Trump learns limits of power
I’d like to take a moment to thank President Trump.
Thank you, Mr. President, for revitalizing Americans’ interest in the political process. Thank you for reminding us that a president, no matter howtyrannical he acts, lacks absolute power.
Thisweekwas a Civics 101 lesson for the nation. It began with several reports from the real newsWashington Post andNew York Times that revealed Trump spilled secrets to the Russian government and asked then-FBI director James Comey to drop an investigation into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn.
These reports came aweek after Trump fired Comey, just as the FBIwas amping up its investigation into potential collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russians.
For the 65 percent of Americans who disapprove of Trump, it felt like thewallswere crumbling andwewere diving deep into a constitutional crisis.
Then somethingwondrous happened. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein called for backup, hiring former FBI director RobertMueller as special counsel to finish the investigation Comey started.
Themove came the same day the WhiteHouse repeatedly said therewas no need for special counsel (or, as Trump called it on Twitter, “councel.” It’s not a prerequisite that a president knowhowto spell, but can’t he at least have the discipline to spellcheck before tweeting to his 30 million followers?)
The WhiteHouse didn’t even knowabout theMueller hire until an hour before itwent public. Rosenstein’s boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, alsowas in the dark.
Normally itwould be up to Sessions to hire special counsel, but he recused himself fromthe Russia investigation. Does anyone think Sessions, a fierce Trump loyalist, would have hiredMueller?
No, it took the guts of an independentminded, previously anonymous deputy attorney general who fired Comey at Trump’s behest and knew an impartial counselwas needed to finish the collusion investigation. Trump had no say.
In theory, Trump could order Sessions to fire Rosenstein. And Sessions could hire a new deputy attorney general whowould then fireMueller. But thatwould be political suicide for Trump. He has no real choice but to sit back and letMueller investigate.
If therewas no collusion, as Trump insists, he shouldwelcome the investigation. Mueller will find no wrongdoing and Trump and his associates will be vindicated.
That’s the approach Trump initially took onWednesday, releasing a statement that read: “As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm whatwe already know— therewas no collusion betweenmy campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.”
But then came the Thursday morning tweets when itwas Trump— and not some spinmeisters— behind the keyboard.
“With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign& Obama Administration, therewas never a special councel appointed!” Trump tweeted.
“This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” he added.
Trump is sweating this investigation. AndMueller is the perfect man for the job.
Muellerwas appointed FBI director by Republican president GeorgeW. Bush. His10-year termwas extended an additional two years by Democratic president Barack Obama. Muellerwon’t be swayed by politics.
In the meantime, the safeguards areworking. Trump can still do plenty of damage fromtheOvalOffice when it comes to issues like foreign policy and the environment. But there are a lot of smart, honest behind-the-scenes people like Rosenstein and former acting attorney general Sally Yates who understand the limits of presidential power andwon’t let Trump abuse it.
They deserve the most gratitude.
ContactAndrewAbramson at email@example.com. Twitter@AbramsonFL