Undermining the Rule of Law (It’s the Autocrat’s Way)

President Trump is trying to undermine special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

Autocracy grows when society’s institutional protectors of freedom are sabotaged. President Donald Trump relentlessly has attacked the free press, calling it “fake news” in an effort to undermine the credibility of news accounts detailing collusion between his campaign, then his administration, and Russia. Now, Trump and his enablers are attacking special prosecutor Robert Mueller and federal law enforcement officials in hopes of stopping or curtailing the investigation of the president’s inner circle of advisers, past and present.

For the past several weeks, Trump and his partisans have engaged in a reckless and sustained attack on the FBI and the special counsel. Their aim is obvious: If Mueller’s impartiality is questioned, then the public might not believe any report he issues concluding there was wrongdoing on the part of Trump or his aides. Even more ominous is the possibility that the sustained attack on Mueller’s probe is intended to lay the groundwork for Trump’s firing of the special counsel.

Trump is leading the charge. “After years of [former director James] Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History!” the president tweeted earlier in December. In a speech last week in Pensacola, Florida, the president referred to a “rigged system.” He added, “This is a sick system from the inside. And, you know, there is no country like our country but we have a lot of sickness in our institutions.” It is a curious spectacle that Trump heads a government that he accuses of conspiring against him politically. Trump’s ploy is obvious: If the system is “rigged” no one can object to the president either pardoning aides (or himself, for that matter) indicted during an allegedly corrupt probe or removing the special prosecutor.

Trump is not alone in attacking law enforcement; he is receiving assistance from a number of shameless congressional Republicans. At a hearing last week, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee launched an all-out assault on the special counsel and the FBI. Representative Steve Chabot of Ohio said, “The depths of this anti-Trump bias on the Mueller team just goes on and on. It’s absolutely shocking.” No, Representative Chabot, what is shocking is how you and your cohorts are willing to undermine the public’s faith in the impartiality of the special counsel’s office.

FBI Director Christopher Wray being sworn in prior to testifying before Congress.

There was more. Representative Ron DeSantis of Florida speculated that anti-Trump bias is leading the FBI to conclude that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and DeSantis threatened current FBI Director Christopher Wray with “a contempt of Congress.”  Ohio Representative Jim Jordan said he has a “hunch” that there is  “pro-Clinton, anti-Trump bias” at the FBI. Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida called Comey an “egomaniac rouge” who was biased against the president. The assertion of FBI bias against Trump and attacks on Comey are interesting, given that Comey’s decision to reopen the probe of Clinton’s emails less than two weeks before the election probably contributed to Trump’s victory.

Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, a sometime Trump adviser, called Mueller “a disgrace to the American justice system’’ and said his team is “corrupt, abusively biased and political.’’  The goal of the onslaught against Mueller by conservative media and politicians is, in the words of Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman, “to delegitimize Mueller in such a way that he can either be fired or can be ignored if he concludes the president broke the law.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

All of this talk of bias in the probe is beyond absurd. Mueller is a longtime Republican who was appointed FBI Director by President George W. Bush. Rod Rosenstein, a Republican who was appointed deputy attorney general by Trump, named Mueller as special counsel. Comey is a Republican who served in the Justice Department under George W. Bush. He has made political contributions to John McCain and Mitt Romney, both former presidential nominees of the Republican Party! The current director of the FBI, Wray, is another Republican who has contributed to GOP candidates and who was appointed to head the bureau by Trump.

Despite all this, Trump and his cohorts have no reluctance to scream “bias.” They cite political contributions that some on Mueller’s team made to Democrats. Trump’s defenders also point to anti-Trump texts made by Peter Strzok who was a key FBI investigator into Clinton’s use of a private email server. Strzok was removed from the investigation promptly after his texts became known. Rather than showing anti-Trump, pro-Clinton bias, the Strzok episode appears to be evidence that the system is functioning well.

President Trump’s attacks may be undermining public confidence in the FBI.

The FBI is one agency of government Americans traditionally have held in high regard. A 2015 poll found that 68 percent of respondents viewed the FBI “favorably.” But, a poll by the University of Texas — completed after Trump began attacking the FBI — shows that only 43 percent of Texas Republicans now look favorably on the bureau.

Trump simply does not care about any damage he does to American institutions such as the FBI. The only goal is his own survival, and, to insure that, he has attacked (so far) the courts, the media, American allies, his own political party, the Intelligence community, former presidents, and even the pope. And, there is no evidence his attacks will end.

It is the strategy of an autocrat. Do not believe the press or the justice system or the electoral process. Believe me!

Which is why the most dangerous president in American history must be removed.

Posted December 15, 2017

 

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