“I am an innocent man. Oh, yes I am, an innocent man.” – Billy Joel
Fresh from his Vindication Tour, Trump quickly pivoted to his Vindictive Tour. Those he deemed disloyal for testifying about the truth of Trump’s “deal” with Ukraine’s Zelensky have, not surprisingly, moved to the top of the president’s enemies litst:
* Lt. Col. Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine specialist, along with his brother – who had nothing to do with the phone call – were unceremoniously escorted from the White House.
*European Ambassador Gordon Sondland, fired!
* Deputy undersecretary of defense, Elaine McCusker, who challenged the president’s directive to withhold military aid had her nomination to be the next Pentagon comptroller, withdrawn.
* Jessie K. Liu, who served as United States attorney for the District of Columbia when her office prosecuted Mr. Stone resigned from the Treasury Department after her nomination to a top job at the agency was withdrawn.
The only thing stopping Trump from firing the whistleblower, who set off the first alarm, is that he or she is protected under the Federal Whistleblower Act (and if Sen. Lindsey Graham mentions the alleged name, as he has already done once, the senior senator from South Carolina should be censured).
Meanwhile, after the jury found longtime Trump friend and political “consultant” Roger Stone guilty of lying to Congress and witness tampering, including threatening a witness, Justice Department prosecutors recommended a 7 to 9-year prison sentence, which fit within legal guidelines.
It seemed certain that Stone would be sent to prison for at least 7 years, until… the president tweeted:
“This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side… Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!” – Feb. 11, 2020.
Then… one day later, top officials at DOJ, including Attorney General Barr, announced that the sentencing recommendation would be lowered. That’s when the dogfight at DOJ began ending with all four career prosecutors assigned to the case – Johnathan Kravis, Michael Marando, Aaron Zelinsky, and Aaron Jed – to resign from the case.
“Glenn Kirschner, who previously spent 24 years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. including as chief of homicide,” Law.com reports (Feb. 11), “said he had worked with Kravis at the office. He called Kravis an ‘honorable ethical and outstanding prosecutor…’ ”
Not long after announcing the sentencing reduction, the president tweeted:
“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…”– Feb. 12, 2020
Meanwhile, the response from Senate Republicans has become routine.
“If the reporting is accurate, the frontline prosecutors did not communicate with their supervisors,” Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy told reporters.
“I think it’s entirely appropriate that leadership would intervene if they see an injustice…” North Dakota Republican Senator Kevin Cramer told reporters.
Stalwart Trump supporter, Lindsey Graham said, “[Barr will testify before the Judiciary Committee] as part of oversight, but we’re not going to call him based on [the change in the Stone sentencing].”
Asked by a reporter, “Are you considering a pardon for Roger Stone?” Trump said, “I don’t want to say that yet.”
When a senior Justice official was asked whether the White House influenced the change in sentencing to help a Trump associate, the official said… (with a straight face) “No, it didn’t. It’s an inconvenient coincidence,” referring to Trump’s relationship with Stone.
Meanwhile, the reversal in sentencing has produced an unprecedented open letter from more than 1,100 former DOJ attorneys and prosecutors who served both Republican and Democrats, calling for Barr’s resignation.
“Each of us,” the letter states, “strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice… the rule of law depends on the evenhanded administration of justice. … And yet, President Trump and Attorney General Barr have openly and repeatedly flouted this fundamental principle…most recently in connection with the sentencing of President Trump’s close associate, Roger Stone, who was convicted of serious crimes. …
“It is even more outrageous for the Attorney General to intervene as he did here…”
“Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice. In this nation, we are all equal before the law. …
“Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words. Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign.
“…we support and commend the four career prosecutors who upheld their oaths and stood up for the Department’s independence by withdrawing from the Stone case
“…we call on every DOJ employee to follow their heroic example and be prepared to report future abuses to the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress; to refuse to carry out directives that are inconsistent with their oaths of office; to withdraw from cases that involve such directives or other misconduct; and, if necessary, to resign and report publicly — in a manner consistent with professional ethics — to the American people the reasons for their resignation.”
Meanwhile, after a new filing by the Justice Department lowering Stone’s sentencing, a DOJ official writes, “Ultimately, the government defers to the court as to what specific sentence is appropriate under the facts and circumstances of this case.”
Nonetheless, if Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s decision in the Stone case does not meet with the president’s approval, he could simply pardon Stone, thus validating Representative Adam Schiff’s prophecy.
“You can’t trust this president to do the right thing… you just can’t. He will not change and you know it! A man without character or ethical compass will never find his way.”
Will anyone be surprised if Schiff’s forecast occurs sooner than expected?
UPDATE: The list of former DOJ attorneys and prosecutors calling for the resignation of AG Barr has now grown to 2,689.