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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: 'I don't trust everybody in the White House' JPMorgan CEO withdraws from Saudi conference Trump defends family separations at border 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 eye ambitious agenda if House flips Schiff: There is legal precedent for impeaching sitting officials over prior criminal conduct Hillicon Valley: 50M affected by Facebook hack | Google CEO to testify on Capitol Hill | Tesla shares slump after SEC sues | House Intel votes to release Russia probe transcripts | Dem holds up passage of key intel bill 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James ComeyJames Brien ComeyThree reasons Mueller may not charge Trump with obstruction Clinton's security clearance withdrawn at her request Rod Rosenstein must recuse himself MORE to make a pledge of loyalty to him at a time when the FBI was investigating ties between the Trump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 RosensteinThree reasons Mueller may not charge Trump with obstruction Rod Rosenstein must recuse himself Trump: Nunes should receive Medal of Honor 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 SessionsTrump unsure if Mattis will stay: 'He's sort of a Democrat' Will Sessions use indefinite mandatory detention to reduce the demand for asylum hearings? Chicago sues Trump admin for withholding police funding over sanctuary city policies MORE to reopen an investigation into his former campaign opponent, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton on if Bill should’ve resigned over Lewinsky scandal: ‘Absolutely not’ Electoral battle for Hispanics intensifies in Florida Trump adds campaign stops for Senate candidates in Montana, Arizona, Nevada 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.