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Much has been written, on Lawfare and elsewhere, about the dangers of presidential interference with the Justice Department and, in particular, the special counsel’s investigation. But the broader implications of President Trump’s willingness to interfere with the administration of justice must remain in focus: When the president attempts to direct the course of a particular prosecution or enforcement action, he jeopardizes important constitutional promises of due process and equal treatment. Among others, the courts have a duty to call him out when they see interference and to put a stop to it when they can.
Take, for example, the case of Sayfullo Saipov. (Protect Democracy, where I work, has filed an amicus brief in the Saipov case. Protect Democracy also represents Lawfare contributors and editors Benjamin Wittes, Jack Goldsmith, Scott Anderson and Susan Hennessey on a number of separate matters.) The day after Saipov drove his car onto a Manhattan bikeway in an alleged vehicular terrorist attack in October 2017—the same day that prosecutors filed terrorism charges against Saipov in Manhattan federal court—President Trump, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, tweeted:
NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 2, 2017