Journalist Maggie Haberman has secured her place as the Trump expert since being hired to cover The Don by The New York Times. She was brought over from The New York Post where she had developed her relationship with then New York City resident and celebrity Trump because of his continual clawing for press coverage. As she and colleague Glenn Thrush paint it, at The Post the rule was you needed three quotes to fill out every story; if you were short on quotes, you could always count on Donald Trump to say something, even if the story had nothing to do with him.
Haberman is currently the Queen of Palace Intrigue stories about the inner-workings of the current White House, funneling gushing leaks into eloquent, not-too-mean, detailed reports about Donald Trump’s bathrobe-shuffling TV time or the continual in-fighting amongst his aids and appointees. She and Thrush were responsible for The Times’ interview with the president in April, where Trump admitted that he found talking to reporters to be therapeutic, a narrative which has been parroted by those closest to him in other stories.
This week, Haberman along with Peter Baker and Michael S. Schmidt had another long-winded interview with the least-popular-president in history and it, of course, revealed some whopper information. There’s no smoking gun, per se, though it’s unclear if anything will ever be considered an actual smoking gun again considering the current sensationalist state of this Administration and the media covering it; but, the stand-out quote comes when Trump is asked about his Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions.
Sessions faced controversy because of undisclosed and lied about meetings with Russian officials at a time when the entire Trump White House is drowning under allegations that it colluded with the Russian government to win Trump his current seat. Sessions recused himself from the Russian investigation earlier this year, though he seemingly contradicted that recusal when he provided input into the firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was spear-heading that investigation.
Trump’s latest Times/Haberman interview finds Trump seemingly livid about Sessions’ behavior and particularly that recusal. The recusal, which is basically a good-faith move on Sessions’ part to minimize the appearance of interference in an investigation that is supposed to be impartial and independent, should be a good thing to a sitting-president who may or may not be a direct subject of said investigation. It should be a good thing because he should want to prove his innocence by showing that his Administration has nothing to hide, and nothing to fear from such an investigation.
Trump does not feel this way, however. In the interview, he states that Sessions never told him that he would recuse himself from the investigation. He then says “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” in what the Times characterized as “a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters.”
Trump also stated in that interview that Jim Comey, who has testified about the investigation he was leading into the Trump campaign, as well as his personal interactions with Trump which he characterized as suspicious, was a liar. He further accused Comey of holding the now-infamous dossier, comprised of wide-ranging allegations as to Trump’s connections to Russia and the Trump campaign’s alleged involvement with Russian election meddling, over his head as some sort of leverage.
He also alleges that the current special investigation headed by Comey’s FBI Director-predecessor Robert Mueller is not impartial because Mueller has multiple conflicts of interest in his mind. In a pattern that’s become familiar, Trump throws terms and accusations that have been levied against him toward other people in paranoid, deflective fashions. He has, for example, accused Hillary Clinton of “collusion” in a mis-use of the word that’s been bandied about non-stop in regards to his campaign and administration and their involvement with various Russians looking to elect Trump, defeat Clinton and destabilize American democracy. Conflict-of-interest is a phrase that has stuck to Trump and his family who have done little to disconnect from their vast capitalistic empire despite their current involvement in the highest levels of American government.
His statements about Mueller made many fear that he would consider having the investigator fired; this made both his opponents and his aids nervous because it would further perpetuate the accusations of cover-up. Mueller, he believes, has co-workers who are too supportive of Hillary Clinton to allow him to be impartial; Mueller was also interviewed to replace Comey, which Trump sees as a conflict-of-interest as well.
Trump, who is most defensive when he feels he personal and his family in particular are threatened, bristled when asked how he would feel if Mueller looked into the Trump businesses beyond looking for links to Russia. In a statement reminiscent of his interview with Lester Holt, where he revealed that he was indeed thinking about the “Russia thing” when he fired James Comey, Trump says of Mueller looking into his families businesses too far: I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.”
Looking tense Thursday morning, Jeff Sessions finally made a public statement in regards to Trump’s proverbial act of throwing him under the bus. On camera, Sessions stated: “We in this Department of Justice will continue every single day to work hard to serve the national interest.” He then continued to discuss policy, thereby putting his words into action.
Trump’s “deeply worrisome” statements, as The Washington Post called them, bolster the idea that he feels untouchable and invulnerable despite the tremendous controversy and the innumerable investigations by Congress, Robert Mueller, government intelligence, lawyers, and journalists into his campaign, administration, businesses and family. They have many worried that he will take rash steps to remove these threats to his image as well as what he sees as their blockade of his ability to pass legislation and implement his platform promises. Taking such drastic steps as firing Mueller or Sessions, especially with these public statements implying that he would be doing so because of the Russia investigation, would be a bad strategic move for a sitting politician, though recent precedent shows that Trump does little if nothing by the political rules and continues to survive.