President Donald Trump falsely asserted on Tuesday that he is “the chief law enforcement officer of the country.”
Before departing to California Tuesday afternoon from Joint Base Andrews, Trump was asked about whether he had weighed in with Attorney General William Barr on the sentencing of his longtime friend and GOP operative Roger Stone.
Trump insisted that he had not spoken to Barr about Stone’s sentencing, but he did not rule out the possibility of weighing in on Stone’s case in the future.
“The attorney general is a man with great integrity,” Trump said. “Now just so you understand, I chose not to be involved. I’m allowed to be involved. I could be involved if I want to be.”
“I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country,” Trump said. “But I’ve chosen not to be involved. But he is a man of great integrity.”
“But I would be- I could be involved if I wanted to be,” he added.
TRUMP: "I'm actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country." (The attorney general is the top law enforcement officer of the country.) pic.twitter.com/5ajK5CkTxB
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 18, 2020
As CNN’s Jim Acosta points out: “The Attorney General is the head of the DOJ and chief law enforcement officer of the federal government.”
"The Attorney General is the head of the DOJ and chief law enforcement officer of the federal government." https://t.co/kchulz703Z
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) February 18, 2020
The position of attorney general was created by an act of Congress in 1789, and it evolved over time to become the head of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the “chief law enforcement officer of the federal government,” the DOJ website says.
Even the White House website’s own description of the executive branch refers to the attorney general as the “chief law enforcement officer of the federal government.”
“I think the claim is extremely dangerous because it appears the reason folks are making this claim is to kind of set the president aside as a special constitutional office that not only has plenary authority to enforce or not enforce the laws he wishes, but also in that way to stand above the law,” said Steven Schwinn, a law professor at The John Marshall Law School, part of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“The problem with merging the notion of the president with the top cop is to suggest there’s unlimited power in the president himself in order to determine what kind of behavior is criminal, what kind is not,” said Kimberly Wehle, a law professor at the University of Baltimore and author of the book “How to Read the Constitution and Why.” “Obviously, the whole point of the three-part system (of American government) was to avoid an imperial presidency or a monarchy.”