President Trump was planning to head to Camp David this past weekend, but, as you probably now realize, that did not happen. Nor did Trump hit the links at any of his golf properties, which means he spent Saturday and Sunday largely alone inside the White House, left to his own devices. Chief among those devices is Twitter, which he used to broadcast perhaps his most spectacular meltdown of the year over the latest developments in the Mueller investigation.
Beginning with a baseless accusation that in 2016 the FBI was "infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign," and ending Sunday afternoon with a call for the Department of Justice to investigate whether the investigation was politicized, Trump took his followers through a panicked 24-hour tour of his thought process. He played all the hits – "Witch Hunt," "No Collusion," "Drain the Swamp" and "Crooked Hillary (feat. the New York Times)" – while also debuting material about how the investigation has "given up" on Russia, a reference to a recent Times report that Don Jr. met with representatives from the Middle East who wanted to influence the election in Trump's favor.
Things are really getting ridiculous. The Failing and Crooked (but not as Crooked as Hillary Clinton) @nytimes has done a long & boring story indicating that the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt has found nothing on Russia & me so now they are looking at the rest of the World!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2018
Now that the Witch Hunt has given up on Russia and is looking at the rest of the World, they should easily be able to take it into the Mid-Term Elections where they can put some hurt on the Republican Party. Don’t worry about Dems FISA Abuse, missing Emails or Fraudulent Dossier!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2018
The Witch Hunt finds no Collusion with Russia - so now they’re looking at the rest of the World. Oh’ great!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2018
The focus of the tantrum, however, was the accusation that the FBI's pre-election investigation of the the Trump campaign's Russian connections was politically motivated. It's a conspiracy theory Trump and his cohorts dredged out of a Times report published last week that details the origins of the Mueller investigation. Included in the report is the revelation that investigators used at least one "informant" in an effort to determine whether Team Trump knew about Russia's attempts to undermine the 2016 election. The FBI's use of an informant was based on a lead that campaign adviser George Papadopoulos may have known about Russian meddling in advance, as well as the "obvious or suspected" Russian ties of various campaign officials.
There has never been any evidence to suggest the investigation was politically motivated, and the FBI's use of an informant in no way broke with standard procedure for handling such a case.
The FBI's domestic operations guide authorizes agents to use informants (which they call a "CHS") even when they're conducting assessments, which don't require the factual predicate of a formal investigation. pic.twitter.com/N7GyCLHkSZ— Brad Heath (@bradheath) May 18, 2018
Though most of Trump's weekend freakout was standard fare, on Sunday afternoon he topped the tirade off with a cherry of authoritarianism, sending chills through the spines of those who still believe in the values of democracy.
I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2018
The Department of Justice's ability to act independently is a core tenet of the American political system, and Trump's "demand" that they launch an investigation into their own investigation of his campaign's corruption – one that has already yielded several indictments and guilty pleas – is a frightening abuse of power. It isn't surprising, though: As Cristian Farias of New York magazine reminds us, Trump expressed a desire to prosecute his political opponents during his campaign, and as his legal troubles mount and damming reports regarding his campaign's overseas connections continue to emerge, that's exactly what he's attempting to do. The alternative would be to engage with reality, something which seems to be of less and less interest to the president.
There it is. He has finally crossed the red line and ordered up a DOJ investigation of his political opponents, as well as career law enforcement agents. Moment of truth for Rosenstein and Sessions and moment of danger for the country. https://t.co/LE8P0AmNDq— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) May 20, 2018
It didn't take Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein long to respond. Shortly after Trump posted his final tweet of the day, Rosenstein directed the inspector general to look into whether "inappropriate purposes" motivated the FBI to use an informant in its pre-election investigation of the Trump campaign. Many have theorized that Rosenstein made the move in order to placate Trump in the short term so that he will be able to keep his job and, in turn, Mueller will be able to continue his investigation. Regardless, the fact that the president was able to make such an egregiously inappropriate request and then have that request honored is deeply troubling.
Though Trump's weekend on Twitter is disturbing in and of itself, the story is still developing. On Monday morning, the president continued to tweet prolifically, touching on trade with China, North Korea, Barack Obama and "disgraced" former CIA Director John Brennan, who responded critically to Trump's Sunday afternoon directive.
It could be a long week.