The nonsense starts to defy description after a while:
President Trump said Sunday that he would demand that the Justice Department explore whether it or the FBI “infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes” — escalating a battle over federal law enforcement’s use of a confidential source to aid its probe into whether the Trump campaign and Russia coordinated to influence the 2016 election.
Trump wrote on Twitter, “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”
I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2018
The tweet seemed to be a response to recent reports about the FBI using a longtime intelligence asset to advance its investigation into Russian election meddling. Trump and his allies have seized on the use of the asset to claim that the FBI has spied on his campaign.
The president’s impending demand is significant in its own right: the nation’s chief executive ordering an investigation into the investigation of his campaign. But it also could presage more important developments…
A Justice Department spokeswoman offered no immediate response.
Trump’s demand came after a six-part morning tweetstorm in which he lashed out at special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe into his campaign, calling it “the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt,” and trashed a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help to Trump’s 2016 campaign.
In the tweets, Trump accused the special counsel’s investigation of turning to other leads around the world after, in his words, finding no collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice in its ongoing probe.
The New York Times observes:
[I]n ordering up a new inquiry, Mr. Trump went beyond his usual tactics of suggesting wrongdoing and political bias by those investigating him, and crossed over into applying overt presidential pressure on the Justice Department to do his bidding, an extraordinary realm where past presidents have rarely tread…
Legal experts said Mr. Trump’s promise of intervention had little precedent, and could force a clash between the sitting president and his Justice Department that is reminiscent of the one surrounding Richard M. Nixon during Watergate, when a string of top officials there resigned rather than carry out Nixon’s order to fire a special prosecutor investigating him.
“I can’t think of a prior example of a sitting president ordering the Justice Department to conduct an investigation like this one,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “That’s little more than a transparent effort to undermine an ongoing investigation.”
If Mr. Trump were to follow through with the demand, Mr. Vladek added, “it seems to me that the recipients of such an order should resign — and that we’re heading for another Saturday Night Massacre.”
But a confrontation between Mr. Trump and his Justice Department over the order was not a certainty. It was not clear whether Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, or Mr. Rosenstein could refer the president’s demand to the department’s inspector general, who is already investigating surveillance of a Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. Such a step could defuse the current crisis and perhaps satisfy Mr. Trump.
As suggested earlier, Trump obviously feels emboldened to get away with this nonsense because of the skill with which his ministers of propaganda can confuse and distract the public. Why not abuse the office of the Presidency, when you have acolytes across the country who can convince the American electorate that what you’re doing is not abuse of the office?
Trump has reportedly called for a cease-fire in his trade war against China. Of course, he will never lay down his weapons in his war against civility, legality and democracy. If his propagandists are as powerful as they seem to be, then he could indeed win that war–and if he does, what kind of country will we have left?