Shortly after Donald Trump took office in 2017, we noted that while most of the social-media comments he and his media team post are politically calculated, even when caustic, some of those posts are net losers that undermine his agenda.
This week, in what amounts to unfortunate timing — but an entirely avoidable error — at 0145 Tuesday morning, Trump (or one of his social-media minions) posted the following statement about the sentencing of Roger Stone: “This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”
That statement was correct. And Trump has rightly argued about sentencing before, especially in regard to those who have been caught up in dragnets because he and his administration have clearly been the targets of unjust investigations seeded by deep-state actors.
Unfortunately, once again, after the administration’s best week on record, Trump has unwittingly derailed some of that momentum with an unforced error.
For the record, last week was the best of any for the Trump administration. On Monday, Gallup reported that Americans are very optimistic about our country. Tuesday, the president delivered an outstanding State of the Union Address to Congress. Wednesday, he was acquitted on both articles of impeachment, dispensing with the Democrats’ impeachment charade. Thursday, Democrats were in full panic mode about Bernie Sanders and Trump’s increased prospects for reelection. Friday, the administration’s week ended with a stellar jobs report.
But the careless social-media post about Stone has diverted some attention from that great week just past.
As it turns out, Attorney General William Barr, the administration’s strongest right-thinking advocate for Rule of Law, had already determined days before Trump’s criticism, that he would seek a review of Stone’s sentencing after his conviction for lying to investigators and obstructing Congress. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Senior Justice officials had concluded on their own that the sentence recommendation was excessive and had decided to rescind it before Mr. Trump’s tweet.”
Then came Trump’s most egregious error in this matter: After becoming aware of Barr’s plan, he doubled down on his assertion about Stone’s sentencing. Trump has the power to pardon Stone, commute his sentence, etc. He should have let this play out and get out of Barr’s way.
In effect, Trump unintentionally set up Barr for claims of collusion and corruption, left Barr in between a rock and hard place, as he noted: “Once [Trump’s comment posted], the question is, now what do I do? Do you go forward with what you think is the right decision or do you pull back?”
Predictably, Democrat Party leaders and their Leftmedia publicists immediately claimed that Trump and Barr were colluding on the Stone sentencing. They demanded the resignation or (yes) impeachment of Attorney General Barr. For his part, Barr confirmed that he “never” discussed the Stone case with Trump or the White House.
Further, Barr rightly rebuked Trump for his gross carelessnesses: “I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases. I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody … whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president. I’m gonna do what I think is right, and you know, to have public statements … made about the department, about our people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity. I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell backed Barr: “The attorney general has said it’s making it difficult for him to do his job. I think the president ought to listen to the attorney general. … The president made a wise selection in picking Bill Barr. I think he ought to listen to him. … I think the attorney general knows what he is talking about. … I think he’s told the president this is not helpful, making it difficult for him to do his job. I think the president ought to listen to him.”
Responding on Trump’s behalf, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham insisted Trump “wasn’t bothered by [Barr’s] comments at all and he has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions.” She added, “President Trump uses social media very effectively. … The president has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to do his job and uphold the law.”
Memo to Stephanie: Nobody is questioning the “right” of Trump to post comments on social media. We question the wisdom of those comments. This was not an example of “using social media very effectively.” It was an example of using social media very carelessly.
Moving forward, the real test of whether President Trump is capable of a modicum of teachability will be if he takes Barr’s advice, as indeed he should — a cease and desist regarding pointless distractions from his administration’s extraordinary successes and future agenda. Hopefully, having been challenged by Barr, he will not be so “bothered” that he insults Barr, as he has with other former administration officials who have been loyal to him and their oaths “to support and defend” our Constitution.
An indication that maybe Trump has heard Barr’s message… The DoJ declined to prosecute former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who at best, “mislead” investigators in regard to the Clinton Foundation and other matters, but is not out of hot water. Trump’s social media feeds have been silent on that decision, thus far.
However, while he may have declared a temporary cease fire with Barr, unfortunately, Trump opened fire on his former Chief of Staff, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly. As a reference point, earlier this week in my column regarding the implosion of anti-Trump elitist Jonah Goldberg, I wrote, “I don’t universally disagree with Goldberg’s criticism of Trump the man — particularly in regards to his disrespectful if not outright disgraceful social-media posts regarding former administration officials, most notably Marine Gen. James Mattis and Gen. John Kelly.”
This from Trump today: “When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn’t do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head. Being Chief of Staff just wasn’t for him. He came in with a bang, went out with a whimper, but like so many X’s, he misses the action and just can’t keep his mouth shut, which he actually has a military and legal obligation to do. His incredible wife, Karen, who I have a lot of respect for, once pulled me aside & said strongly that ‘John respects you greatly. When we are no longer here, he will only speak well of you.’ Wrong!”
This grossly inaccurate condemnation of Gen. Kelly cannot pass without appropriate rebuke.
Trump was angry because at a college Q&A, Gen. Kelly noted that former NSC staffer Alexander Vindman “did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave – he went and told his boss what he just heard. … We teach them, ‘Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss.’” Of course, there was no illegal order and Vindman did a lot more than tell his superiors. He willfully violated chain-of-command protocol, choosing to put his own anti-Trump political agenda first. It is likely that Vindman illegally provided the transcript of Trump’s Ukraine call to Schiff’s Demo deep-state CIA operative, Eric Ciaramella.
But Gen. Kelly was not addressing those issues.
For the record, John Kelly was an enlisted combat Marine who rose to the highest rank of four-star general in service to our nation. After his military career, Trump asked him to join his administration as Secretary of Homeland Security and he excelled in that Cabinet position. Trump then asked him to be his Chief of Staff, and Gen. Kelly was remarkably loyal to Trump, holding his fragmented White House together from July 2017 to January 2019 – despite Trump’s constant self-inflicted wounds and fratricidal assaults. John and Karen Kelly, who have been married since 1976 and whose Marine son was killed in Afghanistan in 2011, are people of extraordinary character. They are in a class of humble American Patriots that Trump is incapable of comprehending.
Nobody with a modicum of decency for those who have sacrificed so much for our nation, would drag a spouse into in his pathetic defamation of her husband, as Trump did. Nobody. Trump should recall that even his own wife has asked him to stop the asinine social media rants. This one was inexcusable, and of course, there will be no apology. There never is.
Finally, I was joined in my condemnation of Trump’s cavalier shot at Barr and the DoJ, and his ugly cheap shot at Gen. Kelly, by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. He noted “the Democrats are imploding,” but Trump is diverting attention from their debacle with his mindless social media rants. We both agree that the difference between a Trump supporter and a Trump sycophant is that a Trump supporter is able to discern Trump’s faults…