Maybe Trump should try harder not to sound like a mob boss

Updated

Apropos of nothing, Donald Trump lashed out yesterday afternoon at his former personal attorney/”fixer,” using some rather unusual language for an American president.

“Remember, Michael Cohen only became a “Rat” after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started. They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY’S OFFICE! Why didn’t they break into the DNC to get the Server, or Crooked’s office?”

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, the FBI did not “break into” Michael Cohen’s office. Rather, federal law enforcement executed a court-approved search warrant.

That’s neither “unthinkable” not “unheard of.” It happens every day. Even Trump, for all of his limitations, should be at least vaguely aware of this.

What’s more, the president’s tweet was, as best as I can tell, the first time Trump has referred to anyone publicly as a “rat” – a label he used to condemn Cohen for cooperating with law enforcement.

So what we have here is a sitting president – who’s responsible for faithfully executing the nation’s laws, who appoints federal judges, and and who chose senior members of the Department of Justice, including the attorney general and FBI director – publicly condemning someone for cooperating with federal law enforcement, while simultaneously criticizing the FBI for executing a lawful search warrant.

In other words, the line between Donald J. Trump’s rhetoric and the dialog from villains in mob movies is getting uncomfortably blurred.

There is a degree of irony to all of this. To hear the president tell it at campaign rallies, he’s a great champion of law enforcement. In practice, however, Trump’s posture toward law enforcement tends to break down into three categories:

1. Trump opposes common law-enforcement procedures: When the president isn’t condemning the execution of lawful search warrants, he’s arguing that “flipping” witnesses should be illegal.

2. Trump opposes law-enforcement institutions: As recently as September, the president said he sees his conflict with the FBI as one of his “crowning achievements.” Trump added at the time that he sees some leaders who’ve served in federal law enforcement as “a cancer in our country.” He’s similarly referred to the DOJ as the “Department of ‘Justice’ ” – as if he believes the DOJ’s commitment to justice is in doubt – and called it “an embarrassment to our country!”

3. Trump expects the justice system to be a tool of his political agenda: This president hasn’t just undermined the judicial system by abusing his pardon powers, he’s also urged law enforcement to enforce his political vendettasmore than once – and help Republicans win elections.

In August, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg said of this president, “He’s doing nothing less than elevating gangster ideology to the status of high principle.”

That was nearly four months ago. Trump is, if anything, sounding even more like the head of a crime family now.