Trump says he can do whatever he wants with the Justice Department

"I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department" the president tells the Times

By Matthew Rozsa

Published December 29, 2017 7:43AM (EST)

 (Getty/Brendan Smialowski)
(Getty/Brendan Smialowski)

President Donald Trump is attracting considerable criticism for a recent interview in which he raised grave questions about whether he understands the proper limits of his own presidential power.

"Well, I think it’s bad for the country," Trump told The New York Times in response to a question about the probe into the Russia scandal by special counsel Robert Mueller III. "The only thing that bothers me about timing, I think it’s a very bad thing for the country. Because it makes the country look bad, it makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position. So the sooner it’s worked out, the better it is for the country."

Trump also raised eyebrows by proclaiming that he can do whatever he wants with the Justice Department.

"What I’ve done is, I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department," Trump told the Times after being asked about whether the Justice Department should reopen the Hillary Clinton email investigation. "But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter."

Trump also tried to pivot attention from accusations that his campaign colluded with Russia by cooking up similar claims against the Democrats.

"Let’s just say — I think that Bob Mueller will be fair, and everybody knows that there was no collusion," Trump told the Times. "I saw Dianne Feinstein the other day on television saying there is no collusion. She’s the head of the committee. The Republicans, in terms of the House committees, they come out, they’re so angry because there is no collusion. So, I actually think that it’s turning out — I actually think it’s turning to the Democrats because there was collusion on behalf of the Democrats. There was collusion with the Russians and the Democrats. A lot of collusion."

Trump also misrepresented the argument made by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who merely argued that Trump would not have obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey even if his motive was to stop the investigation into Michael Flynn. "He said, No. 1, there is no collusion, No. 2, collusion is not a crime, but even if it was a crime, there was no collusion."

Trump also repeated his criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation, claiming that Obama's attorney general Eric Holder "totally protected him" by contrast.

Not all of the criticism stemming from Trump's latest interview has been directed against the president himself. Many on Twitter have called out The New York Times for what they claimed was an insufficiently aggressive, or even implicitly favorable, approach toward the interview.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Jeff Sessions Justice Department Russia