Think of them as political landmines; all those lies, misleading statements, and threats President Trump is spreading around the White House in response to the Russia probe. Sure, they can keep his enemies confused, jumpy, and afraid, but they can also represent a significant peril to the person who put them there. And this week, Team Trump laid down a couple of particularly tricky ones.
First, he insisted that the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller is “UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” adding “Despite that, we play the game because I …have done nothing wrong!” This is an odd assertion. In one sentence he wants to expose a wrong, and in the next he wants to excuse himself from doing anything about it. One could argue if any president sees unconstitutional behavior he is legally bound to take action because the failure to do so is a dereliction of duty.
Second, he insisted, “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself…” Again, this is a weird sort of double trap. If he’s done nothing wrong, why is he even bringing this up? And if he were to self-pardon, and if Congressional lawmakers disagreed with his decision to do so (two big “ifs” to be sure) the possibility of impeachment grows rapidly.
All of this spurred yet another round of surrealist questioning at the daily White House briefing, with Press Secretary Sarah Sanders simultaneously saying the president is “certainly not” above the law, yet offering no clarification as to why he is saying …um … well, he’s above the law.
There is no doubt that Trump wants his challengers to back off. He’s tired of hearing about Russia. He resents efforts to hold his team accountable. And he wants to build public belief that, no matter what, he will come out on top. And maybe he will. But the law has a way of keeping track of such things. And each time he fires up Twitter to lay more of those mines in the rose garden for his foes, you know his legal team has to be wondering if the president, or his minions or even they will accidentally trip one with calamitous results.
CNN’s Tom Foreman is the author of the book “My Year of Running Dangerously.”