Barr balks, as Trump declares himself America’s ‘chief law enforcement officer’

February 20, 2020

During his Senate impeachment trial, Democrats repeatedly asserted that President Donald Trump was and is “not above the law.” But since his acquittal by the upper chamber two weeks ago, the president has taken a series of steps aimed at showing that he is “large and in charge.”

On Tuesday, February 18, Trump granted clemency to a clutch of political allies, The Washington Post reported—thereby, circumventing the usual Justice Department process.

The pardons and commutations followed Trump’s moves to punish witnesses in his impeachment trial, publicly intervene in a pending legal case to urge leniency for his friend Roger Stoneattack a federal judge officiating on that case, accuse a juror of bias, and threaten to sue his own government for investigating him.

According to the Post, Trump defended his actions, saying he has the right to shape the country’s legal systems as he sees fit. “I’m allowed to be totally involved,” he told reporters as he left Washington on Tuesday for a trip that would touch down in California, Nevada, and Arizona. “I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country. But I’ve chosen not to be involved.”

However, the nation’s actual top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Bill Barr, isn’t having any of that—even if he has aligned himself closely with the president and skirted both the legal code and the Constitution to support the POTUS.

Indeed, the president’s post-impeachment behavior—and constant tweets referring to the adjudication of cases—has so alarmed Barr, The Washington Post was first to report, that he told people close to the president that he is willing to quit unless Trump stops publicly commenting on ongoing criminal matters.

It also has appalled several legal experts and former officials, who have said his direct intervention in legal matters risks further politicizing law enforcement at a time of fraying confidence in the Justice Department.

At this point, over 2,000 former Justice Department employees  have signed a public letter this week urging Barr to resign. The head of the Federal Judges Association also has called an emergency meeting to address growing concerns about political interference in the Stone case.

onvicted Stone last year of lying to Congress and obstruction in a case that Trump has repeatedly condemned as unfair, while leaving open the prospect of issuing a pardon for his friend and political ally.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

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