Last week the Senate GOP let Trump know he was above the law by acquitting him of his impeachment charges. Today, Attorney General Bill Barr followed suit, which is making everyone’s hair stand up straight.
Just as we were all getting ready to hear about New Hampshire’s primary results, news rolled in that something was up at the Department of Justice. Yesterday we learned that the DOJ was recommending a sentence of 7-9 years for Roger Stone, who was found guilty of 7 charges: 5 counts of lying to Congress, 1 count of witness tampering and 1 count of obstruction of a proceeding.
Then Trump complained. Loudly, and on Twitter. He whined that the sentence was excessive.
It was what happened next that has shaken everyone to their core: Hours later, DOJ leadership intervened and announced they’re looking at reversing their own prosecutors’ recommendation and looking at a lighter sentence. Legal experts, constitutional scholars, former U.S. attorneys–really everyone–is aghast. The DOJ is supposed to be functionally independent, but it sure looks like Barr is taking orders directly from the President. Here’s how LawFare explains what the norm is supposed to be:
“Every presidency since Watergate has embraced policies for preserving DOJ and FBI independence from the President in certain law enforcement and intelligence matters. … One example is the restrictions that every administration has placed on communications between DOJ (including the FBI) and the White House concerning law enforcement investigations and other matters.”
Then word came that one of the DOJ attorneys on Stone’s case, Aaron Zelinsky, resigned.
Then another resigned (Jonathan Kravis).
And another (Adam Jed).
And then the final prosecutor, Michael Marando, resigned.
Take it from President Obama’s Attorney General — this is not normal, and as the resignations will attest to, this is deeply, deeply dangerous for our democracy:
What does this mean?
To give you some sense of the magnitude of this action taken by Barr today, and how damaging it is to the rule of law, know that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked for immediate investigations into the political interference of Stone’s sentencing, and Senate Democrats have called on Lindsey Graham, as the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to do the same.
Here are a smattering of the shocked responses to give you a sense of just how bad this is:
Trump is acting like an autocrat right out in the open. He isn’t hiding it anymore. He’s gotten a green light thanks to the Republicans in Congress and he’s not holding back.
Honestly, November cannot get here fast enough in my view.