President Donald Trump is angry again — and when I say “angry,” I mean “experiencing one of those volcanic hissy fits where his head swivels back and forth and his face turns redder and redder and he keeps talking and talking and talking, even when his attorneys would all sacrifice their firstborn to make him stop.”

For seasoned Trump watchers, this is reassuring evidence that our constitutional government is working pretty much the way it’s supposed to.

That is not the way the president sees it, of course. From his perspective, the nation itself is under siege — not just by homicidal autocrats and rapacious immigrants and unscrupulous trading partners, but by its own Justice Department, some of whose disloyal apparatchiks had the unmitigated gall to toss his own lawyer’s office and hotel room this week in search of God-only-knows-what.

“It’s, frankly, a real disgrace,” Trump declared at the outset of a meeting with his national security advisors Monday. “It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”

He might have been talking about Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s decision to unleash yet another chemical attack on his own people, a barbaric assault that annihilated innocent civilians in their homes and left toddlers in its poisoned path foaming at the mouth.

But, no — this president was talking about the agents of his own government’s FBI, the ones who’d executed a warrant to search lawyer Michael Cohen’s quarters after a federal judge sworn to uphold the Constitution had agreed they were likely to discover evidence of a crime there.

Et tu, Rosenstein?

The president said those responsible for this attack — it wasn’t clear whether he was talking about the FBI agents, the federal prosecutors who’d sought the search warrant against his lawyer, or the life-tenured judge who’d signed it — were “the most biased group of people,” “people with the biggest conflicts of interest I’d ever seen.”

“Democrats all,” he added, “or just about all — either Democrats or a couple of Republicans that worked for President Obama.”

But that was either a deliberate deception or an extraordinary lapse of memory, since the government officers responsible — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man supervising Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation; Geoffrey Berman, the prosecutor Trump picked to oversee the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office that sought the search warrant; and FBI Director Christopher Wray, whose agents executed the warrant — were all Republicans appointed by Trump himself.

(USA Today and other news organizations reported Tuesday that Berman had either recused himself or been recused from the Cohen investigation, and had therefore taken no part in the decision to raid the lawyer’s office. In any case, Berman’s recusal was approved by Rosenstein, the Justice Department official Trump tapped to make the case for firing former FBI Director James Comey.)

The real conflict

If Rosenstein, Berman and Wray were burdened by any conflict of interest, it was the conflict between whatever loyalty they may have felt toward the president who appointed them and the oath they had sworn to execute the law faithfully.

That is probably not the sort of conflict Trump had in mind when he dismissed them, erroneously, as “Democrats all.” But judges and law enforcement officials who place their fealty to the law above their loyalty to the White House scare Trump way more than Democrats do.

Remember when Gerald Ford distilled the lesson of Watergate the day he was sworn in as Richard Nixon’s successor?

“The Constitution works,” he said. “Our great republic is a government of laws, and not of men.”

That’s the kind of talk that makes the current occupant of the White House break out in a rash. President Ford is who President Trump sees in his nightmares.

When will it end? Where is Mueller going?

Trump critics who warn that “the noose is tightening” and Foxlandians who express confidence that the president will ultimately be exonerated of any serious wrongdoing are all saying more than they know, because the only man who knows for sure where his investigation is headed isn’t saying.

All we know at this point is that all three branches of our constitutional government remain more or less intact, that the men and women who staff them still go quietly about their business, and that the spectacle of the whole, complex contraption chugging along the way it’s designed to is almost more than the incumbent president can bear to watch.

Brian Dickerson is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press.

 

Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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