Jack Goldsmith writes: In July, I had dinner with a friend who has worked as a lawyer in the Justice Department for decades. My friend bemoaned the recent tweets by the president of the United States that called into question the integrity of the Justice Department. Why isn’t Attorney General Jeff Sessions “looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?,” asked President Trump in one such (ungrammatical) tweet. And why didn’t Sessions “replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation?”
My friend was desolate because the president was baselessly questioning the integrity of senior leaders in the Justice Department—of the attorney general whom he appointed, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation whom he fired, and the acting FBI director who had served in the Bureau for decades. Such charges would have been disheartening if uttered in public by any official. But they were unfathomably worse coming from the chief executive on whose behalf my friend and tens of thousands of Justice Department employees worked hard to ensure faithful execution of the law, as the Constitution requires.
I thought about my friend this weekend when Trump launched his latest tweet-complaints about (as he put it) the “Justice” Department’s failure to go after “Crooked Hillary,” and about the “FBI’s phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more),” which (Trump claimed) left the FBI’s reputation “in Tatters – worst in History!”
The critique of these tweets is now familiar. They violate norms of law-enforcement independence from presidential influence. Their proximate aim is to discredit the Justice Department and FBI, probably in order to delegitimize it as the investigation of Robert Mueller gets ever closer to the president. And they appear to be part of an effort to weaken public confidence in American institutions more generally—not just DOJ, but also the “so-called” courts, the “fake news” media, the supposedly lying, incompetent intelligence community, and others.
This is all depressing enough. But another sharp cost of Trump’s caustic tweets has been largely neglected: The slow destruction of the morale of federal government employees, especially executive branch employees. [Continue reading…]