President Trump chastised officials in the Department of Justice this week, calling it a “rigged system” for not providing documents requested by Republicans in Congress and warned he would “use the powers” of the presidency to dissolve the dispute if necessary.
Trump’s frustration with the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller is apparent in his recent comments this week to news sources, as well as comments he posted via his Twitter account. The president’s frustration stems from the Department of Justice’s refusal to honor a request from House Republicans for documents involving Mueller’s investigation.
“A rigged system — They don’t want to turn over documents to Congress. What are they afraid of? Why so much redacting? Why such unequal ‘justice?’ At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!” wrote Trump.
Speculation Swirls About What Powers Trump May Evoke
While it is not understood what Trump meant when he said, “I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the presidency and get involved”, there has been speculation about what the president intends to do if the requested documents are not produced.
According to Louis Seidman, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University, Trump may be suggesting more than just replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Although it would violate norms that have been in place since Watergate,” Seidman wrote in an email to the Washing Post, “Trump could simply order Sessions or Rosenstein to do things. Some of these orders might violate existing DOJ [regulations], but he could also order them to repeal the regs. He could then fire them if they refused. Doing these things would impose political costs…but the legal protections against this sort of thing are thin.”
Technically, Trump could indeed order the officials at the Justice Department to perform certain actions that include releasing documents and/or terminating Mueller. Although past presidents have typically given the attorney general and the Justice Department substantially more freedom in order for them to maintain the integrity of investigations, this is merely a custom stemming from the Watergate scandal, and not a law he must follow. In the end, Trump is Sessions’ commander, as well as the commander of all of the government’s administrative departments, and has certain rights and authorities over said departments.
Professor of law at Duke University, Lisa Kern Griffin, gave her thoughts about Trump’s Twitter posts indicating that the president appears to be “signaling about two notions he favors: presidential control over the Department of Justice generally, including the conduct of individual investigations, and his absolute authority to make personnel decisions.”
Another speculation concerning Trump’s statements is that he is implementing the same strategy he used when dealing with North Korea, and is simply threatening Mueller and the Justice Department in order to bring the investigation to completion more quickly. Since no one is actually sure exactly what powers the president intends to evoke, it is difficult to know if the strategy will work.
The Authority of Presidential Powers
While the White House can express a view through specific channels concerning policies the Justice Department pursues, it is not allowed to comment on current criminal investigations unless they are directly related to the issue of national security. In addition, the president does not have the power to terminate the Special Counsel, which may cause a constitutional issue.
Although Trump is showing his frustration of the situation and making threats to use powers of the presidency to resolve the issue, he will most likely follow his typical methodical way of thinking, and will not carry out those threats until he deems it necessary to ensure justice is fairly served.
~ Conservative Zone