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 TrumpTrump: Meetings on potential North Korea summit going 'very well' Freed American 'overwhelmed with gratitude' after being released from Venezuela Ivanka Trump to campaign for Devin Nunes in California 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 SchiffSchiff: Trump should worry less about Chinese jobs and more about national security WikiLeaks's Assange reportedly offers to show Schiff ‘there was no collusion’ Schiff on Trump's 'spygate' claims: He is asserting an imagined world is real 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 ComeyRepublican leader: ‘For all practical purposes’ there’s no difference between an FBI informant and a spy Comey: Trump's 'spygate' claims are made up There is no justice in undermining the special counsel investigation 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 RosensteinThere is no justice in undermining the special counsel investigation Schumer: Call off GOP-only 'sham briefing' on FBI informant Bowing to pressure, White House to host bipartisan briefing on Russia investigation 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 SessionsKamala Harris: Trump should send officials to testify on immigration policy separating migrant families Trump blames Democrats for separating migrant families at the border Dem lawmaker to Melania: Your husband separating immigrant children from their parents is not a 'Be Best' policy  MORE to reopen an investigation into his former campaign opponent, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump lashes out at 'rigged' Russia probe in pair of tweets Clapper: 'More and more' of Steele dossier proving to be true Republicans are strongly positioned to win Congress in November 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.