WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump escalated his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday, suggesting the Department of Justice put Republicans in midterm jeopardy with recent indictments of two GOP congressmen.
In his latest broadside against the department’s traditional independence, Trump tweeted that “Obama era investigations, of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department.”
He added: “Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff……”
Another blow in Trump’s long-running feud with Sessions, the president’s complaint fits with his pattern of viewing the Department of Justice less as a law enforcement agency and more as one that should do his political bidding. Typically the agency prides itself on independence from political influence, and investigators are never supposed to take into account the political affiliations of the people they investigate.
Trump, who did not address the specifics of the charges, did not name the Republicans. But he was apparently referring to the first two Republicans to endorse him in the GOP presidential primaries. Both were indicted on separate charges last month: Rep. Duncan Hunter of California on charges that included spending campaign funds for personal expenses and Rep. Chris Collins of New York on insider trading. Both have proclaimed their innocence.
The Hunter investigation began in June 2016, according to the indictment. It was not clear when the investigation into Collins began. The conspiracy alleged in his indictment supposedly began in 2017, though he was also under investigation by congressional ethics officials.
Hunter has not exited his race, while Collins ended his re-election bid days after his indictment. Both seats appear likely to remain in GOP hands, but the charges have raised Democratic hopes.
A spokeswoman for Sessions declined comment, and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump did not have any public events Monday. He briefly exited the White House to a waiting motorcade, but then went back inside without going anywhere.
He has previously pressed Sessions to investigate his perceived enemies and has accused Sessions of failing to take control of the Department of Justice. Trump has also repeatedly complained publicly and privately over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the federal investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia because he had worked on Trump’s campaign.
Some of the issues Trump has raised have either already been examined or are being investigated.
The tension between Trump and Sessions boiled over recently with Sessions punching back, saying that he and his department “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.” Still, Sessions has made clear to associates that he has no intention of leaving his job voluntarily despite Trump’s constant criticism.
Allies, including Republican members of Congress, have long advised Trump that firing Sessions — especially before November’s midterm elections — would be deeply damaging to the party. But some have indicated that Trump may make a change after the elections.
“I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters recently.