Schiff: Trump trying to turn DOJ into ‘personal political tool’

Schiff: Trump trying to turn DOJ into ‘personal political tool’
© Greg Nash

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee warned in a new op-ed that President TrumpDonald John TrumpDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Pawlenty loses comeback bid in Minnesota Establishment-backed Vukmir wins Wisconsin GOP Senate primary MORE is trying to weaponize the Department of Justice (DOJ) as a "political tool" to do his bidding.

"What we have witnessed during the first year of the Trump Administration is a determined effort to demolish the separation between politics and the fair administration of justice—an attempt to turn the DOJ’s investigative powers into the personal political tool of the president," Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffRepublicans and Democrats alike face troubling signals from voters Schiff blasts GOP for Russia probe conduct: 'That's how you obstruct an investigation, not how you conduct one' Treason! The new party game that everyone is playing MORE (D-Calif.) wrote in Esquire in an op-ed published Saturday. 

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"[I]t has become clear that the president views the idea that the DOJ should be anything other than an extension of his political operation as an unacceptable constraint on his authority," he added.

The California lawmaker cited several examples that he views as inappropriate presidential oversteps, arguing that Trump is attempting to convert the DOJ into an institution that protects his presidency rather than faithfully pursuing justice.

Schiff pointed to Trump's reported attempt last year to get then-FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyOmarosa is case of false friend dilemma with few legal options John Brennan rips Trump on Twitter about what it means to be 'presidential' Is the ‘Ferguson Effect’ to blame for the carnage in Chicago? MORE to make a pledge of loyalty to him at a time when the FBI was investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump allegedly also asked Comey to drop his probe into former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn. 

The president also asked Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinHillicon Valley: FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump tweets | Trump signs defense bill with cyber war policy | Google under scrutiny over location data | Sinclair's troubles may just be beginning | Tech to ease health data access | Netflix CFO to step down US judge rejects Russian company’s bid to dismiss Mueller charges Falwell Jr.: Sessions and Rosenstein ‘deceived’ Trump into appointing them and should ‘rot’ in jail MORE, the top DOJ official overseeing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's Russia probe, whether he was Trump's "team," Schiff said.

Schiff also raised concern over the president's pressure on Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSwalwell: I would have fired Strzok too Omarosa: Trump calls Education chief 'Ditzy' DeVos Ex-Reagan official: If Mueller had nothing, Trump 'would ignore him' MORE to reopen an investigation into his former campaign opponent, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Establishment-backed Vukmir wins Wisconsin GOP Senate primary Ironworker and star of viral video wins Dem primary for Speaker Ryan's seat MORE, as well as "publicly berating" Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

Schiff argued in the op-ed that these incidences, among others, reveal that the president is trying to impose control over important institutions.

"Both the president’s public statements and his private actions make it clear that he is seeking nothing less than to destroy the institutions and norms that shield the Department of Justice from his direction," Schiff writes.

Schiff argues these events are made far more concerning amid Mueller's Russia probe, as well as the several congressional probes investigating the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

"This is all the more pernicious considering the fact that his own campaign is under investigation for possible collusion with the Russians in their interference in the presidential election. He would take the reins of the FBI to protect himself and to deploy their immense investigative powers against his political opponents at will," Schiff said.