GOP 'Weaponization' Of Justice Department Began Years Ago -- And Continues

GOP 'Weaponization' Of Justice Department Began Years Ago -- And Continues

Former President Donald Trump at post-conviction press conference in Trump Tower on May 31, 2024

Photo by Brendan McDermid/REUTERS

Donald Trump is trying to use the Department of Justice as a weapon, claiming that, because of his conviction on 34 felony counts, he has “every right” to go after political opponents should he be elected in November.

This isn’t new for Trump. In 2017, he pushed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute Hillary Clinton. Later, he drove Attorney General William Barr to investigate ludicrous claims against President Joe Biden, resulting in a series of embarrassing international trips to support a baseless conspiracy theory.

Trump’s four years in office were all about politicizing the DOJ by breaking down the barriers intended to keep the department from being used as a cudgel by the White House.

His desire to hurt his opponents isn’t new, but the threat he represents is infinitely greater than it was four years ago.

The only thing that stood in Trump’s way during his four years in the White House was a kind of institutional momentum. Enough career officials remained in place that Trump faced strong pushback. Even Sessions, Barr, and acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen had limits on where they would go for Trump.

But that won’t be a problem if he returns to Washington.

Trump has already made it clear that he intends to purge the federal government of impartial career officials and replace them with Trump loyalists. Project 2025 is centered around destroying the DOJ's impartiality and turning it into an attack dog for Trump.

Even before Trump went to trial in New York, Republicans were lamenting the weaponization of the justice system. Those complaints were supercharged after Trump was convicted. As always seems to be the case, the GOP is accusing Democrats of something that it’s already doing. In this case, it’s not just deflection; It’s an excuse to vastly increase the level of politicization in the justice system.

As The Washington Postreports, Republicans aren’t just crossing their fingers and hoping that Trump gets his hands on the DOJ a second time. They’re moving forward with an aggressive plan to blunt the effectiveness of the DOJ and target Trump’s enemies ahead of the election.

House Speaker Mike Johnson introduced a “three-pronged approach” on Tuesday, describing how House Republicans can target the DOJ, the state of New York, and any other jurisdiction that is investigating Trump. Those plans call for launching investigations into state and local prosecutors in New York and cutting funds for special counsel Jack Smith and any state that doesn’t investigate Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Punishing entire states for refusing to let Trump escape prosecution has become a popular theme among Republicans. It’s unclear how such a plan would work, but Republicans are expected to attach defunding federal investigations into Trump to upcoming must-pass legislation.

Republicans are also expected to pass along more criminal referrals, like the ones targeting Hunter and James Biden on Wednesday, which allow Republicans to pretend they’ve found crimes by political opponents, then attack the DOJ for failing to follow up on their make-believe evidence.

As The New York Times reports, Trump doesn’t have to make it back to Washington, D.C., to cause lasting damage to the rule of law. The independence of the DOJ isn’t baked into the Constitution; It’s something that has only existed because presidents understood that distancing themselves from the DOJ was required for the department’s legal work to have legitimacy and not be seen as a political weapon.

Trump doesn’t care. His promises to seek “retribution” blow up the idea of DOJ independence.

The lingering shreds of the barrier between the White House and the department—along with Trump’s own inexperience—reduced the damage four years ago. Given another go in a federal government reshaped into an army of Trump supporters, no one will be left to check Trump’s power.

It’s hard to comprehend how bad this might be. An America where the president’s personal desires lead directly to FBI agents pounding on a door seems fundamentally un-American, but it could be where we’re heading.

The media seems to forget that Trump already tried to weaponize the DOJ. This isn’t something he might do. It’s something he’s already done.

Reprinted with permission fromDaily Kos

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

{{ }}