Department, part of public domain)


Darrell is a 30-something graduate of the University of North Carolina who considers himself a journalist of the old school. An attempt to turn him into a member of the religious right in college only succeeded in turning him into the religious right's worst nightmare--a charismatic Christian who is an unapologetic liberal. His desire to stand up for those who have been scared into silence only increased when he survived an abusive three-year marriage. You may know him on Daily Kos as Christian Dem in NC. Follow him on Twitter @DarrellLucus or connect with him on Facebook. Click here to buy Darrell a Mello Yello.