Donald Trump is not happy with the Department of Justice and he has sent chief of staff John Kelly to hold personal and telephonic Come to Jesus meetings with senior Justice staff.
Via Business Insider:
President Donald Trump’s frustrations with the Russia investigation boiled over on Air Force One last week when he learned that a top Justice Department official had warned against releasing a memo that could undercut the probe, according to four people with knowledge of the matter.
Trump erupted in anger while traveling to Davos after learning that Associate Attorney General Stephen Boyd warned that it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release a classified memo written by House Republican staffers. The memo outlines alleged misdeeds at the FBI and Justice Department related to the Russia investigation.
For Trump, the letter was yet another example of the Justice Department undermining him and stymieing Republican efforts to expose what the president sees as the politically motivated agenda behind Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
The letter would be the one from assistant attorney general for legislative affairs Stephen Boyd castigating Devin Nunes for being “reckless” in deciding to release the memo of improper use of the Trump dossier.
Kelly held separate meetings or phone calls with senior Justice Department officials last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to convey Trump’s displeasure and lecture them on the White House’s expectations, according to the people. Kelly has taken to ending such conversations with a disclaimer that the White House isn’t expecting officials to do anything illegal or unethical.
After Trump’s strong reaction on Air Force One over the Boyd letter, White House officials, including Kelly, sprang into action again, lashing Justice Department officials Thursday over the decision to send the letter, according to the people. Sarah Isgur Flores, director of public affairs at the Department of Justice, declined to comment.
Several people close to Trump insist he isn’t preparing to fire Wray, Sessions or other senior officials. But the Justice Department’s decision to send the Boyd letter to the House Intelligence Committee last week has intensified Trump’s concern that his own department is undercutting him, several people familiar with the matter said.
The president is frustrated that Justice Department officials keep getting involved in issues related to the probe when they don’t need to, leading him to wonder if anyone was trying to protect people implicated in the GOP memo, according to one person familiar with the matter.
Kelly called Sessions directly to complain about the letter, and several other White House officials chided officials at Justice as well. Sessions was also at the White House Monday for an immigration meeting and for a discussion Tuesday of the department’s goals for the coming months.
Several things come to mind reading this. Trump is right. Department of Justice has, since the first days of the administration, acted as though it was a fourth branch of government. Leaks have poured out of that agency and the leaks have all gone one way: against Trump. Many senior career Justice officials are on record as supporting Sally Yates’s illegal decision to refuse to defend Trump’s first travel executive order. They still remain…except for one who now works for Robert Mueller. The letter sent by Stephen Boyd to Nunes was arrogant, disrespectful and out of line. The very fact that letter was drafted and sent and Boyd still has a job is a sign that Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein either have zero control over that department or they are part of the problem.
There are people on this site who laugh at the idea of loyalty. But Trump is right to expect and demand loyalty from his political appointees. The idea that they have a greater loyalty to something else, but not so great as to turn down the paycheck is cravenness of the worst sort. The spectacle of a third tier official in an executive department lambasting a House committee chairman was shameful and a sign of an organization devoid of any kind of discipline or even self-respect.
On Twitter, people who really aren’t fit to, or even physically capable of, carrying John Kelly’s jock strap are laughing (this actually calls into mind Colonel Jessup’s speech about duty and honor in A Few Good Men because they are treating honor and duty as the punchline to a joke):
"[John] Kelly has taken to ending such conversations with a disclaimer that the White House isn’t expecting officials to do anything illegal or unethical." https://t.co/CK6GBGck3L
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 29, 2018
What Kelly is doing is not underhanded, it is a lesson that he had drummed into him since he was a second lieutenant. When you give an order you always want people to know that you are not asking for illegal or unethical behavior. If they are hearing such an order they need to reconsider their course of action.
Back in the paleolithic era, when I weigh 155-lbs, ran a 5:15 mile, had a full head of hair and was convinced beer was food, there was a poster in the ROTC detachment where I obtained my commission:
If you work for a man, in heaven’s name work for him, speak well of him, and stand by the institution he represents. Remember, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. If you must growl, condemn, and eternally find fault – resign your position, and when you are outside, damn to your heart’s content – but as long as you are part of the institution, do not condemn it. If you do, the first high wind that comes along will blow you away, and probably you will never know why.
It has stuck with me over the years and I think it is one of the most important lessons I learned in my commissioning program. Loyalty, like integrity, is non-negotiable. And if you continue to work for someone who you have no loyalty towards then you no longer have to worry about the whole integrity thing because you don’t have it. There are people in Justice and elsewhere who are so devoted to “muh principles” that they can’t give Trump their best efforts and try to further the goals of his administration. If they won’t do that, then they need to find other employment. Voluntarily or escorted out of the building by security.