Donald Trump had no problems throwing Jeff Sessions under the bus. Ironically, Trump is mad at Sessions for adhering to ethical norms by recusing himself from any investigation about Russia. Imagine that. Sessions did the right thing, and Trump is upset.
That was one aspect of the interview Trump did with the New York Times. The other was to issue a veiled threat to Special Counsel Robert Mueller:
Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller was running an office rife with conflicts of interest and warned investigators against delving into matters too far afield from Russia. Mr. Trump never said he would order the Justice Department to fire Mr. Mueller, nor would he outline circumstances under which he might do so. But he left open the possibility as he expressed deep grievance over an investigation that has taken a political toll in the six months since he took office.
Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, “I would say yes.” He would not say what he would do about it. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”
It’s not a violation, but since Trump said it, he’ll believe it no matter what anybody tells him at this point. It will be interesting to see what happens if Trump orders Rod Rosenstein to dismiss Mueller without cause and for crossing a red line that only exists in Trump’s head.
GOP senators heard about the interview, and some of them are not happy:
A group of Republican senators criticized President Donald Trump on Thursday, a day after the President rebuked top law enforcement officials in an interview with The New York Times.
“The attorney general is America’s top law enforcement official,” one GOP senator said. “It’s unclear if he understands that, and that’s pretty disturbing.”
The senator was referring to Trump’s comment in the Times’ interview that he would not have hired Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Sessions would go on to recuse himself from investigations related to the 2016 campaign. The senator said Trump seemed to be thinking of the law enforcement heads as his personal employees.
“One gets the impression that the President doesn’t understand or he willfully disregards the fact that the attorney general and law enforcement in general — they are not his personal lawyers to defend and protect him,” one GOP senator told CNN. “He has (his) own personal lawyers, and of course, the White House has the White House counsel’s office.”
Here is the problem. Four Senators gave quotes, but only one of them, Susan Collins of Maine spoke openly while the others were on background.
That Republican senator and two others spoke on background with CNN to avoid prompting a fight with the President.
I hate to break it to the other three, but engaging in a “fight” with President Trump is part of your job as members of a co-equal branch of government. We do not live in a dictatorship.
Donald Trump is the President of the United States. Robert Mueller doesn’t work for him even though Trump has the authority to terminate him. Mueller’s first duty is to the Constitution and the law. Trump can’t fire him because he doesn’t like the direction of the investigation.
It is not unfair to say the rules governing special counsel are too superfluous, allow them to go off in any direction they want. But that requires making changes to the rules and doing so before there is an investigation or after one concludes.
Donald Trump’s statements are not to be taken lightly and Republicans should do their jobs, openly saying what Trump did was wrong and not hiding behind anonymity.