Terry H. Schwadron
Dec. 30, 2017
“I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department. But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter,” President Donald Trump told a reporter.
The president’s off-the-cuff remarks at his Trump-owned golf club about the all-things-Russia investigation actually was in response to an impromptu question from a reporter about whether he would re-open investigation of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.
What makes it outrageous and angry-making is that it came amid wide wonder about whether Trump feels that he can move against Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III or any other FBI investigations to come against anyone he deems a foe. And that he apparently has the right to do so without a storm of public indignation falling on his head.
It is a bald statement of absolute power and authoritarianism.
Even in the seemingly endless number of outrageous statements by this president about himself as a president worth only admiration and fealty, it is a Louis XIV-like pronouncement that we should all be rising up to smack down. And you may recall how that worked out.
This is a president who believes that he indeed is not only above the law, he thinks he is the law. L’etat, c’est Trump.
This is a test for all Americans, and, in particular, Republicans who have otherwise stood for Trump’s bad public policies. The question is simple: Do you believe in a nation of laws? If so, you cannot stand for statements of absolute power from the White House, regardless of who is president.
If the most self-proclaimed patriotic conservative Congress members and Trump supporters cannot bring themselves to denounce this statement, you must worry about how far Trump’s #MAGA will be allowed to go in disrupting and destroying this country. So, I ask, where are the condemnations?
During an impromptu at his golf club in West Palm Beach, the president did not demand an end to the Russia investigations swirling around his administration, but insisted 16 times that there has been “no collusion” discovered by the inquiry, said The New York Times. “It makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position,” Trump said of the Russia investigation. “So, the sooner it’s worked out, the better it is for the country.”
The president apparently is fully consumed only with himself: His statement was that “he” would be treated “fairly” by Mueller’s investigation. Unstated was that “he” was allowing the investigation to continue.
Yes, the investigation “puts the country in a very bad position.” But that statement should not be aimed at Mueller and the Justice Department. It should be targeting the misdeeds being uncovered by the president’s team.
Just Thursday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) slammed the Justice Department and the FBI its “failure to fully produce” documents related to an anti-Trump dossier, saying “at this point it seems the DOJ and FBI need to be investigating themselves.” The salacious dossier includes unverified allegations about Trump’s connections with Russia that he has denied.
It’s just noise now, part of a rising tide of Republican congressional calls meant to muddy Mueller’s investigations. It is indicative of the partisan views of the Justice Department and its operations.
Look, the “patriotic” thing here is to support the investigation into efforts by Russians to interfere with American elections and to support any probe of obstruction of justice by the man who now says he has the “absolute right” to decide what Justice does and means.
I will acknowledge that the best politics in all this may not square with the best patriotic acts, but these Republican leaders share the responsibility to protect the nation, not their own political ends.
Today, it is just — another — bad off-hand comment by the president. But we are hurtling toward a legal day of reckoning, and I’m looking for those members of Congress to stand up for protection of our Constitution. These words about absolutism do matter.
The president does not have “absolute right” to decide what the Justice Department does. The basics of our government insist that there need to be independent means to ensure that no one is above the law.