Trump versus US Attorney General

Donald Trump has again ignored the principle preserving judicial and prosecutorial independence with another attack on the US Attorney General. Jeff Sessions, who had been a strong support of Trump for the presidency, hit back in his defence.

Howard Kurtz at Fox News: Trump’s tweet on ‘disgraceful’ DOJ puts Jeff Sessions in a bind

That last word is just remarkable.

As an old Justice reporter, let me pose this question:

How credible would it be if Sessions, a big Senate supporter and surrogate of the Trump campaign, who’s recused himself from the Russia probe, was overseeing an investigation of how the Obama DOJ handled a surveillance request against a Trump adviser who had contacts with Russia?

That’s why you have an independent inspector general.

Is Trump trying to embarrass Sessions into quitting? He’s not a big fan of Rod Rosenstein, who would become acting AG, and the No. 3, Rachel Brand, recently quit. The battle for the Senate to confirm a new DOJ chief would be a drawn-out spectacle.

For the moment, the president has left his attorney general little choice but to defend his department.

Reuters: Trump flays Sessions for ‘disgraceful’ decision, sparking new clash

It is a disgraceful decision by Trump to spark a clash with the AG.

Long-simmering tensions between U.S. President Donald Trump and his attorney general erupted anew on Wednesday after Trump lambasted Jeff Sessions’ decision on a surveillance abuse investigation as “DISGRACEFUL.”

Sessions, one of Trump’s earliest supporters in his 2016 presidential campaign, responded to the public rebuke with an uncharacteristically terse statement in which he pledged “to discharge my duties with integrity and honor.”

The latest fracas began with Trump flaying Sessions for having Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz – not prosecutors – examine how the agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained a warrant to monitor a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.

“Why is A.G. Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate massive FISA abuse,” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which regulates government monitoring of the communications of suspected foreign agents.

“Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey, etc.,” Trump continued. “Isn’t the IG an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”

Horowitz was sworn into his post in 2012, during the Obama administration, after serving on a sentencing policy commission to which he was nominated by Republican President George W. Bush.

Trump’s tweet appeared to reveal a lack of understanding of the function of Horowitz’s office, which serves as an independent watchdog that investigates misconduct in the Justice Department and can refer wrongdoing to prosecutors.

Many of Trump’s tweets reveal a lack of understanding of many things.

In his statement, Sessions called the referral to Horowitz “the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary.”

“As long as I am the attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution,” he said.

Sessions’ statement was his strongest defense against repeated attacks from Trump.

Republican politicians have backed Sessions.

“Not to incur the president’s wrath, but I wouldn’t do that. Jeff Sessions is loyal to the president,” Representative Peter King, a Republican member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, told Fox News.

Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, defended Sessions’ decision to refer the matter to Horowitz.

Horowitz “has been fair, fact-centric and appropriately confidential with his work,” Gowdy said in a statement. “I have complete confidence in him.”

Fox News: Trump’s punching bag: How much longer will Sessions endure the thrashing?

President Trump’s latest outburst against Attorney General Jeff Sessions – escalating a year-long public flogging of the mild-mannered former senator – is raising the question: How much longer will Sessions endure?

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey backed Sessions’ decision to ask the IG to investigate FISA abuse, calling the move “precisely the right choice.”

“If anyone at DOJ should look into the circumstances of this FISA application, it is the IG, who reports to both the Attorney General and Congress,” he said in a statement.

Trump’s attack was the latest in a long line of public swipes at the AG, who was one of Trump’s earliest supporters and is otherwise aligned with Trump’s base on issues like immigration and crime.

But their relationship soured within months of Trump taking office, largely over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia meddling investigation.

If the attorney general chooses to stay, it would seem unlikely Trump would look to fire him outright, especially given the chaos that followed the ouster of FBI boss James Comey.

Doing so could fire up the already-piqued interest of FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who the Post reports is already investigating a period last summer where Trump tried to push Sessions out, amid concerns Trump was looking to replace him with someone who would exercise control over the Russia probe.

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