Sunday, April 15, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said the FBI couldn't be trusted to investigate criminals who might have talked to him.

In an unusual Sunday court filing, Trump claimed through his newest batch of lawyers that only he--and not federal law enforcement officials--should be allowed to determine which of Michael Cohen's files were appropriate for the investigation into Cohen. Cohen is Trump's longtime "fixer" and business associate, and an attorney, who is under investigation by the FBI for bank fraud and possible campaign finance violations. 

If Cohen was properly acting as Trump's lawyer at any point, nothing in the files seized last week could ever be used against Trump--unless Cohen and Trump were using that relationship to actively commit crimes. Trump himself is not technically under investigation, although it is very likely that Cohen committed crimes with respect to his payment of hush money on Trump's behalf to the porn actress Stormy Daniels right before the election.

In today's brief, Trump is making the case that the federal government he heads, and whose senior Justice Department and FBI leadership he personally appointed in the past year, cannot be trusted to fairly or accurately apply the law. The FBI uses so-called "taint teams" as part of its normal business. What is different in this case, apparently, is that a member of Trump's inner circle is the target.

If Trump alone were allowed to determine what law enforcement could see of Cohen's files, then he would effectively gain a veto over whether crimes committed by Cohen (or Trump himself) could be investigated at all.

Why does this matter?

  • Nobody, including the president and his lawyer and/or co-conspirators, is above the law.
  • It's bad if a president attacks his own government and tries to undermine confidence in it.