President Trump did not need to send a memo or telephone his attorney general to make his desires known. He broadcast them for all the world to see on Twitter. The instruction was clear: The Justice Department should investigate his defeated opponent from last year’s campaign.
However they were delivered, Mr. Trump’s demands have ricocheted through the halls of the Justice Department, where Attorney General Jeff Sessions has now ordered career prosecutors to evaluate various accusations against Hillary Clinton and report back on whether a special counsel should be appointed to investigate her.
Mr. Sessions has made no decision, and in soliciting the assessment of department lawyers, he may be seeking a way out of the bind his boss has put him in by effectively putting the matter in the hands of professionals who were not politically appointed. But if he or his deputy authorizes a new investigation of Mrs. Clinton, it would shatter norms established after Watergate that are intended to prevent presidents from using law enforcement agencies against political rivals.