As absurd as this answer is, the funniest thing about it is that it’s actually true. Watch, then read on:
In any other administration, the president calling publicly on his own attorney general to shut down an investigation — into him and his own campaign — would be a seven-alarm fire. It would be outrageous obstruction of justice. POTUS can’t pressure the head of the Justice Department to short-circuit a criminal probe for reasons of his own political convenience. And asking him to do it publicly is a form of pressure, since of course the AG serves at the president’s pleasure. It’s a threat, implied if not explicit: Either end this investigation or you’ll lose your job and I’ll find someone who’ll end it.
But there are two problems with that read in this case:
1. No one thinks Trump has the nerve to fire Sessions. If he did, he’d have done it by now.
2. There’s no reason to think Sessions, Mueller, Rosenstein or anyone else at the DOJ takes him seriously at this point, if they ever did. He tweets this sort of thing at Sessions every month, if not more often. Then he moves on. It’s barely news at this point.
The “threat,” in other words, is toothless. For all intents and purposes it *is* Trump’s opinion, not an order, that a Justice Department investigation should end, as ridiculous as that may seem. And there’s a strategic reason for it, maybe, above and apart from POTUS galvanizing his fans to see the Russiagate probe as illegitimate in case Mueller accuses him of something. Namely, Trump’s own impotence in getting his deputies to do what he wants about the investigation will undercut any claims of obstruction by Mueller. If Sessions pays him no mind and Rosenstein pays him no mind and Mueller pays him no mind and no one’s gotten fired (since Comey, whose own firing didn’t end the probe), then what exactly has been “obstructed”? The president’s not going to get impeached for being a blowhard whose chief weapon against prosecutors is whining publicly about how mean and biased they are.
Anyway, something that occurred to me a few days ago while Rudy Giuliani was doing his latest media blitz: The only reason Rudy himself isn’t in charge of Russiagate right now, with full power to shut it down on Trump’s behalf, is that … he turned down the AG job when Trump offered it to him. Imagine. POTUS was willing to risk a tough confirmation fight over Giuliani at DOJ, knowing that Rand Paul was opposed to him. Rudy wouldn’t do it. He had his heart set on Secretary of State, bizarrely. With Giuliani atop the Justice Department, there would have been no recusal empowering Rod Rosenstein to oversee Russiagate. And there would have been no Bob Mueller, as Rudy never would have outsourced something as sensitive as the Russia probe to a prosecutor whom he didn’t trust to be in Trump’s corner. Everything since the Comey firing would have been completely different. As it is, he’s reduced to doing damage control on cable news about Russiagate stories that haven’t even become stories yet. I wonder if Trump’s ever chewed him out for not accepting the AG nomination when it was offered to him. You could understand why if he did.
Here’s the man himself echoing Sanders’s point that Trump’s tweet this morning was an “opinion,” not an order. Exit question: Do I have it backwards and Rudy as AG would have actually made things worse? If Giuliani had tried to short-circuit the Russiagate probe as AG, there might have been resignations, firings, accusations of obstruction by the FBI against the attorney general, all producing a gigantic clusterfark that could have consumed Trump’s first months in office. Who knows what would have happened after that.
“He didn’t direct him to do it and he’s not going to direct him to do it,” Giuliani says about President Trump’s tweet calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Russia investigation pic.twitter.com/DSJcdn2EpR
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 1, 2018