Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates swiped at President Trump in an opinion piece published Friday in The Washington Post, accusing him of using the Department of Justice (DOJ) as “his personal grudge squad” after the handling of Roger Stone‘s case.
“From virtually the moment he took office, President Trump has attempted to use the Justice Department as a cudgel against his enemies and as a shield for himself and his allies,” Yates wrote.
“The president has attempted to order up investigations of his perceived political enemies and enlist the department to protect his friends. With every blow, the wall of Justice independence has wobbled a bit more. This week, it teetered on the verge of collapse.”
The op-ed comes after Trump asserted Friday that he has “the legal right” to insert himself into the Justice Department’s handling of criminal cases. Those remarks came a day after Attorney General William Barr said in an ABC News interview that the president’s tweets were making his job more difficult.
Trump faces scrutiny for the appearance of interfering in Justice Department affairs after he decried the prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Stone, a former associate, as a “miscarriage of justice” just hours before the department said it would reduce its recommendation.
Barr has insisted that there was no interference by the president, but Trump argued on Friday that it would be legal if he were to ask Barr to take action in a criminal case.
“The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.” A.G. Barr This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2020
Yates went on to call out Trump’s comments, saying they reveal “yet again that he regards the department as his personal grudge squad.”
“The Justice Department is not a tool of any president to be used for retribution or camouflage,” she wrote.
Yates was fired by Trump in 2017 after she refused to defend his travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries. Since then she has been an outspoken critic of the president, especially his dealings with the Justice Department.
In 2018, she condemned his request that the Justice Department look into alleged abuses of surveillance powers to target his 2016 presidential campaign, calling it an “assault on the rule of law.” And before his impeachment, Yates said Trump would be indicted on obstruction of justice if he weren’t the president.