Russia Probe

Outraged by Politically Motivated DOJ Probes, Trump Orders One

The president thinks the distinction between justice and politics is for suckers.

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White House

If the Obama administration used an informant to spy on Donald Trump's presidential campaign "for political reasons," the president said last Friday, it would be the "all time biggest political scandal." Two days later, Trump announced his intention to "demand" that the Justice Department "look into" that possibility. Trump's motivation—discrediting special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of ties between his campaign and the Russian government—was clearly political. But as far as Trump is concerned, there was nothing even faintly scandalous about his demand.

"When the president does it," Richard Nixon famously told David Frost, "that means that it is not illegal." Trump has added his own corollary: "When Donald Trump does it, that means it is not improper." Trump understands that there is supposed to be a distinction between justice and politics, that the DOJ's tradition of independence helps preserve that distinction, and that presidents are not supposed to treat the department as a tool for punishing their enemies and protecting their friends, even though the Constitution gives them the power to do so. He just does not want to play by those rules.

"I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department," Trump complained in a radio interview last November. "I'm not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I'm not supposed to be doing the kind of things I would love to be doing, and I am very frustrated by it."

At the time Trump was "very unhappy" that the FBI was not "going after Hillary Clinton with her emails and with her dossier," meaning the opposition research that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid former British spy Christopher Steele to produce. The bee currently in Trump's bonnet is the FBI informant who reportedly contacted three Trump campaign advisers (Carter Page, Sam Clovis, and George Papadopoulos), apparently in an attempt to assess the extent of their links to the Russian government.

Although Trump offered no evidence that the informant's activities were illegal or inappropriate, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tried to placate him by asking the DOJ's inspector general, Michael Horowitz, to look into the matter. Horowitz is already investigating whether the FBI improperly relied on the Steele dossier in seeking warrants to eavesdrop on Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. "If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes," Rosenstein said on Sunday night, "we need to know about it and take appropriate action."

That gesture may give Trump a face-saving way to retreat from what sounded like a plan to order a criminal investigation that DOJ officials do not think is justified. But if push comes to shove, Trump plainly has the power to override their judgment and to fire them if they refuse to comply. As he bragged in an interview with The New York Times last year, "I have [an] absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department."

The fact that he has the right to open or close investigations at will, of course, does not mean he would be right to do so. In an upcoming article, Fordham University law professor Bruce Green and New York Law School professor Rebecca Roiphe argue that "the Department of Justice is independent of the President, and its decisions in individual cases and investigations are largely immune from his interference or direction." That situation, they say, "does not result from any explicit constitutional or legislative mandate" but is instead "based on an evolving understanding of prosecutorial independence and professional norms," which serve as "a fundamental check on presidential power."

Trump clearly has no respect for those norms, except insofar as violating them hurts him politically. Hence his angry incomprehension when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, which led to Rosenstein's appointment of Mueller. Sessions' loyal service to the Trump campaign, which was the reason for his recusal, was the very reason that Trump thought he could count on Sessions to "protect" him. Trump's periodically erupting rage at this perceived betrayal suggests he is genuinely puzzled by the notion that Sessions recused himself as a matter of principle, based on his honest understanding of DOJ regulations.

Trump nevertheless has not fired Sessions, or Rosentein, or Mueller. The fallout from his dismissal of FBI Director James Comey may have convinced him it is not always wise to act on his angry impulses. If he is not careful, the spectacle of an unhinged, unprincipled president treating the DOJ as his personal law firm may yet persuade voters, or even members of Congress, that Trump does not belong in the White House. Like the president, they have an absolute right to fire an official whose performance displeases them.

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  1. Do you seriously not even care that Obama sent the IRS after his political opponents, spied on reporters, and then spied on candidates from the opposing party just because Trump is ‘wrong’ on immigration?

    1. I’m pretty sure they issued articles condemning the same thing under Obama.

      1. They did. People have the memory capability of goldfish.

        1. Sure they did. And that position is consistent with this pile of garbage how? You miss the point.

          1. Obama abused his authority and is was condemned here.

            Trump abused his authority and it was condemned here.

            President’s abuse their authority and it is condemned here. That’s how its consistent.

            1. Obama and the FBI abuses its authority to spy on Trump and it is defended here. That is a problem

              1. Where was it defended here?

                1. He says that Trump has no right to criticize it or call for an investigation. That is defending it.

                  1. That’s not what the article he wrote says.

            2. Obama and the FBI abuses its authority to spy on Trump and it is defended here. That is a problem

              1. Trump wasn’t spied upon. You might want to get your facts straight. The FBI has a duty to protect this country from Putin’s machinations. I’ll put my money on the people at the FBI and their judgements and the processes they follow above some sleazy known liar like Trump every time. It’s always a new story from Trump. To believe Trump you have to believe Rosenstein and Wray are in on the conspiracy. You have to believe the most bullshit stories that change depending on the needs of Trump.

                1. Jim, is that you?

                2. Yeah, that’s the cover story. Except, if they’d put people into his campaign to “protect” him, they’d have told him about it.

                3. Trump wasn’t spied upon.

                  Uhhhh, this bald-faced lie officially became outdated about a week and a half ago, jagoff. You really should try reading more and keeping up with what’s going on.

                4. Trump wasn’t spied upon? How far behind are you in the news cycle? Your money on the FBI’s judgements and processes? You mean Loretta Lynch and the rest of the Obama hold-overs? Trump’s lies are petty and hyperbolic compared to these sociopaths.

              2. Where?

                I’ve read this article multiple times and don’t see that.

                1. Trump understands that there is supposed to be a distinction between justice and politics, that the DOJ’s tradition of independence helps preserve that distinction, and that presidents are not supposed to treat the department as a tool for punishing their enemies and protecting their friends, even though the Constitution gives them the power to do so. He just does not want to play by those rules.

                  Right there. I certainly don’t see any concern from Sullum about this. Oh, but he is very concerned about violating “norms.”

                  That situation, they say, “does not result from any explicit constitutional or legislative mandate” but is instead “based on an evolving understanding of prosecutorial independence and professional norms,” which serve as “a fundamental check on presidential power.”

                  Trump clearly has no respect for those norms,

                  Certainly Sullum doesn’t seem to think that any norms were violated when Barry spied on the opposing party’s campaign.

                  1. “Certainly Sullum doesn’t seem to think that any norms were violated when Barry spied on the opposing party’s campaign.”

                    I didn’t vote for the guy; he’s a blowhard and a loose cannon, but 1-1/2 years in, he’s probably done more than Johnson could have hoped to do. Maybe that’s by accident, but I’ll take it over *anything* that miserable hag would likely have done.
                    Just about 11PM (left coast time) on 11/9/16, formerly sane writers and posters here and elsewhere contracted a brain-disease which shows no sign of abating, and for which there seems no cure:
                    THEY LOST AND THEY CANNOT BELIEVE IT!!!!!
                    Grow up, losers. You are not the font of knowledge and the directors of all of our activities.

                    1. Ooohhh, the edgy Sevo is back with his big, brash capslock. You’re so bad. Tell me again how stupid I am for being skeptical of a moron.

      2. Yeah, a few articles in the media. That hurt bigtime.

        What we need is some accountability. Like people in the DOJ to investigate the wrongdoing. Congress has been trying, but they can’t prosecute.

    2. Sorry, but where did Sullum say he didn’t care about those things? Where did he even mention the IRS or surveillance on reporters?

      1. He doesn’t care about the FBI spying on a Presidential Candidate and thinks DOJ should be completely unaccountable and not even subject to investigation. Given that, why would he object to those things? How could he consistent with his positions here?

        1. He’s never said the former and this article does not provide support for your contention that he thinks the DoJ should be unaccountable.

          1. F it is not accountable to the President it is not accountable to anyone. He says in so many words that DOJ should be independent and above the President. Who does that leave them accountable to? And clearly does not care about the spying because the whole article is spent saying it should not be investigated.

            There is no defending Aullmn here.

            1. He didn’t say unaccountable. He said the President should not normally interfere. Unless there’s a serious abuse (which, I’ll stipulate has happened here) the President should not get involved in *individual investigations*.

              That’s not to say he can’t and shouldn’t provide oversight to the agency as a whole. But getting involved in individual investigations means getting involved in individual outcomes – rather than overseeing the tone of the department itself and its SOP’s.

              1. Demanding an investigation into misconduct is not getting in lvovled in individual cases. And ultimately if the President can’t get involved in individual cases then he can’t run the agency. Again you are making them unaccountable. He can have some oversight but nothing meaningful or that affects their actions is what you are saying.

                And think about what you are saying here. If DOJ is railroading an innocent person, according to you and Sullumn no one can step in and stop them.

                1. You don’t read very closely, do you?

                2. You don’t read very closely, do you?

              2. So again, the author levies very little criticism at the fbi or doj for what is now becoming just another incident in a long string of abuses, many of which appear to have happened under Obama’s authority, or nose.

                But instead focuses on trump “abusing” his power to defend himself or counter investigate.

                Honestly, I’m not a huge trump supporter, but it’s getting pretty obvious the fbi, doj, and irs were all taking steps to undermine republicans during Obamas presidency.

                That issue is of FAR (like literally a million times) greater importance than trumps petulant attitude

    3. Well none of that is true, of course.

      1. Tony|5.22.18 @ 6:12PM|#
        “Well none of that is true, of course.”
        Act like an adult; post a copy of what you are now lying about so we can laugh at you.

    4. A Reason contributor provides some needed antidote to Sullum’s TDS.

      If the next Democratic Party nominee employs a number of Iran-deal proponents (for a sanctioned terror state that’s as much the enemy of the United States as Russia is), would the Trump administration be justified in tasking intelligence agencies to look into their actions? Would the informants passing information to the administration be considered “spies” by political journalists? I imagine they would be. And I imagine we wouldn’t be talking about much else.

      https://tinyurl.com/y7rqk8rg

    5. Start earning $90/hourly for working online from your home for few hours each day… Get regular payment on a weekly basis… All you need is a computer, internet connection and a litte free time…

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  2. Fordham University law professor Bruce Green and New York Law School professor Rebecca Roiphe argue that “the Department of Justice is independent of the President, and its decisions in individual cases and investigations are largely immune from his interference or direction.”

    Nothing champions civil liberties like having a Department of Justice that is totally unaccountable to any elected official including the President. This is how far reason has sunk.

    1. We aren’t free unless the government is beyond politics, by which I mean totally unaccountable to the voters.

    2. “Elections have consequences” only if a Democrat is put in office.

    3. ” an evolving understanding of prosecutorial independence and professional norms”

      Who needs the obsolete “constitution” when we have the superior “professional norms” of an un-elected, un-checked permanent government?

      1. That is just unbelievable. I can’t believe Reason published this trash. This is much worse than anything they have ever published. They have walked away from any commitment to the rule of law or civil liberties over this. Wow.

        1. Tissue bro?

    4. This. Herbert Hoover is one of the worst mainly because he was outside the control of elected officials. I don’t know how you would get this to be any better though. If you got a constitution amendment that created a 4th branch for DOJ separating it from Executive control, you would still have a politician running for office who would be beholden to one of the political parties. Maybe have some dis-qualifiers like the candidate can’t have held elective office in the last 15 years to never (besides maybe sheriffs).

      1. The answer is that DOJ is answerable to the President and Congress. If either misuse that power, then it is up to the public to do something about it the next election. That is not a perfect system but it is the best one available.

      2. Not Herbert, J. Edgar.

      3. J. Edgar.
        Herbert’s only crime was being the first Keynesian.

  3. “Pointing out rudeness is the height of rudeness,” Sullum said scoffingly.

  4. Who knew Frank Church was so wrong for going after the CIA and it’s excesses?

    1. It was just politics Frank. There was no evidence that Johnson did anything wrong wiretapping MLK.

      That is what Sullumn is saying here. How can someone be this fucking stupid? How does he claim to be a civil libertarian and then write this shit? What the fuck is wrong with him?

  5. Although Trump offered no evidence that the informant’s activities were illegal or inappropriate, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tried to placate him by asking the DOJ’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, to look into the matter. Horowitz is already investigating whether the FBI improperly relied on the Steele dossier in seeking warrants to eavesdrop on Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes,” Rosenstein said on Sunday night, “we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”

    So we have to have the evidence before the investigation? Isn’t that the point of investigating? And the FBI spying on a political campaign and hiring an informant to infiltrate it, is just no big deal? Only politics would want an explanation for that?

    This is pathetic. I figured reason would just ignore this story. But instead they are going full on authoritarian and defending it. The reason position is now that DOJ is accountable to no one and can launch any investigation it likes and if anyone wants an explanation, they are just playing politics.

    I would say they should be ashamed of themselves, but I know too well the staff and Sullumn in particular has no shame.

    1. Yes we should have evidence of a crime before investigating a crime. Otherwise a president or any executive can open investigations in order to silence critics.

      1. Bullshit. These people are government employees. They are answerable to the public. You don’t need evidence of a crime to investigate the government. It is called oversight you fucking half wit.

        1. I don’t read Notion the same way as you did. I though he was arguing against fishing expeditions in search of a crime.

        2. Nice rebuttal. My father has been investigated for doing his job as government employee for reasons such as age discrimination why because an old guy didn’t work hard and didn’t get the promotion he “was do”. No evidence my father had acted in a discriminating way and was cleared of all charges backed by evidence they guy didn’t work hard but anyone else may look at that and say why bother give the old guy a raise.

          So go fuck yourself in all 3 holes, John.

          1. Go fuck yourself. This is oversight. The FBI has to explain itself to its boss the President and to Congress and the public. They ask any questions they want for any reason. They work for Congress and the President. They don’t get to deny their bosses the right to know what is going on. Again what the fuck is wrong with you?

          2. It’s sad that you don’t grasp that your father was in the same position Trump is in.

            That John is defending your father’s position against the people who opened an investigation based on false information.

      2. We are not talking about private citizens. We are talking about government employees. They can at any time be expected to explain and account for their actions. What the hell is wrong with you. How can you be this stupid?

      3. Tell that to Adam Schiff and Rod Rosenstein.

      4. Yes we should have evidence of a crime before investigating a crime.

        There STILL isn’t any of that in regards to Trump.

  6. Article alternate headline:
    “But TRUMP!”

    Evidence has come out that the FBI and DoJ, with potential illegal leaks from the IC, spied on the President’s election campaign for political purposes. The non-partisan Inspector General is now going to investigate if this evidence shows an actual crime, or was just coincidence/bad timing. This is exactly WHY the IG’s office exists, and is entirely legal.
    Sullum then tries to equate this to actual political abuse of the IC and DoJ to spy on a political opponent in order to derail a Presidential election campaign or harm a lawfully elected executive. Those activities, if they happened, would be blatantly illegal and a much worse scandal than Watergate ever was.

    The dishonesty in this article is so obvious, it’s almost embarrassing to read.

    1. And of course, as the investigation into the IRS and it’s incredible vanishing hard drives shows us, unless someone can find video recordings from the Oval Office of Obama personally ordering the FBI to ‘stop Trump at all costs!’ the media will continue to trumpet that there is no evidence of any intent by anyone to break the law, and it’s unfortunate that mistakes were made that might allow Republicans to cast a negative light on Obama’s untarnished, scandal-free legacy.

      1. Well that is a good thing. If you can’t produce evidence that Obama was involved then you can’t honestly say he acted criminally. Just wish that would apply to all of us citizens and not just the elite class. Remember Richard Jewell, the poor bastard blamed for the Atlanta Olympics bombing.

        1. Agreed. Evidence of actual criminal action would be required now that Obama is out of office.

          But let’s also stipulate that any crime committed while President can be prosecuted after leaving office (within any governing statute of limitations.)

          Because, rest assured, the next argument coming from the Sullums of the world is that this is all water under the bridge, that former executives are beyond impeachment, so immune from prosecution, and it’s time to move on.

          1. Because, at this point, “What difference does it make?!?!”

            Amirite?

        2. Is he not the head of that branch?

          If there is rather widespread law-breaking going on and he doesn’t even DISCIPLINE anybody, how can you claim he is anything but involved?

          Most people ,if they see underlings violating the law, would terminate the underlings’ employment post haste.

  7. “Trump nevertheless has not fired Sessions, or Rosentein, or Mueller.”

    Wake me when he fires any of them. Otherwise it seems only fair to balance one politically motivated investigation with another.

    1. And if he did, Sullumn would be okay with that? Fat fucking chance. And why is a politically motivated investigation bad anyway? Doesn’t the public have a right to know what the FBI was doing spying on a Presidential candidate?

      1. I asked this in another thread, but I’ll ask it again.

        Can Congress impeach Mueller for conducting an investigation in the absence of a referral listing a specified criminal act?

        1. Yes they can. Congress can impeach anyone in the executive.

          1. Then Congress should give Rosenstein the option of supplying the full referral now or at the impeachment proceedings.

          2. Article II, Section 4: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

            It seems like they need a high crime or misdemeanor to impeach. Where is the crime in conducting an investigation?

            1. The crime would be Rosenstein’s refusal to cooperate with Congress. Contempt of Congress is an impeachable offense

              1. ThomasD asked “Can Congress impeach Mueller for conducting an investigation in the absence of a referral listing a specified criminal act?”. How is Rosenstein’s contempt of Congress an impeachable offense for Mueller?

                1. Mueller’ impeachable offense would be exceeding his mandate. High crimes and misdemeanors are whatever Congress says they are. No court would overturn it.

                  1. I’m not sure I agree with that. To my knowledge, the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” has never been adjudicated. Can you point out any case law? I’m not trying to argue with you. I’m just curious. This has always struck me as a really poorly written part of the Constitution.

                    1. I have always understood it to be a political question. If you know of a case that says otherwise, I would like to see it

                    2. “the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” has never been adjudicated.”

                      And will never be.

                      The impeachment power is plenary, it is entirely within the purview of Congress to determine what the terms mean. No court could ever say otherwise.

                    3. The “legal analysts” which also include judges and prosecutors as well as law professors were/are nearly unanimous in proclaiming the high crimes and misdemeanors are whatever the Congress says that they are.

                2. “How is Rosenstein’s contempt of Congress an impeachable offense for Mueller?”

                  So Mueller’s defense is that he was just following orders???

                  1. DJK, I’d also add that Rosenstein’s refusal to cooperate with Congressional subpoena is a separate matter. Either Mueller has a portfolio appropriate to the Special Prosecutor status or he does not. In the absence of such documentation Congress is well within their power to declare his position without justification and remove him from it.

            2. Knowingly conducting an investigation under authority of a statute that mandates a particular set of conditions – in the absence those conditions – would surely qualify as a misdemeanor at the very least.

              You’ve impaneled a grand jury, and issued subpoenas – brought to bear the force of the state against private citizens, forced them to lawyer up to the point of financial ruin, threatened people with prosecutions, etc.

              More likely the ‘high crime’ of a gross abuse of power.

              Lucky for you impeachment is not a criminal prosecution, you’re just out of a job.

              1. And you are are out of a job because impeachment is Congress’ way of declaring that you never had a job to begin with.

  8. “That gesture may give Trump a face-saving way to retreat from what sounded like a plan to order a criminal investigation that DOJ officials do not think is justified.”

    DOJ: We don’t think an investigation of ourselves or our colleagues is justified.

    Seems legit.

    1. The fox is absolutely certain that nothing untoward occurred in the henhouse.

      That henhouse.

    2. Totally. DOJ says they are without fault here and no one has any proof otherwise. Now, the only way to prove them wrong would be to see the records they refuse to turn over, but you should just trust them. Sullmn is all about trusting unaccountable law enforcement agents.

      You couldn’t write an Onion Article parodying Cosmo Liberaltarians that would be this stupid. No one would believe it.

  9. Almost a week since the revelations of Crossfire Hurricane and this is the best Reason can do?

    I’m guessing enough people are realizing this is now dangerous territory to be asking questions or spinning yarns, so all the usual suspects have gone to ground and the journolist approved narrative has not coalesced.

    1. Many of these fraudulent con artists worship the Obamessiah, and I suspect they’re more than OK with Crossfire Hurricane.

  10. The fact that he has the right to open or close investigations at will, of course, does not mean he would be right to do so.

    You guys are bitching about the wrong problem.

    The problem here is not Trump. Its structural. Its because the President has this power and we’re relying on his discretion to keep from abusing it.

    To complain about Trump is to put forth the ‘Top Man’ fallacy. ‘If only we had the right people in charge!’. How well has prosecutorial discretion worked? How many legislatures swore up and down some insanely obvious edge case would never be exploited by a power-hungry prosecutor because it would be against the legislature’s intentions. And how many courts have upheld those very cases, saying that the statute-as-written is legitimate?

    If you’re going to complain, complain that the *President* has this power, not that Trump does. Trump is just an example of what happens when the wrong guy gets ahold of the levers of power – and the wrong guy always does sooner or later. *That* is the lesson you should be pushing.

    1. Okay, but how is demanding an investigation into the FBI spying on him Trump abusing his power? Why shouldn’t the FBI have to explain what they were doing there and why? If they have nothing to hide, why are they so worried?

      1. For that comment I’m not getting involved in whether or not this is an abuse. I’m saying that *if it is an abuse* then the only way the abuse could happen is because we gave the President the power to do this.

        I don’t have an alternate way to organize things to prevent this sort of thing from happening either. Just that if the abuse is a problem, the only way to stop it is to change things so that the President doesn’t have the discretion to abuse.

        I’m not saying we should change things. I’m not saying we shouldn’t. I’m just saying that the current system is set up so that we’re dependent on a “Top Man” to *wisely* use the power he’s been granted.

        And that those “Top Men” don’t exist.

    2. As opposed to the narrative Sullum is pushing.

      Because if Trump were on the other end of this whole sordid mess then Sullum would be claiming it was the end of the Republic.

      They don’t worry about Trump turning the justice and intelligence agencies loose on anyone because they think they’ve got a lock on the bureaucracy and the media.

      1. And Sullumn is sure it will never turn back on him. His progressive friends all like him.

        It is just appalling.

        1. They don’t realize how much can happen in six years.

          A republic, if you can keep it.

          1. They are total fools looking to virtue signal and who lack the imagination to understand what they are doing.

  11. From where Reason was when I first got a copy from my biology teacher to where it is now was been a strange, sad ride.

    1. an evolving understanding of prosecutorial independence and professional norms”

      That is probably the most disgraceful line ever published in Reason. Sullumn is just awful. What a fucking ignorant hack.

      1. Unchecked power is clearly the path to justice.

  12. I don’t know about you guys, but I think this behavior is all very indicative of an innocent man.

    1. Yes an innocent man would want to go after the guy trying to frame him. Good call Tony.

    2. And the FBI should welcome the chance to show the public its efforts

      1. Public trial, and all that. But the FBI resorts to its typical response when called to account”:

        “Because Fuck You, That’s Why.”

    3. “I don’t know about you guys, but I think this behavior is all very indicative of an innocent man.”

      Well, let’s think about this logically (Tony notwithstanding): why would a guilty man, trying to hide something and as yet uncharged, call for greater scrutiny and shine a spotlight on his alleged wrongdoing? Any investigation of the investigators will necessarily involve more extensive investigation of all facets involved, obviously including the subject(s) of the original investigation.
      Logically, unless one has already been charged (a la OJ) thus the investigation is concluded, a guilty man would be crazy or stupid to up the ante by calling for further investigation. It’s similar in principle to why defendants don’t testify, regardless of their actual guilt or innocence.

      Oddly, Hillary has never called for her investigators to be investigated.

  13. The president thinks the distinction between justice and politics is for suckers.

    I submit that in times like these, he’s called that one exactly right.

    1. Yeah he does not trust the top men in DOJ. But apparently reason is now all about the blind faith and unqualified support of prosecutors and cops.

      1. Who else is going to defend the government against the will of the people???

  14. It’s not a comment section on a Reason Trump article without John dying on a sword for IL DUCE in 50 fucking posts

    Can’t wait to watch John shill for an Iran War.

    1. Tell us more about the wonders of unaccountable prosecutors douche bag.

    2. John happens to be correct.

    3. Is there some logical connection between John’s defense of Trump defending himself against false accusations and a war with Iran, or is this another ad hominem attack?

  15. Prosecutorial independence is all well and good when the prosecutor is targeting private citizens and corporations.

    But Trump has a constitutional responsibility to make sure the laws are faithfully executed. If the DOJ, the State Department, NSA, and CIA have not been faithfully executing the laws, then the President should just turn a blind eye and ignore it.

    We’ve been hearing for a year that if the President didn’t do anything wrong, then he has nothing to fear from the Mueller administration, even though no crime was ever alleged to appoint him, in violation of the Special Counsel law. Well let me assure you if the DOJ and CIA didn’t do anything wrong they have nothing to fear from a Providentially ordered investigation, especially since the President’s investigation is much more legitimate use of power than Muellers’.

    Obama should have ordered and investigation of Fast and Furious, as well as IRSgate, rather that let his political flunkies and sympathetic careerists bury those scandals.

  16. Congress is the source of the questions about prosecutorial conduct, the timeline of events, informants/spies, etc. It has no ability to conduct investigation beyond reviewing papers and holding hearings. At some point the executive has to be involved. Trump’s tweets might be off-putting but that doesn’t mean an investigation isn’t warranted.

    1. If the goal is prosecution, then yes the Executive is required.

      If the goal is to correct governmental abuses or excess then Congress may be sufficient. (Although, a few felony convictions might also cow a recalcitrant bureaucracy.)

    2. ” It has no ability to conduct investigation beyond reviewing papers and holding hearings.”

      No, actually they do, it’s called “inherent contempt”. They just don’t have the balls to get into a direct toe to toe with the executive branch. But if they did, they have the authority to jail people themselves, last used during the Teapot Dome scandal.

  17. Should the incumbent president be allowed to infiltrate the political campaign of his party’s opponent? It seems the answer is according to the media is “yes, by all means, please do”.

    I am seldom surprised, but this time my media guides have me all tilted. It will take me awhile to get my bearings.

    1. This is the worst article reason has ever published. They managed to be even worse than I expected them to be

      1. Pretty close, definitely the worst Sullum byline. Shackford wrote one where he called vandalism, desecration, threats and other criminal activity against a privately-owned cemetery resulting in the UDC removing a 100 y/o plaque commemorating the confederate veterans interred there an example of a positive “private sector solution” .

    2. Should the incumbent president be allowed to infiltrate the political campaign of his party’s opponent?

      We seem to have moved on from there. Today’s question is :

      “Should the incumbent president be allowed to influence the policies of his subordinates during his term of office?”

      The view seems to be no.

      But seriously, ordering an investigation into the activities of a government department, when you are head of the government, is not the same as ordering an investigation into the activities of a private citizen. If Trump insisted on taking decisions about who to prosecute, after an investigation into the activities of the DoJ and FBI that would be worthy of a Sullum hissy fit. Until then – Jake, old son, you’ve got TDS real bad. Go lie down.

  18. How dare he order an investigation into massively corrupt government agencies.

  19. How dare he order an investigation into massively corrupt government agencies.

    1. But we have evolving standards and norms which protect the secret police and star chambers from oversight.

  20. What’s Trump really saying? Two of the three campaign staff interviewed have … plead guilty!

    UNFAIR that he’s a proven liar here, too, on his initial denial tat there was ANY contact between his campaign and the Russians. “Yeah, five have been indicted, confessed or been convicted, but I AM THE EMPEROR PRESIDENT!”

    Is he NOW approaching terminal meltdown? THIS shitstorm is a typical diversion, now from ANOTHER fuckup by his son, the Crown Princes, who REALLY sought to conspire with ANY foreign agent — and confessed to it. As if tens of millions of us did NOT hear Trump BEG Russians to hack his opponent.

    I STILL think Giuliani might be INTENTIONALLY bringing Trump down. Blow in Trump’s ear and he follows you anywhere. A September conclusion, two months before the election, allows GOP candidates time to (finally) “Dump Trump” and perhaps save their own asses. If a blue wave comes, the GOP health care debacle has opened the door — wide — to single payer … which the COULD have killed forever with the original bipartisan Obamacare.

    Instead. voters saw they GOP had NOTHING for all these years, and now make Obamacare the most popular ever. Traitorous, if it had been intentional, now “merely” the fuckup that could cause worse damage to liberty than even the New Deal.

    1. “Two of the three campaign staff interviewed have … plead guilty!”
      To doing 40 in a 35 zone, you pathetic piece of shit.

      1. Sevo: “Lying about contacts with Russia during the Trump campaign is like doing 40 in a 35 MPH zone.”

        Donald Jr’s TWO attempts at conspiracy, Donald’s confession of obstruction and his asking the Russians to do that email hacking they did is … like jaywalking. Hillary would be worse

        1. I was on the fence about this exchange until Michael Hihn used CAPS very effectively and then, the coup de gr?ce, an all-bold comment!

          Apologies, Sevo?I am but mortal.

          1. It’s called self-defense. From the type of aggression so favored by your Authoritarian Right. Sevo’s safe space is so easily triggered.

            1. Dumbfuck Hihnsano claims others are easily triggered while resorting to boldtext because he’s easily triggered.

              1. That’s ridicule (smirk)
                I can’t be “triggered” since I don’t give a damn what you people think.

                Being stalked and hated by you people is among the many highlights. of my life.
                You non-stop personal assault, stalking me for over a year, are a Badge of Honor that I wear with pride.

                (posted in self-defense from yet more aggression by the Authoritarian Right.)

                (this too is ridicule)

  21. Well, there is mounting evidence of serious problems in Justice. While I tend to agree that a president should not interfere with an ongoing investigation, what should he do if there is misconduct? He’s certainly within his rights to fire DOJ personnel.

    I’m not sure there is reason to assume this is solely motivated by politics. Something is very screwy with all of these investigations, non-investigations, and obvious cover ups, so I think unleashing all the hounds makes some sense.

    1. The Deep State cannot be employed against the Deep State.

      That’s like crossing the streams.

      1. Generally speaking, administrative agencies are the primary reason our government is so out of control. They allow bureaucrats to run amok, they give agencies and presidents vast, often undelegated powers, and they are increasingly used by Congress to evade responsibility for anything.

        1. I totally agree. Which is precisely why I am placing the onus on Congress to rein this in.

          Not that I think they will, but to apportion at least some of the blame onto them for what is surely to follow.

          A republic if you can keep it.

    2. Well, there is mounting evidence of serious problems in Justice

      And Obama is a Kenyan Muslim.

  22. Jacob you twit. How is ordering an investigation into how a political investigation started political?

  23. Since we’ve touched on the topic perhaps Sullum could let us know which other Cabinet level departments operate independent of the Executive.

    Because I’m sure that will one day prove topical.

  24. Trump clearly has no respect for those norms, except insofar as violating them hurts him politically.

    Isn’t that true for just about any high level politician?

    1. I think its true for pretty much every politician – at any level – and all bureaucrats. Which is why you don’t design a system that is dependent upon the wisdom and good-will of those with power.

  25. Let’s also be clear that Sullum’s attempt to make this all about Trump is a form of misdirection.

    Trump may be the target this time, but the real purpose is to make clear that anyone outside the circle of insiders is not welcome and will be ruined if at all possible.

    That the recently revealed spook is a long time Bushie should make that abundantly clear.

    This article is an embarrassment to every notion of limited government and representative government.

    TDS is a cancer in this publication.

    1. And perhaps the most pathetic part about it is they had to wait several days in order to find out what the official narrative from their friends in the Journolist would be before they could start spinning it here. These con artists we have around here are completely unimaginative talking point following zombies.

      Imagine how completely different it would be if it had come out that in 2008 George W. Bush had friends in the CIA spy on Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, and Obama’s other shady-ass associates. Reason would STILL be spluttering with rage about it along with the rest of their media friends (and they would be correct to do so).

  26. WTF
    Reason has gone off the rails.
    So Jacob Trump is the chief executive and the DOJ works for him.

    Thus he can order them to do stuff.

    Congress has oversight over the DOJ who is stonewalling their document requests

    Trump ordering them to comply with congressional requests is exactly what the chief executive should be doing

    If congress disapproves of what Trump is doing they can impeach him.

  27. “The President…may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices….”

    US Constitution, Art. II, Sec. 2

    I haven’t exactly followed all the details, but couldn’t Trump demand a written opinion from Sessions on the question “oh, yeah, did your department spy on my campaign? Does your department know anything about campaign spying in general?”

    1. Fordham University law professor Bruce Green and New York Law School professor Rebecca Roiphe must have somehow forgotten that bit of law.

      Otherwise, how could they ever argue that “the Department of Justice is independent of the President” and remain credible within their profession?

      Seems like they assigned ‘desired outcome’ priority over all other considerations.

    2. Umm, there were three of Trump’s campaign interviewed, as an investigation, not spying. Two have plead guilty of lying about their contacts with Russia … Trump said the contacts were a lie also — until his son confessed his own Russian contacts, and his eagerness for more.

      Trump’s getting desperate as the walls are closing in from all sides.

      Are you one of the ones Trump said would even lie about him committing murder in broad daylight, with witnesses? If so, why should anyone believe you? On anything? (Except other puppets who live in Trump’s tribal bubble.)

      1. Look up the definition of hyperbole.

        Many sadz.

  28. “Fordham University law professor Bruce Green and New York Law School professor Rebecca Roiphe argue that “the Department of Justice is independent of the President, and its decisions in individual cases and investigations are largely immune from his interference or direction.” That situation, they say, “does not result from any explicit constitutional or legislative mandate” but is instead “based on an evolving understanding of prosecutorial independence and professional norms,” which serve as “a fundamental check on presidential power.””

    This seems contrary to the language I quoted – not in the penumbras of an evolving Constitution, but in the text – that the President can ask the AG (who is head of one of the executive departments, namely Justice) his opinion on anything relating to the AG’s duties, and that would include asking whether there have been violations of federal law in specified situations.

    And if the President is hesitant to order a stop to an investigation he deems unjust, he can simply order the target of the investigation pardoned – boom, end of investigation.

  29. “If the Obama administration used an informant to spy on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign “for political reasons,” the president said last Friday, it would be the “all time biggest political scandal.”
    OK, perhaps some hyperbole. FDR did worse; court packing.

    “Two days later, Trump announced his intention to “demand” that the Justice Department “look into” that possibility.'”
    Correct.

    “Trump’s motivation?discrediting special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of ties between his campaign and the Russian government?was clearly political.”
    Assumption from facts not in evidence.
    Please at least *try* to prove that claim before you base an entire article on it. If you are not lettered enough to understand, this is called ‘poisoning the well.’
    Would you like to defend your claim, or shall we consider you claims bogus?

    1. “OK, perhaps some hyperbole. FDR did worse; court packing.”

      Much as I am loathe to defend FDR, who did indeed do worse, FDR merely threatened court packing, this actually got carried out. Actual abuses trump threatened abuses.

    2. Nixon followed your advice and wound up running for his life, after resigning to escape impeachment.

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  31. “Trump understands that there is supposed to be a distinction between justice and politics, that the DOJ’s tradition of independence helps preserve that distinction, and that presidents are not supposed to treat the department as a tool for punishing their enemies and protecting their friends, even though the Constitution gives them the power to do so. He just does not want to play by those rules.”

    No, no he doesn’t. You’re giving him way too much credit… this ‘Trump really knows x but is pretending not to’ stuff is getting old. Every bit of evidence indicates that Trump isn’t playing some n-th level chess, but is just as he appears, an ignorant buffoon. Not one word he’s ever said indicates he understands all that.

  32. Mr. Sullum, long-time reader, first-time commenter. I appreciate your writing and your intelligence, so it makes me wince to agree with the criticism of your article levied by my distinguished peers (above).

    You cite two law professors’ upcoming article as support for for the breathtaking assertion that the FBI is unaccountable to the Executive. When I was a law review editor, the joke was that judges relied on law review articles like a drunk leans on a lamppost?more for support than illumination. I am truly not sure which way it’s going for you in this article. If it’s like that, then you’ve made up your mind. But if it’s the opposite?that you’ve been influenced by this article?I’d strongly disagree and encourage a harder look at what Dershowitz has been saying.

    I also had to look up the word “norm” to ensure I understood it correctly. I believe the pertinent definition is “a standard or pattern, especially of social behavior, that is typical or expected of a group.”

    Which is why this following sentence seems to me a complete tautology: “Trump clearly has no respect for those norms, except insofar as violating them hurts him politically.”

    Norms are by definition socially (and by extension, politically) enforced. Does anyone have respect for norms if they don’t hurt him or her socially/politically? To me, this issue just reinforces the importance of clearly elucidated and duly enacted laws.

  33. In a way, it’s good that you brought up the issue of “norms,” because I’m seeing that word bandied about pretty freely recently. Mostly as an assertion that has no attribution when it comes to the arbiters of such “norms.” In the case of POTUS and the FBI, it seems like “norms” are defined by the FBI or DOJ in the sense that their displeasure constitutes a violation of “norms.”

    Their power to define “norms” seems to emanate from the historical record of what past Presidents have and have not done. Which is, as a matter of enumerated powers, worse than irrelevant.

    I would offer that it’s the Constitution that should define the restrictions on the President, and not the unaccountable and seemingly even unwritten Zeitgeist of unelected federal law enforcement officials….

    1. Well said, and welcome.

    2. “I would offer that it’s the Constitution that should define the restrictions on the President, and not the unaccountable and seemingly even unwritten Zeitgeist of unelected federal law enforcement officials….”

      Sad when this has to be made explicit at a libertarian site.

      A nation of laws, not of men.

    3. Well said.

  34. I’d have to say, it looks like Reason has stopped merely circling the drain, and has started down it.

    1. Oh, they passed through the drain a while ago.

  35. Tony comments and I hate proggie SJWs. Sevo comments and I hate Trumptards.

    Seriously, is there anyone left who is not a shade of these idiots?

    1. Everyone else hates idiots. Yet, you still come around. So, suck it up sweetheart and be thankful people tolerate stupidity as much as they do.

  36. This is what the IG is for. It’s absolutely critical that we find out if we have spying on a political campaign. I do not get the premise of this article that these potentially illegal acts should be swept under the carpet.

  37. The reminds me of the old agage that this is like comparing somebody who runs around tackling grannies with somebody pushing a granny out of the way of an oncoming car she didn’t see. After all, they are all just tossing around old ladies…

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