- Before leaving office in 2017, Barack Obama had a private, candid conversation with reporters.
- The transcript of the interview was published by Bloomberg News on Friday.
- Obama expressed concerns that Trump would politicize law enforcement during his presidency.
President Barack Obama told a group of reporters in an off-the-record conversation before leaving office that one of the things he was most worried about when his successor, Donald Trump, took office was the politicization of the services law enforcement. .
A transcript of the previously unreported January 17, 2017 conversation with a group of progressive journalists was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and published by Bloomberg News on Friday.
“I mean, I think the dangers that I would see would be — and we saw some hints of this in my predecessor — if you politicize law enforcement, the attorney general’s office, the U.S. attorneys, the FBI, the prosecutorial functions, the audits of IRS, that’s the place I’m most concerned about,” Obama told reporters.
The roundtable, which took place three days before Trump’s inauguration, was kept private for more than five years after the meeting took place due to terms agreed to by reporters present at the gathering.
The Justice Department included the transcript of the interview in a series of documents released in response to a FOIA request.
Obama candidly discussed with reporters his foresight for a Trump presidency. He said the reason he had concerns with the politicization of agencies like the FBI and IRS was because it creates a “chilling effect.”
“And it’s one thing if that’s just lip service. But if people start to feel that the law enforcement mechanisms we have in place aren’t straight, they’re going to play it straight,” Obama said. “That’s dangerous, just because the enormous power – one of the frustrations I’ve had over the course of eight years is the extent to which people have, in the popular imagination and certainly among the left, this idea of Big Brother and spying and reading emails and writing emails — and that captures everyone’s imagination.”
Obama told reporters that any investigation coming from the Justice Department is a “scary job.”
“But I’ll tell you, the real force that’s scary is just basic law enforcement. If the FBI comes and asks you and says they want your stuff, and the Justice Department starts investigating you and investigating you for long periods of time , even if you have nothing to hide, even if you have lawyers, that’s a scary part and it’s going to be for a long time,” Obama said in 2017.
Obama urged reporters to keep a close eye on government investigative agencies for “even a hint of politically motivated investigations.”
“I would be like the white on the rice in the Department of Justice. I would pay close attention to this,” Obama advised reporters. “I think you should really be over it.”