The Department of Justice in February has twice ordered U.S. Attorney’s offices throughout the nation to voice support for Trump administration policy goals, according to a Saturday report from CNN. The reporting illustrated a growing divide between Attorney General William Barr’s execution of President Donald Trump’s agenda and traditionally apolitical underlings.
“First, the department ordered prosecutors to hold news conferences, make statements and use social media to promote Barr’s initiative to crack down on ‘sanctuary cities,’ according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter,” the report said.
While the DOJ went on to issue a retraction of the directive, at least two current federal prosecutors had already published op-eds on the requested topic–likely timed to illustrate the prosecutorial support for the DOJ’s recently filed lawsuits against state and local governments with sanctuary laws in place.
“The department also instructed federal prosecutors to write op-eds to push for passage of pending legislation on fentanyl,” the reported stated, citing the same source. “More than a dozen US attorneys complied with publishing op-eds or written statements. The person said that historically prosecutors have been instructed to avoid commenting on pending legislation.”
The revelation comes as the DOJ experiences one of its most tumultuous weeks since President Trump took office.
Several current U.S. attorneys were interviewed and voiced their concerns regarding the DOJ’s incursion into politics. A West Coast prosecutor told CNN there was an overwhelming sense of “outrage” felt throughout his office, while an East Coast prosecutor noted the potential impact such conduct could have on juries and judges who may believe that charges are being filed for political purposes.
Barr began last week by confirming that his office maintained an “open door” policy for the receipt and evaluation of information pertaining to corruption in Ukraine–including information provided by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden’s alleged but unsubstantiated foreign corruption. Meanwhile, the Treasury has swiftly complied with Republican lawmakers’ requests for Hunter Biden’s sensitive financial information.
Outrage within the DOJ reached new heights on Tuesday when all of the prosecutors assigned to the Roger Stone case withdrew in protest. It happened after the department undercut their sentencing recommendation by filing a superseding memo requesting leniency by comparison for Trump’s longtime advisor and friend.
Barr then sat for an interview, during which he unsuccessfully attempted to convince the public there was nothing abnormal about the Stone controversy. On Friday, the DOJ announced it was dropping a case against Andrew McCabe, sparking conservatives to allege disparate treatment of former Trump National Security Advisor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
And on the same day, we learned that Barr has tasked an outside prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Jensen, to investigate the circumstances of the FBI’s Flynn interview. Flynn’s attorneys moved to withdraw their client’s guilty plea for lying to the FBI last month; they have repeatedly alleged prosecutorial misconduct. The office handling the Stone case is the same one handling the Flynn case, and both cases share their origin in the Mueller probe. Former Barr aide Timothy Shea is now overseeing both cases after the attorney general handpicked him to do so.
[image via Ed Zurga/Getty Images]