Over 2200 former prosecutors and alumni of the Department of Justice have “spoken out” by signing a letter condemning Trump and Barr’s politicization of the administration of justice. I am honored to be one of the signers. This letter is a response to the behind-the-scenes interference of Attorney General, Bill Barr, to interfere in the normal administration of DOJ cases to benefit Trump and his pals and to undermine the typical apolitical administration of justice. This is full on banana republic stuff. Special treatment for allies and pals and investigations of “enemies.” Even though the DOJ suddenly also announced that Andrew McCabe’s investigation has been closed (a nice touch to try to counter the banana republic label) Barr’s strong-arm manipulation of the Justice Department has been ongoing since he took office. This is coming to light now, triggered by four prosecutors who quit the Stone case after Barr intervened in the sentencing recommendation. One of the career prosecutors left the Department of Justice altogether.
The letter from former DOJ alums says that based on his actions which counter his oath of office Attorney General Barr should resign. It also urges other members of the Department of Justice NOT to resign, but to speak out publicly instead and to report the violations of norms to the Inspector General who is supposed to oversee the Department of Justice. The letter rapidly gained traction with former DOJ members. There were over 1000 signers in only two days’ time. The letter had 2000 signers a day later and it is still gaining signers.
The Federal Judges’ Association has also called an emergency meeting to discuss what Trump and Bill Barr are doing to our system of justice and, hopefully, take action. Barr should face disbarment or be impeached. Donald Ayers, the former Deputy AG under George H W Bush, wrote an op-ed in the Atlantic in which he writes that Barr is “working to destroy the integrity and independence of the Justice Department.” He also says. “Bill Barr is un-American.” He calls Bill Barr’s America “a banana republic”. He calls on Barr to resign or be impeached.
Stone was sentenced on Thursday, February 20th, by Judge Amy Berman Jackson to 40 months in prison (three years and four months). As the judge she always had the ultimate determination when it came to the length of the sentence. Her sentence of about 3 years was expected and was fair based on the evidence and Stone’s violations of law. The 7-9 years recommended by the prosecution team was probably too harsh. It was made according to Justice Department guidelines which require that prosecutors ask for the most severe sentence (implemented by Jeff Sessions before he left his job as AG). It is worth noting that the supplemental sentencing memo asking for a more lenient sentence was withdrawn the morning of sentencing prior to Jackson’s sentence, perhaps because Barr was reacting to the outrage his meddling has triggered in the legal community. In Judge Jackson’s hour long allocution about the Stone sentence she explained why she decided on this sentence and why this case was not in fact a political case, unlike Trump’s view of it. Trump is expected to pardon Stone prior to being incarcerated. Stone was not remitted to custody following the sentencing hearing. Stone’s team submitted a motion that Judge Jackson is expected to deny and after that Stone is likely to be remitted into custody. That is when Trump will be most likely to pardon his old pal so that he need not go to jail at all.
Thumbing his nose at the justice system (because no one can stop him or even tries to curb him, post-impeachment), Trump has also commuted the sentences and/or pardoned eleven rich, corrupt individuals who were serving time for federal crimes. The former governor of Illinois was one of them. The former Illinois Governor was caught on tape trying to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder as well as engage in dirty dealings involving Children’s Hospital. Now that he is out of prison, Blagojevich has become a Republican and will probably show up at Trump rallies as an example of how Trump is draining the swamp. No, I am not kidding. Trump’s idea of the swamp is the opposite of the swamp. He is exonerating rich, corrupt people from the burden of consequences for their behavior because the new reality is that the swamp is anything that Trump thinks is endangering him or poses a threat to him. Trump defines the swamp as those who disagree with him.
Trump’s pardon party is widely considered to be a precursor to even more pardons for more of Trump’s criminal and corrupt buddies who are in jail or facing jail time: not only Roger Stone, but also Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn. These pardons and commutations are a defense against his own corrupt practices. Trump always flips the script and claims the other side is to blame for corruption and misdeeds that he and his allies perpetrate. Trump paint himself as the one who is righteously righting the wrongs visited on good people by those bad people on the other side. In this way Trump remakes history to fit the alternate universe he wants people to believe- the upside down universe where up is down, bad is good and good is bad.
Our democracy, we have learned, was held together, above all, by honor. It was supposed to be sustained by honorable people who followed the norms, customs and the many unwritten rules of fairness. Democracy seems to be melting away like a sand castle washed over by waves. It is melting away against Trump’s assault without the help of the Senate or Republicans in the House, or, really, anywhere, to push back. But let’s face it, the only reason Trump and Barr can burn down our democracy is that there is no effective fireman’s brigade to stop them.
Here is the article in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/