In an extraordinary piece in the New York Times, it’s revealed that President Trump views Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “less as executors of law than as salaried staff.” Which explains a lot.
“While he has left open the possibility of dismissing Mr. Mueller and began considering it shortly after the special counsel was appointed last month, the president’s anger has been largely trained on Mr. Sessions and Mr. Rosenstein, whom he views less as executors of law than as salaried staff,” the Times reads.
Although Rosenstein testified to his independence, the paper tells us, “Mr. Trump has a different view of the chain of command, aides said, but he also knows that he cannot afford to fire Mr. Rosenstein without prompting a massive backlash on Capitol Hill, even among Republicans. But the deputy attorney general, who would have to sign off on Mr. Mueller’s firing, has become a favorite target for Mr. Trump in conversations with advisers and friends.”
The investigations conducted by the Department of Justice are separate from the White House. There is no reason why President Trump should be speaking to the investigators, let alone considering firing them for investigating him or the people around him. They are not his staff. The President is not a King.
If Trump does fire Rosenstein so that he can get rid of Mueller or Rosenstein has to recuse himself since he is a witness to the President’s possible obstruction of justice, that would leave Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand in charge and this may be Trump’s goal, since she doesn’t have experience as a prosecutor and is a certain kind of Republican. New York Magazine pointed out, “During the Bush years, Brand first worked under White House counsel Alberto Gonzales (where she may have learned a thing or two about politicizing law enforcement), and then in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy.”
President Trump accused the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of being part of a conspiracy against him. The President raged on twitter, “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt” But it was Trump himself who bragged on TV to Lester Holt that he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation.
Legal expert Andy Wright, former White House Associate Counsel to President Barack Obama, explained that by tweeting as he was, Trump was flunking the investigation. What Trump needs to do is stop talking, stop tweeting, and let his lawyers handle his defense.
Viewed through the lens of Trump’s belief of the presidency being above the law and the DOJ being his staff, his behavior makes sense. It is this fundamental lack of understanding, however, which renders Trump unfit for the presidency with or without obstruction of justice or collusion with Russia.
It is Trump’s fundamental failure to grasp the necessity of the Justice Department working independently of the President that eggs him on to continue publicly behaving in ways that only draw more attention to the need to investigate him.