On Tuesday, we found out that Donald Trump had asked then-acting FBI director Andrew McCabe whom he voted for in 2016. Predictably, Fox got to work arguing that this latest sign that Trump is unfit for office is no big deal. Or, as Fox’s Andrew Napolitano put it, just “the way he expresses himself.”
As Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief of Lawfare explained to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell Wednesday night (video below), Trump’s question was a shocking display of either ignorance of or lack of concern for the importance of neutrality of law enforcement.
WITTES: When you ask a law enforcement officer, “Did you vote for me?” what you’re really asking is, “Can I count on you to go after my political enemies and to protect me from my political enemies?” That’s what you’re actually asking whether you understand that you’re asking that or not. … For the honest law enforcement officer who has sworn an oath to the Constitution, not to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, that’s a deeply, deeply offensive question because it’s asking, “Can I count on you to be corrupt?”
Surely, Napolitano, a former judge, understands how profoundly disturbing Trump’s question was. Napolitano’s sigh, after he was asked by a Fox host for his thoughts on the matter, was a big hint that he knew how wrong Trump’s behavior was. But, Napolitano, who acknowledged he has been pals with Trump for 30 years, put his friendship over the Constitution – just as Trump would have wanted him to.
NAPOLITANO: The president has been a friend of mine for 30 years, and I’ve had numerous engagements with him on the telephone and in person. And I know that personality. And he may very well say, “I know you voted for me, didn’t you?” That’s just the way he is. He’s not asking for loyalty. He’s just—that’s the way he expresses himself.
In concert with that spin, as O’Donnell reported below, Trump responded later in the day to the concerns by saying first, “I don’t remember asking him that question.” Then, “I don’t think it’s a big deal.”
Watch Napolitano excuse the inexcusable below, from the January 24, 2018 Outnumbered, via Media Matters. Underneath, Wittes explains why Trump’s question is quite a big deal, from MSNBC’s January 24, 2018 The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.