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Trump’s Worst Enemy

Posted by hkarner - 15. Februar 2020

Date: 14‑02‑2020

Source: The Wall Street Journal By The Editorial Board

He needs to stop tweeting about cases and let Barr do his job.

After his Senate impeachment acquittal, we wrote that President Trump’s history is that he can’t stand prosperity. Well, that was fast. The President’s relentless popping off this week about the sentencing of supporter Roger Stone has hurt himself, his Justice Department, and the proper understanding of executive power. That’s a notable trifecta of self‑destructive behavior even by his standards.

Mr. Trump handed another sword to his opponents when he fulminated on Twitter about the initial recommendation of a seven‑to‑nine year prison sentence for Mr. Stone. He is right that such a sentence would be excessive. Mr. Stone was convicted of lying to Congress, which often receives minimal jail time. His conviction for witness tampering was more serious but involved a faux‑macho threat (“prepare to die”) that even the witness said he didn’t take literally.


As it happens, senior Justice officials had concluded on their own that the sentence recommendation was excessive and had decided to rescind it before Mr. Trump’s tweet. But by ranting publicly as he did, the President gave Democrats an opening to claim that Attorney General Bill Barr was taking orders from the White House. Four prosecutors (two were part of Robert Mueller’s investigation) withdrew from the Stone case in protest, and Democrats had another Trump scandal to flog. Kim Strassel has more background nearby.

The uproar is obscuring that Mr. Barr had every reason and authority to reduce the sentencing recommendation. Up to nine years is extreme, as even some career prosecutors believed. All prosecutors ultimately work for Mr. Barr, and he is accountable to the voters through the President.

If the decisions of line prosecutors can’t be questioned by their political superiors, the chances increase of prosecutorial abuse. If career prosecutors are king, then why go through the trouble of nominating and confirming an Attorney General and his deputies? This erodes political accountability under the separation of powers.

But before Mr. Barr could explain any of this, Mr. Trump compounded his political felony by praising the AG for rescinding the sentencing recommendation. That gave more ammunition to Democrats and undermined Mr. Barr. The President then shot himself again by attacking Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the Stone case. “Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure?” he tweeted.

Mr. Trump makes no friends in the judiciary with such political attacks, and it can’t help Mr. Stone’s chances of getting a reduced sentence. If the President dislikes the sentence, he has his pardon power. Meantime, knock it off.

Mr. Trump doesn’t understand, or perhaps doesn’t care, that all of this hurts Mr. Barr, whom he can ill‑afford to lose. The AG is smart, tough and independent. He will give Mr. Trump his candid advice on the law, which is more than most of his advisers do. Mr. Barr finally spoke up in frustration about this Thursday, telling ABC News that Mr. Trump’s outbursts are making it “impossible for me to do my job.”

The President should listen because he needs Mr. Barr more than Mr. Barr needs to be AG. The danger for Mr. Trump is that Mr. Barr will resign because he is tired of having his credibility undermined by a President who can’t control his political id no matter the damage it causes.


Mr. Trump won’t like to hear any of this, and no doubt his loyalists will blame Democrats, the media and Mr. Barr. But Mr. Trump is his own worst enemy. Time and again his need to dominate the news, to justify even his mistakes, and to rebut every critic gets him into needless trouble.

When he fired James Comey, he couldn’t live with the Justice Department’s cogent and correct explanation of the FBI director’s many mistakes. Instead he tweeted the idle claim that he had taped his private conversations with Mr. Comey. That led to Robert Mueller’s two‑year investigation.

When the Mueller probe finally ended, Mr. Trump could have claimed vindication and moved on. Instead he unleashed Rudy Giuliani to play in the mud bath of Ukrainian politics and attack a U.S. ambassador. He ignored warnings from other advisers until it was too late, and he gave Democrats the opening to impeach him.

In the wake of his Senate acquittal, Mr. Trump should be campaigning for re‑election and enjoying the disarray of his opponents. Instead he gives every appearance of wanting to settle scores with anyone who contributed in any way to impeachment.

He is helping the Democrats who are running against the Senators who voted to acquit. And he is making millions of voters ask if they really want to take a risk on giving him so much power for another four years.


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