There’s a reason why Rudy Giuliani and the rest of Donald Trump’s legal team have steadfastly refused to allow Special Counsel Robert Mueller to question the president about obstruction of justice. A dossier could be compiled just on the Trump’s repeated attempts to hinder the investigation into his campaign’s relationship with Russia. He’s done it behind closed doors. He’s done it on national television. He’s done it with his Twitter account, so much so Mueller is reportedly considering Trump’s tweets as part of the probe. On Labor Day, Trump served up a few more softballs for the special counsel’s team, tweeting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should have protected Republican lawmakers from being indicted in order to give the party a better chance of maintaining control of Congress this November.
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. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2018
….The Democrats, none of whom voted for Jeff Sessions, must love him now. Same thing with Lyin’ James Comey. The Dems all hated him, wanted him out, thought he was disgusting – UNTIL I FIRED HIM! Immediately he became a wonderful man, a saint like figure in fact. Really sick!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2018
Not only is Trump obstructing justice by pressuring Sessions to somehow intervene in these investigations — or at least expressing disappointment that he didn’t, thus pressuring him to block future indictments — he’s laying out a blatant disregard for the America’s judicial system. Former Justice Department officials were appalled. “This is so dangerous and stupid it’s mind boggling. This is a fundamental threat to the rule of law,” tweeted Eric Holder, who served as attorney general for the majority of President Obama’s tenure. “Repeatedly trying to pervert DOJ into a weapon to go after his adversaries, and now shamelessly complaining that DOJ should protect his political allies to maintain his majority in the midterms, is nothing short of an all out assault on the rule of law,” wrote Sally Yates, the former deputy attorney general who held the top spot on an acting basis before Sessions was sworn in. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin added that the “tweet, by itself, may be an impeachable offense.”
The two “popular Republican Congressmen” to whom Trump is referring are Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA). Collins was the first representative to publicly endorse Trump during the 2016 campaign, and Hunter wasn’t far behind. On August 8th, Collins was indicted on a number of charges relating to insider trading. Not only is there plenty of damming evidence in the indictment, which alleges that Collins illegally sold stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited after receiving non-public information that a drug test the company conducted had failed, there is a video of Collins calling his son from the White House lawn informing him of the news. Though Trump describes this as an Obama-era investigation, the call was made in June 2017.
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A few weeks after Collins was indicted, Hunter and his wife were charged with wire fraud, falsifying records, campaign finance violations and conspiracy. At the center of the allegations was the gross misuse of Hunter’s campaign funds, which the couple used to cover everything from dental bills to family vacations to Italy. According to the indictment, when Hunter expressed a need to buy shorts, his wife instructed him to buy them from the pro shop at a golf course so they could falsely pass off the purchase as “some [golf] balls for wounded warriors.” When Hunter, a veteran himself, was interviewed about the charges, he blamed the violations on his wife. “She handled my finances,” he told Martha MacCallum of Fox News. “Whatever she did, that will be looked at, too, I’m sure,” he added. “But I didn’t do it. I didn’t spend any money illegally.”
Both Hunter and Collins were Republicans up for re-election this November, which to the president seems to be enough reason for these charges to have not been pursued. Trump ally Andrew “Judge Nap” Napolitano explained on Fox & Friends Tuesday morning that this is not how the justice system works. “This is evidence of serious crime here,” he said. “There can’t be two standards: one for Republican members of Congress and one for others. It is the duty of the Justice Department to prosecute crimes when they find them and to bring indictments when a grand jury has decided there is enough evidence there.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 4, 2018
Napolitano went on to point out that there is a video of Collins making the call to his son to tell him to sell his stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited. Ainsley Earhardt’s hard-hitting response was to ask whether the call was made on a government phone, which is largely irrelevant.
The tweets were also among the the president’s harshest attacks yet on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose days atop the Justice Department may be numbered. Trump has long fumed over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from overseeing the Russian investigation, and as the investigation has intensified in recent weeks, the president has zeroed in on his attorney general, who was also one of his earliest supporters. Though Trump has railed against Sessions on Twitter, the worst of his wrath has come in private. According to the Washington Post, Bob Woodward reports in his forthcoming book that Trump called sessions “mentally retarded.”
“This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama." — Trump, on Sessions, re Woodward's new book. https://t.co/ZvZksSzmDh
— Ashley Parker (@AshleyRParker) September 4, 2018
A year ago, it would have been unconscionable for Trump to fire Sessions — an act that would allow him to install a loyalist who could take over and potentially end the Mueller investigation — but Republican lawmakers are now warming to the idea. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said last month that the president is “entitled to an attorney general he has faith in,” and that he expects Trump to axe Sessions “sooner rather than later.” It was later reported that Graham’s comments came at the request of Trump, who has been lobbying Republican senators to turn on their former colleague.
Now tasked with buttressing the president’s drive to fire Sessions, Republican lawmakers have mostly stayed silent regarding Trump’s latest and arguably most egregious bit of justice-obstructing. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-KS), however, issued a statement likening the president’s conception of the Justice Department to that of a banana republic.
GOP Sen. Ben Sasse suggests Trump’s tweets about Sessions hurting GOP congressmen akin to a “banana republic” pic.twitter.com/mVEQRzGlAo
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) September 3, 2018
Unfortunately for the sanctity of America’s judicial system, press releases aren’t a legally binding check on the president’s power.