Trump projects his vindictiveness and bad faith onto others

This week, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled against a legal challenge to the border wall. He ruled that the Trump administration has the authority to waive a host of environmental laws and other regulations in order to begin construction.

Readers will recall that, during the course of litigation involving “Trump University,” Trump claimed that Curiel was biased against him because Curiel “happens to be, we believe, Mexican.” Curiel is not Mexican. He was born in Indiana to parents who immigrated from Mexico.

One can understand why, given Trump’s hateful, demagogic campaign statements about Mexico and Mexicans, he might feel uncomfortable having a judge of Mexican heritage decide his case. Trump is a vindictive man for whom everything is personal. Thus, he assumes that judges decide cases vindictively.

But Trump should not have given voice to this assumption. And, if he was going to do so, he should at least have gotten the facts right.

Judge Curiel’s decision on the wall, which impacts not just the Trump administration but also Mexicans, shows that Trump’s assumption was false. Trump may believe that, by preemptively blasting Curiel for bias, he intimidated the judge. He may find it impossible to believe that there are relatively honest brokers out there — men and women for whom everything is not personal and whose every motive is not vindictive or corrupt.

Trump’s projection of bad faith and corrupt motive onto the non-Trump world was on display again this week. He tweeted:

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!”

But the Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, is a Justice Department lawyer. It’s true that President Obama appointed him, but thus far Horowitz has shown no sign of partisan bias (unlike Robert Mueller). Indeed, it was Horowitz who turned up the notorious Strzok-Page text messages in the course of his investigation of the Department of Justice/FBI handling of the Clinton email investigation in advance of the presidential election.

Trey Gowdy says, “I have complete confidence in [Horowitz] and hope he is given the time, the resources and the independence to complete his work.” Scott Johnson, our own expert on all things relating to FBI/FISA abuse, has said that Horowitz “appears to be an honest and dogged investigator.”

Thus, there is no reason to believe that if the investigation of FBI FISA abuse were to be handled by different Justice Department attorneys, it would be handled better or more fairly than Horowitz is handling it.

But if President Trump doesn’t want Horowitz on the case, he should direct Sessions to remove him. As our friend professor Michael McConnell says:

Mr. Trump is the president. If he wants something done differently, he should order that it be done differently, with serious reflection, through proper channels and in the proper form.

Trump, though, prefers to bitch and moan. And to disparage in advance, with no justification, anyone he fears might not advance his interests.


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