Trump is only fulfilling his promise

Trump is only fulfilling his promise

by digby

They say that presidents always try to keep their promises so it's probably not surprising that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked the Department of Justice to look into prosecuting the president's political rival as the president promised to do over and over again when he ran.

Josh Marshall unpacks the story.

The story was first reported by the Post and then a short time later by the Times. It’s notable to see how each news organization has grappled with what seems to be the transparently political nature of what Sessions is doing. The Post, at least in its original version of the story, all but ignored it. The only mention is a final sentence that reads: “Sessions’s letter is likely to be seen by some, especially on the left, as an inappropriate bending to political pressure.”

The Times handling was more complicated. Remember that the Uranium One story originated in a research project sponsored by Steve Bannon, one that the Times agreed to partner with back in 2015. The second paragraph of the Times piece reads like it was cut and pasted from a Breitbart piece …

The prosecutors will examine reports of misconduct at the Clinton Foundation and the Obama administration’s 2010 decision to allow a Russian nuclear energy agency to acquire much of the United States’ uranium, among other matters, according to a letter sent to the House Judiciary Committee from a senior Justice Department official on Monday.

This is a deep distortion of what happened. The US allowed the mining subsidiary of Rosatom, the Russian nuclear energy agency, to take a majority stake of Uranium One, a Canadian company which had two mining operations in the US which together accounted for roughly 20% of US uranium production. The specifics of the deal do not allow any uranium produced in the United States to leave the United States. This is at best a distortion of what the actual deal was.

That said, the Times account is much clearer on the politics involved. The Times notes that the letter comes ten days after Trump publicly demanded that the DOJ go after Clinton. And then there’s this graf …

The decision to examine those matters raises questions about whether Mr. Trump is trying to use the Justice Department to investigate his political rivals and distract from the special counsel’s investigation into his presidential campaign. It also comes at a tenuous time for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Mr. Trump has hinted to advisers he may want to fire. People close to the White House believe Mr. Sessions can stop the president from firing him by appointing a special counsel to investigate the uranium deal. Before leaving for a trip to Asia this month, Mr. Trump expressed his frustration with the Justice Department.

To not get ahead of ourselves, it is important to note that the letter in question only says that Sessions is considering the right course to take and that appointing a special counsel is just one option. But make no mistake: this is as bad as it looks. A President is demanding that federal law enforcement go after his political enemies. And federal law enforcement appears ready to comply.

I was reminded of this that I wrote about a year ago after the second debate:

For reasons that remain obscure, many pundits declared that he had performed well, suggesting that unless his head had twirled around on his shoulders and he vomited Andersen's split pea soup all over the stage there was no way he could have failed.

He did come close to an "Exorcist" moment at one point, in claiming that Clinton had stolen the election from Sen. Bernie Sanders and saying, “I was surprised to see him sign up with the devil.” He even said she had "tremendous hate in her heart."

But then Trump made a specific threat that finally got the attention of the political world. He said:
I’ll tell you what, I didn’t think I’d say this and I’m going to say it and hate to say it: If I win, I’m going to instruct the attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there’s never been so many lies, so much deception.
Clinton said a few minutes later: “It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law of our country,” to which Trump interjected, “Because you’d be in jail.”

A lot of people are horrified by this statement and rightfully so. Former Attorney General Eric Holder sent out this scathing tweet:

Threatening to jail your political rivals is something you don't see in advanced democracies. That's the way it's done in banana republics and totalitarian dictatorships, and it says everything you need to know about Trump.

But I cannot help but wonder, what did people think all those "Hillary for Prison" T-shirts and "Lock her up" chants at the Republican National Convention were about? Did they not hear the speeches by former prosecutors Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie "making the case" to put Hillary Clinton behind bars?

If this is really the first time that people have heard Trump saying this, they haven't been listening. I wrote about this last June for Salon, quoting Trump saying these words at a rally in San Jose, California:

I used to say, leave it up to the lawyers. I have watched so many lawyers on so many different networks. I have read so much about the emails. Folks, honestly, she’s guilty as hell. She’s guilty as hell. . . . It’s called a five-year statute of limitations. If I win . . . everything’s going to be fair but I’m sure the attorney general will take a very good look at it from a fair standpoint, OK? I’m sure. I think it’s disgraceful.

He told John Dickerson on "Face the Nation" in June:

What she did is a criminal situation. She wasn't supposed to do that with the server and the emails and all of the other. Now, I rely on the lawyers. These are good lawyers. These are professional lawyers. These are lawyers that know what they're talking about and know — are very well-versed on what she did. They say she's guilty as hell. . . . I would have my attorney general look at it. Yes, I would because everyone knows that she's guilty. Now, I would say this, she's guilty, but I would let my attorney general make that determination.

In February, Trump had this exchange with Sean Hannity on Fox News:

Hannity: If you win, you’ll have an attorney general. The statute of limitations will not have passed.

Trump: Six years, actually. Well, look, you have no choice. We have to solve all sorts of problems. In fairness, you have to look into [Hillary Clinton]. Maybe she can prove her innocence, but it just seems to me that I think the public knows everything that they are going to know.

One of Trump's major campaign promises, as he put it last November, is "to look into that crime very, very seriously, folks." The fact that so few people heard this or noticed it until last night's debate is astonishing.

It's Exhibit A of Trump's authoritarian impulse and when people ecstatically chant, "Lock her up," this is what they're talking about. It's never been a joke. The good news is that people have finally stopped laughing.


If you need a factcheck on this stupid Uranium claim, you can find it here.