“Why aren’t they going after them?” President Donald Trump would ask of Justice Department officials, referring to his political nemesis Hillary Clinton and former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation James Comey, according to a New York Times report published earlier this week. According to the report — which cites numerous government officials briefed on White House matters — Trump wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute Clinton and Comey.
The president was reportedly warned against the political and other repercussions such a maneuver would inevitably generate by then-White House Counsel Don McGahn who, along with other White House lawyers, authored a memo for President Trump, arguing that ordering the prosecution of Comey and Clinton would not only be viewed as an abuse of power, but could also lead to his impeachment.
It remains unclear, according to the report, whether or not Trump dropped the matter, but his recent appointment of loyalist Matthew Whitaker for Attorney General, coupled with McGahn’s departure, is “one of the most blatant examples yet of how Mr. Trump views the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies.”
One columnist claims that Donald Trump’s recent actions are, in fact, a result of his “dictator ambitions.” In an op-ed penned for DC Report, a non-profit news organization founded by Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston, columnist Terry H. Schwadron argues that Trump’s alleged insistence on prosecuting Clinton and Comey does not only constitute deep abuse of power, but also demonstrates that he has aspirations to become a dictator.
This is the week Trump tried to become a dictator — here’s why https://t.co/s67fgJk1Kb
— Raw Story (@RawStory) November 24, 2018
Schwadron further argues that Trump’s alleged decision to prosecute two of his political enemies is “passing as just another hyperbolic bombshell from a president bent on breaking all rules, traditions and limitations,” and adds that Americans “ought to be fitting Trump with a tin hat to match his dictator ambitions.” According to the columnist, the main difference between the United States and countries ruled by dictators is the fact that no president has used the power of office to prosecute his political enemies. “If he cannot control himself, we are headed for trouble,” Schwadron concludes.
Many have criticized Donald Trump’s alleged habit to cozy up to authoritarians and dictators, while ostracizing allies. USA Today, for instance, pointed out that Trump “has always expressed love for authoritarians,” adding that it therefore comes as no surprise that the president does not shy away from praising leaders like Kim Jong Un and developing relationships with dictators like China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, or Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Conversely, some have argued that this is what many of Trump’s predecessors have openly done. In a column for the Intercept, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald points out that “Trump’s support and praise of despots is central to the U.S. tradition, not a deviation from it,” citing examples of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama’s support for dictators and authoritarian rulers around the world perceived to be allies of the United States. According to Greenwald, “watching the U.S. media tell everyone that Trump’s predecessors were devoted to spreading democracy, and that supporting tyrants is a ‘dramatic break’ from the U.S. tradition” is, in fact, “a break from reality.”