Last week, the Federalist Society grand poobah Leonard Leo, widely credited as the mastermind behind Trump’s extremist court-packing scheme, got into a bit of spat with another high powered conservative legal luminary. That would be George Conway, the prominent Trump critic who is also the husband of Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway. Leo was upset because Conway had started a legal organization called Checks and Balances, which is dedicated to opposing Trump’s abuse of presidential power and degradation of the rule of law.
Leo said he found the whole concept outrageous. Just because the president spouts off day and night wondering why the Department of Justice isn’t jailing his political rivals and demanding that its top officials pledge fealty to him as he imagines Joe McCarthy’s lawyer (and Trump mentor) Roy Cohn would have done — well, isn’t an abuse of power unless he takes action.
I measure a president’s sensitivity to the rule of law by his actions, not his off-the-cuff comments, tweets or statements. And the president has obviously had lots of criticisms about former Attorney General Sessions and about the department, but at the end of the day, he hasn’t acted upon those criticisms.
This was fatuous in all respects but particularly so since Trump has just fired Jeff Sessions because he followed the ethical guidelines of the department and recused himself from the Russia investigations, thus failing to protect Trump. That is taking action. The same goes for firing James Comey for failing to quash the Russia investigation.