In a much-ballyhooed spontaneous interview with The New York Times, President Trump stated on Thursday that he had complete authority over the Department of Justice — a constitutional fact. This led the media to lose its collective mind, however.
Trump stated, “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,” adding, “But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.” Trump said that Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School agreed with his legal analysis.
Now, Trump is right. The executive branch is unitary — meaning that if you work for the executive branch, you work for the president. To suggest that the DOJ is immune to the president is akin to saying that the Environmental Protection Agency is immune to the president — and ever since the expiration of the Office of the Independent Counsel in 1999, there’s been no Congressional challenge to that basic idea.
That’s not to say that Trump can’t obstruct justice. Were Trump to lie to the FBI, for example, or direct the DOJ how to conduct an investigation, he’d be running into murky legal waters. But he has the power to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, to instruct Attorney General Jeff Sessions to initiate an investigation, and so on. Democrats never challenged this sort of presidential authority, not even when Attorney General Eric Holder called himself President Barack Obama’s “wing-man,” and said he was “there with my boy.”
Nonetheless, Democrats and the media have taken Trump’s comments as evidence of his dictatorial nature. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who spends his days on-call at CNN, said that Trump didn’t have the authority to direct the DOJ. He tweeted:
Schiff, of course, has been busily making unsubstantiated claims of Russian collusion for months; he stated weeks ago, “The Russians offered help, the campaign accepted help, the Russians gave help, and the president made full use of that help.”
Here’s the reality: Trump would be a fool to interfere in the Mueller investigation. And he knows that. But for the Left to deny presidential authority over the DOJ is a recipe for the unworkability of the executive branch.