In a tweet on Wednesday that critics characterized as a "very blatant" threat to obstruct justice by firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—who oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe—President Donald Trump suggested for the second time in less than a week to that he may decide to "get involved" with the Justice Department if it doesn't meet his demands.
A Rigged System - They don’t want to turn over Documents to Congress. What are they afraid of? Why so much redacting? Why such unequal “justice?” At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 2, 2018
Trump's tweet comes a day after reports indicated that Trump's far-right allies in the House of Representatives have drafted articles of impeachment against Rosenstein, accusing him of failing to comply with a congressional requests for more information about the Justice Department's Russia probe.
During a question and answer session in Washington on Tuesday, Rosenstein responded to the leaked impeachment articles, saying that "there have been people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time, and I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted."
The tweet on Wednesday aligns with reporting by Axios' Mike Allen earlier in the day which cited sources very close to the president to say Trump was likely ready to go on "offense" regarding the Mueller probe.
"For the average human, nothing scares them more than legal issues. He. Does. Not. Care," one source told Axios. "His whole adult life has been spent in litigation. He's not afraid of high-stakes legal stuff.…He's just going to start swinging and knock people’s heads off."
Norm Eisen, former White House ethics official and chair of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, wrote on Wednesday that Trump's tweet shows he is "triangulating with the impeach Rosenstein crowd" by amplifying their attacks.
Trump’s triangulating with the Impeach Rosenstein crowd. This is a fabricated excuse to attack Rod. And Trump wants the unredacted docs to shape his answers to the Mueller questions. #ProtectRosenstein https://t.co/CciejodQpN— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) May 2, 2018
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Others similarly viewed Trump's tweet as a thinly veiled threat to fire Rosenstein if he doesn't get his way—a move legal experts have argued would constitute obstruction of justice.
Trump's most direct threat yet to Rosenstein's job. Also his most direct threat to fire the entire leadership of @TheJusticeDept— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) May 2, 2018
Still, no real signs here that POTUS knows of any "powers granted to the Presidency" that might permit him to "get involved." Odds of bluffing high. https://t.co/SooQ0soIMU
oh hai, just a president threatening to politicize the DoJ or, more nefariously, fire his DAG. nothing much else here. https://t.co/yd2o6w9FPJ— Sam Stein (@samstein) May 2, 2018
The President of the United States is overtly threatening to obstruct justice by issuing pardons or firing investigators. This is a very real, and very blatant, attack on rule of law in America. https://t.co/hV8K8zpMHU— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) May 2, 2018
As Trump has ramped up his direct attacks on an independent investigation, advocacy groups have made clear that if Trump fires Rosenstein, nationwide protests must proceed as if he fired Mueller.
"We will be in a constitutional crisis if the president fires Rosenstein, the same as if he fires Bob Mueller," Eisen explained in a video last month.