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Donald Trump & Co.

Donald Trump’s Top-Down Bottom-Up Assault on Justice

June 6, 2017

by Howard Haykin


Two stories in Tuesday’s edition of the NYTimes addressed this president’s assault on the U.S. Department of Justice:


Where Are the U.S. Attorneys? (Editorial)
Trump Grows Discontented With Attorney General Jeff Sessions


TOP-DOWN ASSAULT.    Donald Trump’s full throttle tweets on Monday served to undermine the multitude of attorneys who serve his administration. He blindsided lawyers in the Solicitor General’s Office who are trying mightily to persuade the Supreme Court to reinstate Trump’s executive order that would limit travel from predominantly Muslim countries.


Trump is also blaming his own Justice Department - AG Jeff Sessions’ Department - for devising a ’watered-down’, ‘politically correct’ version of the ban. Those tweets breached Donald Trump’s behind-the-scenes ‘hostility’ toward Mr. Sessions, who committed the unthinkable when he recused himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election – something that is unprecedented for a president.


Trump not only abhors displays of weakness or admissions of negligence, but he holds Sessions responsible for the appointment of a special counsel who took over the investigation – the penultimate affront on him and his administration.


While Alan Dershowitz justifies Donald Trump’s diatribes as rantings of a client who’s unhappy with his attorneys’ efforts, it’s more likely that Trump has wedged a division between himself and the Justice Department that may never be repaired.


BOTTOM-UP ASSAULT.    After firing 93 U.S. attorneys in March, which followed the tendered resignations of many others, Donald Trump has yet to replace a single one. In their absentia, career Justice Department lawyers – for the most part – have filled in as acting U.S. attorneys in their respective local offices. While no doubt capable, these attorneys lack the authority to push forward major policy changes, or simply to fully implement the programs that are mandated by the sitting president.


This situation can, perhaps, be understood or even justified, given this businessman president’s distaste for ‘sweating the details’. But apparently, Trump is taking his disdain for organizational structure outside his inner circle to a higher level by holding back those in his administration who may be seeking to fill the gaping holes in the U.S. Justice Department.


As the NYTimes says in its editorial, “The United States attorneys are only the tip of the iceberg. Mr. Trump has yet to nominate a new F.B.I. chief after firing the former director, James Comey, last month. The Justice Department’s criminal, civil and