President Trump sends out a lot of tweets, as you may have heard. This particular tweet, sent Friday morning, will probably prove to be of historic importance:
By making that claim, Trump is unmistakably claiming the right, even the obligation, to purge “the top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department,” and to replace them with those whom he considers loyal to him personally.
The context in which that claim comes makes it even more dangerous.
It comes in the midst of a criminal and national security investigation into Trump’s administration, an investigation that has already produced two guilty pleas and two other felony indictments. The claim that the top levels of the Justice Department and the FBI -- most of whom are Trump appointees -- are out to get him because he is Republican is intended as justification for shutting that investigation down.
According to the sworn testimony of James Comey, it comes after Trump demanded Comey’s personal loyalty, a request that Comey brushed aside as improper. Shortly thereafter, he was fired by Trump as FBI director.
It comes after similar demands or questions that have reportedly been directed at Andrew McCabe -- forced out as deputy FBI director -- and at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
It comes after Trump has publicly, repeatedly, in his role as president, pressured the Department of Justice to indict and prosecute his opponent in the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton. That is the kind of thing that marks a Third World country, and represents a new low for the world’s oldest functioning democracy.
Meanwhile, top Republican leaders in Congress profess to see nothing, hear nothing and know nothing.
On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan stood with a straight face and claimed that a controversial memo attacking the FBI and Department of Justice for its handling of the Russia investigation “does not impugn the Mueller investigation or the deputy attorney general” and is not intended as “an indictment of our justice systems, of the FBI, [or] the Department of Justice.”
Ryan is not a stupid or naive man, which makes him a blatantly dishonest man. He doesn’t believe that; no one in Washington, liberal or conservative, believes it.
The memo was created in secret by House Republicans loyal to Trump for the specific, explicit purpose of undermining the investigation against him. That is not a surmise or supposition; those pushing for the memo’s release, from the president on down, have made their goals as clear as day.
Now we await the memo’s contents. I have been advocating for its release since its existence was first revealed, both because that release was inevitable and because I fully expect it to be a collection of groundless accusations and cherry-picked conclusions that will once again expose the incompetence and paranoidal mindset of those defending Trump.
However, I also have full faith that those who still marvel at the exquisite, well-tailored finery of Emperor Trump’s non-existent new clothes will also manage to squinch their eyes in just the right way and profess to see much in that memo that gives them what they want, which is an excuse to turn the once-proud U.S. Department of Justice into a fully owned subsidiary of Trump Inc.