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- President Donald Trump is blasting the Justice Department for not investigating 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. When asked, Trump was unsure whether he would fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions if Sessions did not begin investigating Clinton. It’s not the first time Trump has expressed dissatisfaction with Sessions’ Justice Department.
President Donald Trump is implicitly jabbing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, publicly lamenting the fact that the Justice Department isn’t currently investigating 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
At multiple points this week, Trump has openly criticized the Justice Department and the US justice system, firing off tweets asking for an investigation of Clinton and complaining about his lack of ability to influence the process. The complaints come less than a week after special counsel Robert Mueller handed down indictments to former members of his campaign including its former chairman, Paul Manafort.
It’s a revival of a period from the summer when Trump made a number of attacks against Sessions for failing to carry out his duties in a way that satisfied the president.
Asked point blank in a Friday press gaggle whether he would fire Sessions if he does not start to investigate Clinton, Trump said, “I don’t know.”
“I’m really not involved with the Justice Department,” Trump said. “I’d like to let it run itself. But honestly they should be looking at the Democrats. … They should be looking at a lot of things and a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.”
“The saddest thing is that because I’m the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department”
In a Thursday interview on “The Larry O’Connor Show,” Trump complained of his inability to be more directly involved with decision-making in the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“The saddest thing is that because I’m the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department,” he said. “I am not supposed to be involved with the FBI.”
Trump made the remark after being told by the host that his listeners wanted to see the DOJ go after Clinton.
“I look at what’s happening with the Justice Department. Well, why aren’t they going after Hillary Clinton with her emails and with her, the dossier?” Trump said, referring to the Democratic Party-funded dossier designed to find connections between Trump and Russia that has been both partially discredited and partially corroborated.
“I am not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing,” he added. “And I am very frustrated by it.”
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That was followed up by a lengthy tweetstorm that stretched from Thursday night into Friday morning, during which he repeatedly questioned why the Justice Department was not investigating Clinton.
Though the president has nominating power for top positions in the department, it is supposed to be independent of the White House and without interference from the president and his team.
In the tweetstorm, Trump asked “where is our Justice Department” in investigating the latest claims made by former Democratic National Committee chair Donna Brazile, who wrote in her new book that the organization favored Clinton during the Democratic primary. She noted that the arrangements she described were unethical, but not illegal.
“Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn’t looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary & the Dems,” Trump wrote in the first of three tweets. “New Donna B book says she paid for and stole the Dem Primary. What about the deleted E-mails, Uranium, Podesta, the Server, plus, plus … People are angry. At some point the Justice Department, and the FBI, must do what is right and proper. The American public deserves it!”
He added that “Pocahontas,” his derogatory nickname for Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, said the “Democrats, lead by the legendary Crooked Hillary Clinton, rigged the Primaries!”
“Lets go FBI & Justice Dept,” he said.
All of that followed up an episode earlier in the week in which he called the US justice system “a joke” and “a laughingstock” because of the lengthy process it takes for an alleged terrorist to go through the court system.
Those comments came after Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan, rammed a pickup truck through a Manhattan bicycle path, killing eight and injuring more than a dozen. Police have since said Saipov carried out the attack in the name of the terrorist group ISIS.
Trump told reporters during a Cabinet meeting that the US must “come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now.”
“They’ll go through court for years,” he said. “And at the end, they’ll be – who knows what happens. We need quick justice, and we need strong justice, much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke, and it’s a laughingstock. And no wonder so much of this stuff takes place.”
These comments “show his contempt for the rule of law and undermine faith in our justice system”
Trump’s past interactions with the Justice Department have come under scrutiny, particularly as they relate to his May firing of then-FBI Director James Comey, which led to Mueller’s appointment. Comey was overseeing the FBI’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials in the 2016 presidential election, an investigation that is now folded into the special counsel’s Russia-related investigation.
It was also from that episode that Trump’s anger with Sessions first arose. Sessions recused himself from all matters related to the Trump campaign after making statements to Congress during his confirmation hearing that later proved untrue. That led to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein being the one who made the call on appointing a special counsel after Comey was fired.
Over the summer, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump said he was “very disappointed in Jeff Sessions,” a statement he would repeat in a Rose Garden press conference alongside Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri hours later. Trump would also call Sessions his “beleaguered” attorney general.
Trump additionally blasted Sessions on Twitter for having taken what the president called “a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” The president also asked “where is the investigation A.G.” in a tweet in which he discussed “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign.”
On Friday, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Trump’s pushing the Justice Department to investigate Clinton “deeply disturbing.”
“They show his contempt for the rule of law and undermine faith in our justice system,” she said in a statement. “We can’t allow ourselves to become numb to the president of the United States calling on independent law enforcement organizations to investigate his political opponents. That’s characteristic of authoritarian regimes, not democracies, and it needs to stop.”