There is something “insidious” transpiring between the Donald Trump administration and the Department of Justice, former DOJ officials warn.
“The spectacle of President Trump’s now daily efforts to humiliate the attorney general into resigning has transfixed the country,” former acting Attorney General wrote Friday in a New York Times op-ed. “But while we are busy staring at the wreckage of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ relationship with the man he supported for the presidency, there is something more insidious happening.”
Yates’ firing on Jan 30. marked the first public showdown between the president and his Department of Justice. Trump sacked the acting Attorney General after she declined to defend his travel ban denying entry to citizens from seven predominantly-Muslim countries. In the months since, Trump has consistently sparred with the DOJ, culminating last week with his very public rebuke of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“All of the episodes are disconcerting,” William Yeomans, a former deputy assistant attorney general, told Business Insider.
Yeomans added that Trump’s anger towards Sessions over his recusal from the Russia investigation “demonstrate again that Trump has no sense of the rule of law, or of the fact that the attorney general is beholden to the law and is not Trump’s personal lawyer.”
On Wednesday, the narrative that the Trump administration is using the Justice Department as its “personal lawyer” was furthered when White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci tweeted he would personally have the DOJ investigate a “leak” of his personal finance disclosure, which is a public document.
In a statement, a DOJ spokesperson promised to “aggressively pursue leak cases” following Scaramucci’s tweet.
“I’ve got digital fingerprints on everything they’ve done through the FBI and the f*cking Department of Justice,” Scaramucci told the New Yorker.
Matt Miller, former DOJ spokesman during the Obama administration, called out the DOJ on Friday over the department’s statement about Scaramucci.
“Forget Russia recusal,” he tweeted, as Business Insider reports. ”Sessions is still breaking the WH/DOJ wall in a million ways.”
“All these little things — inappropriate contacts & press release language, DOJ staff at the WH — add up to one big thing: politicization of DOJ,” he added.
More recently, a Justice Department briefing at the White House on the Salvadoran gang MS-13 troubled former DOJ officials, Politico reports. Matthew Axelrod, principal associate Deputy Attorney General under former President Barack Obama said the location of Friday’s briefing sent as “distressingly mixed message.”
“Voices from all corners have spoken out this week on why DOJ’s independence is critical to maintaining the rule of law,” Axelrod said. “Having a DOJ official brief from the White House podium was an unfortunate decision that sends a distressingly mixed message.”
“The DOJ has a perfectly good press room for significant announcements,” Yeomans told Business Insider. ”Moving them to the White House dissolves the necessary separation between the White House and law enforcement when it comes to criminal investigations and prosecutions.”
Dan Goldberg, former chief of the DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs, told Business Insider the “politicization at the top of the DOJ is deeply disconcerting.”
“The vast majority of DOJ employees are apolitical, outstanding civil servants who walk into work every day with one goal: to properly enforce the Constitution and the rule of law,” Goldberg said.
“The politicization at the top of the DOJ is deeply disconcerting,” he continued. ”But I’m confident that most of the department’s civil servants are continuing to serve their country admirably.”