On Friday’s Morning Joe, the liberal panel once again took issue with some of the President’s Twitter comments and portrayed them as evidence that Trump is a dangerous and “authoritarian dictator.” However, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson really upped the ante today by ridiculously claiming that Trump “wants to run [America]” like Xi Jinping runs Communist China and host Joe Scarborough suggested that Trump wants to play “judge,” “jury,” and “executioner” in a manner similar to President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, who has admitted to extrajudicially killing criminal suspects.
Late into the first hour of the broadcast, Morning Joe introduced and then played comments that the President made on the Larry O’Connor Show yesterday:
WILLIE GEIST: And in a local Washington D.C. radio interview, the President said his lack of power over Justice Department investigations was a major disappointment to him.
[playing clip of radio interview]
TRUMP: You know, the saddest thing is that because I’m the President of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I’m not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I’m not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing and I am very frustrated by it. I look at what’s happening with the Justice Department. Why aren’t they going after Hillary Clinton with her emails and with her -- the dossier, and the kind of money? [...] And, you know, it’s very discouraging to me. I’ll be honest, I’m very unhappy with it, that the Justice Department isn’t going -- now maybe they are. But you know, as President– and I think you understand this–as a President, you are not supposed to be-
O’CONNOR: Yeah. Alright.
TRUMP: -involved in that process. But hopefully they are doing something, and at some point, maybe we’re gonna all have it out.
In spite of these comments pretty clearly indicating that Trump believes he should let the Justice Department and the FBI operate independently of his directives, Scarborough and Robinson were immediately convinced that Trump intends to turn America into an authoritarian state:
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Gene Robinson, once again, here's a President of the United States who just doesn't-
SCARBOROUGH: -even begin to understand constitutional norms, separations of power [sic], separations of responsibility even within the executive branch, how sacrosanct it’s always been to keep the White House away from the FBI and from the IRS and from investigations. Whenever that line is even close to being crossed, it causes real crises and it has in the past. So, I guess we now know why President Trump admires Duarte [sic] in the Philippines so much, because he can be the judge, the jury, the prosecutor, and the executioner.
ROBINSON: Yeah, Dutarte [sic], Putin, you know, there are a lot of examples out there, you know, Xi in China, I mean, and, and -- that’s the way, I guess, President Trump wants to run this country. You know, somebody ought to read the Constitution to him at some point. He’s not gonna read it himself. But somebody ought to, you know, maybe in small chunks, just kind of over a period of time, read it to him and see if they can get some of that through his head.
Xi Jinping’s China is a single-party state where Xi and the Communist Party organs vet and hand pick people for all major positions of political power, influence, or control. According to Freedom House, Xi himself directly has his imprint on pretty much every major area of policymaking, including “domestic security, economic reform, internet management, [and] ethnic relations.” Moreover, Xi’s regime regularly imprisons reporters who criticize him or any other branch of the government and has regularly been one of the top jailers of journalists globally.
Literally none of the above has anything to do with how Trump governs.
<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>
In the third hour of their broadcast, Morning Joe returned to the topic of Trump’s tweets, this time looking at what he said encouraging the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate Hillary Clinton and the DNC for corruption:
GEIST: We were just talking in our last block about the new revelations on the internal struggles facing the Democratic Party and clearly it is something on President Trump's mind this morning. He has sent out a flurry of tweets over the last 90 minutes or so kicking it all off with a three-part message reading: “Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn’t looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary & the Dems..” He goes on: “...New Donna B,” Donna Brazile, “book says she paid for and stole the Dem Primary. What about the deleted E-mails, Uranium, Podesta, the Server, plus, plus...” “....People are angry. At some point the Justice Department, and the FBI, must do what is right and proper. The American public deserves it!” The President went on: “The real story on Collusion is in Donna B’s new book. Crooked Hillary bought the DNC & then stole the Democratic Primary from Crazy Bernie!” He concluded, at least for now, the President did, quote: “Pocahontas,” Senator Warren, “just stated that the Democrats, lead by the legendary Crooked Hillary Clinton, rigged the Primaries! Lets [sic] go FBI & Justice Dept.”
After reading the tweets, Geist and MSNBC national affairs analyst John Heilemann immediately went back to the same narrative that Scarborough and Robinson pushed earlier. They both appeared to envision a future dystopian nightmare just over the horizon with Trump in the Oval Office:
GEIST: [T]here’s a lot to wade through there, but I think we should zero in on the fact that once again, as he did yesterday, the President is imploring the Justice Department and the FBI to go after his political opponents, using the power of the state to do that.
HEILEMANN: Yes, after acknowledging at least in some notional sense that he understood that he's not allowed to do that,-
GEIST: [interjecting] Right, and frustrated by that.
HEILEMANN: -he’s now frustrated by that fact that he can't behave like an authoritarian dictator. He's now not -- he’s getting pretty close to it again, basically saying: well, I can't do anything with the Justice Department and the FBI, but go FBI and Justice Department, making his preferences clear. Look, he's a master at changing the subject. And right now, in a week in which his campaign chairman has been indicted, there's a lower level campaign aide who’s pled guilty, the -- what's happening on the Mueller probe is closing in on him, the -- being able to throw all of this stuff to go back to one of his most successful campaign riffs, at least for his base, “Crooked Hillary,” and just throw out an all-encompassing set of charges here is, you know, par for the course for him. It's, like, the way he likes to deal with problems when they land in his lap.
It’s worth bringing up here that the notion that Scarborough, Geist, Heilemann, and Robinson all have been treating as gospel, namely that the FBI and the Justice Department are “sacrosanct” in their independence from the president’s control, is simply untrue. As liberal legal analyst and Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz pointed out earlier this year in the context of accusations of obstruction of justice being hurled at Trump by much of the mainstream media:
Throughout American history — from Adams to Jefferson to Lincoln to Roosevelt to Kennedy to Obama — presidents have directed (not merely requested) the Justice Department to investigate, prosecute (or not prosecute) specific individuals or categories of individuals.
It is only recently that the tradition of an independent Justice Department and FBI has emerged. But traditions, even salutary ones, cannot form the basis of a criminal charge.
None of the panelists on Morning Joe appeared to be aware of these basic facts, instead preferring to cast Trump as some uniquely nefarious subverter of Constitutional law and order.