Whenever it strikes his fancy, Donald Trump likes to accuse the Obama administration of criminal misconduct, whether it makes sense or not. In fact, the Republican president did it again yesterday.
“The Obama Administration is now accused of trying to give Iran secret access to the financial system of the United States. This is totally illegal. Perhaps we could get the 13 Angry Democrats to divert some of their energy to this ‘matter’ (as Comey would call it). Investigate!”
For those who don’t keep up on Trump’s antics, “the 13 Angry Democrats” is the name he likes to use to describe Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The fact that the probe is led by Mueller, a Republican, who reports to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, another Republican, is one of the details the president prefers to ignore.
Regardless, in this case, Trump is referring to the international nuclear agreement with Iran, and the fact that the Obama administration issued a special license from Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which allowed Iran access to its own money. It was a one-time transaction, made necessary by the broader deal.
Was this illegal? Nope. As a Washington Post report explained overnight, “[T]he granting of the license was not illegal; [Trump’s] statement is simply false.” The piece added that the license utilized by the Obama administration “made the transaction perfectly legal.”
In fact, the New York Times’ Peter Baker added that the Senate Republicans who investigated this weren’t happy with what transpired, but they never said the Obama administration’s actions were illegal. Trump just made it up.
And while the president’s brazen dishonesty is hardly new, I hope we don’t grow too inured to this specific kind of lying.
After all, according to Trump’s lawyers, the president is the nation’s “chief law enforcement officer.” If he’s going to accuse someone of criminal activity, he really ought to have some clue as to what he’s saying.
I’m well aware of the broader context: Obama’s presidency had no meaningful scandals, while Trump is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, leading a scandal-plagued administration. This no doubt makes the Republican president uncomfortable, so he pretends his Democratic predecessor routinely flouted the law.
But that doesn’t make his antics any less pathetic.