Posts tagged with "Attorney General Bill Barr"

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

In open letter, 1,000 DOJ alumni condemn abuse of power and call for AG Barr to step down

February 18, 2020

More than 1,100 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials called on Attorney General Bill Barr on Sunday, February 16, to step down after he intervened last week to reduce the prosecution’s sentencing recommendation for President Donald Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone.

They also urged current government employees to report any signs of unethical behavior at the Justice Department to the agency’s inspector general and to Congress.

The statement was prompted by the attorney general’s decision to overrule his own prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations for Stone after the president complained they were too harsh. The full text of the letter, distributed by the nonprofit organization Protect Democracy, reads as follows:

We, the undersigned, are alumni of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) who have collectively served both Republican and Democratic administrations. Each of us strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice.

As former DOJ officials, we each proudly took an oath to support and defend our Constitution and faithfully execute the duties of our offices. The very first of these duties is to apply the law equally to all Americans. This obligation flows directly from the Constitution, and it is embedded in countless rules and laws governing the conduct of DOJ lawyers. The Justice Manual — the DOJ’s rulebook for its lawyers — states that “the rule of law depends on the evenhanded administration of justice”; that the Department’s legal decisions “must be impartial and insulated from political influence”; and that the Department’s prosecutorial powers, in particular, must be “exercised free from partisan consideration.”

All DOJ lawyers are well-versed in these rules, regulations, and constitutional commands. They stand for the proposition that political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution is anathema to the Department’s core mission and to its sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law.

And yet, President Trump and Attorney General Barr have openly and repeatedly flouted this fundamental principle, most recently in connection with the sentencing of President Trump’s close associate, Roger Stone, who was convicted of serious crimes. The Department has a long-standing practice in which political appointees set broad policies that line prosecutors apply to individual cases. That practice exists to animate the constitutional principles regarding the even-handed application of the law. Although there are times when political leadership appropriately weighs in on individual prosecutions, 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. It is even more outrageous for the Attorney General to intervene as he did here — after the President publicly condemned the sentencing recommendation that line prosecutors had already filed in court.

Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice. In this nation, we are all equal before the law. A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the President. Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.

We welcome Attorney General Barr’s belated acknowledgment that the DOJ’s law enforcement decisions must be independent of politics; that it is wrong for the President to interfere in specific enforcement matters, either to punish his opponents or to help his friends; and that the President’s public comments on DOJ matters have gravely damaged the Department’s credibility. But Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words. Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign. But because we have little expectation he will do so, it falls to the Department’s career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice.

For these reasons, we support and commend the four career prosecutors who upheld their oaths and stood up for the Department’s independence by withdrawing from the Stone case and/or resigning from the Department. Our simple message to them is that we — and millions of other Americans — stand with them. And we call on every DOJ employee to follow their heroic example and be prepared to report future abuses to the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress; to refuse to carry out directives that are inconsistent with their oaths of office; to withdraw from cases that involve such directives or other misconduct; and, if necessary, to resign and report publicly — in a manner consistent with professional ethics — to the American people the reasons for their resignation. We likewise call on the other branches of government to protect from retaliation those employees who uphold their oaths in the face of unlawful directives. The rule of law and the survival of our Republic demand nothing less.

If you are a former DOJ employee and would like to add your name, click here. Protect Democracy will update this list daily with new signatories.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

The Justice Department said the case had not been discussed with anyone at the White House, but that Trump congratulated Barr on his decision did little to dispel the perception of political influence.

 

Research contact: @ProOurDemocracy

All four Roger Stone prosecutors resign from case after ‘Scofflaw AG’ pushes for shorter sentence

February 13, 2020

Attorney General Bill Barr has become the nation’s leading scofflaw, as he continues to put the president and his henchmen ahead of his own Constitutional duties.

Indeed, the entire team prosecuting Roger Stone abruptly resigned from the criminal case on Tuesday, February 12, NBC News reports, after the Justice Department announced that the recommended sentence for Stone, a longtime Trump associate, would be reduced.

The request for a shorter sentence for Stone than the recommended term of seven to nine years in prison came after President Donald Trump blasted the sentencing proposal as “a miscarriage of justice.”

The revised recommendation doesn’t ask for a particular sentence but says the one that was recommended earlier “does not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position on what would be a reasonable sentence in this matter” and that the actual sentence should be “far less.”

It urges the judge in the case, Amy Berman Jackson, to consider Stone’s “advanced age, health, personal circumstances, and lack of criminal history in fashioning an appropriate sentence,” the network news outlet notes.

“The defendant committed serious offenses and deserves a sentence of incarceration,” but based “on the facts known to the government, a sentence of between 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment, however, could be considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances. Ultimately, the government defers to the Court as to what specific sentence is appropriate under the facts and circumstances of this case,” the filing said.

After reports that a softer sentencing recommendation was imminent, lead prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky withdrew as a prosecutor in the case. A footnote in his court filing noted that “the undersigned attorney had resigned effective immediately.”

Zelinsky, who was a part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian election interference, is not resigning from the Justice Department but is leaving the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office and returning to his old job with the U.S. attorney in Maryland.

Another prosecutor, Jonathan Kravis, also resigned—both from the case and as an assistant U.S. attorney. Kravis on Tuesday filed a notice with the judge saying he “no longer represents the government in this matter.” The other two prosecutors, Adam Jed and Michael Marando, also withdrew from the case, NBC News reporrted.

Trump in a tweet earlier Tuesday called the department’s initial sentencing proposal “disgraceful!

“This is a horrible and very unfair situation,” the president wrote in a follow-up post on Twitter. “The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”

Top Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec told NBC News that the decision to reverse course on the sentencing recommendation was made prior to Trump’s almost 2 a.m. tweet.

The president told reporters in the Oval Office later Tuesday that he did not speak to DOJ about Stone’s sentencing. “I’d be able to do it if I wanted. I have the absolute right to do it. I stay out of things to a degree that people wouldn’t believe,” he said, before adding that he “thought the recommendation was ridiculous. I thought the whole prosecution was ridiculous.”

“I thought it was an insult to our country and it shouldn’t happen,” Trump said. “These are the same Mueller people who put everybody through hell and I think it’s a disgrace.”

In another tweet, the president suggested that the prosecutors had abused their authority. “Prosecutorial Misconduct?” he wrote in response to a tweet suggesting a pardon for Stone.

In response, NBC News reported, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York)  called on the Justice Department Inspector General to “open an investigation immediately.”

“The president seems to think the entire Justice Department is just his personal lawsuit to prosecute his enemies and help his friends. Rule of law in this grand tradition in this wonderful Justice Department is just being totally perverted to Donald Trump’s own personal desires and needs and it’s a disgrace,” Schumer told reporters in Washington. “Roger Stone should get the full amount of time the prosecutors recommended and we’re going to do some oversight of that.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

2020 Democratic candidates comment on redaction and release of Mueller report

April 22, 2019

“To impeach or not to impeach: that is the question,” to paraphrase William Shakespeare—and on April 19, CBS News asked the top presidential hopefuls about their thoughts, following the release of the redacted Mueller report.

The following are their statements, tweets, and comments—sent from the campaign trail.

Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont): In a statement directly to CBS News, Sanders said, “It is clear that Donald Trump wanted nothing more than to shut down the Mueller investigation. While we have more detail from today’s report than before, Congress must continue its investigation into Trump’s conduct and any foreign attempts to influence our election. We must also work to do everything we can to protect our future elections from the significant threat of foreign interference, and I call on President Trump and Republican leadership to stop obstructing the necessary work to protect our democracy.”

Senator Kamala Harris (California): On Twitter, Harris wrote, “Barr is acting more like Trump’s defense attorney than the nation’s Attorney General. His press conference was a stunt, filled with political spin and propaganda. Americans deserve the unvarnished truth. We need Special Counsel Mueller to testify publicly in Congress.”

Former Representative Beto O’Rourke (Texas): At a campaign stop in New Hampshire, O’Rourke told reporters, “I think the Attorney General, the Department of Justice, must maintain a significant level of independence; if they are going to be able to uphold the law in a country that defines itself as a nation of laws and says that no person, including those in the highest positions of power, [is] above the law.”

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Mayor Pete Buttigieg (Indiana): On Twitter on April 18, Buttigieg wrote, “The Mueller report is a disturbing, if not completely surprising, collection of evidence that shows a president putting his own interests ahead of the country’s. Today again demonstrates why we need to change the channel in 2020.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts):  On Twitter, Warren posted, “Congress needs to see the full, unredacted report. Special Counsel Robert Mueller should testify before Congress and the American people as soon as possible. Add your name if you agree, and together, we’ll fight to get to the bottom of this. https://my.elizabethwarren.com/page/s/ew-release-the-report?source=20190418tw

Senator Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota): On Twitter, Klobuchar wrote, “Attorney General Barr has made it clear he is not impartial when it comes to this investigation. Now that we have the report, we should hear from Robert Mueller himself in public hearings. Our democracy demands it.”

Senator Cory Booker (New Jersey): On Twitter, Booker posted, “The Trump administration posted an unsearchable pdf of the Mueller report so it would be harder for you to read.We made it easier. Here’s a searchable version: https://www.scribd.com/document/406729844/Mueller-Report …

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (New York):  On Twitter, Gillibrand wrote, “We can’t trust Trump’s handpicked AG to be transparent about the Mueller report. Congress needs to see it in full—and the public needs to know whether Trump obstructed justice.Sign our petition calling on Barr to release the full report: https://action.kirstengillibrand.com/kg2020-mueller-report?code=kg2020-mueller-report-social&redirect=https%3A%2F%2Fsecure.actblue.com%2Fcontribute%2Fpage%2Fkg2020-mueller-report%3Frefcode%3Dkg2020-mueller-report-social …

Senator Jay Inslee (Washington): On Twitter, Inslee wrote, “Congress must get to the bottom of this and have Mr. Mueller testify to complete this investigation. There is no other option. America deserves this. Donald Trump can’t run from this anymore.”

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Representative Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii): On Twitter, Gabbard wrote, “#BarrCoverUp. The most dangerous coverup is that US voting machines are vulnerable to hackers. If we lose faith in election results, democracy crumbles. The Justice Dept should be focused on instituting paper ballot backups, per my Securing America’s Elections Act. #MuellerReport

Former Governor John Hickenlooper (Colorado): On Twitter, Hickenlooper wrote, “AG Barr should work to protect the interests of the people, not the President. It’s clear from this morning’s press conference where his allegiances lie. The American people deserve answers.”

Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro (Texas): On Twitter, Castro wrote, “Far from exonerating anyone, the Special Counsel report exposes disgraceful behavior by Donald Trump and his inner circle—both in seeking assistance from Russia & attempting to cover it up. Mueller should testify and Congress should investigate charges of obstruction of justice.”

Andrew Yang (New York): On Twitter, Yang wrote, “I am glad that the Mueller Report has been made public. It’s important to the American people. My focus is on beating Donald Trump at the ballot box and solving the problems that got him elected in the first place.”

Research contact: @CBSNews