Trump's posture toward law enforcement takes another step backward

To see Donald Trump as some kind of ally to law enforcement is to look past everything we know about his presidency.
The exterior of the U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington
The exterior of the U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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By Steve Benen

Attorney General Bill Barr delivered curious remarks in December, demanding that the American people "have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves."

Three months later, Donald Trump spoke to a group of ex-felons who are graduating from a program designed to give them a second chance in society and the workforce. As CNN reported, the president didn't seem especially eager to give law enforcement the respect and support Bill Barr thinks it deserves.

Trump's familiar rant against the criminal justice system was met with curious looks from some of the graduates and their families, particularly when he declared: "These people know about a bad jury." The venue for the speech was also remarkable, with the President launching into a critique of law enforcement -- referring to "dirty cops" at one point -- from a room inside the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

I can appreciate why Trump wants to be seen as an ally to law enforcement, especially given the president's political posturing about "law and order" and being "tough on crime." But as regular readers know, the Republican has slammed law enforcement in ways few American presidents ever have.

It was a couple of years ago, for example, when Trump started referring to the "Department of 'Justice' " -- as if he believes the DOJ's commitment to justice is in doubt -- as "an embarrassment to our country!"

The president has also insisted that the FBI's reputation is "in tatters" and is now the "worst in history." Soon after, Trump added, "The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process."

His indifference to the irony of such a comment was breathtaking.

Trump has attacked federal law enforcement with conspiracy theories. He's attacked common law-enforcement tools. He's undermined the judicial system by abusing his pardon powers. He's urged law enforcement to enforce his political vendettas and help Republicans win elections.

The president has made it painfully clear that he sees law enforcement as a political weapon he can wield at his convenience. What's more, Trump keeps insisting he can intervene -- whenever he wants, to any degree he wants -- in ongoing criminal cases of political interest to him personally.

To see Donald Trump as some kind of ally to law enforcement is to look past everything we know about his presidency.