One day after 2,000 former officials of the Department of Justice called on Attorney General William Barr to resign, an association of 1,100 federal judges has called an emergency meeting to address concerns about Barr’s interference in cases for political purposes and the absolute destruction of the the Justice Department’s long tradition of holding itself at a distance from the White House.
Barr has acted to soften sentencing of Michael Flynn and Roger Stone. He has launched multiple investigations into the FBI and DOJ personnel involved in the Trump-Russia affair, even though the DOJ inspector general had already addressed those concerns. Barr has even created a hand-selected team of prosecutors to look into cases for purely political purposes—an internal team of political control officers that would fit perfectly into a Stalinist dystopia.
It’s a master class in corruption, and the whole judiciary system is under threat.
As USA Today reports, the politically independent Federal Judges Association has called for an “emergency meeting” to address issues generated by Barr’s interference and Donald Trump’s continued threats to the judiciary. The president of the group, a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush, said that the judges could not wait for their normal spring meeting. Instead, they feel the need to gather now to address this “deepening crisis” that threatens the system of justice.
The emergency meeting will be held on Tuesday. It’s not known how the judges will respond to the threat to justice from Barr and Trump, or if they will issue any formal statement at the end of the meeting.
As The Washington Post reports, this meeting is just one part of a “week of turmoil” stemming from the overtly political use of the Department of Justice in the Stone and Flynn cases, and from Barr’s admission that he is personally taking charge of cases of interest to Trump. With Trump continuing to rain down rants and threats against judge, prosecutors, and juries, and Barr publicly tilting the scales of justice, it’s impossible to maintain any faith in an impartial judiciary.
As Barr has been systematically shaping the DOJ into a service that protects Trump’s friends and persecutes his enemies, Trump has been openly attacking federal judges, career prosecutors, and even members of federal juries. The disruption from both directions has already demonstrated that actual justice isn’t possible where Barr and Trump are concerned. Both the Stone and the Flynn trials have seen sentencing guidelines reduced and prosecutors replaced, while Trump hurls invective at the judges, calls the whole system a sham, and broadly hints that he’ll just pardon his cronies if they are convicted.
Barr’s internal assault may be somewhat less visible, but it’s even more insidious and damaging. From the moment he recast the outcome of the Mueller report, Barr has made it clear that his purpose at the Justice Department is to protect Trump and his allies. That includes using the powers of the FBI and DOJ to chase down anyone seen as a threat. Truth and facts are not factors.
The letter from former officials of the Justice Department described Barr’s actions as a “grave threat to the fair administration of justice,” as Barr and his cadre of Trumpist officials fail to uphold the department’s oath to “defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice.” The letter lauded the four career prosecutors who resigned after Barr stepped in to change the sentencing proposal for Roger Stone as “heroes,” and made the results of the actions of Trump and Barr absolutely clear, writing, “Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.” By Monday evening, this letter had been signed by more than 2,000 former officials of the DOJ, most of whom had served in Republican administrations.
On Tuesday morning, Trump began the day with tweets once again attacking Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the presiding judge in the Roger Stone case. Despite Stone’s conviction on seven counts, Trump is now demanding a new trial and continuing to charge that the jury was biased against Stone.