CNN commentator on Trump trying to fire Mueller: We shouldn't be "prosecuting thought crimes of the president"
Ham: "It does seem a bit of a Catch-22 for the president, that it counts against him when he doesn't fire someone, and it counts against him when he does fire someone"
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From the January 26 edition of CNN Newsroom with John Berman and Poppy Harlow:
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POPPY HARLOW (CO-HOST): Mary Katherine, I mean, intent is important as well, not only legally, but just politically. How do you see it? Alice is saying, "Look, it didn't happen." How do you see it this morning?
MARY KATHERINE HAM (CNN CONTRIBUTOR): Well we are -- in the end, we are talking about a thing that did not happen. Had it happened, it would have been a very bad thing, but I don't want to go too far down the road of prosecuting thought crimes of the president. Look, this was well sourced. He basically wants to fire everyone at some point. Some of those implications are more problematic than others. This would be one of the more problematic instances. But in this case, he talked to [White House counsel Don] McGahn, McGahn said this is a bad idea, and then he backed off, so that was --
HARLOW: Wait, wait. But Mary Katherine, the reporting is not just that McGahn said this is a bad idea, he backed off. That McGahn had to threaten to resign and quit over it.
HAM: Yeah, yeah, because it's Trump. This is who he is. I mean, I'm just like -- I'm sort of tired of acting surprised by any of this, is part of it. But, like, look, there are bad implications here, but there are implications because the actual action did not happen.
HAM: I also agree with Mark that what he’s looking for is personal loyalty, that is a pattern that we see. But it does seem a bit of a Catch-22 for the president, that it counts against him when he doesn't fire someone, and it counts against him when he does fire someone.
HARLOW: What do you mean, Mary Katherine?
HAM: Like, because, [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions was not dismissed, and [special counsel Robert] Mueller was not dismissed. On the other hand, [former FBI Director James] Comey was, and that is reflected -- that reflects badly on the president, but also when people are not fired, that reflects badly on the president. Where does he –
HARLOW: Well –
HAM: Like, he can have the thought that he wants the loyalty, and then make the right decision in the end. It is a material difference between the Comey and this instance.
HARLOW: It’s that he took the action. Sure, but a material difference between not firing someone and never saying you even want them fired, there's a big difference between that -- right Mary Katherine? -- and going to the man who could fire Mueller and saying do this.
HAM: Yes, except that he didn’t. OK. But --
HARLOW: I hear what you’re saying, he didn’t follow through on the firing, but he went to McGahn and asked for it.