GOP's reaction to Trump ripping DOJ indictments: Silence


GOP's reaction to Trump ripping DOJ indictments: Silence

© Greg Nash

Congressional Republican leaders have mostly been silent about President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE's tweet that his own Justice Department should have weighed the political consequences before indicting his two earliest GOP supporters on Capitol Hill.

Critics in the legal community, meanwhile, have called it a “disgrace,” “dangerous and stupid,” and possibly an “impeachable offense.”

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The muted GOP reaction from Capitol Hill isn't surprising. Republican leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers have been reluctant to directly call out or criticize the unorthodox leader of their party, fearful of becoming the target of his ire and his tweets.

But Trump’s Labor Day tweet may represent the most egregious example to date of the president interfering with ongoing Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations and engaging in what many are calling blatant obstruction of justice.

"This tweet alone may be an impeachable offense," legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said on CNN's "New Day." "This is such a disgrace. This is so contrary to the traditions of the Department of Justice." 

Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderDem lawmakers slam Trump’s declassification of Russia documents as ‘brazen abuse of power’ Dem lawmaker jabs Trump call for transparency by asking for his tax returns Eric Holder: Trump releasing docs on Russia probe is 'dangerous abuse of power' MORE, who served as attorney general under President Obama, knocked Trump’s tweet as “so dangerous and stupid it’s mind boggling. This is a fundamental threat to the rule of law.”

Trump’s tweet also sparked criticism from former officials who served under the president.

“That’s just not how the Department of Justice works,” Ian Prior, a former Justice Department spokesman in the Trump administration, told The Hill on Tuesday. “They do not prosecute people based on political affiliation and they do not pass on prosecuting people based on political affiliation. That’s called selective prosecution and those things get thrown out in court.”

Taking to Twitter a day earlier, Trump blasted Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions: DOJ concerned about suppression of free speech on college campuses Faith communities are mobilizing against Trump’s family separation policy Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe lands book deal MORE and the DOJ for bringing “well publicized” charges against Reps. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsIndicted GOP lawmaker to stay on ballot in New York this fall: report Live coverage: Cuomo, Nixon face off in high-stakes New York primary Hoyer lays out government reform blueprint MORE (R-N.Y.) and Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterIndicted GOP lawmaker to stay on ballot in New York this fall: report Hoyer lays out government reform blueprint The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — McConnell warns of GOP `knife fight’ to keep Senate control MORE (R-Calif.), two vocal Trump defenders, just weeks before the Nov. 6 midterms. The president suggested that the indictments may have cost the party these two deep-red seats — and possibly the House majority.

“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department,” Trump tweeted. “Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff......

“The Democrats, none of whom voted for Jeff Sessions, must love him now.”

Trump’s tweet marked the latest broadside in a months-long war against his own attorney general and Justice Department from a president still furious that Sessions recused himself last year from any DOJ probes into the 2016 election. That decision eventually led to the appointment of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE, whose Russia investigation Trump has dismissed as a politically motivated “witch hunt” and something that Sessions must stop.

Now, Trump is getting personally involved in the criminal investigations into two House allies, a departure from protocol which dictates that the DOJ and FBI should operate independently from the White House.

Federal prosecutors last month charged Collins, his son and others with insider trading related to an Australian biopharmaceutical firm where the New York congressman had been a board member and major investor. Weeks later, the DOJ charged Hunter and his wife with misusing campaign funds on things like lavish meals, alcohol and personal trips.

Both Collins and Hunter have maintained their innocence.
Save for a handful of outspoken Trump critics, most of Collins’s and Hunter’s Hill colleagues have declined to comment about Trump’s latest firestorm, or pushed back half-heartedly without uttering the name “Trump.”

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP candidate scores upset win in Texas state Senate runoff McConnell tamps down any talk of Kavanaugh withdrawal Cornyn takes on O'Rourke over AR-15s MORE (R-Texas), a one-time presidential rival to Trump, declined to comment to reporters about Trump’s DOJ attacks but took a swipe at the media for being “obsessed” with Trump’s tweets.

Spokespeople for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil GOP: The economy will shield us from blue wave Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker MORE (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOn The Money: Senate approves 4B spending bill | China imposes new tariffs on billion in US goods | Ross downplays new tariffs: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' Scalise tells Canada: Make a deal on trade or be left behind GOP: The economy will shield us from blue wave MORE (R-La.), both mentioned as possible Speaker candidates, did not respond to requests for comment. Ohio Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversHouse Dem campaign chief presses GOP on banning use of hacked materials Trump is wrong, Dems are fighting to save Medicare and Social Security Hillicon Valley: Ex-Trump campaign adviser gets 14 days in jail | Tesla stocks fall after Elon Musk smokes weed on video | Dem, GOP talks over hacked info break down | Russian extradited over massive financial hack | Whole Foods workers trying to unionize MORE, the GOP campaign chief, told The Hill on Tuesday he had not seen Trump’s tweet yet.

Outgoing Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanCorey Stewart fires aide who helped bring far-right ideas to campaign: report GOP super PAC hits Randy Bryce with ad starring his brother Super PACs spend big in high-stakes midterms MORE (R-Wis.) had asked both Collins and Hunter to step down from their committees following the indictments, but Ryan’s office did not directly name the president as it emphasized that the Justice Department should operate independently.

“DOJ should always remain apolitical, and the speaker has demonstrated he takes these charges seriously,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong.

Asked on Fox News if Trump should be picking fights with Sessions, Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynGOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Blumenthal: Kavanaugh nomination should be withdrawn Cornyn takes on O'Rourke over AR-15s MORE (R-Texas) said he wished the two men could “work this out between themselves and not do it on social media.

“But the attorney general, I believe is doing the job he thinks he's required to do under his oath,” Cornyn added, “and I think the president should keep him in place as long as the two of them can get along.”

Trump’s DOJ tweet came after a week of memorial services in Phoenix and Washington for the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Another recession could hit US in 2019, says credit union association chief R-E-S-P-E-C-T: One legacy of Franklin and McCain is up to us MORE (R-Ariz.), who had clashed repeatedly with the president on foreign policy, ObamaCare repeal, the merits of torture and what constitutes patriotism.

There is a dwindling number of Trump detractors in the GOP in the wake of McCain's death and the pending retirements of Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerGrassley: No reason to delay Kavanaugh hearing The Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world Murkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify MORE (R-Tenn.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGrassley: No reason to delay Kavanaugh hearing Dem senators back Kavanaugh accuser's call for FBI investigation Kavanaugh accuser says FBI should investigate before she testifies MORE (R-Ariz.).

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseMcConnell tamps down any talk of Kavanaugh withdrawal Senate approves 4B spending bill Grassley agrees to second Kavanaugh hearing after GOP members revolt MORE (R-Neb.), who hasn't shied away from knocking Trump, ripped the president for his tweet over the weekend.

"The United States is not some banana republic with a two-tiered system of justice – one for the majority party and one for the minority party," Sasse said in a statement.

"Instead of commenting on ongoing investigations and prosecutions,” the senator continued, “the job of the President of the United States is to defend the Constitution and protect the impartial administration of justice."

Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Cuomo wins and Manafort plea deal Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless Bipartisan trio asks US intelligence to investigate ‘deepfakes’ MORE (R-Fla.), another vocal Trump critic, retweeted Sasse’s statement, adding “+1” to indicate he agreed with it. But pressed for a comment of his own, Curbelo declined to elaborate.

Another lawmaker who’s frequently clashed with Trump, Rep. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesTrump approves North Carolina disaster declaration for Florence GOP says House votes will take place despite Hurricane Florence S.C. governor orders evacuation along state coastline MORE (R-N.C.), said he was “disappointed” by Trump’s attacks on Sessions. But Jones, too, made no direct reference to the president himself.  

“I’m very disappointed by recent comments denigrating AG Sessions for doing his job,” Jones said in a statement. “The Attorney General swears an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, not to prosecute crimes based on political affiliation.

“Lady Justice wears a blindfold for a reason.”

Morgan Chalfant, Jordain Carney, Juliegrace Brufke and Mike Lillis contributed.