By Bill Maher
Part of the preservation of the rule of law and the justice system in this country depends on the President of the United States not appearing to unduly influence the outcomes of cases in progress. That’s why we’ve heard presidents over the years say so often, “I cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.”
Richard Nixon stepped in it in 1970, when, during the Charles Manson trial, he said, “Here is a man who was guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason.” There was a firestorm of controversy, Manson’s lawyers called for a mistrial and Nixon had to retract his statement immediately, saying, “To set the record straight, I do not know and did not intend to speculate as to whether the Tate defendants are guilty, in fact, or not. All of the facts in the case have not yet been presented. The defendants should be presumed to be innocent at this stage of their trial.”
Why isn’t Trump bound by this same standard of not asserting his influence over an ongoing case? He’s attacked Michael Cohen as a liar, praised Paul Manafort for refusing to “break,” wished Michael Flynn “good luck” on his sentencing day, called the law enforcement professionals looking into Russian interference in our elections “crooked cops” and “scoundrels” and defended his friend Robert Kraft after he was arrested in a prostitution sting. And that’s not even mentioning how Trump has irresponsibly insisted he believes Vladimir Putin and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman over his own intelligence community and has taken Kim Jong Un at his word in regards to the murder of Otto Warmbier.
We often say, “What if Obama did that?” Obama did do that. Remember his statement after that controversial arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates in his own home? Obama said, “I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home, and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.” A pretty measured and accurate response – but, again, a firestorm from the Right. How dare he? Obama had to issue a statement saying he regretted his remarks.
We laugh about Trump being Gus the field-goal-kicking mule, but what he’s doing is a direct attack on the underpinnings of our constitutional republic.