WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The indictment of former President Donald Trump on multiple charges related to his handling of classified documents on Thursday has thrust the Justice Department back into the center of the Republican presidential primary campaign.
Several candidates have called for major reforms at the department, and most have accused the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a constituent agency, of exhibiting bias against conservatives. The department says all investigative decisions are made without regard to partisan politics and President Joe Biden has also stressed its independence.
Here’s what the top 2024 Republican contenders have said on the matter:
Trump, who was indicted in Florida on Thursday and faces a separate federal probe in Washington, has consistently accused the Justice Department of corruption, without offering any evidence to support his claims.
After he was indicted by local authorities in New York in March as part of a probe into his alleged role in concealing hush money payments to a porn star, he said the entire department should be defunded.
In a video posted on his Truth Social platform on Thursday, he reiterated previous assertions that the Justice Department has been weaponized for political ends.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s most formidable challenger, says he would fire FBI Director Christopher Wray on his first day in office, and he has consistently decried what he calls the “weaponization” of the federal bureaucracy.
“The DeSantis administration will bring accountability to the DOJ, excise political bias and end weaponization once and for all,” he said in a statement following Trump’s latest indictment.
Former Vice President Mike Pence has expressed concern about what he says is bias by law enforcement against conservatives and has urged greater transparency with regard to the probes into Trump. But he has shied away from promoting more aggressive reforms at the Justice Department.
Nikki Haley, the former UN ambassador under Trump, has said that, if elected, she would “clean house” at the FBI. She criticized Trump’s latest indictment, calling it “prosecutorial overreach.”
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott has said he would dismiss FBI Director Wray and other political appointees at the agency, though he has defended the agency’s rank-and-file employees.
“What we’ve seen over the last several years is the weaponization of the Justice Department against the former president,” he told Fox News in an interview on Thursday night.
Venture capitalist Vivek Ramaswamy has called for the abolition of the FBI. In a statement on Thursday night, he lambasted the Justice Department, calling it part of a “federal police state.”
Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a frequent Trump critic, has said the breadth of the FBI’s jurisdiction should be reined in. However, he opposes calls to defund the law enforcement agency.
(Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Alistair Bell)
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