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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Don’t Blame Trump for Running Out of PATIENCE with Mueller
Getty Images Michael Goodwin
Breaking News: President Trump is a patient man. That may sound shocking, but consider the evidence.
Nearly 15 months have passed since Trump dropped a bomb on law enforcement and the intelligence agencies. Early in the morning of March 4, 2017, he tweeted, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
He was immediately denounced as a crackpot paranoid and the media Praetorian Guard defenders of Barack Obama demanded that Trump apologize to their Dear Leader.
No apology was forthcoming, although the White House suggested the quotation marks around “wires tapped” gave the president wiggle room on what exactly he meant. That turned out to be an important distinction amid mounting evidence that something very dirty took place, although the precise details of what, when and how remain maddeningly murky to this day.
The drip-drip-drip of evidence included reports that Paul Manafort, briefly Trump’s campaign boss, was wiretapped by the FBI. It also included the fact that Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, was picked up on wiretaps aimed at a Russian ambassador.
Along the way, we learned of the extreme bias against Trump by top members of the FBI and CIA during the Obama years, including reference to an “insurance plan” in the event he won the election. Suspicions of a “deep state” were bolstered by a torrent of insider leaks and the unmasking of the names of innocent Americans picked up by foreign surveillance, patterns that revealed members of the “resistance” movement held key jobs in the government even after Trump fired James Comey as head of the FBI.
As shocking as these developments were, they are being eclipsed by new reports. In recent days, credible evidence emerged showing there was another level of surveillance on the Trump campaign that involved either an insider talking to the FBI or a paid spy trying to entrap aides into committing wrongdoing.
The Washington Post and The New York Times, the conduit of nearly all anti-Trump law-enforcement leaks, are spinning the story as something other than what it obviously is: proof that members of the Obama administration targeted the Trump campaign in one of the dirtiest political tricks in American history.
As for the claim that Trump is a patient man, it is true the president uses Twitter to express anger at these developments and to complain that much of the media is trying to hide the facts instead of reveal them.
But other than using the bully pulpit and his First Amendment rights, the president has not used the considerable power he has to reveal the truth. He could declassify nearly all the government documents showing what the FBI, the CIA and others did in the early days of the investigation into his campaign, before special counsel Robert Mueller picked it up a year ago.
Trump could also order the release of documents detailing whether the FBI paid Steele, and what role, if any, the supposed drunken chatter of former aide George Papadopoulos had in launching the probe in the first place.
That the president hasn’t dropped any of these bombs is all the more remarkable when you consider the arrogant obfuscation taking place at the Department of Justice. Congressional subpoenas and Freedom of Information requests aimed at getting the material are routinely slapped down as top officials at DOJ and the FBI take the astonishing position that the legislative branch’s constitutional oversight role is limited by their simple say-so.
Many documents that were released were so heavily redacted that the only reasonable conclusion is that officials are hiding facts so as not to embarrass themselves and their institutions.
Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who created Mueller, even attacked members of Congress who threatened to impeach him for his stonewalling stance.
Those people, Rosenstein told reporters, “should understand by now, the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.”
His defense of secret police powers is a defense of a secret police force operating outside political accountability. And it’s all happening at a cabinet department run by Trump’s own attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
As I argued long ago, Sessions’ appointment was Trump’s most costly mistake. Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from anything having to do with the 2016 campaign, despite Trump’s order not to do so, set in motion Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller and gave oxygen to the partisan attempt to undermine and even upend the presidency.
That Sessions and Rosenstein still have their jobs is another example of Trump’s patience. Although the president has considered firing both, as well as Mueller, he hasn’t done it, perhaps because he has been warned he would pay a heavy political price and that many Republicans in Congress would abandon him.
His new tone toward Mueller, voiced most frequently by Rudy Giuliani after joining the president’s legal team, is a prime example. Giuliani is focused on the many conflicts of interest involving Mueller, who headed the FBI under Obama, and the members of his prosecuting team who donated to Hillary Clinton or supported Democrats.
Although Giuliani has looked rusty and unprepared at times, Trump likes his bruising style and can point to polls showing declining public support for Mueller.
I also believe Trump will overrule Sessions and Rosenstein on the document issues. He has publicly berated them and urged them to speed up the release, but they haven’t given much ground. Unless they act, he must so the public can learn to what extent the Obama team corrupted the government in a bid to stop Trump and hand the White House to Clinton.
As for the timing of any Trump actions, reports of a spy in his campaign could speed up events. In a recent tweet, the president cited the reports before adding: “If so, this is bigger than Watergate.”