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Trump Keeps Breaking the Rules

Trump Keeps Breaking the Rules
10 Apr
3:38

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Donald Trump doesn’t like to follow the rules. He lies constantly. He cheats on his wife (and not just the current one). His businesses are notorious for stiffing customers and vendors. As president, he has violated one longstanding norm after another. When Trump believes it’s convenient for him to break a rule, he often just decides that the rule doesn’t matter.

This longstanding pattern probably goes a long way toward explaining yesterday’s events: The F.B.I. conducted a raid of the office and hotel room of Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen — a raid approved by the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, who was appointed by the Trump administration just three months ago.

Think about how extraordinary this is.

Receiving a warrant to search any lawyer’s office is unusual, given the power of attorney-client privilege. And in this case, the office being searched is that of the lawyer representing the president of the United States. Which means that the search required the approval of both top Justice Department officials and a federal judge.

Why would they have granted it? Because they had good reason to believe that Cohen would have refused to follow the rules and voluntarily turn over material relevant to an investigation. As a former senior law enforcement official told CNN’s Jake Tapper, it’s likely that either Cohen “was so uncooperative they couldn’t get the information from subpoena or they had proof there was destruction of evidence.”

People who are willing to break the rules can sometimes get away with it for a long time. But sometimes their history and their misbehavior catch up with them. That now may be happening to Trump. If so, thank goodness. We’re supposed to be a nation of laws, where rulebreaking brings consequences.

Related: In The Times, Harry Litman — a former federal prosecutor — explains what the investigators may be looking for.

Asha Rangappa, a former F.B.I. special agent, says the raid is another sign that the Russia probe may continue even if Trump fires Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation: The president “will be sorely mistaken if he thinks that getting rid of Mueller will stop anything that has already started rolling in our justice system,” she said.

Trump continues to refuse to play by the rules. The government seems to have followed the exact process for conducting a search of an attorney’s office, as law professor Steve Vladeck notes. Yet Trump “made it sound — dangerously — like treason,” writes The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson Sorkin.

“Now more than ever,” Bill Kristol tweeted, “Republicans in Congress, and others in leadership roles, should step up” to protect Mueller.

Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s C.E.O., will testify before Congress today about Facebook’s impact on the 2016 election. But what he says matters less than what Congress does, writes Zeynep Tufekci in The Times: “We already know most everything we need for legislators to pass laws that would protect us from what Facebook has unleashed.”

Elsewhere, Slate’s April Glaser, Vox’s Emily Stewart and Wired’s Nicholas Thompson preview Zuckerberg’s testimony.

The full Opinion report from The Times follows.

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