Trump-Justice feud deepens

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification MORE's feud with the Justice Department deepened on Thursday as he lashed out at its prosecution of his former campaign chairman and accused it of applying a double standard and favoring Democrats.

"There’s such corruption. Before I got here, it’s from before I got here. It’s from the Obama administration," Trump said.

"When everybody sees what’s going on in the Justice Department — I always put 'justice' now with quotes — it’s a very, very sad day," Trump added.


Trump's testy remarks, during an interview Thursday with Ainsley Earhardt of "Fox and Friends," drew a quick response from Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump O'Rourke on impeachment: 2020 vote may be best way to 'resolve' Trump MORE, who the president also slammed.

“While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” he added. “I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action.”

Trump's anger and frustration with the Justice Department has been an ongoing theme of his presidency. 

He was furious with Sessions when the attorney general recused himself from matters related to the Russian investigation.

He fired and has since feuded with FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyGeorge Conway responds to Trump calling him a loser: 'Perfect example of the point I was making' Trump: 'I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be' Nadler 'encouraged' by response to Trump documents request MORE, and has pointed to private texts between another fired FBI official, Peter Strzok, and Justice lawyer Lisa Page to argue there is rampant anti-Trump bias at Justice. 

The comments to Fox appeared strikingly bitter in the aftermath of Thursday's guilty plea by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, and the guilty verdict against  his former campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortHill-HarrisX poll: 76 percent oppose Trump pardoning former campaign aides New York prosecutors throw out Constitution to charge Manafort Another prosecutor leaves Mueller investigation in latest sign probe may be winding down MORE.

In the interview that aired Thursday, Trump criticized Sessions, who he said "never took control of the Justice Department" and turned a blind eye to Democratic misdeeds.

The president suggested there was a double standard at play in the prosecution of his former associates, likening Manafort's activity to the work of Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and other political consultants.

“Look at the crimes that (Hillary) Clinton did, with the emails, and she deletes 33,000 emails after she gets a subpoena from Congress, and this Justice Department does nothing about it. And all of the other crimes that they’ve done,” Trump said.

He also highlighted the case of Imran Awan, a former technology adviser to Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzGOP turns Venezuela into Florida attack line Dem lawmakers unveil Journalist Protection Act amid Trump attacks on media Trump's emergency declaration looms over Pentagon funding fight MORE (D-Fla.) and other House Democrats who was tied to an ongoing investigation into equipment and data theft.

"He had all the information on Democrats, he had all the information on everybody," Trump said. "He went to jail holding the hands of the Justice Department and the FBI. They sat there together. They were smiling and laughing. He got nothing."

Awan was sentenced to time served on Tuesday for lying on a loan application, The Washington Post reported.

The judge in his case noted that Awan had been subject to "accusations lobbed at him from the highest branches of the government, all of which have been proved to be without foundation by the FBI and the Department of Justice.”

Trump appeared to disagree with that sentiment.

"The reason he got nothing is because the Democrats are very strong in the Justice Department," Trump said. "I put in an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions."

Trump has expressed regret on multiple occasions over his decision to nominate Sessions, saying he would not have done so if he knew the former Alabama senator would recuse himself from overseeing Mueller's investigation into Russian interference.

"He took the job and then he said 'I’m going to recuse myself,'" Trump said. "I said, 'what kind of a man is this?'"

"And by the way, he was was on the campaign," Trump continued. "You know, the only reason I gave him the job is because I felt loyalty. He was an original supporter."

Sessions in his response took credit for moving Trump's agenda forward at Justice.

"I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda,” Sessions said in a statement. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Dems want to abolish Electoral College because they 'want rural America to go away' Overwhelming majority of voters want final Mueller report released: poll Bottom Line MORE (R-S.C.), a close ally of Trump's on Capitol Hill, said he expects Trump will fire Sessions "sooner rather than later."

“The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that’s qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice,” Graham told Bloomberg. “Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.”

Some Democrats have positioned the firing of top DOJ officials as a red line, as they argue it would signal an effort to end the Mueller probe prematurely.

Trump's new ire toward justice comes as new threats arise from the Manafort and Cohen developments.

Cohen pleaded guilty on Tuesday to eight felony charges, including two counts of violating campaign finance law by arranging the payments to two women who say they had affairs with Trump. Cohen told the court he made the payments at the direction of a candidate for federal office, implicating the president without naming him.

Within minutes of Cohen's guilty plea, Manafort was convicted on eight counts of bank fraud and tax fraud. The verdict marked the end of the first courtroom test for special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE.

The president last week opened up a new front in his spat with the Justice officials, revoking ex-CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanEx-CIA director: 'I don't have any doubt' Trump will pardon Manafort Senate Dems request probe of White House security clearances Brennan calls light Manafort sentence 'extraordinarily lenient' in light of crimes committed MORE's security clearance and threatening to do the same for a host of former intelligence officials, including Comey, Strzok and current DOJ employee Bruce Ohr.

Former intelligence officials have condemned the decision en masse, but the move drew little pushback from Republicans, aside from a few outgoing lawmakers who are typically outspoken against Trump.

Trump's attacks against the DOJ have found a home in certain factions of the GOP, a party that has long-positioned itself as the party of "law and order."

Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race House Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 MORE (R-Calif.) ripped the DOJ as a "politically motivated group of folks" after he was indicted for misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds.

“This is modern politics and modern media mixed in with law enforcement that has a political agenda," Hunter said. "That’s the new Department of Justice.

“This is the Democrats’ arm of law enforcement, that’s what’s happening right now," Hunter continued. "It’s happening with Trump, it’s happening with me. We’re going to fight through it and win."