In Trump vs. the F.B.I., Trump Will Lose
President Trump entered office last year as a singular figure. But he has come to resemble two of his predecessors in one crucial respect. Though he’s more paranoid than Richard Nixon and more mendacious than Bill Clinton, he seems bent on following them down a road to hell: a confrontation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Like them, he’ll lose.
He might win the battle with the bureau over the pending release of a scurrilous memo concocted by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, a cudgel created to attack everyone who’s been in charge of the federal investigation of Team Trump. He may try to fire them all. But he won’t win the war.
We have a good idea what’s in the poison-pen four-page memo. It sets out a conspiracy theory about a 2016 national-security wiretap on the once-obscure Trump campaign aide Carter Page. It argues, essentially, that the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, and F.B.I. leaders deceived the federal judge who approved the wiretap warrant and extended it in 2017.
The bureau called the memo materially false and misleading in an extraordinary unsigned statement on Wednesday afternoon. Christopher Wray, whom Mr. Trump installed after defenestrating James Comey, has personally emphasized the danger of releasing the memo. The Justice Department said releasing the document would be “extraordinarily reckless.”
And yet Mr. Trump has signaled his desire to see it made public, unredacted. He clearly sees the memo as a weapon of political warfare — a way to rid himself of Mr. Rosenstein, who oversees both the F.B.I. and the special prosecutor investigating the White House, Robert Mueller. Mr. Rosenstein has made it clear that he will not fire Mr. Mueller at the president’s whim — which, to the president, means he needs to go.