For an Administration that has long complained about the effort of “the deep state” to undermine President Trump, the most recent leak detailed in the Washington Post will confirm an openly hostile intent by people within the intelligence community. The Post published accounts of how Russia’s ambassador to Washington Sergey Kislyak told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters with then Sen. Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race. If true, the account would conflict with Sessions earlier denials.
The media is reporting that President Donald Trump’s legal team is investigating possible conflicts of interest by former FBI Director Robert Mueller. Today I ran a column in USA Today on those conflicts of not just Mueller but Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. I have great respect for Mueller but I believe it was a mistake of Rosenstein to select him given his history with Comey and his reported interview with Trump for Comey’s job. Nevertheless, as I have stated since this story broke this morning, I am very concerned with any concerted effort to investigate the investigators. Such an approach is less evidence of a strategy as a spasm. Clearly, defense counsel has a right — if not an obligation — to raise any known conflicts of interest with the Justice Department. Yet, such investigations can easily get out of hand and can trip legal wires if aides are too aggressive in investigating the investigators.
President Donald Trump gave a bombshell interview with the New York Times on Wednesday in which he said that he would not have appointed Jeff Sessions to be attorney general had he known Sessions would recuse himself from the Russian investigation. It was a highly disturbing interview since Sessions recused on the advice of ethics experts at the Justice Department and the overwhelming view of the bar.
Washington was rocked last night by another scandal with allegations of collusion and a true cover up. As you can see in the above screenshot, I appeared on Fox News but my suit jacket did not. The reason, dear readers, was that my jacket was lifted from the green room at Fox News shortly before I went on with Martha McCallum. The culprit left a very small blue jacket in its place. With minutes to go live, I had to choose between looking casual in shirt sleeves and looking fat in an undersized jacket. Vanity won out over propriety. But there remained growing questions of who knew about the jacket switch and when did they know it. The culprit left the studio literally cloaked in the cover up that was once my jacket.
Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway gave an interesting interview this weekend where she objected to criticism of her performance in the White House as “gender-based.” The suggestion that sexism drives her critics has unleashed a new round of criticism that she is “playing the gender card.” I thought it would be an interesting question to debate on the blog.
Eric Trump once dismissed objections to his father’s use of nepotism by saying that “nepotism is kind of a fact of life.” That is true. It is also a part of presidential history, but it is not a good part. I have long been a critic of nepotism in government. What is interesting is how costly the practice can be. The current controversy involving Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner are illustrative of those costs. Absent the family connection, neither Trump Jr. nor Kushner would likely have been able to avoid a separation from the White House (as was the case with Manafort and Flynn). Instead, Trump has had to double down and his defenders belittle the fact that Donald Jr. not only took the bait of this meeting but said that he would “love” to get information directly from the Russian government to help in the election. As I stated this weekend on NPR, while the collusion was not successful, there was clearly as willingness, if not an eagerness, to collude with the Russians in their seeking to influence the presidential election.
Below is my column in USA Today on the subject: