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5 Ways the Trump Administration Has Injected Politics Into Legal Matters

The White House, in administrations from both parties, has normally sidestepped questions about F.B.I. investigations, particularly those that are politically charged. When presidents have waded into such commentary, it has been at their peril. President Obama invited the wrath of Republicans and many in the F.B.I. when he commented on the investigation of Hillary Clinton and downplayed its seriousness.

Ron Hosko, a former senior F.B.I. official who is now the president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, criticized those comments and similarly said that Mr. Trump should stay out of continuing F.B.I. matters. “I’m troubled by any comments that could be seen as prejudging a case,” Mr. Hosko said on Tuesday, hours before Mr. Comey was fired.

Calling for the F.B.I. investigation to be shut down

Mr. Trump has not only predicted the investigation’s outcome, he has also said the entire case is a waste of time and money.

Longtime prosecutors from both parties viewed such tweets as improper.

“It’s not for the president to decide when an investigation should be commenced and when it should be halted,” said Jimmy Gurulé, a Notre Dame law professor and former senior Justice Department official during the George H.W. Bush administration. “That’s what makes this so unseemly.”

Calling for an F.B.I. investigation of political rivals

For all the above reasons, presidents normally do not call for criminal investigations. But politically charged investigations represent especially dangerous terrain, whether into White House allies or rivals. But in March, Mr. Trump issued a “demand” that his political adversaries in Congress be investigated.

Having the attorney general stand behind the White House lectern

This one is all about optics. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room in March to discuss immigration policy. The attorney general typically makes announcements and discusses policies from the Justice Department, a visual reminder of the separation between the White House and prosecutors. Putting Mr. Sessions behind a White House lectern “shows a lack of respect for the independence of the prosecutor,” Mr. Gurulé said.

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