While the Mueller investigation was ongoing—the “Witch Hunt” as the president calls it—it was a convenient target for Trump’s rage. Now that the investigation is complete, his public complaints have not ceased but instead have focused more and more on the probe’s beginnings. Trump recently referred to a New York Times report fleshing out details of the FBI’s investigation into Trump foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos as “bigger than Watergate.” Attorney General Bill Barr has hinted darkly at wrongdoing on the Bureau’s part, though the specifics of his concerns remain unclear.
The merits of Giuliani’s allegations about misconduct by Biden’s son in Ukraine are exactly as substantive as the Trump team’s concerns about misconduct by the FBI—which is to say, not substantive at all. Nevertheless, the gist of the president’s argument on Ukraine is that, as my colleague Susan Hennessey put it, “turnabout is fair play.” Responding to a tweet expressing outrage over Trump’s suggestion of opening an investigation into Biden, Senator Ted Cruz wrote on Twitter, “Irony much? …That describes the exact state of affairs w/ the Obama Admin launching investigations on Trump.”
The irony of Trump’s attitude toward federal law enforcement is that the president fears the FBI is exactly what he wants it to be: a gang of thugs operating on no higher principle than political advantage. His only problem is that they are not his thugs. “You’re telling me that Bobby and Jack [Kennedy] didn’t talk about investigations?” Mueller quotes the president as raging. “Or Obama didn’t tell Eric Holder who to investigate?” The man described in the report is someone so imprisoned in his own consciousness that he seems incapable of understanding that other people might, unlike him, go through the world as something other than scammers or bullies.