The Justice Department does not belong to any one party or individual. But Sunday, Mr. Trump tweeted: ‘‘I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!’’ This was only one of his Sunday tweets.
The President can suggest actions to the Justice Department, but cannot demand. And he cannot, or at least should not, demand actions that directly interfere in the Mueller investigation. However, he is trying to get Rod Rosenstein and Christopher Wray to do just that and investigate the investigation.
At the heart of the latest battle is the charge there was a “spy” planted in the Trump campaign. In fact, the person is, as far as I can tell, not a spy but an informant. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies use informants all the time. By trying to claim malfeasance on the part of the FBI, Trump is distorting the facts once again, and once again attempting to undermine the FBI and Mueller investigation, and is putting the safety of the informant at risk. This is tantamount to claiming that anyone who reveals negative information on him is violating the law.
Trump also tweeted: “At what point does this soon to be $20,000,000 Witch Hunt, composed of 13 Angry and Heavily Conflicted Democrats and two people who have worked for Obama for 8 years, STOP! They have found no Collusion with Russia, No Obstruction, but they aren’t looking at the corruption…”
In this tweet, he is trying to say that the real corruption is being committed by Mueller and Democrats, but this is misdirection and worse. His very insinuations are examples of his interfering in the actions of the Justice Department and Mueller’s investigation.
According to a CBS fact check of his statements, the tweet is “short on facts.” CNN said “Trump said 11 false things in just 5 tweets.” Chris Cillizza of CNN said, “There’s zero factual basis—at least that I can find—for Trump putting a $20 million price tag on the Mueller probe.” In December, the cost was $6.7 million.
Mueller is a Republican, and like others on his team, he owes his position to a Republican President. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to head the FBI in 2001. And he served in that role for six years under Obama. In terms of the charge of collusion, that is an unresolved issue. Mueller was tasked with investigating that charge and the investigation is clearly not over. Yet, the President often tweets “no collusion,” as if by repeating it often enough people will believe it.
Trump’s lies are increasing in frequency as is the threat to what’s left of democracy in America. The Washington Post found that in the first 100 days, he lied or played loose with facts 4.9 times a day. Recently, it has almost doubled to 9 times a day. (See also the New York Times and Politifact.)
The threat is increasing as the President and his enablers in Congress, like Devin Nunes (Republican Congressman from California), are demolishing, to an unprecedented degree, the boundaries created by the separation of powers doctrine. Nunes has been leading the effort in Congress to get all the information on the confidential informant and portray his role as somehow malfeasant, instead of the normal operation of an investigation. And for months, he and other Republicans have been pressuring Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to turn over information that the Mueller investigation has on the President and others. If Rosenstein doesn’t, he can be impeached for contempt of Congress. If he turns over the documents, he is violating his position overseeing the investigation. The GOP has already drawn up eight articles of impeachment against him.
After meeting with the President Monday, along with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, Rosenstein agreed to have the Department of Justice Inspector General investigate the Mueller investigation, especially the use of information from the confidential source.
However, this is not enough for the President and conservative Republican members of Congress. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and 17 other GOP Congressmen (mostly members of the Freedom Caucus) signed a resolution today (5/22) demanding the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the DOJ and FBI. Senior officials from the DOJ, FBI and National Intelligence are set to meet with 2 Republican members of Congress on Thursday to “review” highly classified information the lawmakers have been seeking related to the Mueller investigation. In a beautiful example of irony, Democrats have been excluded from this meeting supposedly called to examine political bias in the FBI and DOJ. The New York Times points out the strategy here: limit the investigation and attack the investigators.
Monday evening, Rachel Maddow spoke about the meeting at the White House. By summoning Rosenstein and Wray, Trump was not just complaining. He was taking action in the vein of his firing, last year, the then FBI Director, James Comey. She questioned: have we now gone too far down a slippery slope?
The Justice Department has done several things in the past that Maddow finds disturbing. The DOJ has “shed or demoted” all the justice officials who Comey provided with corroborating information about his meetings with the President. Congress has asked the DOJ for FISA warrant applications, which they handed over, something never done before. The DOJ is now being asked to turn over information which can help Trump in his case against Mueller. This violates every principle of an investigation. On Sunday, when the President demanded the DOJ open a counter-investigation, he crossed another dangerous line. He took another step toward the destruction of the rule of law. Why is Rosenstein going along with this?
And, if we the citizens don’t act, why? Why are we going along with this? I understand feeling depressed by all that’s happening, and feeling powerless. But to give in to that feeling is to let Trump win.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said: “The president’s behavior is the kind of grossly autocratic behavior we’d expect in a banana republic, not a mature democracy,” Do we have or have we had a “mature democracy” for a while now?
In 1776, Thomas Paine, philosopher and writer who influenced the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence, said: “These are the times that try men’s souls. …Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.” Our souls, our consciences, our lives are being tried to an ever-increasing degree by this administration. It is time to act. It is time to call any member of Congress you can, or go to the office of politicians, especially Republicans, and speak out and demonstrate, to stop this interference into the Mueller investigation. To stop the gradual destruction of the rule of law. We must prepare for November, but not wait until then.