Politicization of the Justice Department

President Trump has repeatedly and publicly called for the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate his perceived enemies — and in doing so, he's crossed a longstanding line against politicizing our nation's law enforcement agencies.

Since taking office President Trump has regularly called upon the Justice Department to investigate individuals he perceives as political opponents, especially his 2016 general election opponent Hillary Clinton, senior officials within the FBI, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Since his acquittal by the Senate in the impeachment trial, the president has exerted further political pressure on the department, including having expressed his displeasure at sentencing recommendations from prosecutors in the case against his associate Roger Stone — complaints that were apparently answered by Justice Department leadership’s intervention in the case, which was in turn praised by the president.

Similar tweets go back to 2017, with Trump having called on the Justice Department to open particular investigations on several occasions.

Former FBI Director James Comey also testified that Trump asked him for a pledge of loyalty and then requested that Comey drop the investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — and after Comey refused both requests, he was fired.

Troublingly, it appears that the Justice Department is allowing itself to be pressured by Trump’s demands. In November 2017, then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed members of Congress that he was considering appointing a second special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton’s alleged role in approving the sale of a uranium company to a Russian state company. In January 2018, after yet another round of tweets from Trump, the Daily Beast reported that Justice Department officials had agreed to take a “fresh look” at Clinton’s use of a private email server. Two years later, in January 2020, the department ended the investigation, conceding nothing of consequence was found.

There also appears to be consequences for officials who do not follow Trump’s bidding. In February 2020, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie Liu resigned from the Treasury Department after Trump withdrew her nomination to serve as undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes. News reports suggest that Liu’s resignation and revoked nomination were related to Trump’s dissatisfaction with her work as U.S. attorney — specifically, Liu’s perceived lack of involvement in politically sensitive investigations, including the cases of Trump ally Roger Stone and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Liu’s resignation occurred following the surprise reversal of Justice Department sentencing recommendations in the Stone case, a reversal that prompted the withdrawal from the case of multiple career prosecutors. In May, another stunning reversal occurred, with the Justice Department said it would be dropping its case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The motion to dismiss the charges was signed by interim U.S. Attorney for the District Timothy Shea, and raised serious questions about political interference at the Justice Department as well as about the involvement of Attorney General Barr.

As the president attempts to use his power to use his power to have his enemies investigated, we’re seeking answers from the Department of Justice.

WHAT WE’RE SEEKING

  • Records of top DOJ officials’ — including Attorney General William Barr’s — communications related to the case against Roger Stone, as well as any written documentation and approvals for the department’s February 2020 intervention in the sentencing recommendations of the prosecution team;
  • Records related to DOJ’s decision to reopen an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s alleged role in the Uranium One deal, including communications with Congress about the investigation and emails within the Attorney General’s office that mention the term “Uranium One”;
  • Communications within the Office of the Attorney General and the DOJ public affairs regarding the decision to leak contents of text messages sent by Peter Strzok;
  • Communications from DOJ political leadership attempting to influence the outcome of ongoing investigations;
  • Records related to the decision to terminate former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and whether former Attorney General Sessions’ participation violated his recusal; 
  • Training materials, such as presentation notes and handouts, from a series of DOJ religious liberty law trainings that took place during the week of March 9, 2020;
  • DOJ records — as well as records from the Texas, Florida, and Georgia attorneys general — reflecting communications with White House officials concerning a letter signed by 21 attorneys general urging the Senate to acquit Trump during the impeachment process;
  • Directives and guidance issued by Barr since February 2019 as well as communications between the Office of the Attorney General and the office of U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut John Durham, who was tapped by Barr to investigate the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation; and 
  • Records and communications related to the resignation of U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu, whose resignation and withdrawn nomination as undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes at the Treasury Department was reportedly connected to Liu’s lack of involvement in high-profile political investigations during her tenure at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia;
  • DOJ communications between Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office and Kentucky U.S. District Court Judge Justin Walker, who has been characterized as McConnell’s “protégé” and was nominated by the president to the role of an appellate judge on the D.C. Circuit Court;
  • DOJ records regarding the case of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, including communications of senior agency officials with the White House and with Flynn’s attorneys;
  • State Department Inspector General Steve Linick records regarding investigations into Pompeo and emails sent by Linick in the days before his removal; and 
  • State Department records reflecting meetings between Linick and Pompeo, and Pompeo’s communication regarding Linick. 

Updates

American Oversight Sues Justice Department for Attorney General Barr Records

June 11, 2020
For nearly a year and a half, the attorney general has abetted Trump’s attempts to politicize the Justice Department. We're suing to shed light on his tenure in office.

Documents We Obtained Show Barr Met with Prosecutor Examining Mueller Investigation — Immediately After Mueller Investigation Ended

May 20, 2020
The frequency of the meetings — including during the week Mueller finished his investigation — reveal the importance the attorney general placed on U.S. Attorney John Durham's investigation.

American Oversight Calls on Justice Department to Investigate Timothy Shea

May 13, 2020
The letter alleges that Interim U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Timothy Shea violated legal ethics rules and department guidelines with his motion to drop all charges against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Show all updates

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