President Donald Trump on Saturday sniped at Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano for laying into him over obstruction of justice. POTUS said that the Fox News figure asked him for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court and to pardon a friend. Let’s be perfectly clear about what’s happening here: Our Commander-in-Chief is trying to redirect public discussion because a perceived enemy touched on a sensitive topic.
The Mueller Report came out, so Napolitano took a look at its findings. He argued that Attorney General William Barr worked with a faulty, narrow definition of obstruction.
“Mueller knew Barr would block an indictment of Trump because Barr has a personal view of obstruction at odds with the statute itself,” he wrote in a new opinion piece.
Napolitano ended his article like this:
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.
He made the same argument on video. As Trump mentioned, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz disagreed with this take. He said on The Ingraham Angle that the act itself had to be illegal, and it couldn’t be something that was authorized under the president’s powers under the Constitution. Dershowitz said that it would’ve been illegal if the president asked someone to lie to a grand jury.
Napolitano’s argument did not make the president very happy. POTUS called him out on Twitter, and claimed the Fox News analyst not only asked for a Supreme Court seat, but also requested a pardon for a friend. Also note that he took a swipe at Napolitano’s “low ratings” colleague Shepard Smith, who challenged Barr’s handling of the Mueller Report.
….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! Also asked for pardon for his friend. A good “pal” of low ratings Shepard Smith.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 28, 2019
The Supreme Court detail might be true! At the very least, there’s backup for it.
A source told a POLITICO in a March 2017 report that Napolitano told friends Trump put him on the shortlist to replace late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia:
“He said, ‘Trump said I’m on the list,’” said a source who spoke with Napolitano shortly after one of his meetings with the then president-elect. “He’s been saying that since the transition.”
Napolitano reportedly met with Trump in the transition period in December 2016 and again in January 2017. The source claimed to have advised caution.
“He’ll take your call and invite you to the Oval Office, but he just wants you to say nice things about him on TV,” the source said.
Well, Napolitano didn’t say nice things about the president, and now Trump is trying to embarrass him on a national scale.
Is the Supreme Court detail true? Maybe! Does it complicate the optics of Napolitano arguing that the Trump might have committed obstruction of justice? Of course it does, especially if Napolitano asked that the president pardon a friend. Does this, in and of itself, negate his argument? No.
It’s the president’s prerogative to defend himself against allegations of wrongdoing, but if he wants to do that, he should do it on the merits. Let’s not forget he has a very clear pattern of using his Twitter account, rallies, and other venues to smack-talk perceived foes, and redirect the public narrative in his terms. It’s not politics with him. It’s not leadership. It’s personal, and he makes everything personal if someone says something he doesn’t like. He has spent his presidency covering his ass more than running the country. This attack on Napolitano (and Smith) is just another chapter in that story.
UPDATE – April 29, 11:38 a.m.: Napolitano denied that he asked Trump for a Supreme Court seat.
Napolitano fights back pic.twitter.com/JTBvYTHSZ8
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) April 29, 2019
“Look, I thought the president’s comments were brilliant,” he said. “He wanted to divert attention from what Mueller had said about him and what I had commented about Mueller to his relationship with me. His relationship with me is not the story.”
As for the pardon, he said this was in regard to a mutual friend. Napolitano claimed he told Trump that the conviction was just.
“The president used a very strong term to condemn the conviction, and he said, ‘You know this person as well as I do. Call this person up and tell him, tell this person he’s going to be on the list of pardons that I will seriously consider,'” said Napolitano. “That was the extent of that conversation.”
He maintained that he and the president have been friends for 30 years, “and probably will be for the next 30 years.”
[Image via Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.