Convinced he should have an attorney general who protects him from political and legal peril, Donald Trump reportedly pressured Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the ongoing Russia investigation.
Trump ordered White House attorney Don McGahn last March to stop Sessions from recusing himself from oversight of the investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 election, according to the New York Times. The effort was not successful and Sessions, on advice from Department of Justice officials, did indeed recuse himself from the probe.
Trump has reportedly fumed over the move, furious that he doesn’t have a loyal Department of Justice official who is willing protect him from investigators at all costs.
It’s a stunning and frightening authoritarian mindset considering that federal law enforcement is never supposed to serve in cooperation with the White House.
Recall that impeachment charges were brought up against Richard Nixon in part because his aides tried to get the FBI to stop investigating the “third rate burglary” that led to the Watergate scandal.
And for former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste, Trump’s thuggish behavior today looks like something out of “The Godfather,” where mobsters relied on fixers to make problems go away.
On CNN on Friday, Ben-Veniste was especially struck by the part of the Times report that suggested Trump expected his “top law enforcement official to safeguard him the way he believed Robert F. Kennedy, as attorney general, had done for his brother John F. Kennedy and Eric H. Holder Jr. had for Barack Obama.”
Trump then asked, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?”
BEN-VENISTE: This strikes me as one more bizarro example of how the president has no familiarity with what the norm is in terms of his relationship to the federal government and the institutions of the federal government. He seems to be channeling his inner Sonny Corleone, who you may remember in “The Godfather” was upset because Tom Hagen, his consigliere, was insufficiently Sicilian. And so [Trump] puts Sessions in the role of Tom Hagen and says, “I needed a wartime consigliere like Obama got with Holder and Jack Kennedy got with Bobby, and all I got here was Sessions. Where’s my Roy Cohn?” — referring to the pond scum of the New York bar, Roy Cohn, who had an inglorious history of being thrice indicted for federal crimes, and was reviled among people for his work with Joe McCarthy.
In a strange way, it makes sense that Trump is in desperate need of “pond scum” like Roy Cohn these days.
But the fact that a seasoned prosecutor from the Watergate era sees Trump in the same vein as a fictional Mafia thug is truly troubling for the real world.