Sunday, September 23, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He lied about hiring Rod Rosenstein.

Trump appeared on the AM radio show Geraldo in Cleveland this morning and claimed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and not him, had hired Rod Rosenstein. “I was not involved in that process, because, you know, they go out and they get their own deputies, and the people that work in the department. And Jeff Sessions hired him.”

This is false on several levels. The president of the United States is the head of the executive branch and all its employees, regardless of whether hiring authority is delegated through other departments. 

But Rosenstein's job, Deputy Attorney General, is high enough in the DOJ hierarchy that Trump himself, as president, nominated him. Trump made that announcement the very next day after he fired Obama administration holdover Sally Yates from the same position. In fact, Rosenstein was nominated for that position well before Sessions himself was confirmed. 

Even ignoring that, Trump's insistence on absolute personal loyalty meant that every hire, no matter how junior, needed to survive his scrutiny--and not all of them did. Less than a month into his term, Trump forced the firing of Shermichael Singleton, a Republican staffer who had just begun work as an aide to Trump's HUD secretary, Ben Carson.

There is a larger political and dimension to attacks on Rosenstein for Trump. In his attempts to evade scrutiny of his connections to the Putin regime, Trump has insisted that he is the victim of a partisan "deep state" conspiracy. But all of the most significant figures in the Russia investigation--Sessions, Rosenstein, James Comey prior to his firing, and Robert Mueller--are lifelong Republicans.

So what?

  • Even seemingly trivial lies are beneath the dignity of the presidency.
  • Presidents should take responsibility for their actions.