Last Thursday in an exclusive interview with ABC News, Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr said that President Donald Trump “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case” but should stop tweeting about the Justice Department because his tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job.” Barr blasts Trump’s tweets on Stone case: ‘Impossible for me to do my job’: ABC News Exclusive:
“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr told ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.
“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody … whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president,” Barr said. “I’m gonna do what I think is right. And you know … I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”
No sentient human being believed him. People Aren’t Buying William Barr’s Rebuke Of Donald Trump:
[N]ews anchors, political pundits, legal analysts, lawmakers, celebrities and others aren’t buying the apparent pushback by Barr, whose tenure as attorney general has been marked by Democratic complaints that he views his job as acting as the president’s personal lawyer.
Critics suggested Barr’s comments to ABC News were simply a coordinated attempt between him and Trump to defuse the outrage sparked by his Department of Justice’s botched sentencing recommendation for Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone, which Trump had fiercely disagreed with.
This cynical response was best captured by political satirist Alexandra Petri. Please stop tweeting, Mr. President. It’s making it much more difficult for me to do your bidding!
Less than 24 hours later we learned that Bill Barr flat-out lied to ABC News. The New York Times reported, William Barr Moves to Take the Reins of Politically Charged Cases:
While Attorney General William P. Barr asserted his independence from the White House this week, he has also been quietly intervening in a series of politically charged cases, including against Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
Mr. Barr installed a phalanx of outside lawyers to re-examine national security cases with the possibility of overruling career prosecutors, a highly unusual move that could prompt more accusations of Justice Department politicization. The case against Mr. Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. in the Russia investigation, is a cause célèbre for Mr. Trump and his supporters, who say the retired general was ensnared in a “deep state” plot against the president.
The disclosures came as Mr. Trump made clear on Friday that he believes he has free rein over the Justice Department and its cases, rejecting Mr. Barr’s public demand of a day earlier that the president stop commenting on such cases.
Hours later, the Justice Department told defense lawyers for Andrew G. McCabe, the former acting F.B.I. director whom Mr. Trump has vilified for his role in the Russia case, that Mr. McCabe would not be charged in connection with a leak case, ending a nearly two-year criminal investigation.
“We consider the matter closed,” the department wrote to Mr. McCabe’s lawyers.
Together, the developments send conflicting signals at a time when the Justice Department’s independence from political interference by the White House has come under sharp scrutiny.
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Mr. Barr installed the outside lawyers at the start of February and put them in a position to second-guess decisions on those cases, people familiar with the office’s workings said. Among the outsiders were Jeff Jensen, whom Mr. Trump appointed as the United States attorney in St. Louis in 2017, and aides to Jeffrey A. Rosen, the deputy attorney general.
The moves amounted to imposing a secondary layer of monitoring and control over what career prosecutors have been doing in the Washington office.
Mr. Barr’s intervention was described by multiple people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the delicate internal deliberations. The Justice Department declined to comment.
The attorney general has also recently installed a personal aide, Timothy Shea, as interim U.S. attorney in Washington. Mr. Barr had previously maneuvered to get the former U.S. attorney there, Jessie K. Liu, to leave her position earlier than she had planned, creating a vacancy.
On Wednesday, the nomination of Jessie Liu for undersecretary of the Treasury was quietly withdrawn. On Thursday, Liu submitted her resignation from the placeholder position she was occupying at the Treasury Department while waiting for Senate review of her nomination for the new role.
The outside officials have begun grilling line prosecutors in the Washington office about various cases — some of which are publicly known, and some of which are not — including investigative steps, prosecutorial actions and why they took them, according to the people.
Wait, Bill Barr is intervening in open investigations which are not yet publicly known? (so that they never become publicly known). And what about SDNY’s investigation of Rudy Giuliani? Federal prosecutors took new steps in probe related to Giuliani, say people familiar with case: “The recent steps — including an interview with a witness last week — indicate that the probe involving Giuliani and two of his former associates is moving forward, even as the Justice Department has … established an “intake process” to accept information about Biden gathered by the president’s personal attorney. Officials confirmed Giuliani’s tips are being routed to the U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh.” Just so we are clear, this is not normal.
Prosecutors had initially sought zero to six months in prison for Mr. Flynn, then softened their tone and said they would not oppose the lowest end of that range — probation instead of prison. That shift came in late January, before the change in the Washington office’s leadership.
Amid the heightened scrutiny of the Justice Department, the timing of officials’ decision to end their long-running investigation into Mr. McCabe without charges was striking.
Prosecutors in the Washington office told Mr. McCabe’s lawyers of their decision on Friday morning, the lawyers, Michael R. Bromwich and David Schertler, said in a statement.
The real reason DOJ was forced to make a decision on McCabe on Friday:
Also on Friday, Judge Reggie B. Walton of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, who is presiding over a lawsuit seeking F.B.I. documents related to Mr. McCabe’s firing in 2018, unsealed the transcript of a September closed-door meeting with prosecutors.
Noting that prosecutors had said weeks earlier that a decision about charging Mr. McCabe could come “literally within days,” Judge Walton chastised them for stringing along Mr. McCabe and noted Mr. Trump’s comments about Mr. McCabe with disapproval, saying they created the appearance of a “banana republic.”
“I don’t think people like the fact that you got somebody at the top basically trying to dictate whether somebody should be prosecuted,” the judge said, adding that even if Mr. Trump’s moves are “not influencing the ultimate decision, I think there are a lot of people on the outside who perceive that there is undue, inappropriate pressure being brought to bear.”
More from Huffington Post, Federal Judge Lashes White House ‘Banana Republic’ Influence In Andrew McCabe Case:
A federal judge compared White House involvement in an investigation of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to a “banana republic,” and accused people “at the top” of undermining the “integrity” of the judicial process, new documents revealed Friday.
The chilling statements were disclosed in records obtained by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in a lawsuit. The attack by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton on White House pressure emerged amid mounting controversy over Attorney General William Barr’s manipulation of criminal cases involving allies of President Donald Trump or those he perceives as enemies.
Walton, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush and serves in the District of Columbia, chided DOJ prosecutors:
“I fully appreciate the complexity of the assessment, especially — unfortunately, to be candid — in light of the way by the White House, which I don’t think top executive officers should be doing,” he said, according to a transcript of a discussion when prosecutors requested yet another delay.
“I don’t think people like the fact that you got somebody at the top basically trying to dictate whether somebody should be prosecuted. I just think it’s a banana republic when we go down that road and we have those type of statements being made that are conceivably … influencing the ultimate decision,” Walton said. “I think there are a lot of people on the outside who perceive that there is undue, inappropriate pressure being brought to bear.”
The judge called it “disturbing,” adding that the “integrity of the process is being unduly undermined by inappropriate comments and actions on the part of people at the top of our government.” He warned that “as a government and as a society we’re going to pay a price at some point for this.”
Truer words have never been spoken.
On Friday, the Boston Globe became the first major newspaper to call for Attorney General Barr to resign in an editorial opinion. William Barr must go:
No one is as good at hiring an unscrupulous lawyer as Donald Trump. And now it seems that the worst of the bunch, the late Roy Cohn — the lying, cheating, and eventually disbarred attorney who represented both the red-baiting Joseph McCarthy and the president, when Trump was a young real estate developer — has been reincarnated in the form of Bill Barr. The trouble is that this time, the lawyer in question isn’t just a personal lackey or counsel to the president, but rather the attorney general of the United States.
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[Barr’s] tenure has been defined by dismantling the norm of the Justice Department’s independence from partisan politics and the president’s personal interests. His intervention in criminal proceedings against one of the president’s friends last week, a wildly inappropriate move that led to the resignation of four federal prosecutors from the case, was only the latest travesty on Barr’s watch.
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On Thursday, amid mounting criticism, Barr tried to put some daylight between himself and the president, and complained that Trump’s tweets made it “impossible” for him to do his job. But even if, as Barr claims, his sentencing memo had nothing to do with the president’s tweet, he surely would have known of Trump’s sympathy for Stone. And it’s of little wonder he is upset, since the president’s tweets expose Barr yet again as not an independent defender of the law but as the servant of one man who happens to occupy the White House.
In isolation, this interference alone could be sufficient grounds to deem that the attorney general is following the president’s playbook of rewarding criminal loyalists and punishing patriots he deems disloyal to his interests instead of upholding impartial justice. But it is only the latest in a litany of offenses that Barr has inflicted on the rule of law since he was confirmed to the post on Valentine’s Day 2019.
Despite having written a 2017 memo that criticized special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s purported theory of obstruction of justice in his investigation of the link between the Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign, Barr did not recuse himself from overseeing and eventually whitewashing the Mueller report findings in his own summary to Congress and public statements. And then, after the Justice Department’s own inspector general found in December that there had been no political bias behind the initiation of the investigation that became the Mueller report, Barr went on the attack with the opposite message. He had already conscripted US Attorney John Durham to discredit the conclusion. Since then, the attorney general has created a special intake process for “intelligence” from the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, about former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s activity in Ukraine. The Justice Department under Barr has also defied a congressional subpoena to explain the origin of the proposed citizenship question on the 2020 Census and tried to prevent the whistle-blower complaint about last summer’s holdup of aid to Ukraine from being shared with Congress. It’s hard to imagine having more compelling evidence of a DOJ that is at the mercy of the president’s personal interests.
Viewed through the rearview mirror, Barr’s insistence in his January 2019 Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing that he could “provide the leadership necessary to protect the independence and the reputation” of the DOJ is downright laughable.
There will be little appetite from House Democrats for an impeachment investigation of Barr in an election year when many want to turn the nation’s focus to the party’s positive agenda. Perhaps that’s for the best. The House Judiciary Committee will hear from Barr on March 31, and Senate Democrats are similarly eager to hold hearings on the Stone case. The House could also invoke its appropriations power, as some have suggested, to curtail Barr’s travel and investigations. But neither Congress nor voters should settle for anything less than a full-throated response to Barr’s transgressions. Members on both sides of the aisle should be publicly demanding his resignation — and they should not relent until they secure it.
The last time a president suggested he had ultimate power over federal criminal investigations turned out to be a litmus test for public servants, and in turn, for the American public, of just how much destruction to democratic norms they were willing to tolerate. In 1973, two Justice Department officials, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, resigned in succession rather than carry out President Nixon’s orders to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox for his request of documents, in what’s now well known as the Saturday Night Massacre. Since Watergate, no president has flagrantly politicized the Justice Department without consequence. (Alberto Gonzales, one of President George W. Bush’s attorneys general, was forced out after his firing of seven US attorneys.) The Saturday Night Massacre, and its course correction for Justice Department independence, occurred only because there were people of conscience and professional principle at the DOJ unwilling to carry out the president’s bidding.
We may not have such a person at the helm of the Justice Department, but they do exist in Washington. Barr must go — and Congress must push him out.
More than 1,100 former Justice Department employees have signed an open letter released Sunday, pressing Attorney General William Barr to resign and commending four prosecutors who withdrew from the Roger Stone case. Former Justice employees urge Barr to resign:
Signatures for the letter were gathered by Protect Democracy, a nonprofit legal group that had also gathered signatures for a letter claiming the Mueller report presented enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of justice. That letter was also critical of Barr.
The petition’s signatories include Justice Department employees dating to the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, though most are of more recent vintage. Among them are three who served as assistant attorney general: Sanford Litvack, Jimmy Gurule and Laurie Robinson. The total is 1,143, though Protect Democracy said it would continue to add names.
[T]he online petition read, “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.”
Since they said they had little expectation Barr would step down, the former employees called on the Justice Department’s career officials to report unethical conduct. They applauded the prosecutors for upholding their oaths and standing up for the department’s independence.
“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.”
The Never Trumpers are throwing up their hands in despair. George Conway: There is no one to stop Trump now:
[W]hen Barr announced this week that “I think it’s time to stop tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” and that the president’s statements “make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity” — he wasn’t actually standing up for the Justice Department’s integrity, or its independence, or for the rule of law.
To the contrary, as his (and my) friend Fox News host Laura Ingraham put it, “Barr was basically telling Trump, don’t worry I got this.” In other words, don’t blow this by calling attention to all that I do for you. Don’t say the quiet part out loud.
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[But] Trump wants to say the quiet part out loud; he wants to say he’s got this. And there’s no one to stop him now.
The French philosopher Montesquieu wrote in 1748: “The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.” We are seeing his warning vindicated. President Trump is increasingly acting as a tyrannical (and erratic) prince. And yet much of the public is so inured to his misconduct that his latest assaults on the rule of law are met with a collective shrug. Public passivity is Trump’s secret weapon as he pursues his authoritarian agenda. “I have the right to do whatever I want,” he says, and the lack of pushback seems to confirm it.
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[As for] the public? I don’t see massive marches in the streets. I don’t see people flooding their members of Congress with calls and emails. I don’t see the outrage that is warranted — and necessary. I see passivity, resignation and acquiescence from a distracted electorate that has come to accept Trump’s aberrant behavior as the norm.
You can prove Max Boot’s dark pessimism wrong. As Chris Hayes explained in a monologue on his program on Friday, the only thing standing between the rule of law in America and “a kind of authoritarian decline” under President Donald Trump “is us,” the American people. Chris Hayes Names Only Thing Standing Against ‘Authoritarian Decline’ Under Donald Trump:
“The laws we have, the institutions we have, those are all vitally important, but fundamentally we are what stands in the way,” Hayes added.
The news anchor later noted how “the restraint, the thing stopping the president from doing whatever he wants are people” who mobilize, organize, call switchboards of Congress and resign from their roles as civil servants in protest.
“Heck, people marching and protesting outside the Department of Justice if that’s what it takes, because the only thing to stop him is us,” he added.
You can start by taking to the streets of Phoenix this Wednesday when “Dear Leader” brings his Nuremberg-style MAGA personality cult rally to Phoenix. Contact your members of Congress and demand that Attorney General Bill Barr be removed, and if they will not support this, that they will be removed by the voters in November. Resist!