In less than an hour on Wednesday afternoon, President Trump found a way to impugn the integrity and threaten the livelihoods of nearly all of the country’s top law enforcement officials, including some he appointed, for one simple reason: They swore an oath to defend the Constitution, not him.
For a president who sees the rule of law as an annoyance rather than a feature of American democracy, the traitors are everywhere.
.. But propriety left the building long ago. It’s hard to imagine he will be there much longer, since the president has, in so many words, invited him to resign for failing to block the Russia investigation.
.. For Mr. Mueller, who led the F.B.I. for more than a decade and who is one of the most respected law enforcement officials in the country, Mr. Trump had a clear message: Watch your back. Any investigation into the Trump family’s finances, unrelated to Russia, the president said, would constitute a “violation” of Mr. Mueller’s mandate, and possibly would be grounds for his dismissal.
.. Or perhaps he thinks he can bend Mr. Wray to his will because, as he told The Times, “the F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president.”
Wrong again: The F.B.I. director reports to the attorney general,
After Defense Secretary Robert Gates had joined other senior officials in lamenting the “grave damage” from Manning’s revelations, Gates was asked by Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin to put it in writing. Gates came back with an honest report: Early claims of damage had been, in Gates’s words, “significantly overwrought.”
.. Yet, balancing whatever that “damage” was is the significance of Snowden’s argument that the warrantless bulk surveillance of Americans was illegal under the Constitution and created the risk of a future leader imposing a “turnkey tyranny” on the United States because of all the embarrassing and incriminating information that would be collected on American citizens.
There is now no doubt that Snowden’s constitutional concerns were well-founded and it is not hard to imagine how an unscrupulous politician might make effective use of people’s personal secrets or their unguarded comments.
But it is easier to discredit Snowden by simply portraying him as a Russian spy.
.. Any contact with Russians – no matter how unintentional in Snowden’s case – is regarded as somehow disqualifying.
.. At one point, Epstein glibly says of Snowden, “In signing this [nondisclosure] document, he swore an oath not to divulge any of this information.”
But that’s not correct. The only oath that we, as military or other government officials swear is: “To support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.”
Ethicists describe such an oath as a “supervening value,” far more serious than a promise like that embedded in the contract one signs in agreeing not to disclose classified information that could be harmful to US national security. In other words, what do you do when your oath conflicts with the contract language, which one has the priority?
.. Watching what happened to fellow whistleblowers – like Thomas Drake – who tried to “go through channels,” Snowden knew that he had to “get out of Dodge” to have any hope of remaining at liberty long enough to complete his mission.