An independent government ethics watchdog group filed a formal complaint calling for an investigation into several top-ranking Justice Department officials, claiming they “unlawfully interfered” with the criminal prosecutions of Donald Trump’s friend Roger Stone and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
In the six-page complaint, the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), highlighted the “highly unusual involvement” of Attorney General William Barr, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Timothy Shea, saying their intervention in the proceedings conflicted with legal requirements for DOJ officials to act impartially and insulate themselves from political influence. Barr recently handpicked Shea, his former counsel at DOJ, to lead the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“First, the officials failed to act impartially and failed to avoid even the appearance that they were acting partially, as required by the Standards of Conduct,” the complaint said. “[Barr and Rosen] overruled the guideline-compliant recommendation of line prosecutors, and instead advocated for a reduced sentence for Stone, a friend and ally of the president. Similarly, Barr’s insistence on a special review of Flynn’s case, and his appointment of his deputy to conduct other politically sensitive reviews, also suggest partial treatment for the president’s political allies.”
The DOJ’s controversial intervention in the politically sensitive cases set off a firestorm of criticism that led to the withdrawal of all four prosecutors in the Stone case and amplified calls for Barr to resign (the latter was supported by more than 2,000 former DOJ officials).
According to the CLC, such preferential treatment amounts to a knowing and direct violation of the DOJ’s Standards of Conduct and should result in an investigation of their professional misconduct.
“Given this context, these officials should have known that the ‘natural or probable consequences’ of his conduct were unambiguously prohibited by the Standards of Conduct, which require impartiality in the performance of official duties, and the Justice Manual, which requires sentencing without improper consideration of the defendant’s political association,” the complaint continued. “The violations of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, and US Attorney undermine the independence of the Department of Justice and the integrity of its administration of the criminal justice system.”
The complaint was filed with Jeffrey Raggsdale, the DOJ’s Acting Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility.
“The public must know that the deterioration of impartiality at DOJ expands beyond Attorney General Barr and includes senior leadership,” CLC General Counsel and Senior Director, Ethics Kedric Payne said in a statement obtained by Law&Crime. “The actions of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General and U.S. Attorney undermine DOJ’s independence and the integrity of its administration of the criminal justice system. We must have confidence that the criminal justice system does not offer special treatment if you are an associate of the President. Even the appearance of politically influenced law enforcement erodes the public’s trust in government. A thorough investigation of this complaint will help restore the public’s confidence that DOJ upholds its standards of insulating decisions from political influence.”
Read the full complaint below:
[image via BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images]
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