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 mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral 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 SchiffDems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to Trump Dems fear Trump is looking at presidential pardons The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP MORE (D-Calif.) wrote in Esquire in an op-ed published Saturday. 


"[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 ComeyTrump says public can see Mueller report Anderson Cooper blasts Trump over McCain attacks: 'He's punching a person who is dead' Clyburn: Trump and family 'greatest threats to democracy' in lifetime 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 RosensteinThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump steps up attacks on McCain Rosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Graham says he'll probe Rosenstein's 25th Amendment remarks 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 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 to reopen an investigation into his former campaign opponent, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Trump's approval rating stable at 45 percent Kellyanne Conway: 'I think my gender helps me with the president' 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.