President Donald Trump disposed of any remaining pretense that the Department of Justice is an independent agency, openly implicating Attorney General William Barr in heeding his call to intervene on behalf of his longtime friend and associate Roger Stone in his federal criminal case. The president’s willingness to celebrate the flouting of traditional norms designed to insulate the DOJ from political pressure left many former federal prosecutors and legal experts dismayed, with several calling for Congress to take action.
“Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!”
The president was referencing the DOJ’s decision to undercut federal prosecutors original sentence recommendation for Stone by filing a superseding sentencing memo Tuesday recommending “far less” prison time for the former Trump advisor.
Prosecutors on Monday advocated Stone serve seven to nine years behind bars, but Trump promptly inserted himself into the case, tweeting that such a sentence would be “horrible and very unfair.”
DOJ responded Tuesday by filing a second sentencing memo more adherent to Trump’s public objection.
DOJ’s brazen intrusion into the politically-charged case sparked all four prosecutors involved in prosecuting Stone to withdraw from the case. Those prosecutors, a couple of whom previously worked for special counsel Robert Mueller, made it quite clear at trial that Stone lied to protect Trump.
One legal observer summed up Trump’s Wednesday morning tweet in two words: “Satisfied customer.”
According to former Southern District of New York (SDNY) assistant U.S. Attorney and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, Trump’s tweet illustrated that intervention in Stone’s sentencing was “specifically Barr’s call,” and confirmed that the attorney general was doing “Trump’s bidding.”
Former Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard Signorelli and Mimi Rocah agreed with Honig’s assessment and elaborated on the possible implications.
“There is a big back story here [regarding] Trump and Barr’s improper influence on the Stone/Flynn sentencing proceedings. Protest resignations by all 4 of the Government’s Stone trial team reflects significant underlying corruption/misconduct,” Signorelli said. “[S]hould be subject of House investigations/impeachment.”
Rocah inferred that Barr’s interference was part of a larger strategy to “blunt any further impact of the Mueller investigation.”
There cannot be any question about what went on here, stated CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.
Former federal prosecutor and Law&Crime Network trial analyst Gene Rossi was saddened by the turn of events.
“The historic Justice Department is sadly and slowly damaging its moral authority to administer justice fairly and equitably,” he remarked. “At least the Titanic only hit one iceberg.”
Former DOJ attorney Sasha Samberg-Champion said the entire controversy impugned the integrity of the attorney general.
The reaction to all of this was seemingly endless.
[Image via NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images.]
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