Nearly 250 former Justice Department officials have signed a letter posted on Medium, denouncing President Donald Trump's months of attacks on the department and the investigation it is carrying out to determine whether Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election—and whether Trump's campaign was involved in the interference—and called on Congress to protect the rule of law.
"We served this institution out of a commitment to the founding American principles that our democratic republic depends upon the rule of law, that the law must be applied equally, and that no one is above the law," wrote the public servants, who included former U.S. attorneys, officials in the civil rights and environmental crimes divisions, and other employees.
Trump and his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, indicated this week that the president has the authority to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who's running the investigation into his campaign and other activities.
Reports on Friday also suggested that Rod Rosenstein's position as Deputy Attorney General may be in jeopardy, as the president has "voiced some frustrations" with him. Rosenstein's firing, ethics experts agree, would amount to an obstruction of justice—and trigger a constitutional crisis—in the same way that the dismissal of Mueller would.
Trump has attempted to bolster his argument against Mueller's probe by angrily suggesting that the Justice Department's is unfairly biased against him and the Republican Party, due to its attempts to stop the release of an inaccurate and misleading memo which purported to reveal anti-Trump prejudices in the department.
The letter called on Congress to take action against Trump should he attempt to fire Rosenstein or Mueller—as hundreds of thousands of Americans also pledged to take to the streets in protest if he does so.
"We know the people who serve at the Department will bravely weather these attacks and continue to uphold their oaths by doing only what the law dictates," wrote the former officials. "But it is up to the rest of us, and especially our elected representatives, to come to their defense and oppose any attempt by the President or others to improperly interfere in the Department's work, including by firing either Mr. Mueller, Mr. Rosenstein or other Department leadership or officials for the purpose of interfering in their investigations. Should the President take such a step, we call on Congress to swiftly and forcefully respond to protect the founding principles of our Republic and the rule of law."
"We all took an oath to enforce the Constitution and our laws in a fair and even handed manner," said Joyce Branda, a former deputy assistant attorney general who served in every administration since President Jimmy Carter's, in a statement. "This is the bedrock principle of our constitutional republic: that we are a government of laws, not of men. President Trump's shameful and baseless attacks on the Department and the Special Counsel threaten to undermine this foundational premise. The law is not a weapon in the President's political arsenal. A President who fails to understand this and who cannot protect the Department of Justice from political interference is unfit to serve."