Trump himself is a stickler for keeping criticism in-house when he’s the target of it. If you disagree with him, you say it to him privately. You don’t run to the media and fart out your displeasure for the entire world to see. Loyalty is important.
But it only runs one way. When it comes to POTUS’s own displeasure with his aides, that’s always fair game for public consumption.
At some point with these occasional eruptions, the burden to exit must shift from Trump to Sessions. The first dozen times or so that he attacked the AG publicly, it was fair to blame Trump himself for undermining a cabinet member. If POTUS doesn’t trust the Attorney General’s judgment, he should fire him or shut up. Trump refuses to make that choice, though, so Sessions should make it for him. He’s had a year in office; his dignity must mean something to him, if not much. It’s time to go and let POTUS find a new glutton for punishment to fill the vacancy.
Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2018
The IG, Michael Horowitz, is “an Obama guy,” having been appointed Inspector General in 2012, but before that he was a Bush guy. Dubya appointed him to the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2003. Trey Gowdy, who’s taken to defending Bob Mueller’s integrity lately as it’s come under fire from the right, is out with a statement this morning defending Horowitz as a straight shooter as well:
… I have complete confidence in him and hope he is given the time, the resources and the independence to complete his work.” 2/2
— Nicholas Fandos (@npfandos) February 28, 2018
The country’s still waiting on Horowitz’s report but the tea leaves suggest it won’t be soft on the agency. “Agents and lawyers expect the report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, to be highly critical of some F.B.I. actions in 2016, when the bureau was investigating both Hillary Clinton’s email use and the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia,” the NYT reported last month. Allegedly it was what the IG had to say about Andrew McCabe that encouraged FBI director Chris Wray to nudge McCabe into “terminal leave.” Since early 2017, when Horowitz’s investigation began, he’s been conducting a “broad review” of DOJ/FBI behavior during the 2016 campaign, including an inquiry into politically calculated leaks within the Department.
There’s no reason to think he can’t be trusted with the FISA inquiry as well. On the contrary, he’s better positioned to judge the DOJ’s actions unsparingly than the “Justice Department lawyers” Trump wants on the case. Remember, various higher-ups in the DOJ — including Rod Rosenstein — signed off on FISA applications to surveil Carter Page. Any average DOJ lawyer tasked with investigating the FISA process would risk alienating his superiors if he concluded that the process had been abused. Horowitz, as IG, is somewhat independent from the regular DOJ hierarchy, however. If you want a scathing indictment of how the Department handled Page’s surveillance, he’s more likely to deliver it than then rank-and-file are.
We all understand what Trump’s after here, though:
This is Trump at his worst. He is asking that the DOJ investigate itself. The inspector general, who has his own staff of lawyers and investigators, at least enjoys a measure of independence from the department. Trump still wants the AG to act his political goalie. https://t.co/KhAZ4VDmIz
— Brit Hume (@brithume) February 28, 2018
Trump wants a “political goalie,” just as Hume says. That’s been his beef with Sessions all along, starting with his recusal from the Russiagate probe. “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” he’s reportedly asked his aides, incensed by Sessions’s refusal to protect him. Trump thinks that by keeping the FISA investigation in-house at the DOJ and away from the IG, Sessions would be able to influence it to find abuses in the process, delivering a political “win” for Trump. By handing it off to Horowitz, he’s doing things by the book but, a la his Russiagate recusal, injecting some uncertainty and peril for the White House into the investigation. This is why I say it’s on Sessions at this point to resign. His boss wants a fixer at the DOJ, someone whose first loyalty is to the president rather than to, say, ethics or proper procedure. Handing the FISA inquiry over to Horowitz is disloyal. Hence: DISGRACEFUL!