Friday, February 22, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He talked about crimes.

At a brief press availability today, Trump was asked about the arrest of Robert Kraft, his friend and the owner of the New England Patriots, for soliciting prostitution. Trump was circumspect:

Well, it's very sad. I was very surprised to see it. He's proclaimed his innocence totally, and — but I'm very surprised to see it.

Trump has often stressed that men accused of sex crimes have declared their innocence, so long as those men are his friends or allies. When a high-ranking aide, Rob Porter, was accused of having physically beaten two of his ex-wives, Trump said this:

He also, as you probably know says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent so you have to talk to him about that, but we absolutely wish him well, he did a very good job when he was at the White House.

When Roy Moore, the Alabama politician Trump campaigned for in a special Senate election last year, was accused of having preyed on underage girls when he was in his 30s, Trump said this:

He denies it. Look, he denies it. If you look at what is really going on, if you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours, he totally denies it. He says it didn't happen, and you know, you have to listen to him also. You're talking about, he says 40 years ago, this didn't happen, so, you know. ...Roy Moore denies it, that's all I can say, and by the way, he totally denies it.

And Trump has made similar defensive remarks on behalf of Corey Lewandowski, Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly—all political allies—and Mike Tyson, with whom he had a business relationship. And, of course, Trump himself has said that every single one of the 22 women who have publicly accused him of sexual assault or harassment over a period of several decades are lying.

Most recently, Trump declared that Christine Blasey Ford, who accused his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of having attempted to rape her in high school, was part of a "big fat con job." He mocked Ford for not having reported the assault when she was a teenager, and also said that nothing any investigation could possibly turn up would change his mind.

But the Kraft incident was only one crime he was forced to address today. Two others concerned criminal matters the White House has stayed absolutely silent on as they unfolded this week.

When asked about Christopher Hasson, a self-proclaimed white nationalist and Coast Guard lieutenant who was caught planning a mass terror attack targeting Democratic politicians and journalists, Trump said this:

I think it's a shame.

Asked if he felt any responsibility for the actions of people incited to violence against the people he rails against and calls "enemies of the people," Trump responded:

No, I don’t. I think my language is very nice.

Hasson's internet search history included queries like "what if trump illegally impeached" and "civil war if trump impeached." Trump has publicly said that "the people would revolt" if he were impeached.

Trump was also forced to comment on the 2008 plea deal given to Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire and close friend of Trump's, on charges dealing with sex trafficking and child rape. Epstein is believed to have trafficked in sex with more than 40 girls and women. Trump himself jokingly commented on Epstein's behavior before he was brought up on criminal charges, saying,

I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.

The reason that Epstein is in the news this week is that a federal judge ruled that Trump's labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, had broken the law when, as a federal prosecutor, he had brokered an incredibly lenient plea deal for Epstein and then hidden it from victims. (The law requires that victims of such crimes be notified.) Epstein pleaded guilty to only one assault, and served 13 months in the local Palm Beach jail, with daily work release privileges.

That led to this exchange today:

REPORTER: Mr. President, do have any concerns about the Labor Secretary tampering with the Jeffrey Epstein case? 
TRUMP: I really don't know too much about it. I know he's done a great job as Labor Secretary. And that seems like a long time ago. But I know he's been a fantastic Labor Secretary. That's all I can really tell you about. That's all I know about.

Trump's diffidence on pending criminal justice matters comes a day after he crowed online about the arrest of actor Jussie Smollett for falsely claiming he was the victim of a hate crime.

So what?

  • It's bad if the president only cares about crimes when they aren't committed by his friends and allies.