Trump ran ‘a two-year campaign to obstruct justice’ — but his hold over the DOJ muted Muller's report: The Intercept's James Risen

Trump ran ‘a two-year campaign to obstruct justice’ — but his hold over the DOJ muted Muller's report: The Intercept's James Risen
Robert Mueller and Donald Trump (Wikimedia Commons)

The term Saturday Night Massacre is used to describe the events of Saturday, October 20, 1973, when Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than obey President Richard Nixon’s order to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox (who ended up being fired, on Nixon’s orders, by Solicitor General Robert Bork instead). James Risen, in an in-depth article for the Intercept, argues that President Donald Trump attempted a “Saturday Night Massacre” of his own during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation — and wonders if Trump sabotaged the investigation because of his hold on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Risen, in his piece, notes that Trump wasn’t shy about using “intimidation tactics” against DOJ officials, including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey, both of whom Trump fired, as well as Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“It is now becoming clear that Rosenstein, like virtually everyone else in the administration, bent to Trump’s will,” Risen asserts. “He may have done so to save his own skin.”

The Saturday Night Massacre under Nixon, Risen stresses, “resembles a routine weekend in the Trump Administration.” And Risen goes on to say that “much of the carnage is documented in the second volume of the Mueller report, which focuses on obstruction of justice. Mueller recounts Trump’s nonstop efforts to block the Trump-Russia investigation and details the firings, threats and intimidation tactics Trump used to pressure key figures involved in the probe.”

Mueller, Risen writes, “handled the Trump-Russia case in a far less aggressive way than previous independent prosecutors have handled other high-profile scandals”—for example, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr when investigating President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. And Mueller’s report, Risen says, “presents damning evidence against Trump and his circle, but then fails to follow through to conclusions that a more aggressive prosecutor might have reached.”

Trump repeatedly described Mueller's investigation as a “witch hunt” being orchestrated by “angry” partisan Democrats — neglecting to mention the fact that Mueller is a Republican who was appointed FBI director by President George W. Bush. But Risen, in his piece, emphasizes that Mueller wasn’t nearly as forceful during the Russia probe as he could have been.

“Mueller’s report also laid out a compelling case that Trump engaged in a two-year campaign to obstruct justice, but once again, the special counsel failed to follow the evidence to its logical conclusion,” Risen writes.

Risen concludes the piece by pointing out that on Friday, May 3, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had an hour-long phone conservation — and both of them were anxious to put Mueller’s investigation behind them.

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