Views My Own

Well, I Guess the President Is Openly Pro-Corruption Now

Trump reached a new low when he denounced the indictments of two GOP congressmen accused of financial crimes.
September 4, 2018, 7:05pm
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty

Last month, two pro-Trump Republican congressman were accused of the kind of corrupt actions that the president's supporters have long said are common in the Washington, DC, swampland. New York's Chris Collins was charged with insider trading, while California's Duncan Hunter was indicted for allegedly using campaign funds on everyday expenses like groceries, dental bills, and iPhone camera lenses. Donald Trump's response, on Labor Day, was to argue these investigations were politically motivated and denounce his own Justice Department for not interfering with them to help the Republican Party win elections.

Despite his routine flouting of longstanding norms separating law enforcement and politics, Trump has rarely made his view of the Justice Department so clear: He sees it as way administrations can punish their enemies and win (or retain) power. Firstly, he seems to be assuming that because these investigations were opened during the Obama administration, that makes them suspect. (The idea that the Obama-era DOJ was biased against conservatives is pretty easily disproved by the fact that Democratic Senator Bob Menendez was indicted on corruption charges in 2015.)

But worse is the sarcastic "good job Jeff…" a reference to embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions that suggests Trump thinks Sessions should have held back on the indictments of two sitting congressmen until after the election. To be clear, the president is saying publicly that he would have wanted prosecutors to give preferential treatment to his political allies—which, incidentally, is the same sort of favor that former FBI Director James Comey accused Trump of seeking in private when the president asked him to go easy on disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. (Trump has denied doing this, but the conversation is likely to play a key role if and when Special Counsel Robert Mueller ever brings obstruction of justice charges against the president.)

Trump fired Comey, then admitted on TV he did so partly because of " this Russia thing." He reportedly tried to fire Mueller, who took over the Russia investigation after Comey's firing, in December (after previously trying to do so last June). He reportedly tried to talk Sessions into taking control of that investigation, which the attorney general had recused himself from. He praised Paul Manafort and called him a "brave man" after the former Trump campaign chairman was convicted of tax and bank fraud. Now he's suggesting that his Justice Department should straight-up favor Republicans.

Getting worked up over Trump's tweets has long amounted to a waste of energy. But it's worth asking: If he's saying this sort of comically corrupt stuff in public, what kind of pressure is being exerted on the Justice Department—or other agencies—behind closed doors? (Some speculated that the tweets themselves could be evidence of obstruction of justice.) Trump just said he has no problem using law enforcement as an arm of the GOP, and he's all but announced he's firing his attorney general in the coming weeks. This will not get any better anytime soon.

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