Editorials

Trump meets with law enforcement in KC Friday, even as he trashes the rule of law itself

Acting Attorney General lauds former boss in KC appearance

Acting U.S.Attorney General Matthew Whitaker spoke on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, to the Project Safe Neighborhoods national conference at The Westin Crown Center hotel.
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Acting U.S.Attorney General Matthew Whitaker spoke on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, to the Project Safe Neighborhoods national conference at The Westin Crown Center hotel.

President Donald Trump visits Kansas City Friday, to address the Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference. As always, we welcome the president to our city and extend our best wishes for a safe and fruitful trip.

Trump will speak to law enforcement officials, lawyers, community leaders and others about violent crime. Kansas Citians are no strangers to that curse, and we hope the conference can move the needle on fixing the problem.

At the same time, we’re deeply worried Trump is precisely the wrong person to push an anti-crime message. Trump’s associates may be among the most lawless in the nation’s history.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s one-time campaign chairman, has been found guilty of several federal felonies. The president’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is also a convicted felon. Former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos admitted lying to the FBI. Rick Gates, a campaign aide, did the same.

Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has admitted federal crimes — some related to the president’s hush money payment to an adult film star.

And, of course, the president, his family and his current aides remain under scrutiny by special federal prosecutor Robert Mueller. Soon, Democrats in the U.S. House may begin their own investigation.

All of this is bad enough. But the president himself — who professes great admiration for police officers and prosecutors — has also done his best since taking office to erode public confidence in the rule of law.

For months, Trump sharply criticized former Attorney General Jeff Sessions as insufficiently loyal — to him. Sessions had the temerity to remove himself from the Russian collusion investigation, an act the president considered a betrayal.

“The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn’t tell me he was going to recuse himself ... I would have quickly picked someone else,” Trump tweeted in June.

Trump fired Sessions after the midterm elections. In his place is an acting attorney general who may or may not be in office legally.

Trump fired former FBI director James Comey. He has sought to undermine Mueller’s credibility at every opportunity. At the same time, he has praised political consultant Roger Stone, who exercised his right against self-incrimination in the Senate’s Russia probe.

Trump once said the Fifth Amendment was a favorite tool of organized crime. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” he asked. That statement itself reflects a disregard for the law, and the Constitution.

The president has criticized a federal appeals court, drawing a rebuke from the Chief Justice of the United States.

It would be easy to characterize this as typical Trumpian bluster. That would be dangerous and wrong. How can Kansas Citians, or anyone else, respect the rule of law — and respect law enforcement — when the president trashes the law and the courts over and over again?

Perhaps someone in the audience Friday will remind the president that, in America, no one is above the law. If not, Trump may soon learn that lesson on his own.

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