Reality check: Sessions can't end Mueller probe

CNN's John Avlon looks at President Trump's recent tweet calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Posted: Aug 3, 2018 9:34 AM
Updated: Aug 3, 2018 9:34 AM

For the first time, President Donald Trump has called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to personally step in and end what he calls the "rigged witch hunt" -- the Russia investigation.

This is reality challenged on a number of levels.

First, it ignores a fact that has frustrated Trump since Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation back in March 2017: He can't end it. Only the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, can do it, and only for "misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause." There is no evidence to show special counsel Robert Mueller is remotely guilty of any of that.

Second, explicitly calling on Sessions to end the investigation would certainly seem like an invitation to obstruction of justice; especially since, according to The New York Times, the Mueller team is looking at Trump's tweets for evidence of obstruction.

Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and the White House have said the President was merely expressing an opinion, not giving an order.

Of course, on a persistent schoolyard taunt level, the special counsel investigation is neither "rigged" nor a "witch hunt." But facts don't often deter this President from playing verbal offense. He's a master marketer trying to impose a new association on the investigation, so that his supporters will ignore the results no matter what they are.

Nonetheless, there's an increasingly desperate edge to his screaming "WITCH HUNT" at the special counsel. In fact, as the Russia investigation heats up, he uses it more and more. For example, he said it only three times on Twitter in May 2017 but 20 times in May 2018.

Trump, of course, is not the first president to cry "witch hunt." Witness Exhibit A, a Washington Post headline from late July 1973 blaring, "Nixon Sees 'Witch-Hunt,' Insiders Say." Just over a year later, Nixon left the White House in disgrace.

But neither party has a monopoly on virtue or vice, and new statistics say Democrats may have to revise one of their favorite rallying cries, that the Trump economy and the impact of his tax cuts haven't benefited Main Street. New data from the Labor Department shows that American workers, on average, just got their biggest raise in almost a decade in terms of wages and benefits. Whether this will outweigh rising consumer prices remains to be seen.

One final note. The Washington Post is out with its latest diagnosis of the truthfulness of Trump. As of Day 558 of his presidency, more than 4,200 of Trump's claims were determined to be "false or misleading." If you're doing the math at home, that's an average of 7.6 false or misleading claims a day. Many of those could just be called "lies."

And that's your Reality Check.

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