President Trump’s war on federal law enforcement over the Russia probe has current and former career employees fearing that the president is mortgaging the credibility of the FBI and its parent Justice Department for his short-term political gain.
Before the 2016 election, candidate Donald Trump expressed “great respect” for the “courage” of the FBI and the main Justice Department for reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Now he has changed his mind, says the New York Times. The agencies have been “disgraceful” and “should be ashamed,” President Trump declared Friday. The war between the president and the nation’s law enforcement apparatus is unlike anything the U.S. has seen in modern times. With a special counsel investigating whether his campaign collaborated with Russia in 2016 and whether Trump obstructed justice, the president has engaged in a scorched-earth assault on the pillars of the criminal justice system in a way that no other occupant of the White House has done.
In December, he pronounced the FBI’s reputation “in tatters” and the “worst in history.” “I can’t think of another time when this has happened,” said Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor who headed the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush. A SurveyMonkey poll for Axios.com showed that only 38 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of the FBI, compared with 64 percent of Democrats. More than a dozen officials who work at or recently left main Justice Department and the FBI said they feared that the president was mortgaging the credibility of those agencies for his short-term political gain. “Thanks to this rhetoric, there is a subset of the public that won’t believe what comes out of the Mueller investigation,” said Christopher Hunter, a former FBI agent and prosecutor who left the Justice Department last year. He worries that juries might be skeptical of testimony from agents in trials unrelated to Trump. “All it takes to sink a case,” he said, “is for one juror to disbelieve the FBI.”