Matthew Miller was director of the Justice Department’s public affairs office from 2009 to 2011.
By Matthew Miller
For the Washington Post
President Trump on Sunday launched his most direct attack on the Justice Department’s independence since he fired FBI Director James B. Comey, taking to Twitter to “hereby demand” that it open a counter-investigation of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump’s demand crossed every institutional norm that has long safeguarded the Justice Department’s independence. The president was calling for an investigation into both political opponents from the former administration and career law enforcement agents, without evidence of wrongdoing, for the obvious purpose of undermining a criminal probe into his own conduct and that of his associates. Trump was clearly testing the limits of the system that constrains presidential interference with the Justice Department. And the response so far — including Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s decision to refer the matter to the department’s inspector general — shows that the system is failing.
There is no legitimate justification for asking the inspector general to investigate a hyped-up claim that the FBI inappropriately infiltrated the Trump campaign. Just as in February there was no legitimate justification for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in response to claims by House Republicans, asking the inspector general to investigate alleged — and debunked — abuses by the department in securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against former Trump aide Carter Page.
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