It’s Mueller Monday and the breaking news about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Donald Trump’s crime family has just broken new ground. The New York Times reported earlier that the FBI raided the home, office, and hotel room of Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen. This can only be viewed as a serious escalation of the legal jeopardy that Trump faces. So naturally, he is lashing out with wild accusations against the law enforcement agencies that are performing their duties to protect the public welfare.
In his response, Trump made some familiar criticisms that have been the core of his past whining about being the subject of this investigation. In a brief press availability during a national security meeting, Trump said:
“It’s a disgraceful situation.”
“I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over twelve months now.”
“It’s an attack on our country…what we all stand for.”
The special counsel office is “the most conflicted group of people I have ever seen.”
No one “is looking at the other side (i.e. Hillary Clinton).”
“A whole new level of unfairness.”
“Why don’t I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it’s a disgrace, and we’ll see what happens.”
These lame and tedious complaints do nothing to counter the devastating news of this raid. Nor do they advance any argument that it was improper or help him to establish innocence. We have heard it all before and majorities of the American people don’t believe him.
Of note is his assertion that this is an attack on our country. Um…No it isn’t. This is all about Trump’s sleazy and likely illegal behavior and that of his associates. Calling the special counsel’s office “conflicted” has always been ludicrous. Mueller is a life-long Republican, as is is boss at the Department of Justice, Rod Rosenstein (who Trump appointed). And no one should be surprised by Trump’s interjection of “whataboutism” with his left field swipe at Hillary Clinton, who has been investigated ad infinitum with no hint of wrongdoing being discovered.
Perhaps the most ominous part of Trump’s remarks refers to the possible firing of Mueller. Trump has said in the past that he is not even considering such a thing. Now he says that “we’ll see what happens.” That’s a sharp u-turn in the direction of terminating the special counsel or Rosenstein. And if that happens, rest assured that the rest of his house of cards will quickly tumble down.
The White House recently embarked on a campaign to flush out the throngs of leakers in their midst. Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a press briefing to announce that anyone caught leaking would face stiff consequences. So it’s interesting that this warning is already being ignored by a surprising offender.
On Donald Trump’s favorite TV show, Fox and Friends, co-host Steve Doocy interviewed U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. In the course of their conversion Doocy let slip some information he obtained from a story on Fox News. The story revealed that U.S. satellites had detected North Korea loading anti-ship cruise missiles on a patrol boat. That, apparently, was not information approved for public dissemination. And Haley let Doocy know that in no uncertain terms (video below):
DOOCY: Ambassador, on the front page of foxnews.com right now there is a story that apparently the intel community has picked up anti-ship cruise missiles were being loaded onto a patrol boat or patrol boats in North Korea. What can you tell us about that? HALEY: I can’t. DOOCY: Why? HALEY: I can’t talk about anything that’s classified. And if that’s in the newspaper that’s a shame. But – DOOCY: You have no reason to believe that’s not accurate though? HALEY: I have no reason to comment on it. DOOCY: (Laughing) OK. AINSLEY EARHARDT: That shouldn’t be in the newspaper? Is that another leak I guess? HALEY: You know, it’s one of these things, I don’t know what’s going on. But, I will tell you it’s incredibly dangerous when things get out into the press like that. You are not only just getting a scoop on something, you are playing with people’s lives. And this has got to stop. Whatever the leaks are coming from, if somebody thinks they are getting power or fame from it, all you are doing is putting Americans in danger.
Haley was adamant in her first response that she could not answer Doocy’s questions. But that didn’t stop him from pressing her further. She reiterated her intention to refrain from commenting. Doocy thought that was funny. Haley had to school him on the serious nature of the data he was pushing her to reveal.
As if it weren’t bad enough that Fox News was disclosing classified information, there was another culprit with loose fingertips. Trump, as usual, was watching Fox and Friends this morning. He retweeted three separate stories that he had seen on the broadcast. One of them was the story about North Korea with the classified data. So Trump was participating in the leaking of information that his own U.N. ambassador warned was “incredibly dangerous,” and “playing with people’s lives.” What’s more, he was propagating info obtained from anonymous sources. Recall, Trump’s position on the use of sources who are not identified in news reports:
Remember, don't believe "sources said" by the VERY dishonest media. If they don't name the sources, the sources don't exist.
It is endlessly perplexing that Trump still gets his intelligence data from Fox News. Apparently he is unaware of the resources he has at his disposal within the government he allegedly manages. Had he contacted his National Security Advisor or the CIA, he might have been cautioned as to the sensitive nature of the data he was about to publish. But that’s too much to ask this notoriously ignorant and reckless so-called president.
The only question now is whether the Department of Justice will follow through on their threat to prosecute anyone found to be leaking. This past weekend, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appeared on Fox News Sunday. He told Chris Wallace that he would prosecute whoever was discovered to be violating the law. He specifically that included members of Congress and the White House. In this case, Donald Trump is unambiguously guilty. And this is not the first time that Trump has breached this legal directive. If the DoJ expects to be taken seriously they need to investigate Trump’s leaks and prosecute if warranted. Otherwise, they will have no credibility to prosecute any other alleged leakers.
The still nascent presidency of Donald Trump is rife with controversies and scandals. His financial conflicts of interests and unsavory connections to Russia have dominated his short tenure in office. Additionally, he has produced no legislative accomplishments. Most notably, the failure of his efforts to kill ObamaCare went down in flames. He has made no progress on immigration, taxes, terrorism, or his lame-brained border wall.
However, Trump regularly signals what issues are of most importance to him. And judging by the frequency of his tweets, it has little to do with matters critical to the nation. Rather, he is variously obsessed with either the media, last November’s election, or the torrent of White House leaks. Most experts agree that leaks occur when an organization is in disarray. But in Trump World it is blamed on a shadowy conspiracy of “deep state” saboteurs.
On yesterday’s edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace interviewed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (video below). Much of the segment specifically addressed the question of leaks and what the Justice Department intends to do about them. Wallace sought to follow up on remarks made last week by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Those comments sparked some controversy for implying that journalists could be targeted for prosecution. Rosenstein walked that back a bit in the following exchange:
Wallace: Some of the people who engage in leaks, I don’t have to tell you, are not the members of the so-called ‘deep state’ or faceless bureaucrats inside intelligence agencies. They are White House officials. They are members of Congress. If you find any of them have committed these leaks – have disclosed classified information – will you prosecute? Rosenstein: “What we need to look at in every leak referral we get, we look at the facts and circumstances. What was the potential harm caused by the leaks? What were the circumstances? That’s more important to us than who it is, than who is the leaker. So if we identify somebody, no matter what their position is, if they violated the law and that case warrants prosecution, we’ll prosecute them. Wallace: Including White House officials and members of Congress? Rosenstein: Including anybody who breaks the law.
If Rosenstein can be taken at his word, Donald Trump may be in even more trouble than previously thought. Leaks from any administration are made for a variety of reasons. It may be because someone is genuinely concerned about a course of action and has no other recourse to alter it. Sometimes a leaker is angling for position or acting out of vengeance. And sometimes leaks are deliberate attempts by the White House to disseminate information that it wants disseminated.
For example, Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s short-lived communications director, recently outed his boss as a leaker. During an interview on CNN, Scaramucci defended Trump’s reluctance to concede that the Russians were responsible for hacking during last year’s election. He even offered “evidence” by way of an anonymous insider:
“You know, somebody said to me yesterday — I won’t tell you who — that if the Russians actually hacked this situation and spilled out those e-mails, you would have never seen it.”
That, of course, is grade AAA bullshit. Professional spies may be good at what they do, but they are not infallible. Scaramucci is suggesting that the Russians are so superior in their clandestine operations that their American counterparts are helpless yokels, incapable of facing off against the almighty Ruskies. But more important was what Scaramucci said next. After CNN’s Jake Tapper challenged Scaramucci’s hypocritical use of an anonymous source, the Mooch spilled the beans:
“How about it was – how about it was the President, Jake? I talked to him yesterday. He called me from Air Force One.”
So here we have a White House official admitting that the President was the source of a leak that disclosed inside information. Trump’s observations about the capabilities of Russian intelligence ought to be regarded as top secret. But this business was aired on national television at the behest of Donald Trump. On another occasion, Trump leaked classified data to Russian diplomats visiting the White House. This leak may have put intelligence assets of an ally at risk of discovery or termination.
Who knows what else the President might have leaked. Handing out information that advances the administration’s interest is an ago-old tactic. Dick Cheney did it to plant the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And Trump has his own media operation headquartered in the White House and led by Breitbart News chairman, Stephen Bannon. Remember, this is the same guy who used to call newspapers and pretend that he was a publicist working for, well, himself.
So if Trump is later found to be the source of leaks to the media, will the Department of Justice keep their word and prosecute him? That’s an open question for the time being. They have not been especially anxious to pursue criminal investigations of the President. And, of course, Trump remains poised to fire anyone he thinks is getting too close to the truth. In the end, it may only be possible to obtain justice with a truly independent counsel, or a Democratic congress. Stay tuned.