President Trump had a rough week last week by any stretch of the imagination. This is not an assessment that is very “spinnable”, certainly not one that can be spun out of existence.
Two of his campaign staff and colleagues bit the dust legally, with one “flipping” on Trump and pleading guilty to crimes that don’t even exist, but also promising to cooperate with the Mueller investigation to pursue Trump (Michael Cohen), and the other, Paul Manafort, being found guilty by a jury on eight counts of various financial impropriety and tax fraud. Vox reported the following:
It’s been a rough week for Trump: His former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight federal charges on Tuesday, the same day Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, was found guilty of eight federal crimes of his own; Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), one of his first endorsers, was indicted for misusing federal campaign funds; and his top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, was caught palling around with a white nationalist. Cohen implicated the president in his crimes, saying he made hush money payments in violation of campaign finance laws at Trump’s direction.
Trump in a Fox & Friends interview seemed to confess to a campaign finance violation in his attempts to deny it. In the same interview, he said “flipping” witnesses should be illegal and seemed to leave the door open to pardoning Manafort.
By the end of the day on Friday, Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker had cut immunity deals with federal prosecutors, adding their names to the list of Trump allies who no longer seem so friendly. And the president canceled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to North Korea.
These court outcomes and other events do not in any way relate to the initial purpose of the Mueller probe, that being to determine whether or not Russian agencies and Trump campaign officials, or Donald Trump himself, colluded with one another to interfere with the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election.
The primary purpose of this investigation came up dry so far (nearly two years old now), but something arguably peculiar has been in play about this investigation – that being that the Special Counsel has been investigating everything and not keeping its scope narrowed to “Russiagate.”
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions arguably could have stopped this from happening, but he recused himself at the beginning of the probe. The fact that he has isolated himself from this is a seriously sore spot for the president. After the events of this week, USA Today reported these tweets:
“Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.” Jeff, this is GREAT, what everyone wants, so look into all of the corruption on the “other side” including deleted Emails, Comey lies & leaks, Mueller conflicts, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2018
….FISA abuse, Christopher Steele & his phony and corrupt Dossier, the Clinton Foundation, illegal surveillance of Trump Campaign, Russian collusion by Dems – and so much more. Open up the papers & documents without redaction? Come on Jeff, you can do it, the country is waiting!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2018
US Attorney General Sessions, for his part, did respond to this in his own statements, according to Business Insider:
“I think that’s what I had to do,” Sessions said during a meeting with the Federalist Society on Saturday.
The attorney general cited a “pretty reasonable” Department of Justice regulation that forbids DOJ officials from investigating campaigns of which they were a part.
Sessions was an early and ardent advocate for then candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 US election, championing his platform on immigration and a host of other issues. Sessions officially endorsed Trump in February 2016, becoming the first sitting US senator to throw their support behind the Manhattan mogul. He remained a campaign surrogate throughout the race and served as chairman of the campaign’s national security advisory board.Trump nominated Sessions as attorney general shortly after he won the election in a shocking upset.
The DOJ regulation Sessions cited Saturday — 28 CFR 45.2— says “no DOJ employee may participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution, or who would be directly affected by the outcome.”
The rule goes on to define a political relationship as “a close identification with an elected official, candidate, political party or campaign organization arising from service as a principal advisor or official.” A personal relationship “means a close and substantial connection of the type normally viewed as likely to induce partiality.”
Last March, Sessions came under scrutiny for failing to disclose meetings he had with Sergei Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the US, during the 2016 campaign. Following the revelations, Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, which is examining whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the race in his favor.
At the time, Sessions said his decision to recuse himself was “right and just.”
President Trump is understandably frustrated. This effort against him clearly does have the majority of support in the news media and despite a list of extremely substantial accomplishments made during his term thus far as President, the search-and-destroy efforts of the mainstream media press on, seeking any sort of fodder to press for impeachment should the House change hands in November, and ways to legally (or illegally, though through the legal apparatus), throw him out of office.
At the center of the effort is the attempt to separate the President from the base who elected him. While that effort seems to be meeting a brick wall (for President Trump’s main body of supporters already has little love for the media or the establishment DC government apparatchik), there did for the first time appear a sense of fatigue, as even the conservative pundits seemed to backpedal and at least tacitly acknowledge that the President has been a bad actor in the past. However, the sentiment expressed by this caller on August 24 to pundit Rush Limbaugh’s program does a good job expressing the thoughts and feelings of many who support President Trump:
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Steve in Fort White, Florida. I’m glad you waited, sir. You’re next on Open Line Friday.
CALLER: Mr. Rush Limbaugh, it sure is an honor. Let me just say this. My soul belongs to Jesus. My heart belongs to my wife. My mind belongs to you.
RUSH: Well, I’m glad to be in the club!
CALLER: You know, if Trump fires somebody, no matter what who it is, it’s gonna be a firestorm. So let’s get the ball rolling. Let’s go ahead and light that fire. The American people are waiting. They’re holding back. I’ve broken two teeth just grinding jaws about what’s going on here today. He’s got to make the move. The clock of history is ticking. He’s either gotta make history or he’s gonna become history. We want him to make that move. We’ll back him at the ballot box. We’re waiting for him. We want him, we need him, he’s our country, and he’s gotta say this.
RUSH: What do you want him to do?
CALLER: I want him to start with Mueller and, one by one, fire ’em and state his case.
RUSH: You realize — and I’m not trying to throw a monkey wrench here. I don’t even want to be a downer. I just want you to know, if you fire Mueller the investigation’s not over. They just go out and find somebody to take over, and it might even prolong it and make it longer.
CALLER: Well, they can only take over if the person that he doesn’t fire puts him in that position. Get somebody in there that’s the opposite. Get somebody in there that will make the move and start working on the Democrats.
RUSH: Yeah, but Trump doesn’t get to make that appointment. Rosenstein does.
CALLER: If he fires Rosenstein, he won’t.
RUSH: Oh! Well, in that case. (laughing)
RUSH: Okay. So we’re gonna fire Mueller; we’re gonna fire Rosenstein.
CALLER: I’m telling you, if you’re gonna fire one, fire ’em all. We back ’em. I want him to hear us. We will back him. Just do it.
RUSH: I’m telling you, folks, the frustration, this is the one thing the media probably isn’t even factoring. They don’t think it’s real. They don’t think you’re gonna do anything. You never do. You never do, so why should they be worried about you?