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Ex-U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade: ‘Trump Sees The Position of Attorney General as His Personal Lawyer’

Barbara McQuade was  the first woman to serve as the U.S. Attorney in Detroit.  She was appointed by President Barack Obama and was sworn in Jan. 4, 2010. In March, she was among the remaining 46 U.S. Attorneys in the country from the Obama administration who were forced to resign. She is currently a professor at the University of Michigan Law School.

U.S. Attorney McQuade

U.S. Attorney McQuade

By Barbara McQuade

The President’s comments disparaging the attorney general are damaging to the Department of Justice and the American public.  Regardless of whether you agree with the policies of Jeff Sessions, Trump’s efforts to insult, marginalize or push him out should be deeply concerning.

Trump’s comments that Sessions should not have recused himself from the Russia investigation suggests that Trump sees the position of attorney general as his personal lawyer.  In fact, the attorney general takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution.

By complying with DOJ ethics rules, Sessions was doing his job properly.  Trump would rather have Sessions ignore ethics rules so that he could maintain control of the Russia investigation, rather than allow that duty to fall to his deputy from Baltimore, where, as Trump says, there are not a lot of Republicans. This statement wrongly suggests that DOJ makes decisions based on politics, and undermines public confidence in its decisions.

Trump’s comments about investigating Hillary Clinton are also deeply troubling.  The case was declined last summer.  To suggest reopening it now creates the impression that Trump is seeking to use the Department of Justice to punish his political enemies.  It is critically important that the Department of Justice act with independence in bringing criminal cases, and that it not become the machinery of partisan politics.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

I also think that Trump’s comments about the attorney general are demoralizing to the rank and file employees of the Department of Justice. They need a leader who is advocating for them and their priorities in the President’s cabinet. To see their leader disparaged by the President diminishes the stature of the office of attorney general and the Department of Justice.  The men and women who have dedicated their talents in careers to seeking justice and serving the public deserve much better.

It may be that the President is trying to coerce sessions into resigning.  If Sessions resigns rather than is fired, Trump has more options available to replacing him, including appointing an acting attorney general from among any of his already confirmed appointees, without any additional Senate confirmation.


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