The Justice Department is not a fourth branch of government. This is an obvious statement of fact, but many senior government officials and their defenders in the media appear to need a reminder. While Congress created the Office of the Attorney General with the Judiciary Act of 1789, they didn’t get around to forming the Department of Justice until 1870.
From day one, DOJ has been an executive branch agency, which means the buck stops with one person: the president. DOJ is not “independent” of the rest of government. It cannot override presidential or congressional authority. To suggest otherwise is to wish for a rogue actor within the federal government that could negate checks and balances.
This is wrong, and one would hope that a five-term senator would know as much. The president does in fact have authority over the DOJ, he can fire the attorney general for any reason or no reason, and Congress has oversight responsibility for all DOJ activities.
But Sen. Feinstein is not alone in propagating the myth of a DOJ that ultimately answers only to itself. Former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanStill in the game: Will Durham's report throw a slow curveball at key political players? UFOs are an intriguing science problem; Congress must act accordingly How transparency on UFOs can unite a deeply divided nation MORE demanded that GOP officials prevent such “harm done to our democracy” that would occur from President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE meeting with DOJ officials or requesting an investigation of their conduct.
This is just a sampling of powerful Democrats with national-level megaphones who are hellbent on spreading historically and constitutionally illiterate positions in order to prevent greater transparency of the DOJ. As the disclosures about spying on the Trump campaign mount, there is a commensurate effort to effectively mislead the public about not just the facts of Russia-Trump collusion, but who gets access to those very facts based on the very structure of our government.
It is this battle over information that threatens a showdown between a foot-dragging, uncooperative DOJ leadership and Republicans in the White House and Congress who’ve had enough of the stonewalling and selective leaks. Trump’s meeting earlier this week with top DOJ officials may calm this storm for a while, but if recent history is any guide, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and his staff will quickly resume their defensive crouch the moment disclosure of some uncomfortable truths are at stake.
The real problem here is not Trump or the GOP majority’s overstepping of constitutional or ethical boundaries — it is the escalating fear among the anti-Trump left that the American people will be outraged when they find out what has likely really been going on at the DOJ when it comes to 2016 election and anti-Trump machinations.
With that in mind, the constantly shifting explanations for why information should be kept from Congress in particular are more than suspicious. Add to this the brazen shift in narrative from “there was no spying to on the Trump campaign” to “of course there was spying on the Trump campaign” and you have a federal law enforcement bureaucracy that is in danger of losing the trust of the American people.
Despite the Democrats’ current pretenses, DOJ is not the foundation upon which our Republic was built. In fact, few things would be a more clear and present danger to liberty at home than a prosecutorial wing of the government that only answers to the political whims of the moment. The president has every right to request an inquiry into the conduct of the DOJ, and if his actions demand correction, the Congress can impeach and remove him from office. That’s the system we have, and it hasn’t changed just because Trump won an election.
It’s time for one of our most powerful federal agencies to stop playing games. No matter how the Mueller special counsel investigation and all DOJ related Russia-collusion matters end, over the last year there has been tremendous damage done to America’s perception of a nonpartisan justice apparatus.
The only antidote to this affliction is transparency, no matter how difficult or embarrassing that may be for the president’s opponents in the federal bureaucracy. And after all — they do answer to him.
Buck Sexton is a political commentator, security analyst and host of the nationally syndicated "The Buck Sexton Show.” He is a former CIA analyst in the Counterterrorism Center and the Office of Iraq Analysis and was an NYPD Intelligence Research Specialist. Follow Buck on Twitter @BuckSexton.