Washington was awaken this morning with our now regular sound of a tweet from the President. At 6:55 am, President Donald Trump blasted the report that Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating him for obstruction of justice. He called the whole thing based on a “phony story” — a likely dig at former FBI Director James Comey. I previously raised my concern about the alleged leak from the Special Counsel’s office. The fact that the office is investigating obstruction is hardly news. Even those of us who have expressed substantial reservations about the legal basis for an obstruction charge against the President have said that there was ample reason to investigate such allegations. However, the leak in the Washington Post undermines the credibility not of the President but the Special Counsel. Similarly, I have previously said that these tweets from the President are highly damaging to both his public and legal case. Recent polling finds that only one in five voters support Trump’s firing of Comey and a majority now believe that he did meddle in the Russian investigation.
It is the presidential version of death by cop. Recently, I wrote a column on how Trump had become a witness against himself by, again, tweeting highly damaging observations about pending litigation and even contradicting the statements of his own legal team in the immigration order litigation. As predicted, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit not only ruled against his Administration but relied on his damaging recent tweet to seal the deal. The lack of message discipline extended to Trump friends this week after his friend, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, said Trump was considering firing Mueller: “I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he’s weighing that option. I think it’s pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently.” The statement sent a chill throughout Congress. Such a move would not only push Congress to pass a renewal of the Independent Counsel Act but magnify allegations of obstruction.
One can certainly understand if the media is a tad confused. This week, Presidential Counselor Kellyanne Conway chided media for taking President Donald Trump’s tweets so seriously and denied that tweets are one of his preferred methods of communication. Shortly thereafter White House press secretary Sean Spicer reminded media that Trump’s tweets are “official statements” and thus serious articulations of policy.
Below is my column in The Hill Newspaper on the impact of President Donald Trump’s latest tweets on the pending motion and appeal before the United States Supreme Court. My view expressed in the column is apparently shared by George Conway, the husband of Trump Adviser Kellyanne Conway. He tweeted “These tweets may make some people feel better, but they certainly won’t help (the Office of the Solicitor General) get 5 votes in SCOTUS, which is what actually matters. Sad.” Conway was once believed in line for a position as Assistant Attorney General. He has now decided to stay in private practice. Continue reading
With the steady stream of controversies swirling around the White House, there has been little attention given a highly disturbing report that the Obama Administration engaged in previously undisclosed and violations of the Fourth Amendment. Just a few days from the 2016 election, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) reportedly raised a highly unusual alarm over the creation of “a very serious Fourth Amendment issue” by possibly unconstitutional surveillance conducted under President Barack Obama. If true, this should be given equal attention to the other stories crowding our front pages and cable coverage. The Obama Administration has a well-documented history of abuse of surveillance and stands as one of the most antagonistic administrations toward privacy in our history. Indeed, if true, many of the former Obama officials currently testifying against the Trump Administration were responsible for a far broader scope of abusive surveillance programs.
Below is my column in the Hill Newspaper on the Comey termination and comparisons to the Nixon presidency. Those analogies deepened this weekend after the President repeated that he thinks that they should just get rid of the daily press briefings that have been such a central part of White House operations for decades. What is most striking is how, again, the White House has engineered its own undoing. Many people had called for Comey to be fired, particularly Democrats. However, the timing and manner of the termination has created yet another scandal for the Administration. Only 27 percent of citizens support the decision according to a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The growing credibility crisis has made the appointment of a Special Prosecutor (or even the resurrection of the Independent Counsel Act) a priority for many. While I have been a dissenting voice regarding the need for a Special Prosecutor, the Comey debacle has changed my view. The public deserves an independent investigation into these allegations and related issues. Perhaps people will be satisfied with the FBI investigation under a new director, but the last week has been so damaging to public confidence that the need for an independent investigation is obvious. Having said that, I am still unsure of the major crime being investigated under the facts that are currently known. For the moment, this Administration appears intent of self-incriminating actions in the absence of an actual crime.
Here is the column:
There is an extremely disturbing videotape below of an elderly woman in Florida being abused and assaulted at a pool as teenagers cheered and jeered. At one point, Leon Balfour Jr., 16, picks up Nancy James, 68, and throws her to the ground. He then picks her up and tosses her into the pool. It is a level of unprovoked and spontaneous violence that is truly shocking. The question is how to deal with a teenager with his level of rage.