President Trump attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department on Monday in connection with the indictments of two GOP congressmen on corruption charges, saying they could hurt the Republican Party in the midterm elections.
“Good job Jeff......” he added, in a sarcastic comment. Calling the agency the “Jeff Sessions Justice Department” is the president’s ultimate insult, Trump advisers say.
Trump did not address the charges themselves or name the congressmen, but the tweet was apparently referring to the indictments this summer of Reps. Chris Collins of New York and Duncan D. Hunter of California, the president’s two earliest congressional endorsers.
Collins was charged with insider trading, accused by federal prosecutors of tipping off his son about a biotechnology company’s failed drug trial to avoid significant investment losses. The alleged tip-off took place not during the Obama administration, as Trump’s tweet suggests, but in 2017, after Trump had become president.
Hunter was charged with using more than $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses, including family vacations, school tuition and theater tickets.
Collins has suspended his reelection campaign, while Hunter is running for reelection, alleging political bias by the Justice Department.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) criticized the president’s tweet. “The United States is not some banana republic with a two-tiered system of justice — one for the majority party and one for the minority party. These two men have been charged with crimes because of evidence, not because of who the President was when the investigations began,” he said in a statement.
A few minutes after the tweet on Sessions, Trump added a second tweet attacking former FBI director James B. Comey, asserting that Democrats did not like Comey until Trump fired him in 2017.
“The Democrats, none of whom voted for Jeff Sessions, must love him now. Same thing with Lyin’ James Comey. The Dems all hated him, wanted him out, thought he was disgusting - UNTIL I FIRED HIM! Immediately he became a wonderful man, a saint like figure in fact. Really sick!”
The tweet on Sessions was an unusually harsh salvo, even for a president who sometimes expresses his thoughts on Twitter to the chagrin of his staff. The tweet indicated that his attorney general should base law enforcement actions on how it could affect the president and the Republican Party’s electoral success. It also seemed to indicate that electoral popularity should influence charges.
There has typically been a separation between the White House and the Justice Department, but Trump has frequently disregarded those norms, giving orders to Sessions. Sessions recently pushed back, saying publicly that he will not allow political manipulation of the department.
Trump recently told Bloomberg News that he would keep Sessions as attorney general until after the midterm elections.
“Repeatedly trying to pervert DOJ into a weapon to go after his adversaries, and now shamelessly complaining that DOJ should protect his political allies to maintain his majority in the midterms, is nothing short of an all-out assault on the rule of law,” former deputy attorney general Sally Yates said in a statement Monday.
Trump’s attacks on Sessions — and his efforts to force his attorney general to quit his post after Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election — are now part of an obstruction investigation into the president by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team.
Also under investigation is Trump’s conduct in dismissing Comey, particularly why he fired him and whether he pressured him to be generous to Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser. Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
Trump stayed at the White House on Monday, watching television. He emerged earlier in the day, apparently about to join a waiting motorcade, before returning inside.
The White House had no comment on the president’s tweets but said he decided to remain at home and focus on trade calls.