Our view: President Trump openly despises independent law enforcement and prosecutors from Baltimore
Actor John Astin is from Baltimore. So is author John Barth. Any number of famous people from Alger Hiss to Ogden Nash can claim to be born and raised here. Who can forget H.L. Mencken or Frank Zappa? Surely, Baltimore's archetypal native son is filmmaker John Waters, as we have long been proud to be a little off-kilter. But Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein? As pleased as most Baltimoreans were by his prosecutorial efforts as U.S. Attorney in Maryland for 12 years, he's not from around these parts. Heck, he even fails the standard "Baltimore native" test: He didn't go to high school here. He just happened to have an office downtown (and by that standard, everyone in Congress is a Washingtonian).
That's why in a week of hefty prevarication out of the White House (What do you get a president on his six-month anniversary in office? Probably a fact-checker), President Donald Trump's recent observation to The New York Times that he was "irritated" to learn Mr. Rosenstein was from Baltimore wins alternative fact of the week honors. And why was the president annoyed by that possible Baltimore connection? Because, as the Times reports, Mr. Trump said there are "very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any."
Well, we can't quibble too much with that last bit. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in Baltimore by a nearly 10-to-1 margin. Ever thought about inviting every single Baltimore Republican to an Orioles home game? You could fit them all in — with room for all the 1,354 Libertarians, too.
(Even so, here's a fun fact: President Trump won about 2,600 counties, but he got more votes out of Baltimore City than he did in 2,200 of them.)
On a serious note, the more disturbing takeaway from President Trump's rant, which included a claim that he would never have appointed former Sen. Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General had he known he would recuse himself from the Russian hacking investigation, is his profound lack of respect for the rule of law. Had he spent just a nanosecond learning about Mr. Rosenstein, for example, he'd have found out that the 52-year-old Philadelphia native (and Bethesda resident) won respect in Maryland for, among other things, prosecuting prominent Democratic officeholders including Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson and Sen. Ulysses S. Currie. His prosecution of the Black Guerrilla Family and its influence over the Baltimore City Detention Center was such an embarrassment for the Martin O'Malley administration that it likely proved a factor in the surprise election of a Republican governor in 2014.
If anything, Mr. Sessions' recusal was in the president's best interest (assuming he is as innocent as he claims). So was Mr. Rosenstein's appointment, as was Mr. Rosenstein's decision to appoint a special counsel. Americans need to have confidence that law enforcement officials act in the public's interest. The attorney general is not the president's lawyer. Prosecutors aren't supposed to act like political stooges. Neither are judges or police chiefs. How else can people have faith that wrongdoing will be prosecuted — including when crimes are committed by a president, or his family or his political appointees? Does Mr. Trump really want to make the impeachment process the only recourse available?
President Trump lies. We get that. A lot of folks seem to accept it as part of his personality — to the point where he can spout some patent falsehood — that he's signed more bills "than any president ever" by this point in a term (most presidents of the post-World War II era have actually done more), for example, as he claimed several days ago, and there's hardly a fuss. Amazingly, the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll shows only one in eight Trump supporters are having second thoughts about their vote for him last November. That's a staggering level of acceptance given all this administration's stumbles.
We're willing to make Mr. Rosenstein an honorary Baltimorean, but we're not willing to abandon this country's fundamental values and simply allow a president to govern through some arbitrary exercise of power. Mr. Trump's lack of respect for the rule of law and those who honor and follow it is both despotic and repugnant.