President Donald Trump on Monday continued his attacks on his own Attorney General, blaming Jeff Sessions for endangering the Republican majority in the U.S. House in 2018 by allowing the indictments of two GOP lawmakers to go forward, possibly putting their seats in play this November.
“Good job Jeff,” the President said dismissively in a pair of tweets on Labor Day.
On Twitter, the President was referring to criminal indictments issued in August of Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) – accused of insder trading and lying to the feds – and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who was charged with misusing $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use, allegedly spending it on everything from dental bills to private school tuition for his children.
“Two easy wins now in doubt,” the President wrote about the fate of those two seats in the mid-term elections.
In his tweets, the President also tried to blame Democrats for the prosecution of the pair of GOP lawmakers, referring to the investigations of “Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen.”
While the Hunter investigation had been going on for some time, the insider trading charges related to Rep. Collins had occurred during Mr. Trump’s time in office, with the key action taking place while Collins was at the White House for a Congressional picnic hosted by President Trump.
“Christopher Collins received the CEO's email while attending an official event on the South Lawn of the White House,” the indictment of Collins states, describing a chain of events on June 22, 2017 – not during the Obama Administration – where Collins was informed of a negative result for a drug trial by an Australian biotech firm in which he was heavily invested, along with members of his family.
The feds allege that in the hours after Collins received that information, the Congressman’s son, his girlfriend, and his girlfriend’s family members began making moves to sell stock in the company, before information of the drug trial failure became public – all in an effort to avoid financial losses.
Democrats said the President’s tweets were a clear indicator that he sees the Justice Department as a tool to protect him, his office and the Republican Party.
“The President doesn't bother to disguise his authoritarian impulses or conviction that law enforcement should simply be an extension of his political self-interest,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
“He's not hiding how he views the law, law enforcement, of justice,” wrote Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) on Twitter soon after the President’s tweets. “In his world they swore an oath to him, not he constitution and laws.”
“I mean that last tweet if he were caught on tape saying that it would be front page news,” Schatz added.
“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,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), one of the few Republicans to note the President’s words.
On Capitol Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan’s spokeswoman Ashlee Strong said, “DOJ should always remain apolitical, and the speaker has demonstrated he takes these charges seriously.”
In the legal community, eyebrows were raised as well by the President’s tweet.
“This is how you normalize Presidential corruption,” said law professor Orin Kerr of the University of Southern California. “Slowly put it more and more in the open until everyone just shrugs that *of course* the President wants to use law enforcement for partisan ends.”
“Disgraceful,” said Fran Townsend, a former top White House aide to President George W. Bush, who labeled the President’s tweet “UnAmerican.”
“He reminds us at least daily that he sympathizes with oligarchs and corrupt politicians and opposes DOJ and FBI's anti-corruption and counterintelligence efforts,” said Michael Bromwich, a former Inspector General at the Justice Department. “Wonder why.”