Your sentencing advice isn’t helpful, Mr. President

All that said, this is not an easy prosecution — certainly not as easy as the blatant brutality of Saipov’s attack would make it appear. I am quite confident that whichever judge is assigned to the case will deny the inevitable motions to dismiss death counts. When we step back, a foolish outburst, even from the White House, is trivial juxtaposed to Saipov’s barbarity. But understand that the judge will still be incensed over the need to address presidential ranting (particularly if it continues). The prosecutors’ margin for error, already thin in a death case, will narrow all the more. Not being a lawyer, Trump may not grasp how many ways a pissed-off judge — especially one who is philosophically opposed to capital punishment — can undermine a prosecutor’s case without formally tossing it out.

As readers may recall, I do not subscribe to the haughty conceit, popular at Main Justice and the FBI, that law enforcement must be so independent from politics that it becomes, in effect, a separate, unaccountable branch of government. Prosecutorial power is awesome (not like “awesome, dude” — I mean really awesome). It is a great virtue of our system that this power answers to a political official — the chief executive — who answers to the voters.

Yet, just as law-enforcement officials must respect the policy judgments of their political superiors, the political authority must respect the need for independent administration of justice in individual cases. The president undoubtedly has the power to interfere in criminal cases that are brought under his authority. He abuses that power, though, when he fails to affirm the rule of law and the public integrity of the judicial process.

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