Last Wednesday I wrote a piece headlined “Trump’s contempt for the rule of law: It’s deeply troubling, and getting worse.” I laid out some examples of President Trump’s manipulation of the Justice Department and flouting of norms and rules. I noted that on a number of occasions he’s explicitly said that he is not subject to the rule of law, whether in letter or spirit.
For instance, Trump has repeatedly claimed that the president cannot have a conflict of interest and therefore cannot be held liable for corruption. He has said that a president cannot be accountable for passing classified information to whomever he chooses, because he has the power to declassify documents for any reason at all. And he told the New York Times, “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,” explaining that as long as he felt the DOJ was being fair he wouldn’t exercise that power. He has since said many times that he is preparing to intervene; indeed, it’s been reported that Trump is still pressuring Jeff Sessions to be his “Roy Cohn” and take back control of the Russia investigation.
Over the weekend the New York Times reported that the president’s lawyers have made these claims officially in memos to special counsel Robert Mueller. The documents come right out and say it:
Indeed, the President not only has unfettered statutory and Constitutional authority to terminate the FBI Director, he also has Constitutional authority to direct the Justice Department to open or close an investigation, and, of course, the power to pardon any person before, during, or after an investigation and/or conviction. Put simply, the Constitution leaves no question that the President has exclusive authority over the ultimate conduct and disposition of all criminal investigations and over those executive branch …read more