Donald Trump loved to tell us during his presidential campaign that he was the "law and order candidate." Maybe Trump meant he was a fan of the long-running TV show "Law & Order." No one who truly cares about law and order would, as Trump has done, side with Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen, while slamming James Comey.
Yet that is what we have been seeing from Trump over the last few days. First, there's Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who last December pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador shortly after Trump was sworn in as president.
If Trump were truly a big fan of "law and order," you would think Flynn admitting that he lied to law enforcement would be worthy of some sort of Trump rebuke. And yet, on Friday, Trump lamented on Twitter the unfair standard that Flynn is held to, while attacking Comey: "So General Michael Flynn's life can be totally destroyed while Shadey James Comey can Leak and Lie and make lots of money from a third rate book (that should never have been written). Is that really the way life in America is supposed to work? I don't think so!"
Not even a mention by Trump that Flynn had admitted to wrongdoing in federal court.
And then there's Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who is the subject of a federal criminal investigation that led to the recent FBI raid of Cohen's offices, house and hotel room. On Friday, Cohen's lawyer quoted Stormy Daniels' lawyer in court, who has been saying Cohen might be indicted within the next 90 days -- arising from the criminal investigation.
So how did Trump respond on Twitter about Cohen? Well, on Saturday, Trump tweeted praise for Cohen, writing: "Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected."
What a contrast to how Trump has spoken of Comey, a longtime federal prosecutor who served in the US Attorney's office in New York under Trump's adviser Rudy Giuliani, a man recently added to Trump's legal team. In fact, Giuliani thought so much of Comey at the time that he put him in charge of the high-profile prosecution of mafia kingpin John Gambino.
Later Comey led that office and, in 2003, he was tapped by President George W. Bush to serve as the second in command in the Department of Justice under Attorney General John Ashcroft. Finally, Comey was nominated by President Barack Obama to head the FBI, where he was confirmed by the Senate in a vote of 93 to 1.
Despite Comey's long record of dedicating himself to "law and order," Trump has relentlessly attacked him since firing him last May. And Trump's barbs have been very personal with tweets calling Comey: "one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington," "Very 'cowardly!'", an "untruthful slime ball" and more.
Over the weekend, Trump even suggested Comey had committed a criminal act, tweeting: "James Comey's Memos are Classified, I did not Declassify them. They belong to our Government! Therefore, he broke the law!" Notably, he failed to mention Flynn's admitted criminal act.
To be clear, Trump's allegations that Comey leaked memos that were classified at the time he released them is questionable. Media reports indicate that the memos were curiously deemed classified by the Justice Department after Comey released them, not before. However, the Inspector General's office is currently investigating this very issue.
Trump's base seems to be fine with his actions, with recent polls finding that 86% of Republicans approve of Trump's work as president. But the rest of the country isn't buying Trump's claim he's the "law and order" president, with a March poll finding that nearly six in 10 Americans don't believe Trump respects the "rule of law."
The more Trump defends individuals like Flynn and Cohen and slams former federal prosecutors like Comey, the less people will believe Trump cares about anything except protecting his own interests.
Correction: An earlier version of this commentary mischaracterized a statement of Michael Cohen's attorney in court on Friday. In his remarks that Cohen could be indicted within the next 90 days -- arising from the criminal investigation--he says he was citing Stormy Daniels' attorney, not making the assertion on his own.
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