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Why Trump has targeted a Fox News legal analyst so aggressively

It's not every day that Trump goes after a prominent Fox News voice -- but in this case, the network's legal analyst believes the president obstructed justice.
A Fox News reporter works from the Bernie Sanders rally in Iowa City, Ia., Jan. 30, 2016. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)
A Fox News reporter works from the Bernie Sanders rally in Iowa City, Ia., Jan. 30, 2016. 

Andrew Napolitano wrote an op-ed for Fox News' website last week that reached an unexpected conclusion: he read the Mueller report and believes Donald Trump obstructed justice.

The president's job is to enforce federal law. If he had ordered its violation to save innocent life or preserve human freedom, he would have a moral defense. But ordering obstruction to save himself from the consequences of his own behavior is unlawful, defenseless and condemnable.

As Rachel noted on Friday night's show, Napolitano didn't just put this in writing; he also released a video summarizing his conclusions, leaving little doubt that, as far as he's concerned, the president crossed the legal line -- more than once.

And while this analysis has been fairly common since the Mueller report reached the public, what makes these assessments so notable is where Napolitano works: the former New Jersey judge is Fox News' senior judicial analyst.

Indeed, when he filmed his remarks on Trump's alleged misdeeds last week, Napolitano did so on the street outside the network's New York headquarters.

Given everything we know about Fox News, Napolitano's conclusions came as something of a surprise -- especially to the president that's so closely aligned with the cable network.

Trump could've ignored the criticisms, but he instead responded the way he always does: by publishing some unfortunate tweets.

The president wrote over the weekend that Napolitano's argument was "very dumb," and was actually the result of corrupt motives. "Ever since Andrew came to my office to ask that I appoint him to the U.S. Supreme Court, and I said NO, he has been very hostile!" Trump wrote. "Also asked for pardon for his friend. A good 'pal' of low ratings Shepard Smith."

I don't know why Trump included the word "pal" in quotes, though the president has repeatedly made clear that he doesn't know how quotation marks work.

Legal professor Orin Kerr noted soon after, "In Trump's world, everyone who turns on him at one point asked him for a favor and was turned down, making Trump the top dog in the end." Kerr published a list of examples, and it wasn't brief.

Napolitano himself responded this morning, denying Trump's claims, and taking the dispute one step further.

In terms of the "pardon" situation, Napolitano said Trump once asked for his opinion about the conviction of a "mutual friend" of theirs. Napolitano said he thought that the conviction was just, to which, Trump offered "a very strong term" to express his disagreement."He said, 'You know this person as well as I do. Call this person up and tell this person he's going to be on the list of pardons that I will seriously consider.' That was the extent of that conversation."

Well, that's sort of interesting, isn't it? Did Trump really urge the Fox News legal analyst to dangle a pardon to a mutual friend? Why would he do that?