Trump learns lim­its of power

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - VOICES & OPINION -

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 aabram­son@sun­sen­ Twit­ter@Abram­sonFL

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