When Nixon said similar things in private to his aides, such statements became part of the basis for impeaching him when the judicial system forced the statements into public view. Trump says this on the radio, and it’s barely a story:
President Donald Trump said he would “love” to send the Justice Department and FBI after former rival Hillary Clinton, and is “very frustrated” that he can’t.
During an interview on Thursday, conservative radio host Larry O’Connor of WMAL in Washington told Trump that his callers wanted to see an investigation into the seven-year-old Uranium One deal. Back in 2010, when Clinton was secretary of state, a Russian nuclear energy firm bought a controlling interest in Uranium One. Since then, the deal has become a major talking point in conservative media.
“But you know the saddest thing is that because I’m the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I’m not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I’m not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing. And I’m very frustrated by it.”
Trump also questioned why the DOJ wasn’t investigating Clinton’s behavior during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“I look at what’s happening with the Justice Department. Why aren’t they going after Hillary Clinton with her emails and with the dossier, and the kind of money?” Trump said. “I don’t know, is it possible that they paid $12.4 million for the dossier? And how was it ― which is total phony, fake ― and how was it used?”
Trump called the whole situation “very discouraging” and said he was “very unhappy” that it seemed like the Justice Department wasn’t investigating Clinton. He also said the president isn’t supposed to be involved in such a process, then added, “but hopefully they are doing something and at some point, maybe we’re going to all have it out.”
A sidelight here is how Trump is exploiting the fact that Clinton hatred remains an eternal fetish for people across the political spectrum. The more significant fact is the extent to which Trump’s rhetoric continues to cater to a deep longing for authoritarianism among Americans. My friend Steve writes:
1. Trump in an interview with a rightwing radio host last night said he’s frustrated that he’s not allowed to order the DOJ and FBI to investigate targets of his choosing.
2. It’s been widely reported that he’s very annoyed at Sessions, for recusal primarily, and for other reasons.
3. Now he’s tweeting his anguish that DOJ and FBI aren’t investigating Hillary. It is not a great stretch to interpret that as a direct threat to Sessions, who knows he’s always a minute away from being fired.
4. Trump has so debased everything that this frightening abuse of power is not going to be any kind of lasting scandal.
5. This is all part of an ongoing collapse. You know how if one idiot runs onto the field he’s chased and arrested, but if everybody decides to do it at once the police are powerless? Crowds and societies behave themselves as much from internal restraint as from fear of authority. This is a morally neutral point, relied on by tyrants as well as free societies. There’s a bit in the memoir of Ngor Haing, the Cambodian photographer who survived the Khmer Rouge, where he describes the crowd at a reeducation camp. Thousands of people are overseen by just a few guards, but nobody tries to organize a rebellion. Anyone organizing it risked being turned in and executed, nobody wants to go first, etc.
The accepted belief in US politics used to be that if your seriously bad behavior is discovered, you have to either apologize, resign, cover it up, etc. Trump said no you don’t. Instead, commit more in exuberant volume and variety, accuse your opponent of worse, and move on. The consequences others feared will never arrive.
6. It turns out that many people really, really love this.
7. The field is being rushed.