May 12, 2020
On May 11, more than 1,900 former Justice Department employees repeated their demand for Attorney General Bill Barr to head for the exits—asserting in an open letter that he had “once again assaulted the rule of law” by moving to drop charges against President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to a report by The Washington Post.
The letter, organized by the nonprofit group Protect Democracy, was signed by Justice Department staffers serving in Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961). The vast majority were former career staffers — rather than political appointees — who worked as federal prosecutors or supervisors at U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country or the Justice Department in downtown Washington.
The signatories to the letter were united in their belief that Barr should resign, as the following excerpt shows:
In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States …. The Department [of Justice] has now moved to dismiss the charges against Flynn, in a filing signed by a single political appointee and no career prosecutors. The Department’s purported justification for doing so does not hold up to scrutiny, given the ample evidence that the investigation was well-founded and — more importantly—the fact that Flynn admitted under oath and in open court that he told material lies to the FBI in violation of longstanding federal law.
Make no mistake: The Department’s action is extraordinarily rare, if not unprecedented. If any of us, or anyone reading this statement who is not a friend of the President, were to lie to federal investigators in the course of a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation, and admit we did so under oath, we would be prosecuted for it.
We thus unequivocally support the decision of the career prosecutor who withdrew from the Flynn case, just as we supported the prosecutors who withdrew from the Stone case. They are upholding the oath that we all took, and we call on their colleagues to continue to follow their example. President Trump accused the career investigators and prosecutors involved in the Flynn case of “treason” and threatened that they should pay “a big price.” It is incumbent upon the other branches of government to protect from retaliation these public servants and any others who are targeted for seeking to uphold their oaths of office and pursue justice.
It is now up to the district court to consider the government’s motion to dismiss the Flynn indictment. We urge Judge Sullivan to closely examine the Department’s stated rationale for dismissing the charges — including holding an evidentiary hearing with witnesses — and to deny the motion and proceed with sentencing if appropriate. While it is rare for a court to deny the Department’s request to dismiss an indictment, if ever there were a case where the public interest counseled the court to take a long, hard look at the government’s explanation and the evidence, it is this one. Attorney General Barr’s repeated actions to use the Department as a tool to further President Trump’s personal and political interests have undermined any claim to the deference that courts usually apply to the Department’s decisions about whether or not to prosecute a case.
Finally, in our previous statement, we called on Attorney General Barr to resign, although we recognized then that there was little chance that he would do so. We continue to believe that it would be best for the integrity of the Justice Department and for our democracy for Attorney General Barr to step aside. In the meantime, we call on Congress to hold the Attorney General accountable. In the midst of the greatest public health crisis our nation has faced in over a century, we would all prefer it if Congress could focus on the health and prosperity of Americans, not threats to the health of our democracy. Yet Attorney General Barr has left Congress with no choice. Attorney General Barr was previously set to give testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on March 31, but the hearing was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge the Committee to reschedule Attorney General Barr’s testimony as soon as safely possible and demand that he answer for his abuses of power. We also call upon Congress to formally censure Attorney General Barr for his repeated assaults on the rule of law in doing the President’s personal bidding rather than acting in the public interest. Our democracy depends on a Department of Justice that acts as an independent arbiter of equal justice, not as an arm of the president’s political apparatus.
A spokeswoman for Barr did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. However, Barr has publicly defended the move, telling CBS News that it was an “easy” decision and one for which he was prepared to take criticism. As the group of Justice Department alumni acknowledged, their letter is unlikely to persuade him to step down.
“I also think it’s sad that nowadays these partisan feelings are so strong that people have lost any sense of justice,” Barr told CBS News. “And the groups that usually worry about civil liberties and making sure that there’s proper procedures followed and standards set seem to be ignoring it and willing to destroy people’s lives and see great injustices done.”
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan must still approve the department’s request to drop the case, and so far has not indicated what he will do. The Justice Department alumni asked Sullivan to hold a hearing with witnesses to examine Barr’s legal reasoning and “to deny the motion and proceed with sentencing if appropriate.”
Research contact: @washingtonpost