Thursday, June 27, 2019

Trump should be sued for libel

Steve Benen (MSNBC/Maddowblog) reports that, Struggling under pressure, Trump falsely accuses Mueller of a crime.

Last night, the Democratic chairs of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees announced a subpoena that will bring former Special Counsel Robert Mueller to Capitol Hill. On July 17, for the first time, Americans will see and hear Mueller answer questions about his investigation and its findings.

It was against this backdrop that Donald Trump did another phone interview with Fox Business this morning, and if the president’s demeanor was any indication, he’s not handling the developments especially well.

President Trump lashed out at the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Wednesday, dredging up false accusations about the conduct of investigators after House Democrats announced that Mr. Mueller would testify publicly next month.

The president offered no evidence as he repeated earlier accusations that Mr. Mueller destroyed text messages between two former F.B.I. officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who worked on the Russia investigation. “They’re gone and that is illegal,” Mr. Trump said of the texts in an interview with Fox Business Network. “That’s a crime.”

Mr. Trump was referring to a December Justice Department inspector general report that noted 19,000 text messages were lost because of technical problems, not intentionally deleted by Mr. Mueller or anyone.

There’s literally nothing to suggest Mueller committed a crime, and it continues to be ridiculous that a sitting president routinely throws around false accusations of criminal activity, as if they were legitimate criticisms of his perceived foes.

But under the circumstances, the latest “Trump peddles weird lie on Fox” story is less interesting than the broader evolution of the president’s antics.

It may seem like ages ago, but as recently as March, Trump was asked whether Mueller acted honorably in his investigation of the Russia scandal. “Yes, he did,” the president replied.

Two days later, Trump added, “The Mueller report was great,” referring to a document he has not read. “It could not have been better.” This was soon followed by near-constant talk from the White House about the president having been “exonerated.”

By mid-April, however, the president’s confidence was gone. Once a redacted version of the Mueller report was released, and many started to realize just how damning it was for Trump, the Republican unraveled, lashing out at the document he’d earlier praised, calling the investigation itself “illegal,” and accusing unnamed foes of “treason.”

By mid-May, Trump intensified his attacks against Mueller personally, raising all kinds of odd claims about the special counsel’s non-existent “conflicts,” and a purported “picture file” the president said proved that Mueller “is in love with James Comey.”

In early June, Trump was eagerly touting a quote from a conservative media ally condemning the Mueller report – the one the president earlier said “totally exonerated” him – as “pure, political garbage.”

All of which set the stage for this morning’s unhinged tirade, which included Trump falsely insisting that Mueller committed “a crime.”

What happened to the guy who confidently argued that Mueller acted “honorably” and produced a report that “could not have been better”? He apparently saw some people on television who actually read the Mueller report.

One person who commented on this report shares my feeling and that is that Trump should be sued for libel. The DOJ might not take criminal action against a sitting president but I know of nothing that would stop a class action civil suit against this defaming liar.

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