Trump complains that he can’t meddle in Justice Department investigations

"At some point maybe we're all going to have it out."

CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

A basic premise of the American justice system is to apply the law fairly and free from political interference. President Trump isn’t trying to hide his intensifying efforts to undermine that tenet.

During an interview on Larry O’Connor’s radio show on Thursday evening, Trump complained about the fact that he’s not supposed to meddle in ongoing investigations, saying, “The saddest thing is because I’m the President of the United States, I’m not supposed to be involved in the Justice Department. I am not supposed to be involved in the FBI. I’m not supposed to be doing the kinds of things I would love to be doing and I’m very frustrated by it.”

Trump made clear that when he referred to “the kinds of things I would love to be doing,” he’s talking about politically-motivated investigations of Democrats, including Hillary Clinton.

“I look at what’s going on with the Justice Department. Well, why aren’t they going after Hillary Clinton with her emails and dossier?” Trump said. “It’s very discouraging to me. To be honest I’m very unhappy about it.”

Trump went on to suggest he may not always be as restrained as he’d like you to believe he is now.

“As a president you’re not supposed to be involved in that process,” he said. “But hopefully [they] are doing something. At some point maybe we’re all going to have it out.”

On Friday morning, Trump again called for a baseless investigation of Clinton, this time on Twitter.

Trump is ramping up his attacks on the rule of law at the end of a week when Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, was indicted, and details of a guilty plea former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos made for making false statements to the FBI were made public. Those details provided the strongest evidence yet that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives in an effort to discredit Hillary Clinton.

As the president has stated publicly, his relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions became strained after Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation early last March. Sessions’ recusal led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel. And as Mueller begins to close in on members of Trump’s inner circle, the president and his surrogates have resorted to increasingly desperate attacks on Clinton in an effort to muddy the waters.

Sessions, who served as arguably Trump’s most prominent campaign surrogate in Congress, has also become ensnarled in Mueller’s probe. Despite testifying that he had no knowledge of team Trump’s dealings with Russian operatives during the campaign, the aforementioned guilty plea and several independent reports have made it clear that Sessions did not tell the truth.

On Thursday, NBC reported that Sessions acknowleged participating in a March 2016 conversation with Trump and other campaign officials about Papadopoulos’ “connections” with Putin. Hours later, CNN reported that another former campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, testified on Thursday that he told Sessions about a trip he took to Moscow in July 2016 before he left.

Papadopoulos’s guilty plea has also brought Trump under renewed suspicion. Despite publicly proclaiming in February that he wasn’t aware of any campaign aides having contact with Russians, Papadopoulos’ plea indicates that Trump, like Sessions, participated in a conversation about Papadopoulos’ Russia contacts — contacts that Papadopoulos boasted could allow him to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin.

That March 2016 conversation happened months before a Kremlin-connected lawyer offered to provide Donald Trump Jr. with incriminating information about Clinton. Trump Jr. arranged a meeting with the lawyer, and was joined by Manafort and other top campaign officials participated.

Trump’s effort to meddle in the DOJ has precedent. In late July, Trump trashed Sessions for not being hard enough on Clinton, calling his position on her “VERY weak.”

Trump’s efforts to meddle with the DOJ are especially brazen given that part of Mueller’s investigation is examining whether Trump obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey while Comey was overseeing an investigation into the Trump campaign for possible collusion with Russia.

The political nature of Trump’s renewed interest in prosecuting Clinton is revealed by statements he made weeks after winning the election last November. In an interview with the New York Times in late November 2016, Trump said he didn’t feel “very strongly” about prosecuting her.

“I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t,” Trump said. “She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways.”