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November 12, 2018

It’s Mr. Rogers against Deadpool: The struggle between Trump and Rosenstein is asymmetrical

May 27, 2018
Playing by the rules (Alex Brandon/AP)

At President Trump’s event in Bethpage, L.I., to address the violence of MS-13, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein heartily applauded the man he’d just caved into. This week, Rosenstein granted Trump’s demand to open an inquiry into his allegation that a “spy” was implanted in his campaign and to turn over highly sensitive classified documents related to that.

Finally Trump’s relentless crusade to show he’s the victim of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, an us (God-fearing, forgotten red state Americans) versus them (liberal Democrats, the Deep State and probably MS-13) tug-of-war, bore fruit. After months of trashing the law enforcement apparatus of the United States, Trump has gotten the law-enforcement apparatus of the United States to embark on an investigation of itself.




There’s no doubt that Rosenstein is a decent, hard-working public servant, whom we should thank for his service. But there’s no mistaking that in his confrontation with the President, he’s Mister Rogers, playing by traditional rules of engagement, and Trump is Deadpool, the cinematic anti-hero willing to unleash a zombie apocalypse that sacrifices friends, family and enemies if that’s what it takes to stay in power.

To stave off Deadpool and a constitutional crisis, Rosenstein basically created one by agreeing to investigate the investigators — himself included, breaking with Justice Department policy and lending credence to Trump’s bogus claims.

“There’s never been anything like it in the history of our country,” Trump bleated. “It’s bigger than Watergate.”

In one small way he’s right. Nixon only had an enemies list; Trump has gotten an enemies probe. In fact, the FBI just did its job in following up on contacts between his aides, like coffee boy George Papadopoulos, and Russians — and did it discreetly .

Now Trump has turned that routine counterintelligence effort into a criminal conspiracy . We’ll see, all right, as we did with birtherism, illegals voting by the millions and Muslims cheering on 9/11.

Trump is almost alone in questioning the conclusion that Russia interfered with the 2018 election to his benefit. To defend himself against colluding in that, tearing down American institutions is a feature, not a bug, of his strategy. Who will believe the FBI when it tells prospective informants they will be protected no matter what? In fact, who believes in the FBI the way they used to now that Trump has spent much of his presidency smearing it?

Rosenstein may soon find his concessions were for nothing. There’s no convincing Trump to follow norms set by other Presidents who’ve kept their hands off the Justice Department. While half Trump’s cabinet is flying first class on European junkets, buying custom-made furniture, setting off sirens to get to dinner on time, the President’s attention has largely been focused on tweet-shaming Attorney General Jeff Sessions so he could replace him with someone who will get rid of that pesky Mueller.

Until now, the rap on Trump is that he’s impulsive — a summit with North Korea, anyone? — but in undermining the Mueller investigation he’s played a slower game, eroding our system of justice day by day.

At war with federal law enforcement
At war with federal law enforcement (Evan Vucci/AP)

He’s gotten help from Rudy Giuliani, his latest TV lawyer, and continued support from Republicans in Congress. At one time, the GOP leadership said they would pass a law constraining Trump if he went too far, but he has, they haven’t, and it’s obvious they never will.

Thanks to Speaker Paul Ryan’s fear of the White House, Trump’s notorious lackey Rep. Devin Nunes kept his job as chair of the House Intelligence Committee, where he issued a report on the Russia investigation saying “nothing to see here” and had a prominent seat at the Thursday meeting on DOJ’s informant. The new inquiry has emboldened 19 House Republicans to propose a resolution to condemn DOJ officials for “misconduct” at the highest level.

It’s a fact of congressional life that Republicans are too worried about keeping their majority in the 2018 midterms to worry over what to tell their grandchildren they did during the Trump presidency.

At first, Thursday’s White House meeting, organized by the beaten-down Chief of Staff John Kelly, excluded Democrats.

After an uproar, an extra session was added: The first was largely Trump partisans, where the secret agenda was surely how to get any good stuff to Trump’s defense lawyers; the second was for the bipartisan Gang of 8, the leadership plus chairs of the intel committees.

When Nixon was caught interfering with the FBI, he resigned. Four decades later, Deadpool has turned the world upside down. Trump interferes and gets the FBI to willingly turn over information to him to prove the agency innocent of the spurious offense Trump has charged them with. In a further twist, “by cleaning everything up,” at the FBI, Trump says, he’s doing “a service to this country.”




Excuse Mister Rogers and others if we don’t say thank you.

Carlson is a political columnist.




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