President Trump reacted to Mike Flynn’s guilty plea yesterday by switching to his favorite target.
“Well, I feel badly for General Flynn,” he told reporters. “I feel very badly. He’s led a very strong life, and I feel very badly…
“I will say this: Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI and nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and they destroyed his life. I think it’s a shame.”
It’s worth noting that “they” negotiated a guilty plea from Trump’s former national security adviser in the Russia investigation. And even if the president believes his former opponent should have been charged with something, she wasn’t—and that doesn’t detract from the Flynn plea.
Trump is now virtually at war with the FBI, which is strange because he’s overseen the bureau for nearly a year. His firing of James Comey almost definitely triggered the naming of (former FBI chief) Robert Mueller as special counsel, but it also enabled the president to install Christopher Wray as the new director. Wray has kept an extraordinarily low profile, even with Trump tweeting that the FBI’s “reputation is in tatters—worst in history!” Wray did send a message to the staff yesterday–not mentioning the president–saying he is “inspired by example after example of professionalism and dedication to justice demonstrated around the bureau.”
As the fallout from the Flynn plea continued to build, Trump lawyer John Dowd told Axios that the “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer.”
That is a stretch. I’m not suggesting in any way that Trump obstructed justice, and I know Richard Nixon embraced this theory after he was forced from office. But the articles of impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 included an obstruction of justice charge.
“We can safely assume Mueller is primarily scrutinizing President Trump with an eye toward making a case of obstructing an FBI investigation,” Andrew McCarthy writes in National Review.
At the same time, most legal scholars agree that a sitting president can’t be indicted, and impeachment seems far-fetched. What’s more, the Mueller investigation hasn’t proven anything on the question of Russian collusion, which was why he was named in the first place.
There’s a media furor over a Trump tweet that seems to indicate that the president knew, when he fired Flynn in January, that he had not only lied to Mike Pence but to the FBI as well. The White House says Dowd wrote the tweet (his first), and some journalists are parsing the language to see if that seems plausible. (I know, this really gets down in the weeds.)
Dowd told the Washington Post that the tweet was sloppily worded and that it’s inaccurate to say the president knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI.
McCarthy argues that a president has the right to fire his FBI chief for no reason at all, even if his rationale was “corrupt.”
Meanwhile, the Mueller probe took a hit after he removed an FBI agent found to have sent texts that were anti-Trump and favored Hillary Clinton. That agent, Peter Strzok, had also been part of Comey’s Clinton email investigation.
The conventional wisdom, now that Flynn is a cooperating witness, is that he may incriminate his former boss. But for what? After three Hill investigations and a special counsel’s probe, the allegations against Trump remain murky at best.