Note: On Wednesday, 18 July, Donald Trump spoke with three New York Times reporters — Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman — in an exclusive interview in the Oval Office for nearly an hour. There are a number of points in the interview that I believe need to be addressed at length, and this post is the first of those.
One of our Significant Seven is a beautiful, tiny long-haired cat named Tiger Lily. We call her the ‘cat from hell’, for she is vicious. She will beg to be petted, you are contentedly stroking her gorgeous fur, and then out of the blue, with no warning, either her teeth or claws are sunk deeply into your skin.
It would appear that the person occupying the Oval Office has a personality similar to that of Miss Tiger Lily, as he turns on his own just as quickly and with no less viciousness. Take, for example, his remarks about Attorney General Jeff Sessions in his Wednesday interview with the New York Times.
Trump: “So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, “Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.” It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy.”
Trump: “Who is he? And Jeff hardly knew. He’s from Baltimore.”
Trump: “Yeah, what Jeff Sessions did was he recused himself right after, right after he became attorney general. And I said, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” I would have — then I said, “Who’s your deputy?” So his deputy he hardly knew, and that’s Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore. Now, he, we went through a lot of things. We were interviewing replacements at the F.B.I. Did you know Mueller was one of the people that was being interviewed?”
Translation: If I had known Jeff Sessions was going to follow the law, I would not have hired him.
Let me just set the record straight on a few issues here.
- Sessions had no choice but to recuse himself once it came to light that, as Trump’s campaign advisor, he met, during the campaign, with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and then omitted to inform the Senate Judiciary Committee of the meetings when questioned about it. The law: Justice Department regulations provide that “no employee shall participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship” with the subject of the investigation or “any person or organization which he knows has a specific and substantial interest that would be directly affected by the outcome of the investigation or prosecution.” As Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee last month, “That regulation states, in effect, that department employees should not participate in investigations of a campaign if they have served as a campaign advisor.” In other words, it’s a no-brainer, at least if you understand basic concepts of conflict of interest. What Trump perceives as betrayal is Ethics 101.
- As regards the appointment by Rod Rosenstein of Robert Mueller as special counsel: Justice Department regulations require appointment of a special counsel when the attorney general, or someone acting in his stead, determines that investigation through the normal departmental processes “would present a conflict of interest for the Department.” How could this not be true of the Russia matter? Even leaving aside the question of whether the president himself is under investigation, it involves the president’s campaign and closest advisers, including relatives. The special counsel regulations were not put in place to torment presidents but to reassure the public that, even in politically sensitive cases, justice would proceed impartially and unimpeded.
It would appear that Trump’s reason for his remarks against Sessions is to cause Sessions to resign. I imagine he presumes that if Sessions resigns, he will nominate a new Attorney General, one who will not have need to recuse himself from the investigation, and one who will do Trump’s bidding, which would likely be to fire Robert Mueller and end the independent investigation into the many threads that tie the Russian government to Donald Trump & Co.
Sessions said he and his Justice Department colleagues intended to continue to serve and he would do so “as long as that is appropriate.” In early June, after Trump ranted to various people that Sessions should not have recused himself, Jeff Sessions is said to have offered his resignation, which Trump refused. But now, with the heat having been turned up even more in light of Don Trump Junior’s meeting in June 2016, apparently Trump is having second thoughts.
What is most troubling about this is that it highlights the fact that Donald Trump believes he is above the law, that laws and rules do not apply to him, and that he can bully his way through any situation. As most of you know, I have an immense dislike of Jeff Sessions, consider him to be a bigot and a racist, and think he is possibly the worst possible person to lead the Department of Justice. That said, I hope he is not forced to resign, simply because at present, with Sessions’ hands tied in the Russian investigation and Rosenstein seeming to be a straight shooter, I believe the investigation will proceed. If Sessions leaves, all bets are off, unless the Senate wakes up and begins to realize that Trump is a power-hungry madman and refuses to confirm any candidate unless they promise to keep Mueller on as special counsel and let him do his job.
Donald Trump apparently believes that his position, his title, render him immune from the law. Nothing could be further from the truth, and he needs to start being held accountable for both his words and his actions. Thus far, few have attempted to do so … it is time for that to change.