In Like Flynn

Published: May 11, 2020

By Jim Lichtman
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William Pelham Barr. Remember that name. History certainly will.

Photo by: Tia Dufour/White House

There are three standards of justice. There’s “white justice,” where white people can benefit in the legal system because they are not part of a minority.

Black or minority justice, is exemplified by a recent shooting where Gregory and Travis McMichael — who shot Ahmaud Arbery as he was jogging down a street in Brunswick, Georgia — will not be charged with a hate crime, because it doesn’t exist in the state. (Actually, that’s both white and black justice. It remains to be seen if current federal laws can hold the McMichaels accountable).

Then there’s a third standard, granted to those fortunate individuals connected to power, like Donald Trump.

William P. Barr will forever be inextricably linked to President Donald Trump as his “Roy Cohn,” the man who sat alongside communist witch hunter Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and who, before his death, acted as Trump’s legal guardian, protecting the scheming real estate baron.

Barr has picked up Cohn’s mantle and run with it dismissing a 2017 case against Michael Flynn, Trump’s incoming national security advisor, who was tried and convicted of lying to the FBI about his contact with Russia’s U.S. ambassador Serge Kislyak before Trump took office.

Oh, I almost forgot, Flynn admitted to it… twice.

In an interview with CBS News reporter Catherine Herridge, Barr said, “The Department of Justice is not persuaded that this was material to any legitimate counterintelligence investigation. So it was not a crime.”


“I was concerned people were feeling there were two standards of justice in this country,” Barr said. “I wanted to make sure that we restore confidence in the system. There’s only one standard of justice.”

In Trump’s world, there is only one standard of justice: anything that serves his self-interest.

Randall D. Eliason, who spent 12 years as an assistant United States attorney for the District of Columbia, writes, “The government’s motion to dismiss the case… is like nothing I’ve ever seen. … It epitomizes the politicization of the Justice Department under Attorney General William P. Barr. It is, in the truest sense of the word, lawless.

Flynn pleaded guilty, Eliason says, “But in 2019, Flynn hired new lawyers and in January he moved to withdraw his guilty plea and have the case dismissed, alleging government misconduct. Now, after defending the prosecution for more than two years, the Justice Department says it agrees with Flynn after all: He’s an innocent man.”

The FBI was accused of interviewing Flynn for no reason other than to discredit Trump and his administration. Totally false.

The FBI had a tap on Kislyak’s phone to determine who the Russian ambassador was talking to and what he was talking about. When they discovered that Kislyak was talking to Flynn, the Justice Department “Worried that Flynn could become a target for blackmail… informed the Trump administration and sent agents to interview Flynn. He then lied to the agents as well, a crime to which he later admitted,” The Washington Post writes (May 8).

After first admitting that Flynn was fired because he lied to Vice-President Mike Pence and others, Trump flipped to, “He was an innocent man.”

Reaction was swift.

Julie O’Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor: “I’ve been practicing for more time than I care to admit and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Shira Scheindlin, a former federal judge in Manhattan: “This is going to be seen critically by prosecutors across the country as the Justice Department being the lawyer for the president, not the lawyer for the people.”

Michael Bromwich, a former DOJ inspector general: “I have been in and around DOJ since 1983. I have never seen a case dropped after someone has pled guilty…”

Preet Bharara, former Obama-era U.S. attorney for Manhattan: “Who are the authors of the motion to dismiss the case against Michael Flynn? Usually their names would be on the brief. I doubt US Atty Timothy Shea wrote it by himself.”

Barbara McQuade of University of Michigan Law School and a former Obama-era U.S. attorney: “DOJ lawyers of integrity will be tempted to resign over today’s motion to dismiss the Flynn case. My advice is to please stay. We need you instead of those who might replace you.”

This isn’t Barr’s first time at rewriting history.

Earlier this year, Barr intervened in the sentencing of Trump crony Roger Stone, who was convicted “on seven felony counts of obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering. A jury found that he repeatedly lied to a congressional committee about his role as an intermediary between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks concerning stolen Democratic emails and that he threatened another witness, Randy Credico.”

All four federal prosecutors withdrew from the case after Barr’s decision undercut their actions, and one of them, Jonathan Kravis, who worked at DOJ for 10 years resigned altogether, calling Barr’s decision in the Stone case, “a disastrous mistake,” and characterized the Flynn dismissal as putting “political patronage ahead of its commitment to the rule of law.”

The executive director of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, Noah Bookbinder, wrote, “What Barr did for Roger Stone is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

Exactly how Eliason characterized Barr’s decision on Flynn.

Fact pattern number three –

Barr slanted the summary of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia.

Federal Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled “that Mr. Barr put forward a ‘distorted’ and ‘misleading’ account of its findings and lacked credibility on the topic.

“Mr. Barr’s description of it ‘cause the court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller report in favor of President Trump despite certain findings in the redacted version of the Mueller report to the contrary,’ wrote Judge Walton, an appointee of President George W. Bush.”

“the most remarkable thing about the government’s new claim that Flynn’s lies were not material is that the judge in this case has already ruled that they were,” Eliason said. “In an earlier motion to dismiss, Flynn’s attorneys made essentially this same argument: that his lies were not material because the FBI had no good reason to interview him. Agreeing with the prosecutors at the time and rejecting this argument, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that Flynn ‘has a fundamental misunderstanding of the law of materiality.’

Enter Roy Cohn… excuse me, William Barr.

Despite Barr’s legal argle-bargle, any reasonable person would conclude that his personal intrusion into a Trump ally is unethical as hell!

However, in Trumpland, the third standard of justice is all that matters. After all, as  Trump said himself, “I believe I am treated worse [than Lincoln].”

(If I had any input with TIME magazine editors in their choice of Person of The Year, who, “for better or for worse… has done the most to influence the events of the year,” William Pelham Barr would be at the top of my list)


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