White House and Justice Department staffers, speaking off the record, are disclosing that Donald Trump is seething about the Justice Department and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The reasons according to the sources who spoke with Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman at the New York Times, is the entire series of complications that have arisen from Trump’s failed executive orders, most notably the travel ban and Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from supervising the investigation into the question of the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia to subvert last year’s election.
Trump’s defenders, will be inclined to dismiss this as one more anonymous revelation with little substance, only intended to destabilize Trump’s presidency. “Fake News”. “The liberal mainstream media”. The problem with that conclusion is that in nearly every case Trump’s statements in the form of tweets in response to the issues raised, have essentially confirmed the reports.
Key example of that was the political cover the White House communications office and Deputy Assistant Atty. General Rod Rosenstein tried to give Trump on the James Comey firing. While they were telling the media the firing was over Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails, Trump was telling NBC News’ Lester Holt:
“I was going to fire him regardless of recommendation. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’ This was an excuse for having lost the election.”
Trump, according to the interviews with the Times’ reporters, began to have buyer’s remorse about Sessions in earnest, following his discovery that Sessions issued a statement about his recusal without first consulting the president. Trump, it is thought by White House insiders, would have declined to accept Sessions’ decision because it would remove a layer of protection against further consequences of the Russiagate investigation and consequentially deprive Trump of the ability to directly control the process.
Regarding the hot mess the travel ban has become, Trump is said to believe that a more proficient administrator than Sessions could have finessed the ban through the courts. Although that proposition is debatable, it can certainly be said that Trump has done his level best to sabotage Sessions’ efforts to defend Trump’s travel ban.
It started even before he took office, when in campaign appearances he said, “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on”.
Consider the fact that John F. Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security, sought to mutate the ban for the expediency of public relations regarding the order. “This is not a travel ban. This is a temporary pause that allows us to better review the existing refugee and visa vetting system.”
And General Kelly wasn’t the only administration official to strategize communications regarding the ban in order to assist its perception in the courts. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, at the time told reporters in a briefing, “It’s not a travel ban,” Mr. Spicer insisted. “When we use words like travel ban, that misrepresents what it is.”
Trump however, in a contradictory statement, revealing that he either had no situational awareness of the messaging emanating from his administration, tweeted:
People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2017
As if that wasn’t sufficient to muddy the waters, Trump, on a separate occasion, tweeted this:
The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court – & seek much tougher version!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2017
Justice Department insiders and the Solicitor General’s staff that are trying to press their case in court on Trump’s immigration order are having fits at Trump’s twitter tirades and Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law in Houston, explains why:
“Talkative clients pose distinct difficulties for attorneys, as statements outside the court can frustrate strategies inside the court,” Professor Blackman said. “These difficulties are amplified exponentially when the client is the president of the United States, and he continuously sabotages his lawyers, who are struggling to defend his policies in an already hostile arena. I do not envy the solicitor general’s office.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s public grousing is not making sense to anyone, unless you think his communications office really believes the explanations about his behavior they are offering the media. Trump signed the revised order. Why would he complain about an E.O. that he signed, after the fact? But his PR team continues to try to roll with the tweets, White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee – Sanders, issuing the absurd statement that Trump signed the order to placate the Ninth Circuit court.
“He was looking to, again, match the demands laid out by the Ninth Circuit and, for the purpose of expediency, to start looking at the best way possible to move that process forward”.
We’ll give the last word to White House Political Adviser Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George T. Conway III, a candidate who, a few days ago removed himself from the running for assistant attorney general for the civil division. Mr. Conway commented that Trump’s tweets “certainly won’t help” persuade five justices on the Supreme Court — the majority needed — to uphold the travel ban.
Conway also said that “every sensible lawyer” in the White House Counsel’s Office and “every political appointee” at the Justice Department would “agree with me (as some have already told me).”