The Justice Department had since been redesigned under Barr. There didn’t seem to be a Trump issue that the agency didn’t at least want to fix. It began a counter-investigation into the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s campaign, tried to block the distribution of a memoir by former National Security Advisor John Bolton that did not flatter Trump, and intervened in a defamation suit by author and columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump raping her in the mid-1990s argued that Trump’s offensive comments about her were part of his official duties as president. (Trump has denied Carroll’s allegations.)
Meanwhile, Trump continued to test the limits of his seemingly limitless authority. He ousted five General Inspectors charged with overseeing the conduct of the executive branch, commuted Stone’s prison term, and openly defied the authority of the other two branches of government in order to strengthen his political base. Rather than appointing Chad F. Wolf, who oversaw the government’s response to the racial justice protests in Portland, Oregon, as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Trump appointed him acting director to avoid the Senate’s confirmation process . Even after the Government Accountability Office and a federal judge ruled that Wolf was most likely illegally doing his job – and that many of his actions were potentially illegal – Trump left him there. Similarly, he ignored a federal judge’s order that forced him to re-establish the Obama-era DACA program that allowed hundreds of thousands of immigrants to remain in the United States.
Even as Trump wielded his power in bold new ways, the potential threats that awaited him if he lost the election grew and intensified. The Manhattan D.A. investigation Not only were they going ahead, but a surveillance group had accused Trump’s re-election campaign of illegally diverting $ 170 million to unidentified recipients through companies controlled by the campaign’s recently deposed manager Brad Parscale and other officials. (The Trump campaign denied any wrongdoing.) Trump would almost certainly have financial problems as well. The presidency had been good for business, raising the Trump organization tens of millions of dollars in overseas projects, providing Trump’s Washington hotel with a steady stream of favor-seeking patrons, and allowing Trump and his children to make hundreds of “official visits” to the government “In its properties. But his golf courses had lost millions of dollars each year and he had $ 421 million in personal debt, most of which will fall due over the next four years.
And so Trump stepped into a new sphere of potential crime in the final weeks of his tenure, placing the entire weight of the government executive on his re-election efforts. He turned the White House into a prop for the Republican National Convention, pardoned a former prisoner, and attended a naturalization ceremony as part of the celebration. In October, days after checking out of Walter Reed Hospital with Covid-19, Trump hosted a rally on the South Lawn. That, too, wasn’t enough to shift his poll numbers. Still lagging in the last days of the campaign, Trump turned down with some of his most determined allies in the government for not using their power aggressively enough for him, even calling on Barr not to arrest his political rivals, including Biden, and trying to urge Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to publish Hillary Clintons emails more than four years old.
In 1939, amid widespread allegations that Works Progress Administration employees were being pressured to work on Democratic Party campaigns, Congress passed a law called the Hatch Act to prevent federal officials from using their authority for partisan purposes. Most presidential administrations have since made efforts to separate their public and political operations so as not to break the law. Civil violations of the law are handled by an independent agency known as the Office of Special Counsel. President Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro, was censored during a television interview for discussing the 2016 election. He publicly apologized and stated that the mistake was unintentional.
Presidents and vice-presidents are exempt from the civil law provisions of the law. Since they are practically always on duty, it would be difficult to apply some of the prohibitions, such as the one against political activity on duty. Dozens of Trump administration employees, including at least nine senior officials, have been screened for violations of the Hatch Act. Kellyanne Conway broke the law more than 60 times, calling on the Office of Special Counsel to recommend Trump to remove her from her position as a senior White House official. (“Bla bla bla” Conway said at the time. “Let me know when the jail term starts.”)
The Hatch Act also contains criminal law provisions from which the President is not exempt. One is the ban on using official authority to influence a federal election. “It’s at the heart of the Hatch Act,” said Kathleen Clark, professor of legal and government ethics at Washington University Law School in St. Louis. “Public power is for the public good, not the private good.” Trump’s apparent violations of this ban were widespread at the time of the Republican Convention. Neither Trump nor his executives appeared to be concerned about this. “Nobody outside the Beltway really cares,” said his chief of staff, Mark Meadows.