In an extraordinary interview with the New York Times, Donald Trump unleashed an avalanche of caustic attacks on American’s top law enforcement officers, some of whom he had personally appointed.
In each case, the source of Trump’s ire was related to the ongoing investigation into his campaign and potential collusion with Russia.
Trump dismissed the entire notion of FBI independence, saying that the FBI Director only reports to the Justice Department “out of courtesy,” blaming the practice on Richard Nixon.
Taken together, Trump’s comments amount to a full scale assault on the rule of law from an increasingly paranoid president.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Trump blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one of his earliest supporters, for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Trump cast Sessions as a traitor and said that, had he known Sessions would recuse himself, he would have appointed someone else to the job. He blames Sessions for starting a chain of events that resulted in the appointment of the special prosecutor.
TRUMP: Look, [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions gets the job. Right after he gets the job, he recuses himself.
BAKER: Was that a mistake?
TRUMP: Well, Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.
HABERMAN: He gave you no heads up at all, in any sense?
TRUMP: Zero. So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, “Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.”
Deputy Attorney General Trump Rod J. Rosenstein
Trump dismisses Rosenstein as a partisan Democratic hack. He also has apparently forgotten that he personally appointed Rosenstein to this position.
In a May interview, Trump said that Rosenstein is “highly respected. Very good guy, very smart guy. And the Democrats like him. The Republicans like him.” Now that Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to investigate Russia and the Trump campaign, things have changed.
TRUMP: Yeah, what Jeff Sessions did was he recused himself right after, right after he became attorney general. And I said, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” I would have — then I said, “Who’s your deputy?” So his deputy he hardly knew, and that’s Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore.
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe
According to Trump, McCabe is another partisan hack out to get him.
TRUMP: I mean, look at what we have now. We have a director of the F.B.I., acting, who received $700,000, whose wife received $700,000 from, essentially, Hillary Clinton. ’Cause it was through Terry. Which is Hillary Clinton.
HABERMAN: This is [Andrew] McCabe’s wife, you mean?
TRUMP: McCabe’s wife. She got $700,000, and he’s at the F.B.I.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller
Trump describes Mueller, who served as FBI Director under two presidents and received a purple heart as a captain in the Marine Corps, as having a vendetta against him because he did not select him to replace Comey.
Trump has repeatedly called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.”
Trump also warned Mueller not to extend his investigations into his company’s financial dealings.
TRUMP: We were interviewing replacements at the F.B.I. Did you know [Robert] Mueller was one of the people that was being interviewed?
HABERMAN: I did, actually.
TRUMP: He was sitting in that chair. We had a wonderful meeting.
HABERMAN: Day before, right?
SCHMIDT: Did he want the job?
TRUMP: The day before! Of course, he was up here, and he wanted the job.
Trump also attacked former FBI Director James Comey, who he already fired, as a liar and a leaker.