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Trump: Rod Rosenstein told me to fire the FBI director, and now he's investigating me for it
In a narrow sense, Trump is right. The publicly released rationale for firing Comey - which was completely sound - came from Rosenstein. And Rosenstein's the one who appointed an independent counsel in the person of Robert Mueller to investigate the whole Russia thing. Once you turn an independent counsel loose, of course, his mission pretty much expands to whatever he wants it to be. So now they're looking into Trump himself on the grounds that he may have obstructed justice by asking Comey to lay off Mike Flynn, and then by subsequently firing him when he didn't.
So yeah: Rosenstein recommended that Trump fired Comey. Trump did it. Now the independent counsel appointed by Rosenstein is investigating Trump for the idea that the firing of Comey was really his punishment for not giving Flynn a pass.
I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017
In a broader sense, though, the best you can say is that this whole thing has become such a clusterfark of a fiasco that there's almost no way you won't see someone get tripped up by something - even though, as we've noted all along, this has been and remains an investigation with no underlying crime that anyone can identify.
I'd be pissed too. This is why you don't conduct a formal investigation just because there are "serious charges" but no real evidence. Investigations get people in trouble, even if no one did anything wrong. We talked on Tuesday about how Patrick Fitzgerald hounded members of the Bush Administration over piddly misunderstandings only tangentially related to the outing of Valerie Plame, even though Fitzgerald knew from the start who outed her, and he knew it wasn't a criminal act to do so.
Everyone acts like it's horrible for Trump to have wanted the Russia investigation to end. But is it really? If you take office as president, and you're trying to pursue a policy agenda that's important to the nation, why would you not object when all of Washington's time and attention is taken up by an "investigation" of something you know is empty and consists of nothing? You head the executive branch. The FBI is part of the executive branch. If you know they're wasting time and money on a nonsense investigation, why wouldn't you want that to stop? The fact that the probe is coming after people you know and respect would give you that much more reason to want it ended, but even if you leave that aside, you sure don't want any part of your administration wasting time on nonsense when there's so much real work to be done.
And as Trump is now discovering, the very fact that there is an investigation can trap people in process crimes even if there was no underlying crime to justify the investigation in the first place.
That said, I think Trump made a mistake by initially offering Comey's mishandling of the Hillary thing as the primary reason he was fired. There was a much better reason, and it's pretty clear now that this was Trump's primary reason: Comey gave the impression in congressional testimony that Trump was under investigation, when in fact he wasn't. For perfectly understandable reasons, Trump wanted that question cleared up in the eyes of the public, and Comey - who seemed quite happy to leak just about anything and everything else - refused to set the record straight on that question.
This was not just a matter of helping Trump politically. It's much more difficult for a president to govern when the nation believes he's under criminal investigation. If he's actually not, then people need to know that. And if one man created that public impression, and he works for the president, then the president is perfectly justified in wanting that man to set the record straight - and perfectly justified in firing him if he refuses to do so.
But here we are: Trump now is under investigation for obstruction of justice, although the facts seem to indicate this is nearly as absurd as the original Russia allegations. The mere fact that he's under investigation puts a cloud over his presidency, which is another way of saying it gives the media and the Democrats something to hammer him about endlessly.
I certainly wouldn't argue that Trump has done everything right in handling this, but there should never have been anything to handle in the first place, and it's not his fault that there is. This whole thing has been manufacturered out of thin air by a Beltway establishment that hates the new president and is desperate to find a way to get rid of him. These are the cards he's been played and he has to deal with them, but let's not make the mistake of thinking it's his fault if he "mishandles" a completely dishonest attempt to ruin him.
And for those of you who want to say something like, "That's politics," yeah, I know. That's exactly why President Trump was elected. Because people are sick of this crap.
Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!