Wednesday, January 31, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He refused to comment on today's revelation that he'd asked yet another person in charge of the Russian election interference probe for loyalty.

CNN reported this afternoon that, during a White House meeting last month, Trump asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if he was "on my team." This comment came after Trump pressed Rosenstein for information about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Russian attack on the election and whether Trump or his campaign were complicit with it. (Rosenstein did not provide any such information, according to CNN--unsurprisingly, since Trump is effectively a target of that investigation.)

Rosenstein is the only person in the Department of Justice with the authority to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, or to refuse to allow him to pursue certain aspects of that investigation. Since that December meeting, Rosenstein has emerged as a frequent target of Trump's anger.

Trump's persistent belief that DOJ officials should be "on his team"--as opposed to committed to the rule of law--is to some extent why there is a Mueller probe in the first place. James Comey's refusal to grant Trump his personal loyalty as FBI director is what got him fired, which led to the appointment of the special counsel by Rosenstein, since Attorney General Jefferson Sessions had already recused himself from Russia-related matters. Trump has repeatedly lashed out at Sessions for that failure to "protect" Trump personally from investigation. He also asked the acting director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, who he voted for in the 2016 election, while weighing whether or not to keep McCabe on in that position.

In what likely amounts to a tacit confirmation, the White House refused comment today.

Why should anyone care about this?

  • Justice Department employees swear an oath to the Constitution, not a personal pledge of fealty to Donald Trump.
  • A president's need for reassurance is not more important than the rule of law.