After this statement, how could he not?
Weld isn’t just a pal and a fellow former governor of Massachusetts, he was head of the DOJ’s criminal division for two years under Reagan. Since he’s resolved to undertake a no-shot primary challenge against Trump, he might as well try to make the race a referendum on Trump’s behavior versus law and order. Republican voters and politicians are just fine, or fine enough, with Trump’s policies but squeamishness about his conduct might pry loose a few protest votes. Starting with Romney’s.
And even if it doesn’t, at least Weld will have steered his campaign towards the heart of what most bothers Trump’s critics about him. It’s not tariffs or his goofy credulity towards Kim Jong Un, as bad as those are. It’s the fact that, as Jonathan Last put it in his recap of the obstruction section of the Mueller report, “Donald Trump conducts himself not as a commander in chief, but a mob boss.”
Let’s not get into legalisms about what is, and is not, criminally actionable witness tampering. Instead, just look at the following examples of Trump’s interactions with people in his orbit and figure out if they seem more like Ronald Reagan or Tony Soprano:
“[T]he President sent private and public messages to Flynn encouraging him to stay strong and conveying that the President still cared about him before he began to cooperate with the government.” (page 131)
“On February 22, 2017, Priebus and Bannon told McFarland that the President wanted her to resign as Deputy National Security Advisor, but they suggested to her that the Administration could make her the ambassador to Singapore. The next day, the President asked Priebus to have McFarland draft an internal email that would confirm that the President did not direct Flynn to call the Russian Ambassador about sanctions.” (page 42)
“In January 2018, Manafort told Gates that he had talked to the President’s personal counsel and they were ‘going to take care of us.’ Manafort told Gates it was stupid to plead, saying that he had been in touch with the president’s personal counsel and repeating that they should ‘sit tight’ and ‘we’ll be taken care of’.” (page 123)
That’s just a taste. Last goes through the lowlights systematically, especially the cases in which Trump tried to use personal friends like Chris Christie or Corey Lewandowski as middlemen to communicate his wishes to his own DOJ deputies, James Comey and Jeff Sessions. Presumably Trump had a sense that his attempts to influence Comey and Sessions were improper and wanted plausible deniability in case he was found out. Tasking cronies like Christie and Corey with the dirty work lowered the risk of snitching and gave him a way to say “they misunderstood what I asked them to do” or even “it never happened” in case word of the conversations leaked to Mueller or to the newspapers. Again, like a mob boss.
My favorite passage, though, is when Trump allegedly scolded Don McGahn for taking notes on their conversations, saying, “What about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes.” It’s true, mob lawyers typically don’t take notes. Go figure that a guy comfortable with amoral henchmen like Roy Cohn and Michael Cohen would be surprised to see his attorney recording the things he was asking him to do. Says Last of McGahn and the many other Trump deputies in government who took to memorializing their conversations, “These are portraits of men who realize the government is being run by a gangster and do not have any idea what to do about it.” In the end it seems he avoided an obstruction charge not for lack of trying but because most of his deputies, from McGahn to a character as shady as Lewandowski, simply refused to carry out his most dubious orders.
Even so, the fact that Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein decided that his actions didn’t rise to obstruction under federal law is a powerful obstacle to Democratic efforts to impeach him. That’s why so many House Dems, including Adam Schiff, rushed out yesterday to try to take impeachment off the table. They know the left is eager to do it after reading the obstruction section of the report but they also know that most of the public will wonder how impeachment can possibly be justified when Mueller couldn’t reach a conclusion about it and even Rosenstein thought the evidence was too thin. Voting against removal under those circumstances won’t be politically painful at all for the Senate GOP. It’s pointless for Dems to force them to do so.
But that doesn’t mean Weld can’t make hay of it. Here he is this afternoon on MSNBC calling Trump a “one-man crime wave.”