Latest Justice Department storm spotlights Trump's scorn for his GOP hires
President Donald Trump has made history in one exotic way — as the first Republican president to habitually target his own GOP appointees for public abuse. Apparently Trump feared what would happen if these people were left to do their jobs. Despite huge national crises and a reelection campaign, Trump managed to turn national attention over the weekend to his latest Justice Department disruption.
His manipulation of the department already had become so controversial that a falsehood from his attorney general quickly became a mere footnote. The AG, William Barr, announced Friday that Geoffrey Berman had resigned as U.S. attorney for New York's Southern District in Manhattan. But Berman denied it. On Saturday, after some backroom back-and-forth, Berman said he would leave. Trump did not explain his role or motive in the shake-up.
The administration can't effectively blame the "deep state" or Democrats for whatever problems it had with Berman.
Starting more than 30 years ago, Berman served other Republican administrations without blowback, even during a period in the 1990s when Trump was still a pro-Clinton Democrat. Berman was a shareholder and partner at the firm Greenberg Traurig alongside ex-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani, who reportedly recommended him for U.S. attorney in New Jersey. Berman even served on Trump's presidential transition team.
But Giuliani, the president's private attorney, drew scrutiny from Berman's office in connection with his Ukraine activities and representation of two businessmen now charged as defendants.
Giuliani also denounced the probe into ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen, the New York Daily News reported. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance violations and implicated Trump in schemes to pay off two women to keep their stories of alleged affairs with Trump from becoming public. Trump denied any wrongdoing and was not charged.
We have seen this internal suppression and intraparty purging before.
First came James Comey, a career law-enforcement official and Republican who stayed on as FBI director after his public handling of the Hillary Clinton email case earned the contempt and blame of top Democrats. Then Comey refused Trump's request to kill an investigation of the president's then-national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Trump fired Comey without confronting him.
Then there was Trump's first attorney general, ex-Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican. Sessions recused himself from the Russia election probe on the advice of Justice Department ethics officials, enraging the president for leaving him exposed. Sessions was close to Trump during the 2016 campaign and often still sings his praises.
Trump, who pushed Sessions out as AG, opposes his campaign to return to the Senate.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller — criticized by Trump, Giuliani and GOP members of Congress — had Republican as well as professional credentials. His selection was hailed at the outset by former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich. And former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, pilloried by the Trump camp during the Mueller probe, had been U.S. attorney for Maryland during the second Bush administration.
Last year, following the Mueller report, a group of former Republican federal prosectors called for further investigation and possible prosecution of Trump for obstruction of justice. As expected, they were ignored.
No Republican "law-and-order" candidate in memory tried to soil the reputations of as many Republicans in law enforcement as the current president.