Tuesday, May 14, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said he hadn't told his attorney general to do the thing he told his attorney general to do.

En route to a fundraiser today, Trump was asked about Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a federal prosecutor to look into the origins of the Russia probe:

Q Mr. President, did you ask the Attorney General to launch a probe into the Russia investigation? 
TRUMP: No, I didn’t ask him to do that. 
Q Did you know he was going to do it? 
TRUMP: I didn’t know it. I didn’t know it. But I think it’s a great thing that he did it. I saw it last night. And they want to look at how that whole hoax got started. It was a hoax. And even Mueller... had 18 people that didn’t like Donald Trump. They were Hillary Clinton fans. They contributed, many of them, to Hillary Clinton. They came out. It was the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the people of this country. 
And you know what? I am so proud of our Attorney General, that he is looking into it. I think it’s great. I did not know about it. No.

The idea that Trump didn't tell Barr to do this is, to put it mildly, a lie.

Trump has publicly called for someone—though admittedly without naming Barr personally—to "INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS" repeatedly over the last few months. He's also called the investigation "illegal," "treason," a "hoax," and accused unspecified "Democrats" of having committed the real (but still unspecified) "crime" of colluding with Russia.

Trump, who once plaintively asked White House advisors, "Where's my Roy Cohn?" appears to have found him in Barr. (Cohn, who for a time was Trump's lawyer until Trump fired him amid revelations that Cohn had AIDS, was the pitbull lawyer made famous by his work on Sen. Joseph McCarthy's red-scare campaign. He was later disbarred for "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation.") But in getting Barr to launch this counter-investigation this way, Trump is repeating a trick he perfected during the campaign: avoiding immediate responsibility for illegal or unethical actions by doing them in plain sight.

Trump has yet to take any action about the central finding of the Mueller report, which was that "[t]he Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion," or the FBI's urgent warning that the Putin regime intends to do so again in 2020.

Why does this matter?

  • No matter how genuinely Trump believes it, the Department of Justice is not his private police force.
  • Only dictators try to criminalize accountability.