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2020-02-19 18:36:241 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer: Image: Donald Trump and William Barr (Image source: Public domain)
The pressure on Attorney General William Barr is just not letting up. It's continuing and creating a life of its own to the point that many former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials are speaking out.
Since Barr came back to the White House to fulfill the duties of attorney general once again, having done so also during the late President George H.W. Bush's time in office, he's been under the gun. There have been many whispers that he was doing Donald Trump's bidding for him and that he was operating as the president's personal attorney instead of the top attorney for the entire country.
But last week seems to have been the last straw for prosecutors and former DOJ officials. They believe Barr was only acting in Trump's interest when he jumped in and changed a federal sentencing recommendation, lowering the request made by federal prosecutors.
The case is that of Roger Stone who was convicted of seven counts, including witness tampering, obstruction, and lying to investigators. He's a longtime ally of Trump's and was an adviser to him for a short time in his 2016 campaign. He was also mixed up in the publishing of the Russian-hacked Democratic emails, leading to the crimes he was found guilty of last fall. He was the last to go to trial of those who were indicted in former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
Last week prosecutors suggested he sentencing guidelines of seven to nine years for Stone. Trump balked at this time frame, and Barr later jumped in and changed the requested sentencing to a lower number of years, setting off alarms for many that he was allowing Trump to dictate DOJ decisions. The four prosecutors on the case dropped out, and one resigned from the DOJ altogether.
This led to more than 2,000 former Republican and Democratic DOJ employees signing a letter calling for Barr to resign. The Federal Judges Association, meanwhile, held an emergency meeting to discuss Barr's actions.
The DOJ staff letter claims that Barr "openly and repeatedly flouted" the principle of equal justice under the rule of law. It also noted that it is "unheard of for the Department's top leaders to overrule line prosecutors who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the president, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case."
Former federal prosecutor John Flannery was one of the former employees who signed the letter. He said on MSNBC that Barr "had no business in that job" and requested that DOJ officials "do the job right." Referring to Barr as the president's "consigliere," he called out the president as the "chief criminal who's running a crime syndicate out of the West Wing."
The open letter and the Federal Judges Association meeting caused quite a stir. Former attorney Harry Litman said the United States is now in "full-on crisis mode," and noted that he finds the recent events "mind-blowing."
Former Associate White House Counsel Ian Bassin said, "Our institutions are sounding alarms," with former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah saying the letter was an "extraordinary bipartisan show of unity."
Barb McQuade, a law professor at the University of Law School and a former U.S. attorney, admitted to being a signee of the letter. She warns, "Even the appearance of partisanship has no place in the fair administration of justice."
Fellow legal scholar Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School advised former President Barack Obama on his 2008 campaign. He described the Federal Judges Association meeting as "rolling thunder" and said, "One stuffed goose named Barr is cooked." He added that "2000 DOJ alumni he can ignore. 1000 federal judges? That's an altogether different kettle of fish."
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