We’re in the middle of a busy news week, but I don’t want to overlook something President Trump tweeted on Monday. It was this:
Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff……
I don’t think there’s any plausible way to read this tweet other than as a statement that the GOP’s need to hold congressional seats should affect how the Justice Department goes about enforcing the law. Trump is publicly reprimanding the Attorney General for not taking partisan political interests into account in exercising his law enforcement obligation.
Trump isn’t just attacking Jeff Sessions. He’s attacking the rule of law. His tweet is, as National Review says, “a call for a noxious politicization of the Justice Department.”
It’s true that Justice Department policy disfavors indicting candidates within 60 days of an election in which they are standing. The so-called “60-day rule” isn’t written. Rather, as the DOJ inspector general explained in a report on James Comey’s conduct, it’s “a general practice that informs Department decisions.”
But it couldn’t inform DOJ’s decisions to indict Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins. These indictments were handed down more than 60 days before the election.
Even the Obama Justice Department was willing to indict leading Democrats with no apparent pushback from Obama. It indicted then-Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., an ally of Obama in Illinois politics. It also indicted Sen. Robert Menendez.
The New Jersey Senator was not facing a reelection campaign at the time. However, his indictment and subsequent trial (which resulted in a hung jury) are playing a role in his fairly tight reelection contest this year, and predictably so.
The indictments of Hunter and Collins are for serious, swampy crimes — using campaign funds ($250,000 of them) for personal use and insider trading, respectively. The charges were brought by Republican-appointed U.S. Attorneys. We’ll see what happens as the case moves to trial, but right now indicting the two looks like “good work” indeed.
Trump’s tweet seems bound to make his life more difficult. As National Review says, the tweet likely will create enormous obstacles to confirming a new Attorney General when Trump finally sacks Sessions. Senators, including at least some key Republicans, will fear that the president’s nominee intends to carry out the desire of his boss to use the DOJ to advance GOP interests. Longtime Republican operative Ed Rogers makes the same point.
But the key objection lies to Trump’s tweet lies in the president’s call for the corruption of law enforcement.