At Noon EST today, two Department of Justice Whistleblowers and a former DOJ attorney will testify to the House Judiciary Committee about how the most corrupt Attorney General in American history, William “Coverup” Barr, has politicized the Department of Justice and turned it into a tool to reward Trump’s allies and to punish his political enemies.
The Judiciary Committee should formally vote to establish an impeachment committee for the removal of the Attorney General. Nothing less will satisfy their constitutional duty to uphold the rule of law.
Lawfare Blog previews today’s hearing. Justice Department Attorneys Claim Political Interference in Prosecutorial Decisions:
[T]wo Department of Justice attorneys released written statements ahead of testimony tomorrow at a House Judiciary Committee hearing concerning political interference and threats to prosecutorial independence at the Department of Justice.
Aaron Zelinsky, a prosecutor in the case of Trump ally Roger Stone, wrote: “What I heard—repeatedly—was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the President.” In his statement, Antitrust Division attorney John Elias claimed that politically motivated antitrust investigations had been launched at the direction of Attorney General Bill Barr over the objections of career staff.
The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for the testimony of Zelinsky and Elias on June 16. Zelinsky—one of special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors—resigned from the team prosecuting Stone in protest after the Justice Department instructed prosecutors to seek a lesser prison sentence. Elias currently serves as acting chief of staff to the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and previously filed a whistleblower complaint concerning ineffective and politically motivated investigations.
Zelinsky states that he saw the department exert “significant pressure” on line prosecutors in the Stone case to obscure the correct sentencing guidelines calculation, and distort Stone’s conduct. In his statement, Elias details investigations launched into an arrangement between California and automakers on fuel emissions that had “enraged” the president, as well as investigations into the cannabis industry.
Former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer will testify alongside Justice Department attorneys Aaron Zelinsky and John Elias, as well as former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, in a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Justice Department politicization. In his prepared statement, available here, Ayer argues that Attorney General William Barr “has … grossly misused his powers as Attorney General to advance the president’s personal and political interests, and to protect his friends.”
Law professors and faculty from George Washington University Law School, Attorney General William Barr’s alma mater, said in a letter Tuesday he has “failed to fulfill his oath of office to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States.’ “
In a statement signed by 65 faculty and professors from the law school, the group wrote that Barr’s actions as attorney general “have undermined the rule of law, breached constitutional norms, and damaged the integrity and traditional independence of his office and of the Department of Justice.”
“We include members of both major political parties, and of none,” they wrote. “We have different legal specialties and represent a broad spectrum of approaches to the law.”
Also on Tuesday, the New York City Bar Association said in a letter sent to House and Senate leaders that Barr is unfit for the “high position he occupies in our federal government” and should step aside.
The association cited a series of actions, including Berman’s ouster, that “form an overwhelming public impression of an Attorney General whose primary loyalty is to the President who appointed him, not to the American public or the rule of law.”
Signatories to the law school letter include president and CEO of the National Bar Association Alfreda Robinson and interim dean of the school Christopher Alan Bracey.
“[Barr] obfuscated and misled the American public about the results of the Mueller investigation. He wrongfully interfered in the day-to-day activities of career prosecutors, and continues to do so, bending the criminal justice system to benefit the President’s friends and target those perceived to be his enemies,” the law school letter read.
The group also criticized the attorney general for reportedly ordering the clearing out of protesters with police tactics ahead of President Donald Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square and the President’s subsequent photo-op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church earlier this month.
“At a critical moment in American history, Attorney General Barr could have been a leader in protecting Americans’ First Amendment right to express their outrage at our nation’s long history of institutional racism, and police brutality against people of color. Instead, Attorney General Barr stands on the wrong side of history,” the statement also said.
Barr’s actions, the statement continued, “have posed, and continue to create, a clear and present danger to the even-handed administration of justice, to civil liberties, and to the constitutional order.”
In February, more than 2,000 former Justice Department officials signed an open letter calling for the attorney general to resign.
This is Barr’s second tenure as Attorney General, and the second time his corruption has led to demands for his impeachment. During Barr’s first tenure as Attorney General Under Georg H.W. Bush, New York Times columnist William Safire referred to him as “Coverup-General Barr” because of his role in burying evidence of then-President George H.W. Bush’s involvement in “Iraqgate” and “Iron-Contra.” Barr was not impeached then, he must be now. Justice demands it.
The Washington Post previews, Prosecutor to tell Congress of pressure from ‘highest levels’ of Justice Dept. to cut Roger Stone ‘a break’:
A federal prosecutor and another Justice Department official plan to tell Congress on Wednesday that Attorney General William P. Barr and his top deputies issued inappropriate orders amid investigations and trials “based on political considerations” and a desire to cater to President Trump.
Aaron Zelinsky, an assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland formerly detailed to Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, will tell the House Judiciary Committee that prosecutors involved in the criminal trial of Trump’s friend Roger Stone experienced “heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice to cut Stone a break” by requesting a lighter sentence, according to Zelinsky’s prepared remarks. The expectation, he intends to testify, was that Stone should be treated “differently and more leniently” because of his “relationship with the President.”
Zelinsky will be joined by John Elias, an official in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, who will say that Barr ordered staff to investigate marijuana company mergers simply because he “did not like the nature of their underlying business,” according to his prepared testimony.
As a result, the antitrust division launched 10 reviews of mergers in the marijuana industry, according to Elias’s prepared remarks, and was ordered to probe a deal between major U.S. automakers and the state of California after Trump tweeted about it disparagingly. Months later, when the matter seemed near a close, political leaders ordered a subsequent investigation after California announced it would purchase vehicles only from automakers that complied with fuel efficiency standards, Elias’s prepared testimony says.
Together, their accounts — which will be delivered under subpoena — are a damning indictment of Barr’s management of the Justice Department, a tenure, House Democrats charge, defined by “unprecedented politicization.” The testimony is expected to raise the stakes surrounding a subpoena the Judiciary Committee chair, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), has promised to issue for Barr’s testimony early next month.
Democrats have long objected to Barr’s stewardship of the Justice Department, listing among their grievances the attorney general’s intervention in criminal matters of consequence to the president, his refusal to defend the Affordable Care Act in court, and his recent order to disperse protesters from outside the White House, which resulted in police using tear gas and horses to push back a largely nonviolent group.
But Barr has successfully evaded testifying before the Judiciary panel since Democrats took over the House majority in 2019 — despite being issued a subpoena last year and then being held in contempt upon defying it. Though Barr had agreed to testify in March as part of the panel’s politicization probe, that session was scrapped because of the pandemic and never rescheduled.
The campaign to subpoena Barr gained momentum after the weekend firing of former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman, who prosecuted members of Trump’s inner circle over the past two and a half years. But many, including Nadler, expect that Barr may still flout a summons to appear July 2.
If that happens, it is unclear what recourse may be available to Democrats. Nadler has
ruled out was dismissive of attempting to impeach the attorney general, telling CNN over the weekend that such a move would be a “waste of time” [only because a corrupt Republican Senate will not convict]. And with only a handful of workweeks before Congress turns its focus to November’s election, it is unlikely there would be time to seek court enforcement of a disregarded subpoena.
In the meantime, political disputes over the Justice Department continue raging on committee daises on both sides of the Capitol.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, in conversation with reporters, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said House Democrats are “looking into” opening impeachment proceedings against Attorney General William Barr — a reversal from his previous position that impeachment would be a “waste of time.”
A shift from House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler: After saying Sunday impeaching AG Bill Barr is a “waste of time,” he says his committee “may very well” pursue Barr’s impeachment.
“We’re looking into that, we may very well,” per @jeremyherb
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 24, 2020
Lawless Republicans are doing the president’s bidding by asserting unfounded “deep state” conspiracy theories and pursuing Stalinist show trials against Trump’s political “enemies list.” They are complicit conspirators aiding and abetting the crimes of Donald Trump and William Barr, and are equally culpable at law.
Late Monday, the House Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, Rep. “Gym” Jordan (Ohio), wrote Nadler to accuse him of “posturing” against Barr as retaliation against his work “to expose how the Obama-Biden Administration targeted” Trump’s 2016 campaign. In the Republican-controlled Senate, the Judiciary Committee and the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee are looking into the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation, which became the foundation for Mueller’s probe.
This is the case I have relentlessly been making for Impeaching the Party of Trump:
As I have said before, the Party of Trump is a criminal enterprise led by a third-rate mafia “Don” Trump. They are all accomplices, coconspirators and accessories who aid and abet his criminality and corruption. There is not a patriot among them. They put fealty to their “Dear Leader” above all else, including loyalty to their country and our national security, and their oaths of office to defend the Constitution. They reject the rule of law and are amoral. It is a betrayal of the faith of the American people in our constitutional government. They must all be held accountable.