Trump should avoid the echoing the language of organized crime

Trump's presidency appears to have entered its "stop snitching" phase in a rather literal way.
Image: President Trump Meets With Ecuadorian President Len?n Moreno At The White House
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in the Oval Office on Feb.12, 2020.Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Donald Trump has levied plenty of complaints about officials in his administration, but yesterday, a different word entered the conversation.

Trump made his latest comments Thursday in a podcast interview with Fox News host Geraldo Rivera, who characterized the vibe in the West Wing being "a nest of vipers and snitches and backstabbers and rats."

Trump didn't reject the framing, instead turning his attention to criticizing Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.

The problem, of course, is that criticisms of "snitches" is usually reserved for conversations about overlooking crimes.

We've been down related roads before. In August 2018, for example, the president condemned "flipping," in which law enforcement persuades low-level criminals to cooperate with prosecutors and implicate higher-level criminals.

"[I]t almost ought to be illegal," Trump whined to Fox News, adding that the standard law-enforcement practice "almost ought to be outlawed," because "it's not fair."

It was at this point that The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg said of the president, "He's doing nothing less than elevating gangster ideology to the status of high principle."

And it wasn't an isolated incident. Several months later, Trump publicly lashed out at Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, calling him a "rat." As part of the same message, the president said it was "absolutely unthinkable" that the FBI would search Cohen's office as part of a criminal investigation.

As we discussed at the time, it was a jarring moment: a sitting president -- someone who's responsible for faithfully executing the nation's laws, choosing federal judges, and selecting senior members of the Department of Justice, including the attorney general and FBI director -- publicly condemned someone for cooperating with federal law enforcement, while simultaneously criticizing the FBI for executing a lawful search warrant.

About a year later, the same president condemned the prevalence of "snitches" in the White House.

The line between Donald J. Trump's rhetoric and the dialog from villains in mob movies is getting uncomfortably blurred.

Correction: I'd originally noted that Trump used the word "snitches," but it was Geraldo Rivera who used the word. The above text has been corrected.