Yesterday, Donald Trump and his White House got caught trying to place secret restrictions on the FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. Once his secret was out, there was little doubt that he’d have to back down. Sure enough, just a few hours later, he posted a tweet insisting that the news reports in question were false, and that the FBI was free to investigate any angles and accusations it wanted to. Whether Trump intended it or not, he’s now legally bound by that tweet. No, really.
Donald Trump tried to make the controversy go away by posting this tweet late last night: “NBC News incorrectly reported (as usual) that I was limiting the FBI investigation of Judge Kavanaugh, and witnesses, only to certain people. Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. Please correct your reporting!”
As it turns out, Trump is now married to this tweet. Former Associate White House Counsel Ian Bassin weighed in on Twitter with this legal assessment: “Note to FBI: whatever instructions White House staff gave you, the President’s tweet below is actually (no, really I’m not kidding) an order from the President. DOJ’s legal view is that a presidential order need not take any special form; if the president orders it, it counts.”
In other words, the minute Donald Trump posted this tweet, the FBI was immediately free to move beyond the restrictions that Trump and his White House had previously placed on the investigation. That includes interviewing Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick, looking into whether Kavanaugh was lying about his drinking habits, and everything else. Trump is now stuck with an unlimited full-bore FBI probe into Kavanaugh over the next week, after having unwittingly told the FBI the precise details that Kavanaugh was worried about the most.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report