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: 314509

Reported Deaths: 7247
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21626259
Hinds20359415
Harrison17934309
Rankin13634278
Jackson13447246
Madison10099217
Lee9980174
Jones8381163
Forrest7683152
Lauderdale7191241
Lowndes6401147
Lamar623086
Lafayette6200118
Washington5339134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462798
Panola4588107
Pearl River4512146
Marshall4443103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420772
Monroe4113133
Union411076
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3968110
Hancock379386
Leflore3497125
Sunflower336090
Tate334084
Pike3325105
Scott315973
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311669
Itawamba300477
Copiah297065
Coahoma295479
Simpson295288
Tippah288768
Adams286882
Prentiss279760
Marion269280
Leake268373
Wayne262641
Grenada261487
Covington259681
George248048
Newton246861
Winston227281
Tishomingo226967
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw207857
Holmes189173
Clay185454
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178841
Clarke178080
Calhoun170832
Yalobusha164338
Smith162434
Walthall133945
Greene130633
Lawrence128624
Montgomery126942
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83823
Quitman80916
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67331
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 532895

Reported Deaths: 11001
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson771431528
Mobile41089808
Madison34837505
Tuscaloosa25810454
Montgomery24355588
Shelby23730249
Baldwin21191309
Lee15892171
Calhoun14522316
Morgan14324279
Etowah13861353
Marshall12250223
Houston10581281
Elmore10060205
Limestone9986151
Cullman9705194
St. Clair9702243
Lauderdale9441242
DeKalb8846187
Talladega8255176
Walker7246277
Autauga6938108
Jackson6815112
Blount6694137
Colbert6310134
Coffee5524119
Dale4850111
Russell443238
Chilton4308112
Franklin426282
Covington4136118
Tallapoosa4039152
Escambia393977
Chambers3578123
Dallas3557152
Clarke351161
Marion3130101
Pike311377
Lawrence300798
Winston275673
Bibb261564
Geneva251477
Marengo249664
Pickens234761
Barbour231756
Hale223277
Butler216469
Fayette212562
Henry189044
Cherokee184745
Randolph181742
Monroe178040
Washington167639
Macon159950
Clay156857
Crenshaw152757
Cleburne149141
Lamar142935
Lowndes139053
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110629
Coosa107928
Perry107826
Sumter104832
Greene92534
Choctaw61124
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