Monday, September 3, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He attacked his attorney general for not protecting House Republicans from criminal charges.

Finding it too hot to play golf, Trump spent his otherwise unstructured workday tweeting his grievances, including this one:

In other words, Trump wanted everyone to know that he was angry at Sessions for not protecting "very popular" Republicans and their House majority from legitimate criminal charges.

The members in question are Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York. Collins was indicted on insider trading charges brought by Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, a Trump appointee. Hunter is charged with fraud, falsifying records, and other felonies related to his apparent illegal use of campaign funds to maintain his lavish personal lifestyle. Indictments are not convictions, but the evidence against both Hunter and Collins is overwhelming.

Trump has always believed (wrongly) that the role of the attorney general is to protect the president from personal legal threat and to look out for his party's political interests. He's even publicly praised Eric Holder, who held the post under President Obama, for "protecting" Obama. (Holder responded that Obama didn't need his protection.)

Until Trump, presidents did not interfere in Justice Department prosecutions, especially where political figures were concerned. But then few presidents have had so much at stake in the outcome of midterm elections. If Democrats regain control of the House, whether or not they win Collins and Hunter's seats, the congressional subpoena power they would then have could threaten Trump's presidency, and even his freedom.

Why is this a bad thing?

  • The rule of law is more important than Trump's short-term political needs.
  • In a democracy, membership in the president's political party isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card.