South Bend mayor and 2020 Democratic hopeful Pete Buttigieg said on Saturday that if he’s elected president, he will restore the Department of Justice to its pre-Trump state as an entity that defends the rule of law, not acts as an extension of the Oval Office.
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Buttigieg said that if he’s president, he will ensure that the Justice Department is completely separate from the president, particularly decisions related to criminal prosecution.
“The less this has to do with the president, the better,” he said. “I believe that the rule of law will catch up with this president. It doesn’t require the Oval Office putting any kind of thumb on the scale.”
.@PeteButtigieg tells @jaketapper that his Department of Justice would be empowered to reach its own conclusions and the prosecutorial process “should have nothing to do with politics.”
For the full #CNNSOTU interview, tune in tomorrow at 9am/ 12pm ET. pic.twitter.com/vaGi2ZPI4x
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) June 15, 2019
My Justice Department will be empowered to reach its own conclusions. Two things are true and clear: 1. Nobody is above the law; and 2. The prosecutorial process should have nothing to do with politics. The less this has to do with the president, the better. Right now we have a president who seems to think that the president can just dictate what the DOJ is going to do, call for political opponents to be jailed. I believe that the rule of law will catch up to this president. It doesn’t require the Oval Office putting any kind of thumb on the scale. I trust the DOJ to reach the right determinations, at least the DOJ that I would appoint and set up. And the less that has to do with directives coming out of the White House, the better. … I think we can maintain these two principles – that nobody is above the law and that prosecution decisions should have nothing to do with politics and should come from the DOJ itself, not from the Oval.
Democrats promise to restore the rule of law
Pete Buttigieg’s commitment to stay out of the decisions made by his Justice Department is a slight contrast with those recently made by one of his competitors, Sen. Kamala Harris.
In an interview with NPR, Harris said her Justice Department would have “no choice” but to pursue criminal charges against a former president Donald Trump.
While Jake Tapper framed this as a point of conflict between Buttigieg and Harris, the two candidates seem to be saying the same thing in different ways: that the president should not be above the law, and that the Department of Justice should be able to pursue criminal charges if there is ample evidence to support them.
In the case of Trump, we already know that there is ample evidence of criminal conduct, particularly as it relates to obstruction of justice. Hundreds of former DOJ officials have said that he would have faced criminal indictment if he weren’t the president.
In his recent press conference, Robert Mueller essentially said that the reason Trump was not indicted was because of an outdated DOJ guideline.
Ultimately, one thing is clear: Under any of the Democratic candidates currently running for president, the Department of Justice will be motivated by defending the rule of law, not Oval Office politics.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.