Trump: “A lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department — including me”
Time once again to start the Jeff Sessions resignation watch? In a press avail as Donald Trump left for his trip to Asia, the president issued a vote of no confidence in his own Department of Justice. Speaking on a range of issues before boarding Marine One, Trump expressed frustration with the DoJ for not pursuing corruption within the DNC, and pointed to Donna Brazile’s exposé yesterday as evidence. Trump didn’t mince words when it came to being “disappointed” in the DoJ:
Mr. Trump said instead people should be looking at the DNC, and a “lot of people,” himself included, are “disappointed” in the DOJ.
“I don’t know, I’m really not involved with the Justice Department,” Mr. Trump said. “I ‘d like to let it run itself. But honestly they should be looking at the Democrats, they should be looking at Podesta and all of that dishonesty. They should be looking at a lot of things, and a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.”
Mr. Trump’s comments came after a morning tweet storm in which he commented on former DNC chair Donna Brazile’s new book alleging the DNC fixed the Democratic primary for Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump said the public “deserves” a probe of Clinton and the DNC after Brazile’s claims.
Lest anyone think that this was just an ad-hoc outburst, Trump had earlier emphasized this point in a tweetstorm this morning:
Trump also looped Elizabeth Warren in on his argument, with his favorite nickname for the Massachusetts senator:
Warren later clarified that she agrees that the DNC was rigged, not the primaries, but … that’s a distinction without a difference, especially to Sanders and his friends. It’s not clear, however, exactly what Trump wants the DoJ to investigate. There was nothing illegal about Hillary Clinton’s joint fundraising agreement with the DNC — it was just unethical for the DNC to enter into those conditions before the primary process had even begun, and unethical again to fail to disclose them. Sanders might have some room to file a civil lawsuit for fraud, but good luck getting a court to intervene in that political dispute.
Trump’s on more solid ground with Tony Podesta, but then again, Podesta’s already under investigation by Robert Mueller’s special counsel office. The reason we know about Podesta’s alleged connections to foreign lobbying and money laundering is because the FBI began probing Paul Manafort, an investigation that Trump has repeatedly slammed, for FARA violations and the issue of Russian influence that Trump calls a hoax. Had it been left to the DoJ under Trump, it seems unlikely that we’d ever have known about Podesta’s activities.
If Trump’s happy about the Podesta investigation, he should be thrilled with Mueller, especially since it appears that Mueller is shifting his focus away from Russian influence, at least for now:
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury is investigating a prominent Democratic lobbyist and a former GOP congressman for their involvement in an influence campaign on behalf of Ukrainian interests tied to Paul Manafort, according to a person with direct knowledge of the investigation.
At the center of the widening probe are Tony Podesta, a longtime Democratic operative, and Vin Weber, a former GOP congressman and leader of his own high-powered lobbying firm, Mercury LLC. The two men were hired as part of a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort directed by Manafort and longtime associate Rick Gates.
With the emphasis on the Ukrainian lobbying efforts, Mueller’s criminal probe is moving beyond investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia and is aggressively pursuing people who worked as foreign agents without registering with the Justice Department. More witnesses are expected before the grand jury in coming weeks.
Mueller’s draining the swamp. Isn’t that what Trump wants to accomplish?
Let’s get back to Sessions. This isn’t the first time that Trump has publicly slammed the DoJ under Sessions’ leadership, nor demanded investigations of his political opponents. Sessions rode those out before, and probably will again, but the bigger question may be how long Trump will gripe without demanding a change in leadership. The only big reason he won’t is because Trump knows just how much trouble it will cause on Capitol Hill, and how tough it will be to confirm a replacement.
Or perhaps this is just three-dimensional chess for Trump. Senate Democrats are calling for Sessions’ head again after his failure to recall his March 2016 meeting with George Papadopoulos. By attacking Sessions for being too independent, Trump might inoculate Sessions from calls for his removal. On the other hand, Sessions might just get tired of taking broadsides from all directions and head into the private sector instead. Place your bets.