Trump's norm-breaking is leading to a constitutional fight

Donald Trump won the White House by flouting political norms and is determined to break the mold of the presidency....

Posted: May 22, 2018 1:01 PM
Updated: May 22, 2018 1:02 PM

Donald Trump won the White House by flouting political norms and is determined to break the mold of the presidency.

But his escalating battle with his own Justice Department and his refusal to accept the historic boundaries of executive power are leading the nation onto the most treacherous constitutional ground so far of his term.

Trump on Monday delivered his order for an inquiry into claims that the FBI infiltrated a "spy" into his campaign -- first touted in conservative media -- to the bureau's director, Christopher Wray, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in an Oval Office meeting.

In a deft maneuver, Rosenstein may have defused Trump's fury for now by asking the department's inspector general to look into the President's claim, and top Justice Department officials will share highly classified information with lawmakers related to the Russia investigation.

But the fact the conversation took place at all reflects the extraordinary times in Trump's Washington -- when a President has turned on his own Justice Department and is exhorting his loyal political followers to do the same in a way that can only provoke a greater confrontation.

Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency under presidents of both parties, said Trump may technically have been within his rights -- but that he found the events of recent days "a little scary."

"Our President is more limited by norms than he is (by the) Constitution or law. It is the traditions of the office that keep the President, I think, in his lane. And one of those norms is the independence of the judiciary," Hayden said on CNN's "The Situation Room."

Trump "has stepped so far beyond these norms that ... people lose confidence in the independence of the judiciary, which frankly is our only off-ramp from this overhang currently over the entire nation," he said, referring to the Russia investigation.

Among extraordinary questions that seem to be up in the air are whether the President is using his power to subvert an investigation into his own alleged misconduct.

Given his furious attacks on former President Barack Obama and his senior intelligence chiefs, it also seems possible that a sitting President could use the weight of his office to launch investigations into his political enemies -- an unheard-of step.

Trump -- who exacerbated the crisis with a weekend of rampant tweeting -- may be mollified for now by Rosenstein's move.

But given his incessant pressure on the Justice Department and the FBI, it's almost certain the showdown will flare up again soon. In fact it's in Trump's interests to light the fire.

In an extraordinary step on Monday, the Trump sent out a campaign blast email to his supporters calling on them to sign a petition to force an investigation into "whether Obama's FBI and DOJ infiltrated or surveilled our campaign for political purposes."

"This could be the greatest political scandal in American history," the email, signed by Trump, blared in block capitals.

The email may have been the most blatant sign yet of how Trump and his allies are building a political campaign to tarnish special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, apparently designed to discredit any eventual findings of wrongdoing by the President.

Democrats immediately blasted the move as a symptom of a President raging out of control.

"That he would issue such an absurd and abusive demand based on no evidence shows just how little regard the President has for the rule of law," said Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, of New York. "President Trump seems to have the terribly misguided view that the Department of Justice is there to protect his political interests and prosecute his enemies."

Even some of Trump's allies on Capitol Hill are uncomfortable with his latest turn.

Utah's GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch told CNN's Manu Raju that "the question is whether it's advisable or not."

"You know, the Justice Department has been a pretty honest department all these years. As far as I'm concerned, he's got to leave it up to the Justice Department," Hatch said.

CNN's Jake Tapper reported that a loose and informal group of Trump advisers outside the White House have been pushing the President to attack Rosenstein and to frame him as part of a "deep state" plot against the White House.

The campaign is using Trump-friendly media and the President to force Rosenstein to reveal details about the investigation that both the Justice Department and FBI do not want disclosed.

CNN has reported that the FBI did not insert an informant into the Trump campaign.

Rather, the use of an asset is standard practice in counterintelligence operations -- in this case it was likely intended to gather information from campaign advisers who may have been the targets of a Russian espionage operation.

The fact that there is no evidence that the FBI, the Justice Department or senior Obama officials came up with a "spy" scheme doesn't matter in this context -- this is an active political campaign rather than a legal defense to the Mueller investigation.

"We are eroding the reality and the appearance of the independence of the judiciary and the Department of Justice and the special counsel," Hayden said.

"That just can't lead to a good place."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 294994

Reported Deaths: 6681
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19660230
Hinds18785386
Harrison16679278
Rankin12675264
Jackson12575226
Lee9683160
Madison9448199
Jones7945146
Forrest7204136
Lauderdale6833226
Lowndes6021137
Lamar587680
Lafayette5730113
Washington5218130
Bolivar4608123
Oktibbeha440993
Panola430394
Pearl River4159130
Warren4126114
Pontotoc408769
Marshall403192
Monroe3988126
Union395174
Neshoba3800168
Lincoln3539102
Hancock346974
Leflore3374118
Sunflower318386
Tate302474
Pike300095
Scott293670
Alcorn291761
Itawamba289675
Yazoo288762
Tippah278565
Copiah277757
Coahoma277568
Simpson274778
Prentiss269758
Wayne253741
Marion252578
Leake252471
Covington248879
Grenada247377
Adams234277
George231745
Newton229452
Winston221675
Jasper213245
Tishomingo212165
Attala206569
Chickasaw201151
Holmes181870
Clay179150
Stone172429
Tallahatchie170539
Clarke169371
Calhoun157828
Smith152731
Yalobusha144836
Greene127633
Walthall124140
Noxubee122829
Montgomery122238
Perry121634
Lawrence120221
Carroll118125
Amite111333
Webster110630
Jefferson Davis101731
Tunica99023
Claiborne98429
Benton93324
Humphreys92827
Kemper90123
Quitman77114
Franklin76019
Choctaw69516
Wilkinson62426
Jefferson62327
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 493252

Reported Deaths: 9929
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson709861374
Mobile36108725
Madison32405455
Tuscaloosa24110410
Montgomery22565500
Shelby21929215
Baldwin19732283
Lee14961153
Morgan13659251
Calhoun13275286
Etowah13176319
Marshall11261209
Houston10086261
Elmore9376185
Limestone9359134
Cullman8891181
St. Clair8822223
Lauderdale8603211
DeKalb8446175
Talladega7517163
Walker6518255
Jackson6492102
Autauga626491
Blount6097127
Colbert6001118
Coffee5245102
Dale4640107
Russell404730
Franklin399177
Covington3957106
Chilton3870100
Escambia377472
Tallapoosa3585142
Clarke343650
Chambers3410110
Dallas3403141
Pike293372
Lawrence282984
Marion281895
Winston246767
Bibb245060
Geneva239670
Marengo235855
Pickens224654
Barbour211551
Hale209768
Fayette200256
Butler196166
Henry182441
Cherokee177038
Monroe166139
Randolph163640
Washington156535
Clay144354
Crenshaw144354
Macon142043
Cleburne137739
Lamar132833
Lowndes131051
Wilcox121825
Bullock116936
Conecuh106724
Perry105527
Sumter98331
Coosa88823
Greene87632
Choctaw55023
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