Monday, May 8, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

On a day of unusual Twitter activity even by his standards, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee what questions to ask during its investigation of... him.

Faced with what he surely knew would be damning testimony from Sally Yates, his former acting attorney general, Trump demanded via Twitter that the Senate panel ask Yates "under oath" whether she was the person who talked to reporters about then-national security advisor Mike Flynn's vulnerability to blackmail by Russia. (Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA, obliged Trump by asking that question; both she and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed that they had not.)

The tweet, which appeared a few hours before Yates was scheduled to testify, was immediately labeled "witness intimidation," but there's no reason to think it influenced her testimony--not least because Trump has blustered about the supposed crimes of his political enemies so often that it is almost normal. But his obsession with leaks in this context makes a kind of sense: as Yates' testimony today made clear, Trump was astonishingly resistant to firing Flynn even after Yates and others warned him that Flynn was a national security risk. If the Washington Post had not learned from someone (almost certainly a member of his own notoriously leaky administration) about Flynn's situation, it seems unlikely he would have been fired at all.

After testimony concluded, Trump declared that her testimony had been "old news" and the entire Russia matter a "hoax."

Who'd care about this?

  • Whether or not anyone takes a president seriously when he tries to intimidate a sworn witness, it's not something a president should be doing in the first place.
  • As a rule, the targets of congressional investigations--even presidents--don't get to dictate whether or how the investigations proceed.
  • Presidents are responsible for the actions of the people they hire--especially if they're repeatedly warned not to hire those people.